March 13, 2006

Task force offers proposals to combat "pirate" fishing

Global leaders in oceans governance meeting in Halifax early this month debated strategies for dealing with the international problem of pirate fishing. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing - also referred to as IUU - is now seen as one of the main obstacles to achieving sustainable global fisheries.

Fisheries Ministers from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Namibia, together with representatives from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the World Conservation Union and the Earth Institute, have created a High Seas Task Force (HSTF) to address the issue. The Task Force is now making recommendations in response to a lack of international focus and practical action on IUU.

Key measures proposed include:

*ending all unregulated high seas fisheries and promoting better high seas governance

*promoting increased and better use of technological solutions, such as enhancing vessel monitoring systems;

*supporting trade measures controlling the import of IUU products; and

*adopting guidelines on flag state performance with respect to high seas fishing vessels.

WWF believes that many of these measures could be implemented immediately in Canada, without waiting for widespread acceptance by the international community. They would complement and accelerate other international efforts currently underway.

"IUU fishing and bycatch pose some of the most serious threats to commercial fish stocks globally," said Robert Rangeley, Atlantic director for WWF-Canada. "On the Grand Banks," he pointed out, "WWF-Canada has found that illegal fishing often is disguised as bycatch.

"There has been a lack of global political resolve to tackle the root causes of IUU which thrives where weak governance prevails. The measures proposed by the Task Force can help play an important role in ending this practice," he stated.

Canada and other nations pledged to address this problem at the Conference on the Governance of High Seas Fisheries and the United Nations Fish Agreement, held in St John's, Newfoundland last May. Partially as a result of these efforts, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) - a group of 13 countries fishing on the Grand Banks - is undergoing reform in order to better protect fish stocks. These reforms are expected to be presented at NAFO's next annual meeting, to be held September 13-15, 2006 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, home of the NAFO Secretariat. (More information is available on the NAFO Web site,

WWF-Canada views cessation of IUU fishing as a key element in efforts to recover the health of the Grand Banks. Other needed measures include: basing all fisheries management decisions on science; prohibiting bottom-trawling and other impacts in biologically significant areas; reducing bycatch; and investing in better "smart gear" technology that catches fewer non-targeted fish with less damage to habitat.

"By implementing the measures outlined in the Task Force's report, nations can help make IUU unprofitable and end the practice of fishing illegally," concluded Rangeley. "If Canada implements these measures now, as well as the expected action items coming out of the September NAFO meeting, Canada has an opportunity to make a real change on the water and help ensure sustainable fisheries."

More information is also available from Kyle Ferguson at WWF-Canada, 416/484-7728, E-mail

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