HomeBelize DistrictOp-ed -Protecting Our Oceans: Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing

Op-ed -Protecting Our Oceans: Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing

Op-ed -Protecting Our Oceans: Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing

Op-ed -Protecting Our Oceans: Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing

by Javier Villanueva, Senior fishery and aquaculture officer for Latin America and the Caribbean. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

On June 5th, two highly relevant days are commemorated, strongly connected to the sustainability of fishing: World Environment Day and the International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing.

IUU fishing represents a significant threat to the sustainability of the oceans, marine biodiversity, coastal communities, and the livelihoods that depend on fishing. This activity, conducted outside the standards and responsibilities established by international instruments, undermines efforts to conserve and sustainably manage fishery resources. In Latin America and the Caribbean, around 21.6 million people depend on the fishing sector, highlighting the importance of effectively addressing this issue.

The concept of IUU fishing, adopted through international instruments and national legal frameworks, encompasses broad and complex components that often overlap. This multifaceted nature poses significant challenges in its implementation. Understanding and operationally defining each aspect is a crucial first step in adopting effective measures that improve fishery management, considering the particularities of legal, management, institutional, operational, and governance systems.

For some years now, the FAO has developed methods to estimate the scale of IUU fishing, responding to the needs of fishing countries seeking to understand the extent of this activity. There are two main approaches: the first is based on magnitude estimates to mobilize public opinion, political will, technological development, and the financial resources necessary to improve monitoring, control, and surveillance systems; the second approach, focused on indicators, helps fisheries authorities use their data to assess the effectiveness of these systems, identify threats, and ensure that resources are appropriately allocated.

In the region, several countries have taken significant measures to combat IUU fishing. Currently, 15 countries have ratified the Port State Measures Agreement, an initiative promoted by the FAO and unique that establishes a common framework to prevent, deter, and eliminate IUU fishing, facilitating information exchange and international cooperation. Its implementation contributes to more responsible and sustainable fisheries management and currently has more than one hundred countries committed globally.

The fight against IUU fishing reinforces the FAO’s work agenda and is a component of the Blue Transformation program promoted by the Organization. This program highlights the need to sustainably expand aquatic food systems, promote healthy and nutritious diets, foster equitable growth, and protect the environment.

In preparation for the Third United Nations Ocean Conference, to be held in France in 2025, Costa Rica will host the event Submerged in Change on June 7-8 this year. A new edition of the FAO’s State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report will be launched during this event, emphasizing the strategic importance of measures to advance fishery sustainability.

The future of the planet and future generations depends on the actions and commitments we make today together: governments, the private sector, communities, and international organizations must work in coordination to ensure the sustainability of marine resources.

Only through coordinated and sustainable efforts can we ensure that the oceans remain a vital source of food, employment, well-being, and livelihood for millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Better Production is key to a Better Environment, Better Nutrition, and a Better Life, leaving no one behind.

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