The announcement was made at the 31st Session of the United Nations Committee on Fisheries (COFI), currently taking place in Rome.
The Global Record will be a key tool in the global fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by providing a central database of information on vessels throughout their lifespan, regardless of whether they change names, flags or identification markings, thereby driving both transparency and traceability in the global industrial fishing fleet. Consisting of an international database of industrial fishing vessels, the Global Record will contain each vessel’s unique International Maritime Organization (IMO) number as well as information on its ownership, flag and history.
The contribution by Spain represents over half of the annual budget of the Global Record, which is estimated at $500,000. Spain will also join the Global Record’s Advisory Committee, giving Spanish authorities an important role in guiding the project’s progress and providing input on technical issues associated with its development.
Crucially, a Global Record will help countries make informed judgments about whether vessels should be considered high-risk, and whether they should be granted flags, fishing licences and access to port. A Global Record will be integral to the effective implementation of the UN’s Port State Measures Agreement, by supplying port officials with verified vessel information that they can use to guide inspections.
There is also increasing interest in the Global Record by actors in seafood supply chains, many of whom are increasingly taking steps to verify the identities and activities of boats supplying them with fish, in order to ensure they have not been involved in IUU fishing or the abuse of crews.
EJF investigations have shown how illegal fishing vessels escape detection and sanctions by changing their identities, and “flag-hopping” between open vessel registries. This is particularly damaging in areas such as West Africa, where poor flag State responsibility, low levels of monitoring and control by coastal States, and weak port controls often allow illegal activities to go unchallenged. It is estimated that a third of the region’s catch comes from illegal fishing, and 48 per cent of assessed fish stocks are being exploited at unsustainable levels.
Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF said: “The Spanish Government has given a massive boost to the Global Record project and we congratulate them for this leadership. It is part of the wider efforts by Spain to combat IUU fishing through effective implementation of the EU IUU Regulation, and by promoting effective flag State performance. We now hope that other countries will step up and provide the additional financial support needed, so that this practical and cost-effective tool can become a reality.”
“What might seem an obscure technical tool actually has huge practical use and will bring direct and significant benefits to the marine environment, legitimate fishing operators and coastal communities around the world. We will need a joint effort by all actors to ensure the Global Record fulfills its full potential and applaud Spain’s leadership in fostering such collaboration."