Thailand and the UN – Port State Measures Agreement: Will Accession facilitate more inspections at Thai ports?

Thailand is a major player in global seafood trade and processing of fishery products. Among the major fish producer countries Thailand was ranked 14 in 2012 with capture fisheries landings of more than 1.6 million tonnes. However, Thailand exhibits its dominance as the third largest exporter of seafood in the world (8.1% of the global seafood exports valued at 8079 million US$ in 2012) after China and Norway.

With bulk of the production dependent on imported raw material from other countries ports play a major role in entry of products for both legal and illegal origin. Currently, very little is known about the extent of inspections in Thai fishing ports? With a sprawling network of fishing ports spread across Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea, more than 15 ports cater large fishing vessels while 12 smaller ports cater imports for smaller vessels from Malaysia, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Vessels wishing entry are required to inform authorities at least 48 hours in advance and both Thai port authorities and the Department of Fisheries have the authority to deny entry for foreign vessels. In most cases, fishing boats are allowed to land.

In order to strengthen catch inspections Thailand is also developing an electronic system for the traceability of fish and fishery products. Under the new Royal Ordinance on Fisheries B.E. 2558 (2015) that came into effect from November last year more intense inspections are required to deny entry to illegal vessels and strengthen inspections at ports.

Thailand became the 26th nation to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement. Recent ratifications include Guyana, Dominica, Sudan, Tonga and Vanuatu. As of 16 May 2016 thirty countries have ratified PSMA and the agreement would come into force on 5 June 2016.

On 6 May 2016, Thailand announced that it has acceded to the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. A press statement said:

“Today, Thailand formally accedes to the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, underlying Thailand’s strong commitment to work with the international community to address this common challenge. The Royal Thai Embassy in Rome deposited Thailand’s instrument of accession to the FAO today.” 

On 10 May 2016, H.E. Mr. Tana Weskosith, the Thai Ambassador to Italy, and Mr. Sompong Nimchuar, Minister (Agricultural Affairs) / Permanent Representative to FAO, met with H.E. Mr. José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the FAO, to present the Instrument of Accession of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing (PSMA).

Challenges:

  1. Imports of huge volumes of frozen and processed seafood from foreign countries poses challenges for inspectors at ports. More than 50% of the imports comprised of tuna, followed by frozen fish (38%), cephalopods (6%) and shrimps, etc.
  2. Multiple agencies are involved in fisheries inspections at ports before cargo is cleared by customs.
  3. There is very little information on current state of inspections at Thai ports (EU – Yellow card has led to progress on several fronts in both administration and legal contexts).
  4. There are significant landings of fish and seafood products of Thai origin in fishing docks spread along both coasts. Domestic fishing fleet of more than 50,000 trawlers. VMS transponders have already been installed on 2100 trawlers above 60 gross tonnes.
  5. There is currently no data on number of foreign flagged reefers and fishing vessels visiting Thai ports and what percentage is inspected each year.

Other Resources:

FAO (2016) Ground-breaking illegal fishing accord soon to enter into force, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 16 May 2016.

MFA (2016) Thailand accedes to the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, May 11, 2016.

IUU Risk Intelligence (2016) Port State Measures Agreement – 25 parties on the table, IUU Risk Intelligence, March 31, 2016.

IUU Risk Intelligence (2015) Why more incentives for fishing industry in Thailand won’t help in controlling IUU Fishing, IUU Risk Intelligence, December 31, 2015.

SOFIA (2014) The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2014, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

Port State Measures Agreement – 25 parties on the table

On 30 March 2016, Gambia’s national assembly ratified the UN agreement on Port State Measures to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU). This brings the number of parties formally ratifying the treaty to 25.

Pursuant to Article 29, the Agreement shall enter into force thirty days after the date of deposit of the twenty-fifth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with the Director-General of FAO. The UN Port State Measures Agreement would formally come into force on 5 June 2016.

Here is a list of 30 parties and the dates on which the deposit of ratification to the agreement were provided to the Director-General of FAO.

Australia (20 July 2015)

Barbados (2 February 2016)

Chile (28 August 2012)

Costa Rica (4 December 2015)

Cuba (25 March 2016)

Dominica

European Union – Member Organization (7 July 2011)

Gabon (15 November 2013)

Gambia (30 March 2016) – Date of ratification in the Gambia National Assembly

Guinea Bissau

Guyana (7 March 2016)

Iceland (16 June 2015)

Mauritius (31 August 2015)

Mozambique (19 August 2014)

Myanmar (22 November 2010)

New Zealand (21 February 2014)

Norway (20 July 2011)

Oman (1 August 2013)

Palau (30 November 2015)

Republic of Korea (14 January 2016)

Saint Kitts and Nevis (9 December 2015)

Seychelles (19 June 2013)

Somalia (9 November 2015)

Sri Lanka (20 January 2011)

Sudan

South Africa (16 February 2016)

Thailand (10 May 2016)

Tonga

USA (26 February 2016)

Uruguay (28 February 2013)

Vanuatu

 

UN Port State Measures Agreement could be ratified soon ?

