Acting on illegal fishing

The marine living resources of the Southern Ocean are conserved and managed under an international agreement – the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

At CCAMLR’s recent annual meeting in Hobart, members agreed on new actions to protect the Southern Ocean environment and help combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

IUU fishing threatens fish stocks by overfishing, and damages the Southern Ocean ecosystem. One of the biggest impacts is on seabirds, as IUU vessels do not use the mitigation methods developed by CCAMLR that prevent the catching and killing of endangered albatrosses and petrels.

IUU fishing, previously a problem in Australia’s waters around Heard and McDonald islands, has been largely been driven out of these waters by Australia’s armed patrols. The patrols have, however, detected many IUU vessels in nearby parts of the CCAMLR area. Most of these vessels are flagged to countries that have not signed the Convention.

Actions agreed to by CCAMLR members to combat IUU fishing include:

  • Developing a capacity-building program to help key countries strengthen their fisheries management and enforcement systems;
  • Taking strong diplomatic action against countries engaging in IUU fishing or flagging IUU vessels;
  • Working together to establish the rules for taking trade-related action against countries that are uncooperative or repeat offenders; and
  • Stronger procedures for black-listing vessels engaged in IUU fishing. CCAMLR’s IUU lists publicly expose offenders and help countries involved in Patagonian toothfish harvesting or trade to avoid dealing with IUU catches and operators.
CCAMLR members also embraced fresh ideas raised at a CCAMLR Symposium hosted by Australia and Chile in Valdivia, Chile, in April, which will help direct the organisation’s work into and beyond 2006.

PHILLIP TRACEY, Antarctic and International Policy, AAD