Addressing Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) Fishing
The Sub-Committee agreed a series of recommendations aimed at addressing Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, the third meeting of the Joint IMO/ The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Ad Hoc Working Group on Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Related Matters (JWG), held in November 2015 at IMO Headquarters.
The proposals focus on key areas, such as the entry into force and implementation of relevant international instruments, in particular, the Cape Town Agreement and the development of an effective roadmap; fishing vessels identification and application of the IMO Ship Identification Number Scheme; the coordinated implementation of inspection regimes; cooperation among the Secretariats of IMO, FAO and ILO, in particular, on joint capacity development programmes and the sharing of data; and on navigational hazards and environmental issues.
Extension of IMO Ship Identification Number Scheme
The Sub-Committee proposed to extend the IMO Ship Identification Number Scheme to more vessels, on a voluntary basis. A draft Assembly resolution was agreed, for submission to IMO’s 30th Assembly for adoption.
The number scheme applies to ships over 100 GT. The proposal is for further voluntary application to fishing vessels of steel and non-steel hull construction; passenger ships of less than 100 gross tonnage, high-speed passenger craft and mobile drilling units, engaged on international voyages; and to all motorized inboard fishing vessels of less than 100 gross tonnage down to a size limit of 12 metres in length overall authorized to operate outside waters under national jurisdiction of the flag State.
The IMO Secretariat would continue to participate in the working group of the FAO’s Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessel. This is a phased and collaborative global initiative to make available, in a rapid way, certified data from State authorities about vessels and vessel-related activities.
IMO works with IHS Maritime & Trade for the allocation of the IMO Ship Identification Number. The current vessel database contains 24,495 fishing vessels, fishing research vessels, fishing survey vessels, fish carriers, fishery support ships, fish factory ships and fish farm ships, of which 4,797 are below 24 m in length and 19,698 are 24 m in length and over.
The IMO Secretariat would be invited to consider the need to develop, by means of a circular letter, a new data exchange mechanism specific to fishing vessels of less than 100 gross tonnage and all vessels of non-steel hull construction
Monitoring and tracking fishing vessels at sea
Monitoring and tracking fishing vessels at sea could help identifying IUU fishing and also may assist in search and rescue response to casualties.
Commercial fishing vessels use Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) to allow environmental and fisheries regulatory organizations to track and monitor the activities of participating fishing vessels. IMO mandates for SOLAS vessels the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT).
The Sub-Committee recommended to the MSC to consider the increased use of AIS aboard commercial fishing vessels and encouraged Member States to consider promoting the use of AIS aboard commercial fishing vessels. It also encouraged Member States to share the experience in the development and maintenance of VMS in terms of its potential use for the safety of navigation.
Improving flag and port State performance
Both flag and port States have a role to play in ensuring legal fishing and stamping out IUU fishing.
The FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing (PSMA) entered into force in June 2016. Parties to the Agreement are obliged to implement a number of measures while managing ports under their control, with the goals of detecting illegal fishing, stopping ill-caught fish from being offloaded and sold, and ensuring information on unscrupulous vessels is shared globally.
The Sub-Committee agreed that the FAO, IMO and International Labour Organization (ILO) Secretariats, Member States and regional organizations, including regional fisheries bodies, should promote the benefits of the implementation of the PSMA, and they should encourage States to become Parties.
Joint capacity building and technical cooperation programmes should be explored, for enhanced implementation of international instruments to combat IUU fishing, in particular the PSMA. The Sub-committee also endorsed a recommendation to encourage the coordinated implementation of the PSMA, with other types of inspections which might be carried out, such as under IMO and ILO treaties.
The IMO Secretariat would be requested to develop a new GISIS module (or update an existing module) to accommodate contact points of Member States responsible for authorization to operate outside waters under national jurisdiction of the flag State of such fishing vessels.
The FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance (VGFSP) spell out a range of actions that countries can take to ensure that vessels registered under their flags do not conduct IUU fishing.
The IMO Secretariat would be invited to explore with FAO how the IMO Mandatory Member State Audit Scheme could contribute to the VGFSP. It was recommended that a reference to the VGFSP be made in the Implementation of IMO Instruments (III) Code, under related instruments in order to promote the linkage between fisheries, ship safety and environmental protection.
