Flourishing Oceans03 Mar 2023

Minderoo leads plan for global action on flag state fishing

Minderoo Foundation has committed A$5 million to help countries ensure distant water fishing fleets operate within sustainable and responsible guidelines, including vessels operating on the high-seas and in foreign exclusive economic zones.

Fishing boat at sea
Better regulation of fishing vessels is key to ending overfishing. Photo Credit: Kai Honkanen via Getty Images.

The plan, launched at the 2023 Our Ocean Conference in Panama, will support governments, the private sector and civil society to take measurable and concrete actions to improve the sustainability and legality of activities undertaken by these vessels.

Minderoo Foundation founder and Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest, said encouraging reform by countries which have poor track records of regulating fishing vessels operating under their flag was key to ending overfishing.

“Illicit activities at sea continue to threaten ecosystem health, fisheries sustainability, human rights, food security and livelihoods,” Dr Forrest said.

“Activities such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing result in billions of dollars of lost income for governments, local communities and lawful operators.

“To date, ineffective flag state control remains one of the key issues allowing illicit activity at sea to continue.

“Over the next five years, Minderoo will commit to work with countries to clarify their responsibility to exercise due diligence over vessels flying their flags, as well as advocating for these flag states to adopt and effectively implement international conventions on illegal fishing, forced labour and broader fisheries sustainability.

“We’re striving to remove the veil of secrecy in the fishing sector, in particular for vessels operating outside their flag state waters, by supporting the development of an information standard for vessel registries.

“We’ll also support coastal states to develop their capacity to enforce these regulations, as well as assist them to execute legal proceedings against vessel owners and flag states that are violating fisheries regulations in their waters,” Dr Forrest said.

Minderoo Foundation, in collaboration with global partners, has developed the program to clarify flag state reform. This includes developing guidelines, and improving oversight to deliver significant benefits to fishers, businesses, vulnerable communities, and the marine environment.

Distant Water Fishing Explainer:

Vessels sometimes fish outside the waters of the country they are registered with. These vessels can fish in international waters, or under a license in other countries’ waters. Often, they are involved in joint ventures in these other countries. While they operate outside the waters of the country of their registry, often called their ‘flag state’, that country has almost exclusive rights and responsibility for their oversight.

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

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