Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is one of the major threats to sustainable fisheries management. IUU fishing is a huge, organized business where the profits depend on the possibility of gaining access to legal markets through landings in ports.
The failure of flag states to effectively control the fishing operations of vessels flying their flag is the core problem of IUU. Reliance on the implementation of flag State duties to prevent overfishing has proved to be insufficient, and enhanced port State control for the purpose of detecting IUU catches is thus crucial for combating IUU fishing.
According to Article 23 of the UNFA, port States have a duty to take measures to promote the effectiveness of subregional, regional and global conservation and management measures. Relevant measures include the inspection of documents, fishing gear and catch on board vessels. In addition Article 33.2 obliges States Parties to deter activities of vessels flying the flag of non-parties which undermine the effective implementation of the Agreement.
As stated in the Secretary General’s report many port States already exercise port State control over foreign fishing vessels individually and as part of their cooperation in RFMO/As. However, the efforts appear to be somewhat arbitrary and uncoordinated, both nationally and internationally, and Article 23 does not seem to be implemented to a satisfactory degree. The Review Conference should encourage all parties to fully implement Article 23 and adopt appropriate port State measures.
In order to combat IUU fishing through port State control, parties to an RFMO/A may facilitate port State control as part of the organisation’s conservation measures. But in a globalised world, fishing vessels are not the sole concern of one RFMO/A. Fishing vessels move from one region to another and such port State control can be evaded by using ports outside the regions where the fishing took place, or ports of States that are not parties to relevant RFMO/As. Thus, a global binding instrument involving all port States seems to be the only way of achieving a comprehensive system. Port States should agree on harmonised and mandatory obligations related to port State control of foreign vessels involved in fishing operations, including processing and transhipment vessels. In principle port State control should be related to all areas where marine capture fisheries take place and for all stocks.
In 2005 the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) adopted a Model Scheme on port State control, which sets out basic, minimum port State measures. This is an important step towards more efficient port State control. A global binding instrument must be based on the FAO Scheme.
Norway would suggest that the Review Conference recommend that States initiate a process in the FAO as soon as possible to establish a legally binding instrument on port State control, based on the FAO Model Scheme, in order to combat IUU fisheries and strengthen the conservation and management of fish stocks.