PSMA will enter into force

The PSMA will enter into force, now that more than 25 countries have ratified the pact. Credit: Jean-Pierre Bazard Jpbazard/CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons The PSMA will enter into force, now that more than 25 countries have ratified the pact. Credit: Jean-Pierre Bazard Jpbazard/CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

An international treaty to help stop illegal fishing will enter into force now that it has been ratified by more than the 25 governments needed.

Six more countries - Dominica, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, and Vanuatu - have ratified the binding Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) agreement, bringing the total to 30.

This is a critical step in the global fight to end illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU)  fishing and should lead to more governments signing  on to the treaty, says Tony Long from The Pew Charitable Trusts. That would strengthen the PSMA and extend its reach to new regions. More countries are in the process of ratifying the pact, and the numbers are expected to grow.

The PSMA, if used in conjunction with catch documentation policies, could be one of the most cost-effective and efficient means of combating illicit fishing. By mandating that captains provide advance notice of their arrival in port and by empowering port officials to turn away suspect catch, the treaty could keep many tons of illegally caught seafood from entering national or international markets each year. Officials would be able to detain and sanction IUU vessels and their captains.

The pact also gives port officials the discretion to deny port services, such as fuelling, to vessels believed to have engaged in maritime crimes.  Effective implementation of these port state measures will reduce the economic incentives to engage in black-market fishing.

Ports will have to determine whether vessels are carrying illegal catch and whether this seafood is being improperly landed, transshipped, processed, or sold. Doing so should reduce the number of ‘ports of noncompliance’.

However, although Mr Long acknowledges the results of hard work and collaboration among governments all around the world, he says that 30 ratifications are not enough and that countries can do much more in this critical fight.

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