Commenting on the outcome of the 31st Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries, the EC noted that that there was broad support for the establishment of the global register of fishing vessels – including the use of the International Maritime Organization number as a unique vessel identifier for phase 1 of the register – promoted by the FAO. For this project, the FAO has an annual budget of around US$500,000, and Spain announced it will contribute €250,000. Spain’s Secretary General of Fisheries stressed that it is “an essential tool in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, since it makes it possible to know which vessels operate legally”.
To achieve this, the global register has the objective of centralising data from fishing vessels, refrigerated transport and support vessels. Only certified, up-to-date vessel records provided by the authorities in charge will be used. FAO’s immediate priority is with the system development and implementation at this initial stage. The global register development road map has three main pillars: robust and cost-effective system development, capacity development and awareness-raising. The FAO project has been undertaken in collaboration with the European Commission (DG Mare) to define specifications with the aim of standardising the vessel information.
Spain will not only fund the project, but also participate in the Project Advisory Committee “providing expertise in this field, in which the inspection services of the General Secretariat of Fisheries have been working since 2000”.
The establishment of a global register of fishing vessels, based on the use of a unique vessel identifier, will be a useful tool to ensure not only that vessels engaged in IUU fishing are uncovered, but also to improve the traceability of fish products. This global register will ultimately help all actors in the fish supply chain to verify that the fish they are using is not coming from a vessel engaged in IUU fishing operations. In this sense, this initiative will help tighten up catch certification schemes, like the one set up under the EU IUU regulation, which should be rooted in a robust traceability system.