COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean not only threatens fast depleting fish stocks but the livelihoods of communities living on the coast of the region’s states, a United Nations forum in Colombo was told.
“Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to be a threat to the effective conservation and management of fish stocks in the north west Indian ocean,” said Beth Crawford, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative in Sri Lanka and Maldives.
“IUU fishing is causing economic and social losses for the coastal countries in this region and negatively impacts their food security and livelihoods.”
Collaboration between fisheries and port authorities, coast guards and navies could better combat illegal fishing in the North West Indian Ocean, she told the forum on improving implementation of the 2009 FAO agreement on port action against IUU.
“The agreement aims to eliminate IUU fishing, through globally agreed minimum standards for concerted action, enabling better inspections and controls at the ports and on vessels and strengthened flag state responsibility.”
The FAO Agreement enables ports to deny entry to vessels suspected of illegal fishing and empowers them to carry out vessel inspections.
Sri Lankan Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Mahinda Amaraweera said the government passed a law in March this year giving effect to the 2009 FAO Agreement.
“Sri Lanka accepts, the vital need, to prevent, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing,” he told the forum with delegates of 15 countries.
“Sri Lanka is firmly committed to root out IUU fishing and with this commitment we have already signed the Port State Measures Agreement.”
Sri Lanka is one of only eleven states, five from the Indian Ocean, which have ratified the FAO agreement.
Norwegian Ambassador Grete Løchen told the forum the FAO Port State Agreement, considered to be a milestone achievement, enters into force only after it gets 25 ratifications.
“States are, however, slow to ratify or accede to this very important instrument and after almost six years there are only 11 parties.”
Illegal fishing has been identified as a major threat to fisheries conservation and marine biodiversity, Løchen said.
“It can lead to a collapse of a fishery, which in turn may cause adverse consequences for the livelihood of people depending on it.
“Despite the efforts by global organisations, regional bodies and States, IUU fishing continues and is in fact increasing in some areas. Fighting this phenomenon is of the highest priority to Norway.”