This article examines four major maritime law enforcement response areas: Drug trafficking, piracy, migration, and illegal fishing. It examines specific questions related to fisheries law enforcement including the detention of IUU fishers, use of force and under what circumstances may a vessel be destroyed. It finds that courts are increasingly addressing issues once considered within the sole discretion of government officials and operational commanders with the result being an ad hoc collection of judicial opinions, treaties, and multilateral agreements that lack coherence and consistency.
Following the FAO's in-depth study "Transshipment: A closer look," this report captures contributions from the ground that aim to provide voluntary guidelines for the regulation, monitoring, and control of transshipment that are in fact robust, future-proof, and operationally achievable. The study recommends looking at seven key areas that would enable relevant authorities to minimize the risk of IUU-caught seafood entering the market and to ensure compliance with national and regional legal frameworks.
Transshipment: A Closer Look, An in-depth study in support of the development of international guidelines
The Committee on Fisheries (COFI) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) requested an in-depth study of transshipment to develop international guidelines based on best practices. The FAO fisheries operations and technology branch took up the assignment and began its work in 2019. The team conducted a global study to shed light on current regulations, practices, and control of transshipment to assess the status quo. The study was finalized in 2020 and provides the most comprehensive foundation (based on a risk-based approach) for the development of international guidelines on transshipment, highlighting areas of persistent and emerging concern.
The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has found that many Western coastal countries in Africa have been unable to control and monitor transshipment at sea. These coastal countries have insufficient resources to inspect vessels before transshipment and instead rely on onboard observers monitoring for illegal activity, who have multiple shortcomings. With 37% of West African catch coming from IUU fishing, this activity puts marine management at risk and poses severe threats to the livelihoods of coastal countries' citizens. The EJF proposes banning transshipment at sea for these coastal countries, requiring them to work with the international community and improve their monitoring and control systems.
Port State Measurement Agreements (PMSA) aim to combat IUU fishing by bringing international parties to enact legislation and regulation on foreign vessels entering port. Parties to the PMSA, Port-States, are responsible for monitoring whether a vessel has engaged in IUU fishing. Reefers (because of their role in transshipment) pose a serious problem in effectively tracking and monitoring IUU fishing, leading to harmful marine biodiversity activity and human rights abuses such as seafood slavery. However, reefers are readily equipped with Automatic Identification System (AIS) Technology which, this paper shows, has proven to be an effective tool in MCS that PMSA parties can continue to use.
In this research study, Global Fishing Watch uses AIS information to identify where transshipment can be happening and who is doing it. About 42 percent of potential rendezvous (what is identified through AIS data to track transshipments) occur on the high seas, with the rest happening within the EEZs of different nations–especially Russia. It is concerning, however, that those areas with higher levels of reported IUU fishing correlate with areas of high potential rendezvous. With such a high level of transshipments occurring on high seas, the global community could not only benefit from using AIS data to identify illegal transshipments but must also cooperate to address lax oversight and control. This revised report improves on the methodology of the earlier finding in February 2017.
Transshipment at high seas is very difficult to monitor, allowing the possibility of illegally caught fish to enter the legitimate seafood market, or enabling human rights abuses. This paper uses AIS data to track global transshipment behavior. They find that a majority of transshipment occurs at high seas outside of EEZ boundaries–areas that may lack national jurisdiction or where regulations are difficult to enforce. Additionally, possible transshipment encounters are happening with vessels flying flags of convenience. Together, these findings paint a scene of large transparency issues in global transshipment behaviors that will need to be addressed by governing bodies.
In this research study, Global Fishing Watch uses AIS information to identify where transshipment can be happening and who is doing it. About 42 percent of potential rendezvous (what is identified through AIS data to track transshipments) occur on the high seas, with the rest happening within the EEZs of different nations–especially Russia. It is concerning, however, that those areas with higher levels of reported IUU fishing correlate with areas of high potential rendezvous. With such a high level of transshipments occurring on high seas, the global community could not only benefit from using AIS data to identify illegal transshipments but must also cooperate to address lax oversight and control.
This study uses AIS data to identify when and where transshipment occurs, which fisheries and fleets are most involved in the practice, and what proportion of the high-seas catch is transshipped versus landed directly, altogether giving a detailed account of global seafood supply chains. Among many other findings, the study finds that fishing in EEZs was mainly landed directly, but on high seas, transshipment largely predominated. Fleet usage also differed with trawlers mainly used in EEZs and longline fishing dominated at high seas. The study ultimately shows how the type of catch and its location shape the infrastructure of the supply food chain involved (i.e. a history of poor monitoring, low compliance, and weak enforcement correlates with a large number of transshipments in Russian waters.) The findings of this study can aid in identifying where illicit activity can be happening and what warrants more monitoring, control, and surveillance.
Domino Effects of Cumulative Bias and Erroneous Data in Fisheries Big-Data Mapping Models - Case Study of GFW View on Transshipments - FishSpektrum
Without a Worldwide Unique Vessel Identifier (WUVI) database, the International community has largely relied on data in self-created combined vessel lists for spatiotemporal mappings of fishing presence, effort, and footprint. Projects match fishing vessel registration identifiers to their alleged AIS MMSI numbers using these vessel lists. This study aims to prove that this method has yielded a large number of erroneous ship identification references. Global Fishing Watch, one of the largest vessel identification projects, is crosschecked with the vessel data that the study gathered and found that it suffers from major flaws and biases. Such errors put at risk both the creditability of the GFW and private/independent fisheries monitoring control & surveillance (MCS) initiatives. Not only should projects use more scientific responsibility, but a worldwide database could also help end the data-gathering methods that brought these mistakes about.
Agreed on by leading NGOs engaged in global tuna sustainability, the best practices outlined ensure that at-sea transshipment is well-managed and transparent. The best practices come in three facets: management best practices, data reporting best practices, and monitoring best practices. The policies include 100 percent observer coverage either human or electronic for all at-sea transshipment events, require information on all at-sea transshipment events to be shared with the relevant RFMO, prohibit vessels from acting as both a fishing vessel and carrier vessel on the same trip and a multitude of other policies that fisheries can work towards implementing.
Best Practices for Transshipment - Global Reforms to Policies for Transferring Catch at Sea would Help Combat Illegal Fishing
The inadequate regulatory control and monitoring of transshipment, especially at sea, create gaps that enable illicit activity. Recognizing this inadequacy and its consequences, the Pew Charitable Trusts calls for a ban on transshipment until best practices are implemented. They outline multiple best practices across three categories, reporting, monitoring, and data-sharing. By implementing these practices, all parties can be assured that adequate guidelines are in place to make transshipment a more effective and safe practice, not contributing to IUU fishing.
The UN adopted the Port State Measures Agreement (PMSA) in 2009 to stop the use of ports by IUU fishing and support vessels. However cost-effective they are, in many countries, particularly developing countries, a comprehensive set of tools is needed to support the practical implementation of the Agreement. To achieve this, the Pew Environmental Group developed the PMSA Toolkit, a resource that aims to help developing countries identify their capacity needs, provide them with key information, and guide them through the most technical and detailed elements of the Agreement.
The 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (the Code) provides a set of international standards for responsible behaviour in the fisheries sector with to ensure the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity. The Code is non-binding document and provides the framework for the development of other voluntary instruments including guidelines and international plans of action.