Regional cooperation is critical for the long-term sustainable protection of the living marine resource and the marine environment. Whilst some of the root causes of the depletion of fisheries resources can be addressed at the national level, many can only be successfully addressed through regional action.
The RPOA Action Plan 2007 addresses eleven action components:
- The RPOA notes and affirms that the shared fish stocks are a very important source of food for people in the region, utilised by countries in the region and also traded both in and outside the region. Both overfishing and illegal fishing are seriously depleting the region’s fish stocks. In this regard, th e promotion of responsible fishing practices, and prevention, deterrence and elimination of illegal fishing are essential to ensure food security and poverty alleviation in the region and countries in the region should: 1.1 work together on compiling an overview of artisanal and industrial fishing, the current status of fish stocks, trade flows and markets.
- International instruments contain structures and measures upon which to build long term sustainable fisheries. The key global instruments that countries should consider when implementing responsible fishing practices include the 1982 ‘United Nations Convention on the Law of the Se a’ (UNCLOS), the ‘United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement’ (UNFSA), the FAO ‘Compliance Agreement’, the FAO ‘Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries’, the ‘International Plan of Action (IPOA) to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing’, the ‘IPOA for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries’, the ‘IPOA for the Conservation and Management of Sharks’ and the ‘IPOA for the Management of Fishing Capacity’
- Implementing responsible fishing practices and combating IUU fishing are issues for the whole region. Articles 63, 64 and 116-119 of the UNCLOS requires countries to cooperate in the conservation and management of shared stocks and highly migratory species. The management expertise and technical capacity built up over the years by regional organisations shou ld be harnessed to assist with the problems of the region.
- The collection, management and availability of accurate and timely information are essential in managing fishery resources and combating illegal fishing. Accurate data on the number of fishing vessels and fishing activity is required to provide for responsible fishing, hence the importance of maintaining comprehensive and up-to- date vessel registers and catch and effort information by all States, both coastal and flag.
- Coastal States through their flag State responsibilities in the region are at the forefront in implementing sustainable fishing practices and combating illegal fishing.
- Port States play a key role in combating illegal and unreported fishing in the region, given the need to land catch and support fishing activities. In th is regard, regional countries and fishing entities need to develop measures to regulate fishing vessels accessing their ports for transhipping and/or landing catch and collect and exchange relevant data.
- In order to minimise unreported and illegal catches, countries should collaborate to implement regional market measures to identify and to track fish catches at all points in the marketing chain in a consistent way with existing international trade laws.
- Capacity building in all aspects of fisheries management must be encouraged. Countries are aware that a fully effective system requires technically competent implementation and operation. Technical a nd administrative staff require access to both formal and on-the-job training to build the requisite experience and competence in matters such as fisheries resource assessments, introduction of monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) measures and development of fish product tracking systems.
- An MCS system, at both a national and regional level, suppor ts and underpins a robust fisheries management regime. A strong enforcement network can share data and information on enforcement strategies and provide advice and capacity building. To better coordinate efforts against illegal activity, countries should develop suitable and relevant inter-agency arrangements to develop their networks to quickly share information such as locations, names of vessels, ports used (home and/or unloading port) and species targeted, and other information as appropriate.
- Transhipment outside the territorial sea shoul d be regulated to prevent illegal fishers from using it to launder thei r catches. Stronger monitoring, control and surveillance of both fishing and carrier vessels is a priority.
- Countries agree to support the ongoing development of the cooperative arrangements embodied in this RPOA. The effective implementation of the RPOA will be reviewed as determined by a Coordination Committee to be comprised of officials from each participating country and communicated to the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries and other regional bodies as appropriate.