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Archive for the ‘Fisheries’ Category

“The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together action-oriented expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy.”

This week sees a conference to mark the second anniversary of TEEB’s publication and is an opportunity to take stock of the effect it has on environmental policy making and bring policy and research closer.

Members of the herd will be at the conference, in particular, to share our work on valuing the ecosystem services provided by the marine environment. Patsy will be reporting back after the conference but in the meantime, click here is the link to the conference site where you can download the agenda.

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On the 2nd and 3rd of February I attended the 7thInternational Forum on Illegal, Unreported  and Unregulated (IUU ) fishing held at Chatham House.

The lack of transparency in global fisheries was a key concern raised during the event. Weak institutions and regulation overlap to form a regime (seemingly by design) with more blind alleys and dead ends than the Cretan Labyrinth; a state of affairs that bolsters the impunity with which vessels pursue IUU fishing.

The economic arguments against IUU fishing have been established and are self-explanatory, similar to the economic arguments against shop lifting/bank robberies/ you see what I am getting at. IUU fishing imposes huge costs on coastal state populations and they are likely to be borne by some of the poorest states in the world.  The problem is that these states are unable to raise sufficient capital to protect their own resources. A property right without enforcement, any form of social cohesion/norm against IUU and the presence of unscrupulous vessels (apparently in plenty supply) means the resource is open game.

Even if (a very big if) there is sufficient capacity within a coastal state to undertake significant monitoring, control and surveillance activity (MCS), it is highly uncertain whether anyone will be charged with an offence. Vessels use flags of convenience allowing the ultimate beneficiaries to disappear behind shell companies and weak regulation in flag states (thereby attracting the vessel in the first place). Current port state measures are insufficient to tackle IUU – no true registry of vessels exists and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMO) do not fulfil their obligations to tackle IUU.  A new set of port state measures has been approved by FAO, which would assist identification of IUU vessel and restrict access to ports, but the required number of signatories has not yet been reached. In addition many catch documentation schemes are highly ineffective and susceptible to fraud.

As shown during the event, tools such as effective catch documentation and vessel registries are available to establish successful regimes to tackle the issue of transparency. But as acknowledged by many speakers, an absence of political will has meant the application of these tools, is patchy at best.  The speaker from the EC noted that, strong regulation (in his opinion), was not being applied uniformly in member states because of differing priorities. A lack of political will appears to be the driving force behind such a failing, some countries just don’t appear to be on board with sustainable fishing management.  The paradoxical tension between fish and fishermen is as strong as ever, (bringing to mind this quote from a Spanish officialFor sure we are friends of fish, but still more, we are the friends of fishermen.”)

Whose responsibility is it to ensure action is taken? IUU fishing is a global issue and therefore requires global solutions. But unfortunately as seen with other multi-lateral environmental agreements this is fraught with difficulties. It is likely that the lowest common denominator will set the agenda, in global fisheries this is very low indeed.

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