African member states call for the implementation of agreement on port rules for fishing vessels

CAADP The 29th Session of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) was concluded today at the FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy with calls from African members’ states for the immediate implementation of an agreement on the requirements that foreign fishing vessel must comply at fishing ports. This edition of the COFI engagements which was has been in session since the 31st of January is aimed at reviewing the progress of FAO’s biennial programmes and the work-plans for the next biennium (2011-2013).

A key issue that was on the agenda today included the provision of information on current and ongoing actions to fight ‘Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, including port state measures, flag state performance, market-related measures and the development of a comprehensive global record of fishing vessels, refrigerated transport vessels and supply vessels.

In response to and commenting on the FAO’s report in this regard, African member states called on other FAO member states to sign and enforce the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) a legally binding agreement that requires port states to enforce the laws that are subject to foreign fishing vessels at fishing ports.

Speaking on behalf of the African member states Gabriel Muthisse the Deputy Minister of Fisheries for Mozambique highlighted the importance of the PSMA by arguing that the Agreement would its enforcement would help to stop the plague of illegal fishing in the oceans. He went on to add that “only a global cooperation and full implementation will achieve the aim to close all ports to IUU vessels”.

“This Agreement will only be as strong as the weakest link, for this reason Africa considers implementation a priority” said Muthisse.

It is in this regard that the African member states issued a statement that called upon the 29th session of COFI to recommend that:
1. The FAO Secretariat supports the fast implementation and entry into force of the PSMA;
2. The FAO Secretariat prepares for the operationalisation of Article 21 of the PSMA prior to the entry into force of the Agreement;
3. To facilitate these, the FAO Secretariat should form a task force or similar mechanism that is open to any FAO member, ensuring geographical distribution and adequate support for participation of developing States. The work to be done by this task force will include the drafting of the term of reference for the ad-hoc working group as established in Article 21 of the PSMA, to support the assessment of capacity needs and to explore funding mechanisms.

The NEPAD Agency facilitated the preparation of the statement during the daily morning briefing meetings with the African member states. The statement was prepared through a task force comprising Angola, Ghana, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa and The Gambia.

The African position received resounding support from other FAO member states including those from Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Pacific. Specifically, Norway pledged to assist the capacity of the African states to enable them to implement the Agreement.

The PSMA is a legally binding agreement, and the main issues in the Agreement relate to information exchange; designation of ports of landing; inspections at port; prohibition of landing or transhipping; denial of access to port and enforcement measures. Port State Measures (PSM) are requirements established or interventions undertaken by port states which a foreign fishing vessel must comply with or is subjected to as a condition for use of ports within the port state.

Approximately 23 states have signed the Agreement, including seven (7) African member states. The Agreement comes into force when signed and ratified by at least 25 member states.

The PSMA has been prepared under Article 13 of the FAO Constitution; the details of which can be found here.

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