Four years ago, the FAO Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels (the ‘Global Record’) was launched to the public with the aim of enhancing transparency and traceability to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. It can also be used by stakeholders across the industry to support the implementation of global agreements, such as the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). By giving all interested citizens access to a broad range of information about fishing vessels, such as vessel identifications, former names and whether vessels have previously been denied entry to port, the Global Record can help countries that may otherwise lack capacity and ensure that IUU-caught fish does not enter their supply chains, and that vessels suspected of IUU fishing do not join their fleet.
On 11 July 2022, the EU IUU Fishing Coalition held an online event, attended by over 40 experts, to launch its new study, ‘The FAO Global Record of Fishing Vessels: A tool for the EU to champion fisheries transparency globally’. The study provides an overview of the now 27 EU Member States’ engagement with the Global Record and analyses the performance of key EU partner countries.
Overall, the study shows that EU Member States and the EU’s international partners still have considerable work to do. Although all EU Member States with a fishing fleet have submitted information to the Global Record, Spain is the best performer and the only Member State that has submitted information to more than two of the seven information modules. Much of the information uploaded to the Global Record by EU Member States also hasn’t been updated in over a year. Additionally, a number of the EU’s key partner countries have yet to submit any information to the Global Record, and of the countries that have submitted information, comprehensiveness and timeliness of information submitted is often lacking.
Throughout the panel discussion, experts discussed barriers preventing Member States from engaging fully with the Global Record and contemplated how to make the database most successful in the future. Following the event, it is clear that all present State authorities understand that the Global Record is a vital tool in both improving fisheries transparency and combating IUU fishing and that further information should be uploaded by States without delay. By providing a free-to-access centralised database of vessel information – both current and historic – a well-populated, accurate and up-to-date Global Record has the potential to be a vital tool in the fight against IUU fishing and in improving fisheries transparency.
Key messages from the speakers include:
- Giuliano Carrara, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Fisheries Officer: The Global record is only as useful as the information it contains. When we look at the number of vessels in the system, for instance, we are nowhere near capacity. More work needs to be done to increase this number. In further developing the Global Record, the name of the game is connecting with as many systems as possible and facilitating that automatic exchange of information.
- David Poderoso Godoy, Spanish Fisheries Ministry, Head of Fisheries Management Area, Fisheries Surveillance and Fight against Illegal Fishing Unit: The Global Record is a very interesting tool not just for Spain and the European Union, but also at the international level. That is why Spain is very committed to it. An effective domestic management system merging all types of vessel data, like the Spanish ‘SIPE,’ makes it easier to provide the necessary information to the Global Record.
- David Pearl, U.S.A. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Supervisory Investigative Analyst, Office of Law Enforcement, International Operations Division: How do you tell where the seafood you’re buying comes from? Transparency is the key, and the Global Record is one of the many tools that is important in getting that done. A robust Global Record is a great support in helping inspectors in their work: It’s one thing to ask for information, it’s another thing to verify that information. A robust Global Record would help in that audit and due diligence. Mr Pearl noted that pulling select information from various US databases and submitting this data to the Global Record can be challenging due to formatting issues, but NOAA is looking forward to the launch of the Global Record Version 2.0 which will help the US to upload information to more data fields. The US has also identified priority flag States and priority regions for combating IUU fishing, and will promote uptake of the Global Record by these partners.
- Courtney Farthing, Global Fishing Watch, Director, International Policy: Public data contributes to a culture of compliance. Transparency of information allows good actors to carry on unaffected – whilst bad actors know that they are being watched, and decision-makers have access to the data they need to take action. The Global Record will also help non-State actors, like the newly established Joint Analytical Cell, in holding States and authorities accountable, generating fisheries intelligence and providing analytical and technical support where possible.
- Thomas Walsh, Researcher, EU IUU Fishing Coalition: The Global Record is a vital tool in the fight against IUU fishing and in improving global fisheries transparency. The EU IUU Fishing Coalition’s research has found that in order for the Global Record to reach its full potential in the fight against IUU fishing, States must increase the amount of information provided to the system and update this information more frequently. States must also endeavour to upload information on the ownership of fishing vessels, as this information can be of crucial for authorities.
- Dr Antonia Leroy, Head of Ocean Policy, WWF European Policy Office: The Global Record can really help countries that may otherwise lack capacity to ensure that IUU-caught fish does not enter their supply chains, and that vessels suspected of IUU fishing do not join their fleet.
- Peter Horn (Project Director, International Fisheries, End Illegal Fishing at The Pew Charitable Trusts): Since PSMA adoption in 2016, the potential of the Global Record to strengthen the fight against IUU fishing has been undisputed. But it is fair to say that realising its full potential has proved to be more challenging.
Read the full report (in English)
Thomas Walsh (EU IUU Fishing Coalition) – ‘The FAO Global Record of Fishing Vessels: A tool for the EU to champion fisheries transparency globally’
Guiliana Carrara (FAO) – ‘Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels’
David Poderoso Godoy (Spain) – ‘The Integral System of Spanish Fisheries Management: Computer tools at the service of Surveillance and control’
David Pearl (US) – ‘US Interest in Countering IUU Fishing Globally’
Video recording of the webinar on 11 July 2022