World's Largest and Busiest Fishing Ports Identified in New Study

18 January 2016, at 12:00am

GLOBAL - A new study, commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts, ranks the worlds top 100 ports by volume of commercial fish landed, providing another vital layer of knowledge for assessing fishing vessel activity at ports around the globe.

The information fosters a better understanding of where Port State Measures can be most effective in deterring illegal fishing and preventing illicit catch from entering the market, writes Tony Long,
Director of the Ending Illegal Fishing Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The study “Fish Landings at the World’s Commercial Fishing Ports” includes a database with information from 948 individual ports in 47 countries.

The Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics recently published the results of the work led by Tim Huntington, founding director of Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Ltd., a consulting firm based in the United Kingdom.

Commercial fishing operations use these ports not only to land their catch but also to get access to the services and supplies that fishing and transshipment vessels need to sustain their operations.

Fishing vessels that carry illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) catch use these ports as well. That means that some ports, whether their managers know or not, serve as conduits for landing illicit fish.

In 2009, in an effort to deter IUU fishing activities, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization adopted the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, commonly called the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA).

Countries that are parties to the treaty agree to exert greater control at their ports to detect IUU catch before it can be offloaded from vessels. That helps prevent the catch from entering the world’s markets. Still, the lack of reliable data on which ports are the largest and busiest has been a major challenge for authorities in determining where to dedicate resources.

The new study and database highlight an absence of reliable port-specific data on fish landings and fishing vessel activity. While facts on merchant vessels are more readily available, similar data on port calls for fishing vessels are difficult to obtain, and this lack of information continues to undermine global initiatives to identify and prevent IUU fishing.

The PSMA must be ratified by 25 governments in order to go into effect. Once it does, those states will be required to deny entry to vessels suspected of IUU fishing activity. They will also be able to designate specific ports to accommodate incoming foreign fishing vessels. The agreement’s reporting and information-exchange obligations will help improve port-level data collection on fish landings and vessel activity. Effective implementation of the agreement will contribute to greater understanding of where fish are being caught and landed, and by whom.

Additional information, such as port landings by foreign and domestic vessels or species and the value of fish landed, is needed to help managers assess a port’s susceptibility to IUU fishing. That extra detail would allow for focused efforts to enhance port controls where illegal fishing is of greatest concern.