Seafood sector leaders urge government action to close the net on illegal fishing in the Pacific

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Groups working with over 150 companies call for collective efforts in advance of the G7 Hiroshima Summit.

15 May 2023 – Each year, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing strips an estimated $26-50 billion USD from the global economy. Accounting for one in every five fish caught around the world, IUU fishing undermines sustainable fisheries management and the livelihoods of fishers who are playing by the rules. Governments have agreed on a robust set of measures to end IUU fishing. In a statement out today, a coalition of leaders in the seafood sector call on governments to turn those commitments into action, and reaffirmed their 2021 statement on traceability and port state measures.

Members of the coalition—the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST), Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), Global Tuna Alliance (GTA), International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), Sea Pact, and Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS)—are working with their supply chain partners to identify and combat IUU fishing. These efforts are hindered, however, by the failure of governments to provide basic information about the identities and activities of vessels in their fleets. Governments must do their part by sharing the information that both companies and other governments need to identify vessels involved in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and establishing robust port controls that prevent those vessels from unloading and selling their catch.

Fortunately, there are already mechanisms by which governments can take action. The Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA), for instance, is a binding international agreement that works to prevent, deter, and eliminate IUU fishing by preventing vessels fishing illegally from entering ports and landing their catch. Since entering into force in 2016, 74 States and the European Union are now Parties to the Agreement. 

“By ratifying the PSMA, governments send a powerful message that they are committed to safeguarding our ocean and protecting the livelihoods of those who depend on sustainable fisheries,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean and Co-Chair of Friends of Ocean Action. “Now, we need robust, coordinated, and consistent implementation of the PSMA to achieve the Agreement’s goals. Regional cooperation, in particular, can be a key strategy to deter those who exploit marine fisheries unlawfully.” 

Specifically, the coalition recognizes the significant opportunities for action in Pacific waters, particularly among the economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). With 21 member economies representing over 60% of global GDP, APEC holds immense potential to drive change in combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Currently, 14 APEC Economies have ratified the PSMA, and China has expressed its intention to do so by 2025. By uniting their efforts, these countries can affect change at a scale that ensures regional fisheries management organizations and all ports are equipped with the necessary tools and resources to effectively implement the PSMA. 

The statement highlights specific actions that APEC nations can take. These actions include sharing vessel and port information through established global and regional platforms, as well as collaborating with regional fisheries management organizations to operationalize consistent Port State Measures across the Pacific. 

The upcoming G7 Hiroshima Summit in Japan, taking place next week, serves as a significant opportunity to initiate a dialogue. Regional coordination, strong commitments to transparency and Port State Measures, and efforts by the seafood sector can help eliminate illegal fishing from the Pacific.

QUOTES FROM COALITION LEADERS

“Government implemention of PSMA and Global Information Exchange, in conjunction with the seafood industry’s implementation of interoperable digital traceability, is the key to eliminating IUU fishing and validating the legality of what is harvested and traded throughout global seafood supply chains.” Greg Brown, Executive Director, GDST

“GSSI, as one of the largest precompetitive collaborations in the world representing the full seafood value chain, has as its mission the need for more sustainable seafood for everyone. Within this, we and our global partners recognize that seafood can be a driver for good in a myriad of ways. This includes combating IUU fishing. The importance of eradicating IUU is clear, both from environmental and sustainable fisheries perspectives, as well as the potential of human rights abuses that illegal fishing is too often associated with. GSSI supports the coalition’s efforts of continuing to call upon governments and supply chain actors to take meaningful action toward the elimination of IUU fishing.”  Lisa Goché, Interim Executive Director, GSSI

“The GTA is committed to avoiding illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) products, which is an essential part of the backbone of our 5-year strategy. We are proud of being part of this coalition, and we look forward to continuing working with all our partners to improve the current fishing practices. It is as simple as sustainable fisheries mean sustainable businesses.” Albert Arthur, Director of Outreach and Engagement, GTA

“The global seafood sector has shown it is ready to be part of the solution to the challenge of IUU fishing. At ISSF, we are working to put an end to IUU activities in the world’s tuna fisheries through our conservation measures for seafood companies and vessels, best practices research, and advocacy outreach. We urge the governments to act now toward concrete action in this collaborative fight.” Susan Jackson, President, ISSF

“As a collaboration of middle supply chain seafood companies, Sea Pact is committed to combating IUU fishing. Our efforts include members’ individual responsible sourcing commitments as part of our membership requirements, supporting RFMO advocacy efforts calling for improved monitoring and observer coverage, as well as funding and engaging efforts on regional adoption of electronic monitoring systems to ensure legality of harvested fish.  Additionally, we joined this coalition to further engage anti-IUU efforts.” Sam Grimley, Executive Director, Sea Pact

“SeaBOS remains committed to eliminating IUU fishing. We have a tool kit outlining  governance of our own operations and supply chains, advancing traceability, and external reporting and accountability. In addition, our voluntary procurement actions provide ways to address IUU fishing in supply chains.”  Martin Exel, Managing Director, SeaBOS

Media contact

Gemma Parkes: Communications Lead, Friends of Ocean Action and Ocean Action Agenda, World Economic Forum, on gpa@weforum.org or +41 79 305 2977

For more information

These leaders in the seafood sector, facilitated by the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions and the World Economic Forum’s Ocean Action Agenda, have come together to create a future in which global seafood supply chains are transparent, support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, and foster healthy marine ecosystems. It comprises the following six groups:

The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) was initiated in 2017 as a global dialogue to create the first-ever global seafood industry traceability standards. By 2022, it was fully established as a global partnership and participation organization—dedicated to the adoption and implementation of interoperable digital traceability throughout fishery and aquaculture supply chains. GDST Standards, Verification Tests, Implementation Tools, Adoption Support Services, and partnership information are available at https://traceability-dialogue.org

The Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) is a public-private partnership of over 100 retailers, food service companies, seafood supply chain companies, NGOs, and international organizations working together to accelerate the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  Through its strong relationship with the FAO, GSSI is uniquely positioned to support its Partners in drive forward more sustainable seafood for everyone.

The Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) is an independent group of over 50 retailers and tuna supply chain companies that are committed to realising harvest strategies for tuna fisheries, avoidance of IUU products, improved traceability as well as environmental sustainability, and progressing work on human rights in tuna fisheries. Over 30% of the world’s tuna passes through GTA Partners.

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)—a global coalition of seafood companies, fisheries experts, scientific and environmental organizations, and the vessel community—promotes science-based initiatives for long-term tuna conservation, FAD management, bycatch mitigation, marine ecosystem health, capacity management and illegal fishing prevention. Helping global tuna fisheries meet and maintain sustainability criteria to achieve the Marine Stewardship Council certification standard is ISSF’s ultimate objective. To learn more, visit iss-foundation.org, and follow ISSF on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.  

Sea Pact is a group of leading North American seafood companies dedicated to driving stewardship and continuous improvement of social, economic, and environmental responsibility throughout global seafood supply chains.  Sea Pact members focus their collaborative efforts and project funding around sector-based sustainability improvements, responsible aquaculture education and advocacy, and social responsibility.

Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) is a unique collaboration between scientists and seafood companies across the wild capture, aquaculture and feed production sectors, leading a global transformation towards sustainable seafood production, and improving ocean health. The collaboration has been coordinated by the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University. Together, SeaBOS companies represent over 10% of the world’s seafood production and comprise over 600 subsidiary companies globally.

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