International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) president Susan Jackson considers the improvement of vessel registration schemes and the eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) activities should be the top priority for all ocean conservation organizations.
ISSF president voiced this reflection in response to the recent Global Oceans Action Summit in The Hague, held by the Government of The Netherlands with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank.
“Monitoring the practices and the number of fishing vessels at sea in an effort to protect fish stocks and respect national and international regulation is not just a conservation issue – it’s an economic and food security concern as well,” Jackson remarked.
And she added: “Not only do illegal fishing activities involve vessels actively fishing with no regard for maritime rules, conservation management rules and protected areas, it means large gaps in data – a serious impediment to successfully and sustainably managing the world’s fisheries. And it’s a major economic drain; Interpol estimates its cost to the global economy at up to USD 23 billion annually.”
The director pointed out that the ISSF and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have been appealing to tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), and their member nations, to promote improved tracking and data collection systems. And she highlighted that at present three of the four tropical tuna RFMOs have recently adopted measures that require vessels to have a unique vessel identifier in order to be registered and authorized to fish in the RFMO region.
Another effort to combat IUU fishing has been made by the Government of Ghana, in partnership with the FAO, WWF, the tuna industry and the ISSF.
WWF announced in a press release that this partnership will operate under a global project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) as a five-year program aimed at improving the sustainability of tuna fisheries and conservation of biodiversity.
ISSF President welcomed these multipronged continuous improvement efforts and stressed that ISSF is pleased to be a part of this innovative partnership.
“Ghana’s decision to participate in this innovative partnership demonstrates our commitment to strengthening transparency in fisheries and contributing to the global fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,“ remarked Nayon Bilijo, minister of fisheries and aquaculture development.
The project will use electronic monitoring systems aboard tuna purse seine vessels to verify that fishing activity is in compliance with International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) regulation. The technology collects information to provide better estimates of the tuna catch and integrates this new technology with traditional tools used for monitoring, control and surveillance of tuna fisheries.
“By improving our ability to monitor catch data, this project has the potential to help the government of Ghana ensure its tuna harvests are legal and sustainable,” said Lauren Spurrier, marine director for WWF.
“The Ghana tuna industry is delighted to be an active participant of this project and truly honoured to be chosen for the purse seine trial,” said Nicolas Okyere, president of the Ghana Tuna Association.
And the president added: “We believe this will further expand to the entire Ghanaian tuna fleet and continue to show our full commitment to sustainable fisheries in line with the government’s Fisheries Management Plan.”