Last week, as part of my visit to Rome, I met with the management of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to discuss international food security and FAO’s work in advancing the sustainability of fisheries. The outcome of Rio+20 has given fresh impetus to addressing these two issues as well as the need to fight Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.
Fisheries have a key role in promoting food security and can truly help communities in developing countries, either directly by providing food and making healthy protein sources available; or indirectly by generating income. However, as fish stocks become exposed to overfishing, vessels turn to fishing grounds that belong to developing countries. Olivier de Schutter, special rapporteur of the UN, emphasised last week that without rapid international action to stop overfishing, fisheries will no longer be able to play its crucial role in securing the right to food for millions of people. De Schutter’s comments were part of a presentation of the new report by the UN, which sheds light on this devastating illegal practice, also known as ‘ocean-grabbing’, which is a serious threat to local populations and the sustainability of fish stocks. According to the report, the illegal catch resulting from such practices amounts to between 10 million and 28 million tonnes of fish a year.
Practices such as ‘ocean grabbing’ are unacceptable. We are committed to apply the same principles and standards we apply within the EU externally, and the principle of sustainable management of shared resources is a pillar of the CFP reform and its external dimension.
International cooperation and commitment is necessary to address the problem effectively. That is why we support the FAO’s move for the creation of a Global Record of fishing vessel complemented by a global unique vessel identifier. This can act as a useful tool in the fight against IUU fishing. Additionally, we stepped up our cooperation with the United States and Japan, whose contribution to combating IUU is essential, as together we consume at least 30% of the world’s fish supply.
Stopping illegal fishing means stopping ocean grabbing. EU has been one of the most active players in negotiating rights to fish in third countries’ waters and in addressing IUU. We expect our partners to do the same for the common benefit and for promoting food and nutrition security.