Fishing is one of the world’s most hazardous professions, so fishing operators should prioritize the safety of their crews. But that isn’t the case with many who engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. They often neglect to provide onboard safety equipment and/or fail to abide by regulations designed to mitigate the dangerous conditions that fishing crews and observers face daily. This not only jeopardizes the safety and well-being of fishers but also elevates the risk to those involved in rescuing them when they get into trouble.
To help ensure greater consistency in fishing crew safety worldwide, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2012 adopted the Cape Town Agreement for the safety of fishing vessels. The agreement mirrors provisions in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, which has helped to protect many other kinds of seafarers since 1980.
The Cape Town Agreement outlines standards of design, construction and equipment for fishing vessels at least 24 metres long; States implementing the agreement may be able to harmonize fisheries, labor and safety inspections. The agreement will enter into force once 22 parties—with an aggregate fleet of 3,600 eligible vessels—ratify it; as of 1 October, 16 States with nearly 2,000 vessels had done so, and more ratifications are expected soon. In 2019, 51 states signed the Torremolinos Declaration, committing to ratify the Agreement by 11 October 2022, the 10th anniversary of its adoption at the IMO.
With one year to go until that important deadline, the Global Tuna Alliance and the Tuna Protection Alliance, two independent groups of retailers and tuna supply chain companies, sent letters to 32 governments encouraging ratification and asking them ensure safer seas, including making safety at sea a priority in the fight against IUU fishing. The groups sent one version of the letter to States that are considering or pursuing ratification and another to those that haven’t yet expressed interest in ratifying.
As an organization that has worked on the Cape Town Agreement since its adoption nine years ago, The Pew Charitable Trusts welcomes this move by these important market groups. We hope that their involvement can inspire others in advocacy communities and the private sector to push for this outcome and catalyse momentum towards achieving ratification.
Kristine Beran is an officer with Pew’s international fisheries project.