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20-May-2010

Contact: Science Press Package
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American Association for the Advancement of Science

Reeling in illegal fishing



These are demersal sampling nets on the deck of an Australian fishing vessel. This image relates to an article that appeared in the July 31, 2009, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The study, by Dr. Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS, Canada and colleagues, was titled, "Rebuilding Global Fisheries."
Image courtesy of CSIRO

Many sea ports around the world have continued to let ships carrying illegally caught fish into their harbors, even though they have signed agreements to turn those boats away. This illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing—known as IUU fishing—is damaging to the world's sustainable fishing industry, and with a full 80 percent of the world's marine fish stocks already tapped out or over-fished, researchers agree that IUU fishing has become a major concern.

In a Policy Forum this week, Stefan Flothmann and colleagues investigate how successful an international agreement, known as the Port State Measures Agreement, or PSMA, has been in stopping illegal fishing. The PSMA requires states to close their ports to boats involved with IUU fishing, but after analyzing years of data, the researchers determined that PSMA still has a long way to go.

Flothmann and colleagues found that many ports' records were incomplete, and that they only tracked the movements of one-third of the suspected IUU fishing ships they were supposed to. The researchers say that many IUU ships changed their name, or the state they were registered in, so they could avoid being singled out by sea ports upholding the PSMA.



Here are some fishermen and their catch in Kenya. This image relates to an article that appeared in the July 31, 2009, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The study, by Dr. Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS, Canada and colleagues, was titled, "Rebuilding Global Fisheries."
Image courtesy of Josh Cinner

In general, the researchers found that ports only fulfilled their obligations to the PSMA once out of every four cases. They also noticed that, even if the ports in one state or region of the world upheld the PSMA, the ships suspected of IUU fishing simply moved to another state or region.

In light of their findings, Flothmann and colleagues say that the PSMA must be implemented universally and effectively by port states if it is to have an effect on illegal fishing.

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