Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to be a threat to the effective conservation and management of fish stocks in the North West Indian Ocean, and is causing economic and social losses for the coastal countries in this region that negatively impact their food security and livelihoods.

Realizing the need of addressing the issue soon, several events have been organized around the world by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) within the framework of a broader international program to strengthen capacity for the effective implementation of the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing – this FAO program of work is funded by the government of Norway.  Currently, a workshop was held on (June1-5, 2015) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which is addressing the coastal countries of the North West Indian Ocean, including adjacent seas and gulfs, and is hosted by the Government of Sri Lanka. The workshop was attended by more than 40 officials from 15 countries from Africa, Asia and the Middle East as well as experts from the European Union, CITES, PEW Charitable Trust and WWF. In addition to the technical support from FAO, the workshop is also benefiting from the technical contribution of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission.

The FAO Agreement on Port State Measures has been designed to intensify global collaboration between fisheries and port authorities, coast guards and navies. The aim is to eliminate the IUU fishing, through globally-agreed minimum standards for concerted action, enabling better inspections and controls at the ports and on vessels and strengthened flag state responsibility.

FAO Representative in Sri Lanka Beth Crawford, at the event, emphasized the need for such a meeting to raise awareness and strengthen capacity of the participating countries.  The workshop is expected to be a first step towards identifying common pathways and actions in combating IUU fishing between the countries in the North West Indian Ocean.
Royal Norwegian Embassy’s Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador, Grete Lochen stated, “The failure of States to effectively control the fishing operations of vessels flying their flags is the core of the problem of IUU fishing”. She further added that Norway has been a key player in developing international standards for fisheries control in ports and fighting this phenomenon [of IUU fishing] is of the highest priority to Norway.

The participants were also honored by the attendance of Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Mahinda Amaraweera, during the opening of the workshop. He stressed the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka in taking steps towards protecting marine resources and preventing or deterring actions that can undermine the effectiveness of management and conservation measures. He said, “Sri Lanka has taken several important measures, to strengthen our Fisheries, Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance process. We need to ensure that our officials are familiar with these [international fisheries] instruments, and Sri Lanka welcomes the opportunity provided to our stakeholders, to participate in this workshop”.

FAO Fisheries Liaison Officer and Technical Secretary of the workshop Matthew Camilleri, informed that the principal objective of the workshop was to improve the understanding of the provisions of the PSMA, to highlight the policy, legal, institutional and operational requirements for the effective implementation of its provisions, and to enhance the necessary skills of national officers in the implementation of port State measures.

FAO Chief Development Law Branch Blaise Kuemlangan underlined that two countries in the region – Oman and Sri Lanka – have already ratified the Agreement and are developing policies and legislation towards its implementation. It is expected that many more countries will follow this path in the near future.

FAO Senior Fisheries Liaison Officer and Secretary of the Regional Commission for Fisheries (RECOFI) Piero Mannini, emphasized the importance of fishery resources as a regional wealth, stating “RECOFI Members share the benefit of exploiting many of the fishery stocks as well as the responsibility for their sound management, which will be achieved through effective regional cooperation including through port State measures.” The workshop ran till last Friday; June 5, and it drew up a set of recommendations and strategies to instil the effective implementation of port State measures in the countries and sub-regions concerned. It had also stressed the cooperation among the countries will be further strengthened in order to combat the IUU fishing in a concerted manner.