A new interactive tool from The Pew Charitable Trusts can help maritime and fisheries authorities and seafood buyers determine where in the world illegally-caught seafood is most likely to enter the market. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major issue worldwide, accounting for up to $23.5 billion worth of catch annually. This activity contributes to the continued overfishing of commercially valuable species and can take away jobs, food, and revenue from the people, companies, and countries obeying the law.
Based on a Pew-commissioned study, this tool utilizes data transmitted from fishing and fish carrier vessels’ automatic information systems (AIS) and focuses on the top 99 ports globally by number of visits from foreign-flagged vessels engaged in fishing operations. By launching the tool on World Maritime Day, Pew is hoping to draw attention to the need for sustainable seas and to the interconnectedness of fisheries.
IUU fishing could be greatly reduced through stronger controls at ports, and Pew’s new tool is designed to help in that regard by showing which ports—and which States—are most likely to receive visits from vessels carrying IUU-caught fish. The interactive also shows which ports and States are busiest and is a useful tool for anyone looking to better understand activity patterns of fishing vessels coming to ports around the world.
It takes a complex web of ports, port States, and flag States working in concert to ensure that fish coming into port were caught legally.
In 2016, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) entered into force, helping to combat illegal fishing by requiring parties to place tighter controls on foreign-flagged vessels seeking to enter and use their ports. Today, 66 countries and the European Union are party to the treaty.
That represents significant progress from even a few years ago but, as the tool shows, more governments need to implement the PSMA, and more need to join. Of the 25 riskiest port States identified by the study, only four (16%) had ratified the PSMA at the time of the study, leaving large loopholes for illegal operators to exploit.
The numbers also show a concentration of port activity—less than half of the more than 3,000 ports identified across 140 States were visited by foreign-flagged vessels—but don’t tell the whole story. Here are five ways the tool could help authorities, officials, and others.
The tool’s multiple views on port and vessel data offer a comprehensive overview of where, and by whom, fish is likely being brought to dock before it enters the marketplace, and is already drawing praise from experts. Matthew Camilleri, head of the Fisheries Operations and Technology Branch at the Food Agriculture Organization noted, “Pew’s new interactive provides access to a new set of data that will allow organizations such as FAO to understand the scale of activity in ports around the world, and help us target better our capacity development efforts for the implementation of port state measures.” Tom Pickerell from the Global Tuna Alliance noted, “Pew’s new interactive will really help seafood buyers conduct greater due diligence for ports where product is being landed.” The interactive should be an asset for those looking to better assess risk—and where to concentrate efforts to fight illegal fishing through strong and effective port State measures.
Peter Horn is a project director and Dawn Borg Costanzi is a senior officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ international fisheries project.