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Sierra Leone News: Illegal fishing accounts for $23b loss annually

A growing number of countries are signing up to a global agreement that helps stop illegal fishing, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said. With illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is estimated to affect one in every five fish caught, with an annual cost of up to USD $23 billion.
June 5 was chosen as the “international day for the fight against IUU fishing” because it was the anniversary of the port state measures agreement (PSMA) which came into force in 2016. The PSMA is the first binding international agreement that specifically targets IUU fishing. So far 54 States and the European Union have become parties to the agreement, and many have already started implementing the provisions.
“Many other countries are currently in the process of ratification by their parliaments. I would like to congratulate all of those countries, and urge all other countries to join this global effort to eliminate illegal fishing. For the PSMA to be very effective, we need every country onboard,” said FAO’s general director Jose Graziano da Silva.
Unfortunately, since Sierra Leone is amongst the countries that have signed to the PSMA but is yet to ratify the said agreement, with signing it only signal support for the treaty but is only one step towards ratification.
The PSMA reduces the incentive of vessels to operate illicitly by denying their access to ports and therefore their ability to land their catch and receive port services. In effect, it blocks fishery products derived from IUU fishing from reaching national and international markets.
It entered into force after it surpassed 25 ratifications, the international treaty, adopted by the FAO in 2009, strengthens and harmonizes port controls to prevent illegally caught fish from entering the global market. Stronger port controls will leave criminal fishers with fewer places to sell their catch and greatly reduce illegal fishing around the world.
“Around the world ruthless operators are plundering fish stocks and emptying our oceans, and it is not only fish but people who are paying the price. Empty oceans equal empty stomachs and empty wallets,” Karmenu Vella, European Union Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said at the event at FAO headquarters.
The Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels operationalized in 2017 is a state-certified repository of information on vessels involved in fishing operations which supports the implementation of the PSMA and fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance in general.
The FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Marking Fishing Gear – aimed at reducing abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded gear – has been negotiated by FAO Members and is pending endorsement by the FAO Committee on Fisheries in July 2018.
About 10% of the world’s population directly depend on fisheries for their livelihoods, and for many developing countries, fish is the most traded food product. Fisheries also provide jobs for young people and women, but the sustainability of this important socio-economic sector is highly threatened by illegal fishing.
IUU fishing has negative impacts on livelihoods, fish stocks and the environment. It may also be connected to other illicit activities such as trafficking of narcotics and weapons, human trafficking, labour abuses and even slavery.
In his speech at the State Opening of Parliament, President Julius Maada Bio singled out IUU as a critical challenge in the sector thereby limiting accessibility to the international market. As a result, the total annual revenue loss to Sierra Leone is estimated at over $50 million USD.
The overall policy objective, the President said, will be to create a profitable fisheries sector that contributes significantly to socio-economic development through sustainable management and utilisation of our fisheries resources while also conserving the environment.
He said, that will be achieved by focusing on improving marine resource governance and sustainable management of fisheries, reducing illegal fishing, improving the quality of marine products and developing fishing infrastructure.
By Zainab Iyamide Joaque
Thursday June 07, 2018.

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