Port State measures

On this page

Every year, approximately 26 million tonnes of fish caught are unaccounted for, robbing the global fishing industry of up to USD $23 billion. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing threatens:

  • safety at sea
  • the seafood trade
  • global food security
  • jobs and livelihoods
  • marine life and their ecosystems

This illicit activity puts honest Canadian workers in the fish harvest industry at a disadvantage as they face unfair competition from low-priced fish caught illegally.

About 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:

  • in-port inspections
  • denial of port entry
  • documentation requirements
  • denial of use of port services
  • designation of ports that permit landings
  • requirements for pre-port entry notification

Advantages of port State measures

Implementing and strengthening port State measures have already proven to be cost-effective. They have helped to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities around the world. By doing so, the measures ensured the long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources and marine ecosystems. For example, several illegal, unreported and unregulated 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. Using this policy, the minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the discretion to grant a licence to foreign fishing vessels to enter Canadian waters and ports. However, the vessels are 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. Amendments to the Coastal Fisheries Protection Regulations (2019) enable the minister to authorize a foreign fishing vessel to enter Canadian fisheries waters for enforcement purposes where the minister is otherwise precluded from doing so under the Regulations.

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
  • processing or transporting fish from fishing grounds

Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s mandate also supports 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, Canada supports and encourages collaborative efforts to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

For example, Canada has agreed not to allow entry to vessels on the illegal, unreported and unregulated 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 illegal, unreported and unregulated vessel lists are key tools for combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing globally. Arrangements have already been undertaken among several regional fisheries management organizations to share their lists. That way, members can take the necessary action to deny port entry or services to such vessels, thereby making illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing becomes increasingly difficult and expensive.

Canada ratified the Agreement on Port State Measures on June 20, 2019, and the Agreement will go into force in Canada on July 20, 2019. This is the first binding international agreement to specifically target illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Agreement on Port State Measures

This international treaty sets a global minimum standard for measures to be taken by port states against vessels that engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It also sets minimum standards to related activities that support such fishing. Finally, it recognizes the sovereignty of states to apply more stringent measures regarding foreign vessels seeking to enter their ports.

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

  • illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing vessels and vessels that supply them
    • including vessels on a regional fisheries management organization's illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing vessel list that 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
  • 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.

Related links