The politicians responsible for our oceans have an opportunity to make a crucial New Year's resolution when they come together to discuss the development of a Global Record of Fishing Vessels at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in January.
"Pirate fishing operators" steal with impunity and devastate marine environments, often using banned fishing gears, targeting protected species and fishing with high levels of bycatch - the accidental capture of species including seabirds, sharks, turtles and other endangered wildlife. Without a Global Record of Fishing Vessels, it's difficult to identify offending vessels and even harder to penalize the true owners.
This important step would bring much needed transparency and accountability to the oceans, providing a clearer picture of vessel ownership, their histories and the size and capacity of each country's fleet.
Act now to bring pirate fishing vessels out of the shadows!
Dear Committee Members,
I strongly urge you to support the development of a Global Record of fishing vessels at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in January 2011, to help prevent fish populations being driven to extinction by illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
At the moment, there is a dangerous lack of basic information about how many fishing vessels there actually are in the world, and who is fishing where. With 80 percent of commercial fish stocks estimated to be either fully exploited or overexploited, and with the world's poorest coastal communities bearing the brunt of illegal fishing, we cannot afford for this situation to continue.
A Global Record of fishing vessels would help combat the 'pirate fishing operators' who steal with impunity and devastate marine environments by using banned fishing gears, targeting protected species and by fishing with unacceptably high levels of by-catch and discard. It would make it harder for them to change their flags and rename their vessels in order to avoid detection and sanctions.
Assigning each industrial fishing vessel with a Unique Vessel Identifier (UVI), would enable us to have a far clearer picture of vessel ownership, vessel histories as well as the size and capacity of each country's fleet. This would provide fisheries managers and scientists with the information they need to set sustainable fishing quotas, help in monitoring the human rights of those involved in distant water fishing, and allow seafood suppliers and retailers to ensure they buy fish from legal and sustainable operators.
Again, I am writing to urge you to commit to the creation of a Global Record of fishing vessels as soon as possible. Our marine habitats, fish stocks and coastal communities depend on your action.