Author: Alex Gray
More people are giving thought to where their food comes from, and there is perhaps no better example than seafood. With the power of global logistics, it is possible to enjoy fresh lobster, fish, shrimp, and other delicacies of the deep in a restaurant thousands of miles from the nearest coast. However, eco-conscious consumers increasingly want to know where their food originated and whether it was harvested in an environmentally sustainable fashion.
While seafood is a luxury for some, more than one billion people around the world rely on the oceans for their daily nutritional intake. Worldwide, an average of 17 kilograms (kg) of seafood is consumed per person annually, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), making marine wild-capture fisheries one of the most important human food and protein sources. FAO’s charter includes improving global maritime and environmental conditions.
However, these resources are being depleted rapidly due to poor management and overfishing. Globally, more than 30% of fishery catches are illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU). Black-market IUU activities undermine the economic and environmental sustainability of global fisheries and fish stocks and impact all countries.
Shining the light of transparency
A global effort is now under way to increase the transparency of the global fishing fleet to reduce the environmental and economic impacts of IUU fishing activities. The primary focus is on establishing a global record of fishing, which would require a permanent unique vessel identifier (UVI) scheme like the 27-yearold United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) ship identification system that tracks the world’s large merchant vessels
Under the IMO system, all seagoing merchant vessels of 100 gross tons or more, including container ships, tankers, bulk carriers, and cruise liners, are assigned and must display a seven-digit number throughout their service life, from the construction berth to the breaker’s yard. The number remains assigned to that vessel through changes in ownership, name, and flag state. Vessels identified in this manner can be tracked and monitored at sea and in port for regulatory and security oversight.