United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's Port State Measures

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (IUU)

IUU fishing is a global problem that undercuts responsible fishing activities. It undermines conservation and enforcement efforts, ignores labour and safety standards, and distorts trade and prices in export markets. IUU fishing is most prevalent where governance measures to manage fisheries, including enforcement efforts, are the weakest.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 30% of the total global catch is the result of IUU fishing. Experts estimate that the global economic impact due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities ranges from US$10-23 billion annually. However, this figure does not take into account the unquantifiable costs of IUU fishing, including a reduction in food security, decreased economic stability, and loss of biodiversity.

Since approximately 85% of fish caught in Canadian waters are exported (representing more than $4 billion annually), Canadian fish harvesters are susceptible to price fluctuations created by the unpredictable supply of IUU fish products in foreign markets. IUU fish can depress the price of Canadian fish products, in some cases to unprofitable levels.

What are port State measures?

Port State measures are requirements established by states with which foreign vessels must comply as a condition of entry and use of the ports within that State. Such measures can include, for example, denial of port entry and use of port services, requirements for pre-port entry notification, designation of ports that permit landings, documentation requirements, and in-port inspections.

Implementing and strengthening port State measures have already proven to be cost-effective in preventing, deterring, and eliminating IUU fishing activities around the world, and thereby ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources and marine ecosystems. For example, several IUU vessels fishing in the area regulated by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission were decommissioned because they were consistently denied port access by Commission members.

Port State Measures in Canada

Canada has a strong Port Access Policy, implemented in 2003 through the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and Regulations. The Policy is based on the concept of a "closed-port" approach whereby the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the discretion to grant a licence to foreign fishing vessels to enter Canadian waters and ports, subject to certain limitations set out in the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and Regulations. The Minister also has an obligation to close ports to vessels flying the flag of any state that has unsatisfactory fisheries relations with Canada.

Under the Regulations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has the legislative and regulatory mandate to control port entry and use of port services in respect of any vessel that is transporting fish, equipped or used for fishing, or processing or transporting fish from fishing grounds, as well as support vessels used or equipped for provisioning, servicing, repairing or maintaining foreign fishing vessels at sea. As a responsible member of various regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), Canada supports and encourages collaborative efforts to reduce IUU fishing.

For example, Canada has agreed not to allow entry to vessels on the IUU lists of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization or the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, except in exceptional circumstances or for enforcement purposes.

These IUU vessel lists are key tools for combating IUU fishing globally. Arrangements have already been undertaken among several RFMOs to share their lists, so that members can take the necessary action to deny port entry or services to such vessels, thus making IUU fishing increasingly difficult and expensive.

Canada is making amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to strengthen the Act and allow Canada to meet its commitments to the international Port State Measures Agreement. . The enabling legislation, Bill S-3, An Act to Amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, received Royal Assent on June 18, 2015. Having completed the necessary amendments to the enabling Act (CFPA), Canada has begun the process required to amend the associated regulations (CFPR), after which Canada will be in a position to ratify the PSMA. This regulatory amendment process is expected to take a minimum of 12 months more.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Port State Measures

This new international treaty sets a global minimum standard for measures to be taken by port states against vessels that engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing or related activities that support such fishing, while recognizing the sovereignty of States to apply more stringent measures regarding foreign vessels seeking to enter their ports.

Key provisions of the Agreement build on measures taken in regional fisheries management organizations, including:

  • IUU fishing vessels and vessels that supply IUU fishing vessels, including vessels on a regional fisheries management organization's IUU fishing vessel list, are denied entry into port or use of port services;
  • Minimum standards for information to be provided by vessels seeking entry into port;
  • Cooperation and exchange of information, including verification of fishing authorizations;
  • Designating ports that permit landings;
  • Minimum standards for inspection and the training of inspectors; and
  • Recognizing the need to assist developing countries with implementation.

These provisions are consistent with Canada's long-standing port access regime for foreign fishing vessels.

Ratification and Entry into Force

The signature of the Agreement is the first step of the ratification process. Canada signed the treaty in November 2010. Legislation to bring Canada's port access regime in alignment with the Agreement received Royal Assent on June 18, 2015. Additional amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Regulations are required as well before Canada can ratify the Agreement. The treaty will enter into force when 25 FAO members have ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to it. To date, 22 member states have ratified the agreement.

For more information about the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and port State measures, visit the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.


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