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United Nations: Groundwork Laid for Fishing Treaty

(Feb. 12, 2009) The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) announced on February 3, 2009, that significant progress had been made towards an international treaty designed to stop illegal sea-fishing operations. Five days of talks on the subject were held at the FAO offices in Rome, with participants from more than 80 nations, and a draft outline has been developed. The treaty envisioned in the outline would close ports to ships involved in illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing threatens the existence of some endangered species and the food security of people in developing countries. The United Nations news service has described IUU fishing as involving “operating without proper authorization, catching protected species, using outlawed equipment or disregarding catch quotas.” (UN-Brokered Talks Lay Groundwork for Global Treaty Combating Illegal Fishing, UN NEWS CENTRE, Feb. 3, 2009, available at

According to Ichiro Nomura, Assistant-Director General for Fisheries of the FAO, speaking in June 2008, “[i]n the developing world, fishing plays a crucial role in reinforcing household food security, improving nutrition, and providing income.” At that time he was asking donor countries to contribute to a million-dollar fund to help developing countries prevent vessels that engage in IUU fishing from entering their ports. Security at the port location is considered to be a more efficient and cost-effective method of countering IUU fishing than attempting to accost offending ships at sea. (Id.)

IUU fishing is said to be a four to nine billion-dollar business each year, putting pressure on fish stocks and marine habitats and undermining labor and environmental standards. (Welcome to Illegal Fishing.Info [website of Energy, Environment and Development Programme of Chatham House (London)], (last visited Feb. 3, 2009).)