Overfishing and illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing (IUU) accounts for one-fourth of the fish resources in the oceans and cost a staggering USD 23 billion. As a result, future fish stocks are at risk of depletion, ocean biodiversity is impacted and the economic security of legitimate fishery workers are at stake. This is a global challenge, to which Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, in particular target 14.4 aiming at effectively regulating the harvest and ending overfishing and IUU, directly responds.
In order to advance action to support this goal, UNECE has established a Team of Specialists (ToS) on Sustainable Fisheries, which held its first meeting this week in Geneva. The ToS is an inter-governmental body comprised of experts and stakeholders from across the fisheries value chain, including government agencies, the private sector, civil society, international organizations and academia.
The objective of the Team of Specialists is to “promote, facilitate and support the implementation of the Fisheries Language for Universal Exchange (FLUX) standard or other sustainable fisheries standards on a global scale”. The United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), hosted by UNECE, introduced the FLUX standard in 2016.
FLUX provides a harmonized message standard by allowing fishery management organizations (FMOs) to automatically access the electronic data from fishing vessels needed for stock management, such as vessel and trip identification, fishing operations (daily catch or haul-by-haul) or fishing data (catch area, species and quantity, date and time, and gear used).
The FLUX standard is already being used in all European Union Member States, as well as in countries in other regions, including Brazil. As reported by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, “FLUX facilitates the monitoring of 85,000 fishing vessels of 23 Member States involved in fishery worldwide, which concerns 5 million tonnes of fish landed annually. With support of FLUX, 470 fish stocks and quotas are managed sustainably”.
The active participation in the ToS’ first meeting of 70 delegates from 25 countries – Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Djibouti, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Peru, Romania, Serbia, Spain, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Uganda, and Viet Nam – was a clear demonstration of the global interest in the standard. This was further enriched by the involvement of 7 UN agencies, 11 international organizations, NGOs and fishing industry actors.
Bringing together these diverse experiences and perspectives, the exchanges highlighted how scaling up the implementation of FLUX can make a concrete contribution to sustainable fisheries practices worldwide across a range of key areas, including:
- Reducing economic losses from IUU and helping to prevent illegally caught fish from entering the market place;
- Protecting marine biodiversity by providing a concrete tool to monitor fishing activities, reduce overfishing and identify and tackle IUU;
- Facilitating the trade of fish products through the use of a common global standard;
- Improving food safety and consumer health through enhanced traceability of fish products across the supply chain;
- Helping to ensure the economic and food security of fishing communities;
- Contributing to the ongoing negotiations on fishery subsidies at the WTO.
UNECE Executive Secretary Ms. Olga Algayerova welcomed the establishment of the Team of Specialists, highlighting FLUX as ”a global standard which helps improve fisheries information management”, which can “play a key role in preventing overfishing and the collapse of global fish stocks ”.
Capitalizing on the interest from countries around the world and stakeholders from different sectors, the ToS identified priorities for action and finalized its Programme of Work for 2018-2019. The next meeting of the Team of Specialists will take place during the 31st UN/CEFACT Forum on 23-27 April, in Geneva.
Further details on the meeting, including background documents and presentations, are available at: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=47439