via Public Domain Pictures

World - Fishing for Security: Taking on Illegal Fishing in Latin America

Over 25 years ago, illegal fishing was seen as a significant threat to international fisheries.


Over 25 years ago, illegal fishing was seen as a significant threat to international fisheries. Extraordinary efforts, such as the adoption of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the UN Compliance Agreement, illustrated the importance of addressing illegal fishing at the global level. The countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have a long history of addressing fisheries interests by leading global efforts. The Santiago Declaration of 1952 established a 200 nautical mile fisheries zone leading to the codification of the concept in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It also created a regional coordination mechanism, the Permanent Commission of the South Pacific (CPPS), which has recently begun efforts to establish a regional plan of action to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in accordance with the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) International Plan of Action on IUU. The intervening decades have seen interest and ensuing resource commitments ebb and flow. Today, the global community is recognizing that the impacts of IUU fishing are not just a fisheries issue.

The LAC countries are experiencing a surge in foreign fishing activity and a rapid increase in global demand for seafood products that are impacting the sustainability of renewable fisheries resources.1 The loss of fisheries resources can impact food security and employment opportunities and reduce national revenue. Fishing vessels can be associated with other nefarious activities beyond IUU fishing to include crimes associated with fishing such as corruption, document, tax and customs fraud
and convergent crimes like human and arms trafficking, and drug smuggling.

Addressing IUU fishing in LAC is wrought with challenges that include a vast maritime area, limited enforcement resources, capability limitations, data analysis and sharing difficulties, legal constraints, and international frameworks that can constrain efforts. To overcome the challenges of IUU fisheries enforcement in LAC,
regional solutions should focus on cooperation, including interagency, regional, and international partnerships. Non-traditional partners, such as naval and security forces, should be engaged because IUU fisheries enforcement is a gateway mission to achieve broader maritime security objectives at the national and regional levels.

Examples from outside the region can provide valuable lessons in collective efforts to address IUU fishing. This includes exploring operational cooperation at the regional level, developing regional cooperative enforcement frameworks, incorporating the academic community to help identify and find solutions for IUU fishing enforcement, and using international instruments to facilitate national
and coordinated regional enforcement.

Technology and information analysis and dissemination are essential elements, but
they must be applied and used as part of the solution and developed with a view toward sustainability. Any new technology should be a solution to a current problem and not an existing technology looking for a problem to solve. Finally, technology solutions should be evaluated for their applicability, sustainability, and utility to address the problem.

IUU fisheries enforcement offers an opportunity for external partners to provide value to LAC through increased cooperation. Cooperation and support can include capacity development through sustained training and engagement, deployment of operational resources and personnel, support for regional implementation
efforts, and robust information collection, analysis, and dissemination. Such support
provides benefits to the partner nations demonstrating commitment, increasing the
prospect for operational collaboration.

It is worth noting that the issues and impacts of IUU fishing and the solutions must originate within LAC, with the support of external partners.

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