Third Joint FAO/IMO Working Group on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU Fishing) and related matters

Third Joint FAO/IMO Working Group on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU Fishing) and related matters
Opening address
By Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

16 to 18 November 2015

Good morning distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome the delegations of the 18 countries selected to represent FAO and IMO at the Third Joint FAO/IMO Working Group on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU Fishing) and related matters, as well as observer delegations from other FAO and IMO Member States in attendance. I also welcome observers from NGOs and invited experts.

IMO is pleased to host, for the first time, a meeting of the JWG on IUU fishing, which has been arranged in close cooperation with the FAO Secretariat. Mr. Lahsen Ababouch, Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Economics Division of FAO will also address you at this opening.

The act of terrorists in Paris on Friday night last week was truly horrible. And, the recent spate of remorseless acts of terrorists killing innocent and defenseless members of civil society at random remind us all what sort of world and society we are all living in this twenty-first century. I was saddened, shocked, and terrified by the barbaric ways terrorists have conducted these crimes against civil society and humanity.

I extend my condolences on behalf of the Organization to the families of people who lost their lives and those injured and still fighting for their lives in hospital.

Please be assured that we keep the security measures at IMO Headquarters building under constant review and have an excellent working relationship with the Diplomatic Protection Group of the Metropolitan Police as well as the United Nations Department for Safety and Security.

As you are aware, the general security threat level of this country has been at "severe" since August last year, which means that an attack is "highly likely". We have established and maintain appropriate security measures in consultation with the UNDSS and the United Kingdom security authorities and I believe that our current measures are sound and strong enough to defend our headquarters building and participants to our international meetings here including the forthcoming Assembly meeting.

I would however take this opportunity to remind you that security is everybody's responsibility. Participants to this meeting are requested to be vigilant not only in this building but also outside the premises of the Organization, taking into account the security level of this country and London.
For more than half a century, IMO has been regulating international shipping and has been very successful in many aspects, with Member States playing their important role in the implementation and enforcement of the resulting regulations.  Therefore, when it comes to the rule-making process aiming at enhanced maritime safety and security, as well as the protection of the marine environment, regulating fishing vessels and the safety of personnel employed therein is just as important as regulating the transport of cargoes or passengers.

The primary safety instrument of IMO, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 (SOLAS 74), which is an instrument that has done so much to improve safety and reduce casualties and loss of life in the cargo and passenger ship sectors, does not apply, in almost its entirety, to fishing vessels.

The Torremolinos Convention of 1977 and its subsequent Protocol of 1993 were adopted with a view to establishing binding international standards for fishing vessel safety, but neither of them has entered into force. Three years ago, after five years of intensive discussion and preparation at IMO, the Cape Town Agreement was adopted with the intention of establishing an international regime for fishing vessel safety. While I am very pleased that the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel, 1995 (STCW-F) entered into force on 29 September 2012, unfortunately, I cannot share with you the same enthusiasm regarding the Cape Town Agreement.

I recall the discussion at the second meeting in July 2007 which established a roadmap towards the implementation of the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol. I was pleased at Cape Town to have adopted the Agreement but I was disappointed by the fact that no Torremolinos Protocol parties had activated the simplified acceptance procedure.

The lack of commitment to bring this agreement into force, as early as possible, compelled me to attend the FAO Committee on Fisheries in Rome on 9 June 2014 and request Ministers of Fisheries help their Governments to ratify the Cape Town Agreement.

IMO can adopt safety regulations but, to promote ratification of the Cape Town Agreement, a good understanding and support from the fishing industry is indispensable. With only five countries so far completing the work that is necessary to bring the Agreement into force, the FAO, and national agencies that support its work can make significant contributions bringing the Agreement into force. As I already indicated in Rome, support could even be sought from the research and academic communities dealing with ocean issues, such as the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. My clarion call is that, although the Agreement was adopted by IMO, all UN agencies that deal with ocean issues can, and should, encourage governments to ratify the Cape Town Agreement. I strongly urge delegations attending the working group to lead by example by diligently engaging the relevant authorities in Member States to complete the process of acceptance of the Cape Town Agreement and its subsequent global implementation.

The fishing industry, from a global perspective, does not have an acceptable safety record; and, while there may be a number of factors that have contributed to this, there can be no doubt that the lack of an effective global regulatory regime has played a significant part in the status quo. IUU Fishing is a serious issue for the global fishing sector that impacts negatively on safety, on environmental issues, on conservation and on sustainability. In addition to harming fish populations, IUU fishing creates unfair market competition for – and threatens the livelihoods of – fishers who follow sustainable practices.

My invitation to the JWG is, therefore, to champion the establishment of a robust legal framework for the safety of fishing vessels and personnel employed on board fishing vessels, thereby contributing to the fight against IUU fishing.

During these three days, the two Organizations have the opportunity to further promote the emergence of a broad safety culture at sea throughout the fishing sector and forming an integral part of an improved and more responsible management of fisheries by fishing vessel personnel and fleet managers. This safety culture should be significantly progressed during this meeting and through future endeavors of the working group.

Another positive outcome of the previous meeting was on the identification number scheme. The Assembly, two years ago, adopted resolution A.1078(28), which was co-sponsored by FAO, together with a number of IMO Member States and the World Wide Fund for Nature, to extend the application of the IMO Ship Identification Number Scheme to fishing vessels – thereby enabling the IMO Number to be used as the Unique Vessel Identifier in FAO’s Global Record for fishing vessels.

This will no doubt help the fishing industry to move to a new era of transparency, which will make control measures harder to circumvent and vessels more accountable and visible to fisheries’ authorities.

In the light of these major steps initiated by the working group, the third JWG should be a renewed opportunity to demonstrate the merit of bringing together the representatives of the national Administrations in charge of fisheries- and maritime transport sectors in order to review the status of past achievements and to discuss ways to tackle outstanding issues and future challenges.

You will be able, not only to reflect on those areas of substantive work that FAO and IMO share in common, but also to highlight the wider point that, as agencies within the United Nations family, FAO, IMO – and others, such as ILO, must spare no effort to work together as one, and to deliver as one.

The working group will possibly consider areas where it could support further collaboration, in the future, under the relevant point of the agenda. In this context, I would encourage the meeting to consider ways to enhance cooperation among inspection regimes, such as port State control regimes and regional fisheries management organizations.

Cooperation and collaboration are our way between the FAO and IMO. By working together; by uniting around our common aims, objectives, interests and responsibilities, we really can deliver as one and make a difference. This working group, as already proven, can serve such a purpose and I am confident that your recommendations will have the strength to ensure follow-up actions to trigger important positive developments in the work of the two Organizations in the coming decade.

Thank you.