After five years of negotiations, international voluntary guidelines for flag state performance, developed through an FAO consultative process, were agreed upon to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. They will be presented to FAO at the next Committee on Fisheries (COFI) session for endorsement in June 2014. The consultative process was funded by Canada, New Zealand, Norway, USA and the EU.
The guidelines make recommendations for encouraging and helping flag states to comply with their international duties and obligations regarding the flagging and control of fishing vessels. They also present possible actions in response to non-compliance. These guidelines ‘will be a valuable tool in efforts to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,’ said the FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture.
The proposed guidelines include: performance assessment criteria and proposed procedures for carrying out these performance assessments; cooperation areas between flag states and coastal states; looking at ways to cooperate with and assist developing states in their capacity as a flag state; and the role that FAO can play in supporting these processes. The guidelines also look at ways to encourage compliance and deter non-compliance by flag states.
The FAO’s role will be to monitor the implementation of these guidelines, and report to the FAO Committee on Fisheries. It will organise technical assistance to countries, which may include: support for the development of an adequate legal and regulatory framework; strengthening of vessels’ control infrastructure; and training.
Many ACP countries are flag states for industrial vessels originating from Asian and European countries. The fact that some ACP countries do not have the capacity to monitor and control these vessels – which sometimes operate very far from their flag state waters – has been a source of concern for the international community. This includes other coastal ACP countries that want to combat IUU fishing in their waters, in which some of these vessels are involved. These new guidelines are most welcome, as they provide both recommendations and potential support to all ACP countries to address this issue.