South Korea became the 19th country to ratify the UN Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) on 14 January 2016. The spree of recent ratifications is seen as a stride in the right direction. If the present pace continues the treaty might come into effect by the first week of June.

The PSMA would come into force on 5 June 2016. As of 16 May 2016,  30 parties have ratified the PSMA agreement.

The UN Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing was approved by the FAO Conference at its Thirty-sixth Session (Rome, 18-23 November 2009) under paragraph 1 of Article XIV of the FAO Constitution, through Resolution No 12/2009 dated 22 November 2009.

UN- PSMA (Ratifications) May 16, 2016Countries that have ratified the PSMA

Progress: 23 Parties have signed the agreement until today  include Angola, Australia, Benin, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, European Union, France, Gabon, Ghana, Iceland, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Russian Federation, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Turkey, USA, Uruguay. The Agreement shall enter into force thirty days after the date of deposit with the Director-General of FAO of the 25th instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. With the latest spree of ratifications 30 parties have ratified the PSMA.

Countries with big import markets such as Japan, Taiwan and China should also become a party to bring meaningful change and improve traceability.

In this context however it is surprising to see that progressive countries like Canada and France are still lagging behind in the ratification process although both signed the treaty as early as 2010 (Canada and France signed the treaty on 19 November 2010). Brazil signed the treaty on 22 November 2009 but is yet to follow up with the ratification process.

UN - PSMA (Countries that have signed but not ratifed it yet)

Countries that have signed the PSMA but not ratified it yet

This fact assumes importance as five countries have directly ratified the treaty without initially signing it just within the last two months. The notable five include Republic of Korea (14 January 2016), Saint Kitts and Nevis (9 December 2015), Palau (30 November 2015), Somalia (9 November 2015), Costa Rica (4 December 2015) and Mauritius (31 August 2015).

Canada, France, Russia, Indonesia, Ghana, Peru and Brazil should expedite the ratification process so that the PSMA will come into effect as soon as possible.

FAO (2016) Status of the Port State Measures Agreement, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 14 January 2016.

Are Port State Measures Enough to control IUU seafood imports into U.S.A: Next Steps ?

On October 22, 2015 the U.S. Senate passed the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act. The new Bill (H.R. 774) would provide more powers to NOAA inspectors to conduct thorough inspections and deny entry to suspected IUU vessels at U.S. ports. In this context there are several pros and cons that need to be taken into account with respect to the effectiveness of this new law.

USA imports more than its exports.

  1. Mislabeled seafood might be imported in significant quantities given the shortage of seafood inspections at major ports.
  2. More than 91% of seafood consumed in USA is imported; mostly from developing countries.
  3. Between 20% and 32% ($1.3–2.1 billion) of wild-caught seafood US imports are illegal.
  4. Significant portion of imported seafood is of farmed origin. But actual percentage of farmed products inspected for presence of antibiotics and other banned chemicals remains low. Less than 2% of the imported seafood is inspected by FDA and less than 1% is tested in laboratories.
  5. Bulk of the imported seafood imports into USA are processed fish making them vulnerable to mislabeling.
  6. Very few illegal fishing vessels on RFMO blacklists actually visit or land catches in U.S. ports. Most of the imported seafood arrives in Container ships from other countries.
  7. Countries, companies or fishing vessels identified for IUU fishing abroad have not received any trade sanctions.

Country of Origin labelling is not in place. Traceability issues still need to be addressed.

Advantages of the new Bill

  • The Bill would provide more powers to NOAA Law Enforcement officers and U.S. Coast Guard.
  • The Bill states that information on suspected IUU fishing vessels will be shared with other countries. However, the nature of procedures or current  data sharing protocols remain unknown.
  • The Bill would provide greater oversight for cheaper seafood imports of some commercial seafood (Alaska crabs from Russia) and other fish that is sold by U.S. companies.
  • The Bill could allow for better co-ordination of inspections among various U.S. Government agencies at ports.

Other Resources:

Brandon, H. (2015) U.S. rejecting fish imported from China and Vietnam at record rates – Fish contaminated with Formaldehyde, other harmful chemicals,    July 24, 2015.

Connie, R. (2014) Unsustainable Seafood: A New Crackdown on Illegal Fishing, Yale University, April 22, 2014.

Intrafish (2015) U.S. seafood imports up 6.6%, but buyers spend less, Intrafish, September 4, 2015.

NPR (2015) “The Great Fish Swap”: How USA is Downgrading its Seafood Supply, July 17, 2015.

Pramod, G., Nakamura, K., Pitcher, T. J., & Delagran, L. (2014). Estimates of illegal and unreported fish in seafood imports to the USA. Marine Policy, 48, 102-113.