In a global context of fierce competition for fishery resources which are progressively being depleted as a consequence of overfishing, overexploitation and overcapacity, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has become a growing concern, points out a FAO fisheries release.
IUU fishing encompasses a range of activities whose common aim is to avoid national and international regulations in areas including the coastal seas and high seas. The Mediterranean and the Black Sea are not spared by this phenomenon. Indeed, fighting against this scourge is one of the priorities on the agenda of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (GFCM/FAO).
This important subject was recently debated at two working group meetings organized by the GFCM/FAO in Marrakech, Morocco, on 20–24 April 2015, during which international experts discussed measures to deter IUU fishing, including the use of vessel monitoring systems (VMS). Thanks to the participation of a wide range of experts from GFCM members, international organizations such as the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation Among African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean (ATLAFCO), and civil society organizations including the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Marine Stewardship Council, MedReAct, CLS (Collection and Location by Satellite), Trackwell and Succorfish, these events represented decisive progress towards the implementation of a regional strategy against IUU fishing for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, based on specific roadmaps already adopted by the GFCM.
As is the case for other regional fisheries management organizations around the world, the GFCM/FAO faces many challenges helping its members adopt efficient measures to deter IUU fishing and bring about a level playing field, so that existing gaps at the country level are not exploited by IUU fishing operators.
To deal with this complex issue, it is crucial to adopt a multi-faceted and modular approach to control practices. The working groups provided an opportunity to discuss possible solutions, ranging from scientific to technical and control-related measures. In particular, experts recognized the importance of Port State Measures, certification schemes and broader cooperation. They also examined recent technologies which would also allow monitoring artisanal fishing boats, given the considerable role of artisanal fisheries represent in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
In parallel with these regulatory measures, raising awareness among the general public and the international community of responsible fishing practices, stressing the negative impacts of IUU fishing and advocating for efficient actions to fight IUU fishing is of particular importance. In this respect, perhaps one of the most interesting outcomes of the working groups meetings was the proposal to proclaim the 24th April of each year as “International day against IUU fishing” in order to mobilize organizations, stakeholders and the general public worldwide in the fight against IUU fishing. The GFCM/FAO and all working group participants strongly embrace this idea and hope that the “International day against IUU fishing” will soon become a major international celebration.