ISSN 2330-717X

Within Sight: An End To Illegal Fishing In The Pacific By 2020

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Illegal fishing is a security threat, ecological emergency and human rights crisis, but it can be stopped by 2020, according to the Friends of Ocean Action a public-private partnership involving a group of more than 50 global leaders who are fast-tracking solutions to the most pressing challenges facing the Ocean.

Ending illegal fishing in the Pacific is a key strategic priority for the Friends of Ocean Action, as part of its remit to drive transformative and scalable initiatives to help the international community act swiftly to “conserve and sustainably use our Ocean” (Sustainable Development Goal 14). The group is co-chaired by Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, and Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. The aim is to fast track solutions for critical Ocean issues in time for the UN Ocean Conference in June 2020.

The Friends have identified powerful platforms on which governments can take concerted action against illegal fishing. The UN Port State Measures Agreement is designed to keep illegal fish out of countries’ ports. A total of 87 nations have signed up and the Friends are working with the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, Global Fishing Watch, Pew Charitable Trusts, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), The Nature Conservancy and the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy with 14 serving heads of government to ensure that important flag and port states around the Pacific join them and implement the agreement.

The Friends are also working with companies throughout the seafood supply chain as businesses raise demand for full traceability for the fish they buy. For example, through the Tuna Traceability Declaration, 66 leading retailers and processors have pledged that by 2020 they will only buy tuna that can be fully traced back to the vessel and trip on which it was caught. Through the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) initiative, the 10-largest seafood companies, representing 10% of the global market, have also pledged to take action.

Technology such as machine-learning and satellite tracking is shining a spotlight on illegal fishing vessels and enabling businesses and governments to act. Facial recognition and blockchain allow seafood to be traced from the moment of capture all the way to the supermarket shelf. Jim Leape, a member of the Friends of Ocean Action and Co-Director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions outlines the details here: We have the tools to tackle illegal fishing. It’s time to use them.

Seafood is the main source of protein for three billion people worldwide. But with nearly 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted, fleets are increasingly operating illegally in other countries’ exclusive waters. Researachers have estimated that as much as $23.5 billion a year is stolen from communities and coastal nations through illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing – over 20% of the global harvest. Many IUU fishing operations are run by criminal organizations with links to arms, drugs and human trafficking.

It comes as the Ocean has been gaining increased attention on the international agenda. This year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November in Santiago, Chile, will focus leaders’ attention on bringing forward the implementation of measures that can end IUU fishing, and the UN “COP 25” climate talks in December (also in Chile) will push world leaders to place Ocean health higher up the political agenda.

Through their networks, the Friends of Ocean Action are mobilizing action to drive systemic change to other major Ocean challenges. They aim to:

  • End illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
  • End plastic pollution through the Global Plastic Action Partnership
  • Expand Marine Protected Areas
  • Ensure food security from the Ocean
  • Decarbonize the maritime and shipping sector
  • Create an open platform for Ocean data
  • Scale and mobilize greater finance for Ocean innovation
  • Unlock progress on the Ocean by prioritizing gender-based solution
  • End harmful fisheries subsidies
  • Develop science-based targets to measure Ocean health

Each of the above “action tracks” requires concerted, public-private cooperation across geographies and sectors, which the Friends are helping to mobilize through their unique networks and influence. The Friends will be highlighting solutions through a campaign starting on World Oceans Day (8 June 2019), which runs until the UN Conference in 2020.

“We have the tools to tackle major Ocean challenges like illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing” said Peter Thomson, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean and Co-Chair of the Friends of Ocean Action. “World leaders have a clear choice: business as usual, with continuing Ocean decline that will harm every area of human development and wellbeing or change in our behaviour, priorities and investments that balance Ocean protection with our socio-economic goals.”

The Friends of Ocean Action community was launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018 in Davos-Klosters, alongside the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (now with 14 committed heads of government).

The group is convened by the World Economic Forum and World Resources Institute. It includes, to date, chief executive officers of 12 globally recognized businesses with large Ocean footprints; the heads of nine key international organizations with Ocean responsibilities; leaders of, and specialists at, 22 leading Ocean science and research institutions, NGOs and foundations and social enterprises; and 10 public figures who are leaders of the Ocean agenda.

“The Friends of Ocean Action is a group that is quickly becoming recognized as a vital informal platform for advancing tangible action and informed policy on the Ocean,” said Dominic Waughray, Head of the Centre for Global Public Goods, Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum. “Through fast, concerted, science-based multistakeholder action, we can drive systemic change to these seemingly intractable problems, preserve the Ocean for future generations and unlock new, sustainable forms of economic value.”

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