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Committee Backs IUU Binding Rules For Port States

by the Fish Site Editor
14 April 2011, at 1:00am

EU - Port state measures to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing should apply worldwide, said the Fisheries Committee MEPs on Tuesday, as it backed an agreement to this end sponsored by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

If Parliament as a whole backs committee's recommendation, the EU will become the third entity to ratify the agreement out of the 25 needed for it to enter into force.

The agreement's key aim is for port states to act to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing and thus ensure long-term conservation and sustainable exploitation of maritime resources and ecosystems.

The new rules will apply to all port states or entities such as the EU which ratify the agreement, for all their ports and for all vessels that do not fly their flags but seek to enter and use their ports. The only exceptions are for boats from neighbouring countries engaged in artisanal fishing for subsistence and container vessels that either are not carrying any fish at all or have already landed their catch.

The EU has already established a system to combat IIU fishing, which includes rules for access and use of EU ports by third-country vessels. As IUU remains a global threat requiring a global and at the same time effective response, it is essential that more port states apply similar rules. MEPs therefore called on the Commission to actively promote ratification and implementation of the Agreement by third countries willing to engage in trade with the EU.

Entering ports

All states that ratify the protocol will have to designate ports to which vessels not flying their flag may request entry. The list must then be sent to the FAO, which will make it public.

When applying to enter to a port, vessels will have to provide certain information, including relevant fishing and transhipment authorisations, total catch on board and catch to be offloaded in the port. Before granting or denying access, the relevant authority will use the information to determine whether the vessel has engaged in IUU fishing.

If access is denied on such grounds, the information will be forwarded by the relevant authority to other coastal states and regional management organisations and the vessels should immediately be listed as being engaged or supporting in IUU fishing practices. If unsure, the vessels may be granted access solely for the purpose of inspection.

Once in...

After entering the port, the vessel may be denied landing, transhipping, processing or packaging of fish, or even refuelling or maintenance if it does not hold a valid fishing authorisation from the flag or coastal state in whose waters it was fishing, if it has clearly breached the relevant requirements of such a state, or if it has been engaged in IUU fishing. However, support essential for safety or good health of the crew must under no circumstances be denied.

Inspections

In order to make the most of the agreement, port states are expected to carry out a number of inspections every year, primarily targeting vessels that have recently been denied entry or use of port or that have been suspected by regional management organisations or other coastal states of engaging in IUU fishing activities. If the allegations are proven correct, inspectors will immediately notify the flag state, the coastal states concerned and the regional management organisation. In such cases, access to and use of any port of the state will be denied.

Rapid exchange of relevant information is essential for applying the agreement. Signatories should therefore co-operate and develop communication mechanisms - including direct electronic exchange - that facilitate fast, efficient, and reliable information flow.

Next steps

The agreement will enter into force only if ratified by at least 25 countries. So far, only two port states have deposited the instrument of ratification. If Parliament votes in favour (in Strasbourg, 9 - 12 May 2011) the EU could become the third signatory to do so.

the Fish Site Editor