News release dated 01/12/2003.
Five maritime countries from around the world announced the launch of a top-level task force to tackle the problems posed by illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, as part of urgent efforts under the auspices of the OECD’s Round Table on Sustainable Development to safeguard dwindling world fishery resources.
The Ministerial Task Force on IUU Fishing, the first initiative of its kind, will be led by Britain’s Minister of State for the Environment, Elliot Morley. Other members include the Ministers of Fisheries of Australia, Chile, Namibia and New Zealand. Scientists, legal experts and representatives of environmental groups and business will shortly be invited to participate. It is hoped that other Ministers will also join the initiative as it evolves.
Over 27% of global fish stocks are described by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization as either over-exploited or depleted. Production levels from 12 of FAO’s 16 world ‘fishing regions,’ including areas of known IUU activity have fallen to historically low levels, confirming that these fish stocks are in a serous state.
Announcing the launch of the task force, OECD Round Table Chair Simon Upton noted that the problem of IUU fishing is complicated by international conventions concerning the sovereignty of nations and the rights of fishing vessels on the high seas.
"The challenge," he said, "is to combine a top-down assertion of rights with a bottom-up attempt at management for the collective good. This has to happen before all international fish stocks are depleted. As long as the world is not prepared to lift the veil of flag state sovereignty we will be fighting IUU fishing with one hand tied firmly behind our backs."
The Task Force will be established for between eighteen months and two years. The objective is to prepare recommendations on how to prevent and eliminate IUU fishing that are analytically sound, politically realistic and financially viable and to ensure their implementation at national, regional and international levels.
For further information, journalists are invited to contact: Vangelis Vitalis, Chief Adviser, OECD Round Table on Sustainable Development.