The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC), an FAO regional fisheries body, is hosting a regional workshop to build capacity for implementation of the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port States Measures among the Caribbean Small-Island Developing States (SIDS). The workshop is being held in Port-of-Spain this week and is being attended by more than 80 officials from 25 countries.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to be a threat to the effective conservation and management of fish stocks in the wider Caribbean region.IUU fishing is causing economic and social losses for the Caribbean countries and negatively impacts their food security.The FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing has been designed to intensify global collaboration between fisheries and port authorities, coast guards and navies.
The aim is to eliminate IUU fishing, through globally agreed minimum standards for concerted action, enabling better inspections and controls at the ports on vessels and increasing flag state responsibility.
In his opening remarks, Barton Clarke, FAO representative to T&T, emphasised that the agreement is important in particular for SIDS as it empowers them to exert greater control of their own waters and over shared stocks, increasing transparency of fishing operations. Coastal fisheries resources of Caribbean SIDS are already under pressure and illegal fishing from foreign vessels is adding to this.Most target fish stocks in the Caribbean region are already either fully exploited or over exploited.
Caribbean SIDS' fisheries are carried out mostly by small-scale vessels in coastal near-shore areas, but industrial fleets from other countries fish further off-shore and on the high seas of the Western Central Atlantic–vast areas that are difficult to manage and monitor.These fisheries negatively affect the availability of fish to the small-scale fleets of the SIDS.
The Agreement on Port State Measures provides Caribbean SIDS with a cost-effective way to combat IUU fishing. Where there is evidence of IUU fishing by a vessel that requests entry to its port, the port State may prohibit such entry.Where the vessel has entered port, the port State may–or in certain circumstances must–deny the use of its ports to the vessel for such profitable activities including landings, transshipments, supply and services.
A harmonised system of port inspections, communications and measures means that the vessel is unable to offload its valuable catch or carry on fishing operations and may be squeezed out of business.Clarke encouraged the Caribbean SIDS to become Champions of Port State Measures and eliminate jointly illegal fisheries in the region.
Joan Hannibal-Phillips, acting permanent secretary of the Ministry of Food Production, emphasised the commitment of the Government to taking steps towards making T&T a food secure nation through, among other measures, the management of the marine resources and preventing or deterring actions that can undermine the effectiveness of pertinent management and conservation measures.The United Nations has declared 2014 International Year of the SIDS.
It is widely recognised that fishing is an essential economic activity for the small islands and that it contributes to food security, employment and livelihoods.The Agreement on Port State Measures will, once ratified by 25 countries, enter into force and will enable participating fish importing countries to assure their consumers that fish and fishery products on their markets derive from legitimate fisheries.
Through increased traceability of fish it is expected that the implementation of the Agreement will lead to reduced market opportunities for illegal fishers and reduced costs for sea-based inspection while increasing the more economical port-based inspections.