FAO, IMO and ILO Secretariats would be invited to explore further how the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance could be implemented effectively, in conjunction with other relevant instruments adopted by IMO and the ILO.
Security and piracy and armed robbery information
The Sub-Committee agreed that information on piracy and armed robbery against ships and other security-related issues should be disseminated by FAO to dissemination to FAO Members and regional fishery bodies.
Protecting the marine environment
Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear can become a navigational hazard, as well as being a source of marine litter. The discharge of fishing gear into the sea is prohibited under MARPOL Annex V.
Effective marking of fishing gear is seen as a critical tool in addressing the problem. This would also help better implementation of the Annex V regulations.
The IMO Secretariat and experts from IMO Member States were invited to participate in the FAO Technical Consultation on the Marking of Fishing Gear, tentatively scheduled to meet in February 2018 in Rome, Italy. The meeting is expected to finalise draft Guidelines on the Marking of Fishing Gear, for consideration by the FAO's Committee on Fisheries (COFI 33), which meets in 2018.
Promotion of the Cape Town Agreement
The 2012 Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety is a key IMO instrument which can improve fishing vessel safety but it is not yet in force. Its entry into force would play a key role in supporting improvements in fishing vessel safety and providing a mechanism for flag states and port States to monitor compliance.
The Sub-committee agreed that IMO should strengthen its technical cooperation activities to facilitate Member States' early accession to the Cape Town Agreement. Member Governments experiencing difficulties in the process of ratifying the 2012 Cape Town Agreement were invited to inform IMO.
IMO has been running a series of regional seminars to promote accession to the Cape Town Agreement and support States to do so.
The Sub-Committee recommended that IMO develop further technical cooperation activities to promote worldwide implementation of all instruments related to the fisheries sector, to be carried out at regional and national levels, targeting Administrations and other relevant stakeholders.
Training of fishing vessel personnel
IMO’s International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F), which provides training requirements for fishing vessel personnel, entered into force in 2012. The treaty is currently undergoing a comprehensive review in the IMO Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) to update and revise the treaty, taking into account the unique nature of the fishing industry, the fishing working environment and the need to prevent damage to the marine environment.
The FAO/ILO/IMO Document for Guidance on Training and Certification of Fishing Vessel Personnel also provides additional guidance.
The Sub-Committee agreed that FAO, ILO and IMO should work together on updates to the training requirements.
Future work - roadmap
The Sub-Committee recommended that IMO consider developing, in close cooperation with other relevant agencies of the United Nations at the highest level as possible, an effective roadmap for rapid worldwide ratification and implementation of the international agreements relating to work in the fisheries sector.
Such a roadmap could be useful in developing indicators for the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda.
Fourth JWG on IUU fishing
The fourth JWG meeting on IUU fishing, to be held with IMO, FAO and ILO, is planned to be held in 2019.
The draft terms of reference and provisional agenda would be submitted to III 5 (September 2018), with a view to approval by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) and the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 100).
Definition of IUU fishing
Under the FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, article 3:
Illegal fishing refers to activities:
(i) conducted by national or foreign vessels in waters under the jurisdiction of a State, without the permission of that State, or in contravention of its laws and regulations;
(ii) conducted by vessels flying the flag of States that are parties to a relevant regional fisheries management organization but operate in contravention of the conservation and management measures adopted by that organization and by which the States are bound, or relevant provisions of the applicable international law;
(iii) in violation of national laws or international obligations, including those undertaken by cooperating States to a relevant regional fisheries management organization.
Unreported fishing refers to fishing activities:
(i) which have not been reported, or have been misreported, to the relevant national authority, in contravention of national laws and regulations; or
(ii) undertaken in the area of competence of a relevant regional fisheries management organization which have not been reported or have been misreported, in contravention of the reporting procedures of that organization.
Unregulated fishing refers to fishing activities:
(i) in the area of application of a relevant regional fisheries management organization that are conducted by vessels without nationality, or by those flying the flag of a State not party to that organization, or by a fishing entity, in a manner that is not consistent with or contravenes the conservation and management measures of that organization; or
(ii) in areas or for fish stocks in relation to which there are no applicable conservation or management measures and where such fishing activities are conducted in a manner inconsistent with State responsibilities for the conservation of living marine resources under international law.