Why—and How—to Ratify the Port State Measures Agreement

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Can one international treaty help reverse years of rampant and widespread disregard for fisheries laws and policies? We believe the answer is yes, but a treaty is only as good as the parties that ratify and enforce it. 

The treaty in question is the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, commonly called the Port State Measures Agreement, or the PSMA. 

Adopted in 2009 by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, the treaty requires parties to exert greater port controls on foreign-flagged vessels, and as a result to keep illegal, unreported, and unregulated, or IUU, fish out of the world’s markets by removing the incentive for dishonest fishing operators to continue their illegal activities. 

IUU fishers rely on a range of tactics and loopholes in international law to get their product to the market, but ports known for lax law enforcement or limited inspection capacity are a prime pathway for unethical fishermen to get their catch from ship to shelf. Port States enforcing the treaty will refuse port entry or access to port services, including landing and transshipment of fish, to foreign-flagged vessels known to have engaged in IUU fishing. 

Signatories to the PSMA should confirm their commitment to ending illegal fishing by ratifying, accepting, or approving the treaty now. Countries that did not sign the treaty can accede to it at anytime, and should do so now.

Countries that have ratified the Port State Measures Agreement

This table lists countries that have ratified the Port State Measures Agreement, a U.N. treaty that harmonizes how ports evaluate and inspect foreign-flagged fishing vessels. The procedures will help officials spot and turn away illegally caught fish. The treaty will take effect once 25 parties have ratified it.

  Ratifying Body Date of Ratification

New Zealand February 21, 2014

Gabon November 15, 2013

Oman August 1, 2013

Seychelles June 19, 2013

Uruguay February 28, 2013

Chile August 28, 2012

Norway July 20, 2011

European Union July 7, 2011

Sri Lanka January 20, 2011

Myanmar November 22, 2010

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