Negotiations on the text of the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (the Agreement) have concluded. The Agreement was negotiated under the auspices of a Technical Consultation convened by the FAO at the request of the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries. The Agreement was presented to the 36th Conference of the UN FAO in November 2009, where it was adopted and opened for signature.
Australia intends to take binding treaty action to ratify these amendments subject to the public consultation process.
The Agreement establishes a system of minimum standards for port State measures for the purpose of monitoring and controlling the activity of foreign fishing vessels and determining whether there is any involvement with IUU fishing. These measures will make it more difficult for the products of IUU fishing to enter the market, making IUU fishing more difficult and less profitable, and therefore less attractive.
The Agreement requires parties to deny port access (landing, transhipping and processing of fish) and port services (refuelling, resupplying and repair) to foreign vessels which may have engaged in, or supported, IUU fishing. ‘Vessels’ are defined broadly to include both fishing vessels and support vessels (such as supply and freezer vessels). Parties need only apply the provisions of the Agreement in relation to foreign-flagged vessels, but must ensure that equally effective measures are in place in relation to their own vessels.
The Agreement requires parties to designate the ports which may be accessed by foreign-flagged fishing vessels. These vessels are required to request permission for port access ahead of time, and transmit information on their activities and the fish they have on board. This will give port State authorities an opportunity to identify in advance vessels of potential concern.
The Agreement commits parties to conduct regular inspections of vessels accessing their ports, and outlines a set of standards that will be used during those inspections. This includes reviews of ship papers, surveys of fishing gear, examining catches and checking a ship's records to reveal if it has engaged in IUU fishing. Parties must ensure that ports and inspectors are adequately equipped and trained. All vessels may be subject to inspection by port States under the proposed Agreement, and States are required to take follow-up action in response to any inspection reports indicating that a vessel flying their flag has engaged in IUU fishing.
The Agreement calls for the creation of an information-sharing mechanism to enable countries to share details on vessels which are associated with IUU fishing. It also contains provisions intended to assist developing countries to meet their obligations under the Agreement.
Fisheries Issues and Impact in Australia
The Agreement was negotiated under the auspices of a Technical Consultation convened by the FAO at the request of the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries. Australia participated in and contributed financially to these negotiations, which concluded in August 2009.
Australia already has a comprehensive Port State regime based on a closed port system, restricting foreign fishing vessels from entering Australian ports and shall continue to maintain our stronger domestic measures above that of the Agreement.
Binding Treaty Action
The Agreement is not yet in force. It will enter into force 30 days after the Depositary receives the twenty-fifth instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval. Currently sixteen States have signed the Agreement: Angola, Australia, Brazil, Chile, the European Union, Gabon, Iceland, Indonesia, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, the Russian Federation, Samoa, Sierra Leone, the United States of America and Uruguay. Australia signed the Agreement on 27 April 2010.
Australia wishes to undertake binding Treaty Action by ratifying the Port State Measures Agreement. Australia’s participation in the negotiation of the Agreement has involved a significant consultative process with state and territory governments, industry and NGOs. To date, the Australian community has supported the arrangements made under the Agreement.
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