For the annual review of the United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution on sustainable fisheries, the EC consulted the Long Distance Regional Advisory Committee (LDRAC), which made various proposals, including for transparency in access agreements and participative surveillance. These proposals were taken on board by the EC in its final submission to the UNGA, subsequently agreed by UN members, and incorporated in the 2013 resolution.
The issue of access agreement transparency has been introduced in Section IX on “sub-regional and regional cooperation” (paragraph 134). This recognises “the importance of ensuring transparency of reporting of fishing activities within regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements in order to facilitate efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as the importance of respecting the reporting obligations within those organizations and arrangements; notes in this regard the measures adopted by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas [ICCAT] and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission [IOTC], and encourages other regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements to consider establishing similar measures.”
The ICCAT and IOTC RFMOs, to which several ACP countries are party, have indeed recently adopted a recommendation and a resolution respectively, which request the cooperating parties to submit to their secretariat precise information on licences delivered to foreign fleets operating in their exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as information on the public agreements they have entered into.
Participatory surveillance – whereby local legal fishers provide authorities with information about illegal operations they witness at sea – has been developed in recent years by artisanal fishing organisations in West Africa. In its Section IV (paragraph 70), relating to IUU fishing, the UNGA resolution on sustainable fish eries now “acknowledges the development of participatory surveillance activities at sea involving fishing communities in West Africa as a cost-effective way of detecting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”.
Participatory surveillance is a cost-effective method of raising fishing communities’ awareness about IUU fishing and deterring illegal coastal fishing activities, from mainly trawlers incursions. The EU proposal that UN members should now encourage such initiatives is a welcome development. Through their relations – SFPAs and development cooperation – ACP countries and the EU should seek ways to support further development of participative surveillance as a way of contributing to the fight against IUU fishing. It is also most welcome that the call for more transparency in fishing agreements – which starts with increased transparency in the licensing of foreign fleets by coastal countries, including ACP countries – is now addressed at the global level. To progress on this matter, ACP countries and the EU could bring it before a global forum covering fisheries governance (including the fight against IUU), for example at the next FAO Committee on Fisheries in June 2014.