Torremolinos Ministerial Conference on Fishing Vessel Safety and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing (opening address)


Excellencies, Prime Minister Puna, Minister Abalos, Honourable Ministers, Mayor of Torremolinos, Esteemed UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, distinguished representatives, Assistant Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD, delegates, observers, media representatives, ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this Ministerial Conference co-hosted by IMO and the Government of Spain, with the kind support of FAO and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

This Conference will promote the ratification of the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 and aims to deter the proliferation of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by establishing international safety standards for fishing vessels.

I would like to begin express my profound thanks, on behalf of the Organization and its Membership, to the Government of Spain and His Excellency, the Minister for Public Works, Transport and Housing of Spain, José Luis Ábalos Meco, and to the Mayor of Torremolinos, the Honourable José Ortiz García, for hosting this important event.

I would also like to extend my appreciation for the generous financial support for this conference given by FAO and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Distinguished delegates,

the 40 million fishers around the world are part of a sector which - together with aquaculture – provides food, nutrition and a source of income to some 820 million people.

IMO has an important role to play in this sector. IMO's regulatory regime protects the lives of around 1.6 million seafarers worldwide. The safety of fishers and fishing vessels also forms an integral part of IMO's mandate.  

But the fishing industry, from a global perspective, does not have a satisfactory safety record; and the treaty that governs fishing vessel safety is not yet in force.  

While there may be a number of factors that have contributed to this, there can be no doubt that the lack of an effective internationally binding regulatory regime for the safety of fishing vessels has played a significant part.

It has been more than 42 years since the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels was adopted by IMO in 1977.  This was, at the time, a significant development.  The Torremolinos Convention was the first-ever global instrument to address, specifically, the safety of fishing vessels.

On reflection, the expectations of Member States at that time were perhaps too high, as the convention has not yet entered into force, despite the intervening years.

Extensive and effective collaboration with our sister UN agencies FAO and ILO, as well as detailed work and intensive discussions with Member States, led to the adoption of an agreement in October 2012 by the International Conference on the Safety of Fishing Vessels, in Cape Town, South Africa.

 The Cape Town Agreement brought in some key measures to facilitate wide acceptance of the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol - with the aim of bringing its provisions into effect.

However, as of today, seven years of after its adoption, this agreement has still not entered into force.  And, despite improved technology, the loss of life in the fishing industry remains unacceptably high.  This is why we have strengthened our commitment to bringing the Cape Town Agreement into force.

Many new global maritime issues have arisen in the past 40 years that are also relevant to the fishing industry, such as protection of Polar waters, marine pollution from fishing vessels, in particular marine plastic litter in the form of discarded fishing gear, illegal fishing activities and the risks faced by search and rescue services.

 That is why I strongly believe the time is now ripe for the agreement to enter into force.

Let us work on moving forwards. I see here today, with all of you present, a very promising picture and a strong commitment towards the entry into force of the agreement.  We have reached a record high participation level at this conference.  This signifies a solid momentum among Member States towards achieving our goal in the shortest possible time.  Thank you for this support.

Distinguished delegates,

As part of the United Nations family, helping our Member States deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a strong strategic direction for IMO. I firmly believe that the entry into force of the Cape Town Agreement will pave the way towards achieving several of the SDGs.  

First and foremost, conservation and sustainable use of the marine resources for sustainable development (SDG 14) is a key goal relevant to the aims of the agreement.

Marine plastic litter, in form of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear, enters the marine environment and results in harmful effects on marine life and biodiversity, as well as negative impacts on human health.

In addition, marine plastic litter negatively impacts on activities such as tourism, fisheries and shipping. Studies demonstrate that, despite the existing regulatory framework to prevent marine plastic litter from ships, discharges into the sea continue to occur.

We know that having a global regime to ensure fishing vessel safety will help in the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, also known as IUU Fishing.  The Cape Town Agreement is recognized as an important tool to combat IUU fishing and will help with achieving the goal for zero hunger (SDG 2).

Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8) can be attained by promoting decent working conditions on board fishing vessels, which will also increase employment opportunities – also supporting SDG1 on zero poverty.  The Cape Town Agreement, along with the STCW-F Convention on training for fishers, are linked to SDG 4 on education and training. We also want to raise awareness of women in fisheries, linking to SDG 5 - in line with our 2019 Word Maritime Theme "Empowering women in the maritime community".

And of course, SDG 17, on partnerships, is exemplified here today by our UN partnerships and by our partnerships with Pew Charitable Trusts, with the host government and with all the Member States and NGOs here at this Conference.

Distinguished Delegates,

Back in 1977, in this very hall, the journey towards a mandatory international safety regime for fishing vessels began.  After more than 42 years, IMO and its Member States have returned to Torremolinos to give the final push, to bring a binding international regulatory regime for fishing vessel into force. 

I would like to encourage all Member States present here today to consider joining this evening's signing ceremony for the Torremolinos Declaration.  This is a non-legally binding political instrument for States to publicly indicate their determination to ratify the Cape Town Agreement by the tenth anniversary of its adoption, which will be on 11 October 2022.

I strongly believe that this declaration will not only serve to show the commitment of the Member States signing it, but it will also encourage other States to take action on accession, to bring this critical first step to a close. 

Let us all work to finish this "voyage together" – the voyage that our predecessors started all those decades ago, to protect the lives of the men and women who fish on the high seas. Let us continue to demonstrate the well-established spirit of collaboration in meeting the objectives of IMO, a safe, secure and environmentally friendly shipping industry.

I wish you all every success as you embark on your work over the next three days.

I would like to reiterate our sincerest gratitude to the Kingdom of Spain for its generosity in hosting this Ministerial Conference and for all the courtesies extended and the fantastic facilities; and, of course, ensuring that our stay in this beautiful and lively city is enjoyable.

It now gives me great pleasure to declare this conference open and to wish you all, and the Ministerial Conference, every success and good luck.

Thank you.