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Voluntary Guidelines and Flag State Performance – Pt. 2

May 1, 2013

Just recently I blogged on the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines and Flag State Performance (see here). It turns out they are now publically available so this is follow up.

First, it’s worth sharing comments from a colleague that was involved in the negotiations.  This person shared that the guidelines are meant to summarize what countries are already supposed to be doing. It does not create new obligations, but can be considered to add-value to the fight against illegal fishing because it is user-friendly and puts all existing obligations in one place.

I revised the document to see if there are any bits of international law I wasn’t aware of.  It seems that perhaps there was a new obligation made after all, though surely it won’t be well observed:

56.   States should report to FAO on progress with the implementation of these Guidelines and  on  the  outcome  of  performance  assessments  conducted,  whether  self-assessments  or external  assessments,  as  part  of  their  biennial  reporting  to  FAO  on  the  1995  FAO  Code  of Conduct  for  Responsible  Fisheries.  These  reports  should  be  published  by  FAO  in  a  timely manner.

As for the existing obligations, I figured I wasn’t aware of all the obligations and I was quite right.  Here’s what caught my eye.

Flag states are to avoid registration of likely offenders:

13.   The flag State avoids registration of vessels with a history of non-compliance as appropriate, except where:

(a)   the ownership of the vessel has subsequently changed and the new owner has provided sufficient  evidence  demonstrating  that  the  previous  owner  or  operator  has  no  further legal, beneficial or financial interest in, or control of, the vessel; or

(b)   having taken into account all relevant facts, the flag State determines that flagging the vessel  would  not  result  in  IUU  fishing  or  fishing  related  activities  in  support  of  such fishing.

Flag states are responsible for clearly communicating international law to vessel owners:

34.   The   flag   State   effectively   implements   conservation   and   management   measures, including the following:

(a)   the  flag  State  ensures  that  the  obligations  incumbent  upon  the  fishing  vessel  owners, operators and crews are clearly accessible and communicated to them;  

(b)   the flag State provides guidance to the fishing sector to meet these obligations; and

(c)   the flag State effectively manages the fisheries activities of the vessels flying its flag in a manner that ensures the conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources.

Flag states are not to engage in fisheries access agreements unless they believe that the fishing does not undermine sustainability. Interesting considering so few stocks in West Africa are assessed:

40.   The flag State should only enter into fisheries access agreements with a coastal State when  both  are  satisfied  that  such  activities  will  not  undermine  the  sustainability  of  living marine  resources  within  the  jurisdiction  of  the  coastal  State.    The  flag  State  should  also  be  ready to cooperate with the coastal State in that regard.

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