Harsher penalties needed to combat illegal fishing says UNsponsored meeting

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Noting in particular an ongoing build-up of capacity in tuna fisheries in the western and central Pacific Ocean, 84 members of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggested that regional governments take urgent preventive steps, including a halt to the introduction of additional large-scale fishing vessels. At the close of technical consultations held from 24 to 29 June at FAO’s Rome headquarters, the group, including the European Union, entrusted the organization with creating a central date bank on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing worldwide and with developing common benchmarks for measuring fishing capacity. FAO was also asked to conduct a global review of fishing capacity and intensify the technical support it provides to resource-strapped developing countries struggling with the problems of capacity management and illicit fishing. According to FAO reports IUU fishing continues to worsen, while global fishing capacity has started to level off, at least in terms of the number of fishing vessels and their combined tonnage. The most common IUU violations involve the use of illegal gear, followed by disregard for established fishing seasons, fishing in closed areas and catches of illegal or undersized species. Studies based on information from 82 FAO member countries highlighted gaps in information on vessel catches and activities as a major barrier to better control of IUU fishing. Around 63 per cent of countries responding to a FAO survey indicated they know the positions of most fishing vessels operating in their waters and can determine catch levels using vessel-provided information. But only 60 per cent of countries allowing foreign ships to fish in their national waters indicated they actually verify that those ships are properly authorized to do so by their port states. In terms of fishing on the high seas, the survey concluded that while some controls are in place, fewer than half of countries are exerting effective control over vessels flying their flags. On the positive side regional fishery bodies reported in a separate FAO study that they are adopting an increasing range of measures against IUU fishing.

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