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Central American States Begin Cooperation on Port Controls to Combat Illegal Fishing

Sustainability Politics

GLOBAL - The Central American Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization (OSPESCA) has launched a new regional project to fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing at ports under the jurisdiction of its eight member countries.

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The announcement was made by the organization’s executive committee at its sixth meeting, December 15-16 in San Salvador, where OSPESCA also marked its 20th anniversary.

The new project aims to bolster members’ ability to protect their borders and ensure that their ports employ the highest international standards for fishing vessel control. This regional effort is supported in part by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Orestes Ortez, El Salvador’s minister of agriculture and president pro tem of OSPESCA, expressed his country’s support for the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA)—a treaty to prevent, deter, and eliminate IUU fishing—to ensure sustainability and better position the region’s seafood products in international markets. Minister Ortez also conveyed his appreciation for Pew’s continued support of OSPESCA’s project.

The Central American states have adopted legally binding regional regulations that provide guidance for coordinating efforts to prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal fishing. This new project will apply a capacity needs assessment methodology to determine the specific requirements of each country in order to implement port controls. By utilizing this methodology regionally, OSPESCA intends to contribute substantially to the eradication of illegal fishing. According to Mario González, OSPESCA’s director, this new regional project will help build the institutional framework required for implementation of new IUU regulations.

On a global scale, experts estimate that illegal fishing accounts for up to $23.5 billion in worldwide losses each year, or up to 1 in 5 wild-caught marine fish. The problem affects a growing number of coastal communities and is particularly acute in developing nations, a significant portion of whose populations depend on fishing for their livelihood but lack the resources to adequately police their waters.

The OSPESCA project will provide fisheries authorities with a better understanding of port capacities, as well as insight on national and regional requirements related to the ratification and implementation of the PSMA. The international agreement was approved by the 36th Session of the FAO Conference in November 2009 and will be a key instrument in preventing illegally caught fish from entering the market. Costa Rica was the first Central American country to adhere to this international instrument; the agreement will enter into force once ratified by 25 U.N. member states.

“The regional effort announced today is a critical step in keeping illegally caught fish from entering the market,” said Tony Long, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to end illegal fishing.

“When states come together and operate as a united front, they maximize the impact of efforts to stop illegal fishing by denying access to neighboring ports.”

Long commended OSPESCA’s commitment to increasing port controls, noting that “when deterrents are applied in combination with corresponding measures—such as the use of unique vessel identifiers and new monitoring technology—the Port States Measures Agreement will effectively reduce illegal fishing activities.”