UN FAO Port State Measures Agreement

Created on Friday, 10 April 2015

The Leaders

First, let’s begin with a big high-five to Chile, Gabon, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, and the EU which have ratified or approved this agreement (source: Pew Charitable Trusts).

Now let’s review why this is an important piece of legislation at the United Nations:

Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) Fishing is a serious problem. Estimates of fishing losses to illegal activity range from $10-23.5 billion, representing 11-26 million tons of seafood (Agnew et al. 2009). Some countries suffer greatly (40% of West Africa’s total catches may be illegal) and, in others, illegal fishing may double the documented harvest numbers (Agnew et al. 2009). Furthermore, developing countries often bear the brunt of IUU fishing through lost revenue, decreased food security, and loss of biodiversity (FAO, 2012).

The Port State Measures Agreement, or PSMA, seeks to make it harder to land illegal product. Countries that ratify the treaty must: 1) designate ports through which foreign fishing vessels may enter; 2) conduct dockside inspections following set standards; 3) block entry to vessels known or believed to have been involved in IUU or those on an IUU vessel list of a Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO); and 4) share information with the governments of vessels with IUU product, when discovered during inspection.

What about the United States?

The U.S. has signed, but not yet ratified the treaty. On February 5th, 2015 members of Congress from both sides of aisle introduced the PSMA as a new bill (H.R. 774: Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015). The bill has now been referred to the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, where it awaits a vote.

Next Steps

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) approved the PSMA to ‘Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing’on November 22, 2009. This treaty will go into effect once 25 countries have ratified the Agreement (ratified by 11 nations to date). It will likely take a few more years to have enough countries ratify the Agreement to move the PSMA forward to implementation.

While the PSMA is still awaiting ratification by 14 more countries, progress in some countries has been made to support implementation of the Agreement. For example, in April 2012, a global series of capacity-development workshops to support implementation of the Agreement was launched in Thailand, to cater to countries from Southeast Asia (FAO, 2012), a toolkit has been developed that outlines how to conduct a needs assessment (PSMA Toolkit), and work is being done to compare current RFMO traceability requirements against those of the PSMA (e.g. Pew, Closing the Gap, 2011). Seventeen countries have initiated the ratification process (See the PEW PSMA tracker).

FishWise will continue to monitor progress of the PSMA and let our retail and NGO partners, along with the public, know how they can help encourage the process.