Sally Yozell presents policy recommendations for Distant Water Fishing at UN FAO International Symposium

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This week, the world’s foremost experts in sustainable fisheries gathered in Rome at the International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  Sally Yozell, Director of the Stimson Center’s Environmental Security Program, addressed the FAO Symposium on November 21 presenting actionable recommendations offered in her recent report, Shining a Light: The Need for Transparency across Distant Water Fishing.

Despite the crucial importance of marine and inland fisheries for food, nutrition, and economic security around the world, the trends indicate that fewer fish stocks are caught each year within sustainable levels. In the context of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and World Fisheries Day (November 21st), the FAO Symposium aims to identify pathways to strengthen the nexus between science and policy in fisheries production, management, and trade, based on solid sustainability principles that will lead to improved global impacts on the ground.

The Symposium opened with panels that provide a collective baseline about fish stock levels at global and regional levels, the importance of seafood in food security, economic aspects of fisheries and fishing industry jobs, emerging technologies, and the challenges that climate change presents to sustainable fisheries. Sally Yozell spoke during the closing session that focused on policy opportunities for fisheries management in the 21st century. This session explored policy imperatives for the fisheries sector in the context of renewed emphasis on fisheries to meet the food demands of a growing human population, progressive changes in the overall productivity of marine systems, the international implications of reduced access to fisheries resources, and the redistribution of fished species in relation to management areas and fisheries as a result of climate change. 

Many of the challenges to successful policy implementation are the result of a high demand for limited resources, poverty and lack of alternatives to fishing, complexity and inadequate knowledge, inappropriate incentives and market distortions, lack of governance, and conflicts between the fisheries sector with other sectors and the environment. It is well recognized that national and international management of fisheries still faces several gaps and weaknesses that must be addressed so that the full potential of the world’s fisheries can be unlocked and properly managed.

Sally Yozell and her fellow panelists laid out how alternative policies for the sector in different regions of the world can help maintain or improve the performance of fisheries management and the wider goals of poverty alleviation, development, job creation, food security and nutrition, and the health of the oceans and freshwater resources. The session will conclude by laying out a vision for the sector and the contribution of fisheries to ‘The future we want.’

Yozell presented the findings and recommendations from the report, which detailed that China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Spain maintain the largest distant water fishing (DWF) fleets and comprise 90% of all DWF vessels, and that these top fleets primarily targeted three main regions: the Pacific, West Africa, and East Africa. The report found that DWF fleets have a high risk of engaging in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Distant water fleets target high value fish in locations where governance and enforcement capacity are low, and where distant water fleet states can ensure access to other countries fisheries through quid pro quo agreements.

The policy recommendations were for discussion and adoption in order to steer the fishing industry towards sustainability. The recommendations were optimized for implementation, to provide greater transparency and accountability to DWF fleet states, coastal states, international management bodies, and the fishing industry in order to safeguard global fisheries well into the future.

The recommendations include:

  1. As a precondition to accessing the global market place:

    • Require seafood traceability across the full supply chain;
    • Mandate Automated Identification Systems (AIS) and Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) at all times on both fishing and transshipment vessels; and
    • Make information about access agreements, and vessel ownership publicly available.
  2. Coastal nations should invest revenues from access agreements into improved fisheries management.
  3. DWF flag states should end subsidies, which support unsustainable practices and encourage overfishing.
  4. Flag states and coastal nations should accede to and implement the Port State Measures Agreement and deter illegal catch from entering ports.

Read the full report and complete policy recommendations

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