Currently, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) together with the European Commission are hosting the Third Meeting of the Parties to the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA). As of yesterday, 31 May 2021, around 45 parties and observers each, represented by around 300 participants followed the meeting, which is being held online until 4 June.
The PSMA is an important contributor to the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing is considered to be one of the most important drivers for the loss of marine species. Based on the detrimental effect of IUU fishing, the FAO developed an agreement which is to “prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing through the implementation of effective port State measures, and thereby to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources and marine ecosystems” (PSMA, Art. 2). This is to say that the parties to the PSMA have streamlined measures for foreign vessels in place that seek entry into their ports in order to ensure that they have not engaged in IUU fishing and to prevent IUU fish to reach national and international markets
The Agreement was opened for signature on 22 November 2009 until 21 November 2010 for all states and regional economic integration organisations (REIO), such as the EU. It entered into force on 5 June 2016. It currently has a membership of 69 parties, including the EU, representing its 27 Member States.
According to the FAO:
“From a regional perspective, the proportion of coastal States where the Agreement is in force is lowest in the Near East (29%) and Southwest Pacific (38%), medium in Latin America and the Caribbean (52%), Asia (58%) and Africa (58%), and highest in Europe (73%) and North America (100%); and the proportion of total States where the Agreement is in force is lowest in the Near East (24%), Southwest Pacific (38%), and Africa (39%), medium in Asia (46%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (48%), and highest in Europe (69%) and North America (100%)” (FAO, 2021, para. 5).
Cooperation at the Core
An interesting feature of the first day of the meeting was the presentation of a questionnaire on a review and assessment of the effectiveness of the Agreement. 82% of the parties reviewed their legislation in light of the PSMA of which about one quarter required changes to the legislation. This occurred not in isolation, but also in close cooperation with neighbouring states. Moreover 10 regional fisheries bodies submitted information concerning the implementation of the PSMA. The analysis of the provided data showed that all of them have elements in place that significantly bolster the effectiveness of the Agreement.
At the meeting itself, the representatives from all over the world have highlighted the importance of the Agreement as an extremely important tool to combat IUU fishing. It appears as if the spirit of cooperation underlies this agreement much more than other conservation agreements. While many of the parties to the Agreement depend on fisheries, it appears as if the parties show great commitment to its implementation.
The following days will demonstrate the degree of commitment even further.
More information on the Agreement can be found here.
For the annotated agenda of the meeting, please click here.
FAO. (2021). Status of the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures. PSMA/2021/3. URL: http://www.fao.org/3/nf247en/nf247en.pdf (accessed 1 June 2021).