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Landmark UN illegal fishing treaty approved

[JURIST] The first legally binding international treaty aimed at combating ships involved in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing has been approved [press release] by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) [official website] governing Conference. The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing [text, PDF] is a landmark treaty aimed at efficient prevention of IUU fishing, a widespread global problem that has been a serious detriment on the legitimate fishing industry. Eleven FAO members - Angola, Brazil, Chile, the European Commission, Indonesia, Iceland, Norway, Samoa, Sierra Leone, the US, and Uruguay – signed the treaty immediately following its approval Wednesday, and the treaty will take effect once it has been ratified by 25 countries. Under the terms of the treaty, governments will be responsible for conducting regular port inspections and providing ports with proper equipment and inspectors. In addition, foreign fishing ships will be required to request permission to dock at designated ports ahead of time. The measures apply only to foreign vessels, but governments can elect to enforce the measures on their own ships as well. Assistant Director-General of FAO's Fisheries Department Ichiro Namura praised the treaty calling it a "milestone achievement" and saying, "[n]ow countries are committing to taking steps to identify, report and deny entry to offenders at ports where fishing fleets are received. That's a key back-door that will be slammed shut with the new international treaty."

An agreement [JURIST report] on the final text of the treaty was first reached by 91 FAO countries in September. Environmental groups have estimated that nearly 20 percent of landed fish were caught illegally [Reuters report], posing a detrimental global problem in the fishing industry. The US State Department [official website] called the treaty "a step forward in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing." The International Ocean Governance Director of the Pew Environment Group [advocacy website] Stefan Flothmann has stated that "the treaty's effectiveness relies heavily upon its broad ratification, successful implementation and the willingness of nations to share enforcement information."

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