SPC's 11th Fisheries Data Workshop by Francisco Blaha

2017 marks the 11th annual Tuna Data Workshop, and it is held from the 24th to the 28th of April 2017, in Noumea, New Caledonia. The regional Tuna Data Workshop is conducted on an annual basis for SPC member countries to improve their scientific tuna monitoring and data management capacity and satisfy their data reporting obligations to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). 

Data management in fisheries (at this level) is unfortunately an indoor activity.

Data management in fisheries (at this level) is unfortunately an indoor activity.

Data acquisition and management are essential to successful fisheries management, and a lot of effort has been provided by SPC over the years to strengthen their capabilities and to support member countries in collecting and managing fisheries data, for their own and for regional benefit.  (See here what are the roles of SPC and FFA in these aspects). 

For the last years, I been working on the use of these (SPC's and FIMS) data streams in MCS to control IUU fishing and "fish laundering", hence I very grateful to SPC and FFA to have invited me to assist to the present workshop as to strengthen my knowledge in these areas and offer a glimpse of what I'm working on for FFA.

Very much looking forwards to this week, besides work New Caledonia being a small piece of France in the Pacific they take their coffee, their bread and their fitness quite seriously... and I'm quite partial to that!


Benefits of a moratorium on transshipment on the high seas by Francisco Blaha

Transhipments is a complicated issue I boarded (pun intended) before. While there are valid logistical and economic reasons for their existence, they remind a problematic issue and all efforts to control them seem to fail short. To the recent study on likely transhipments I posted a week ago, this new paper on Marine Policy adds more salt to a already known injury, and makes a good case for a total ban on transshipment at-sea across all RFMOs.

Yellow: ORION S (reefer), Blue: AMERICAN EAGLE (purse seiner), both Colombian flagged, transhipping in the High seas between Ecuador and Galapagos Islands.  2015-04-09. Image source Global Fishing Watch

Yellow: ORION S (reefer), Blue: AMERICAN EAGLE (purse seiner), both Colombian flagged, transhipping in the High seas between Ecuador and Galapagos Islands.  2015-04-09. Image source Global Fishing Watch

The six authors of this paper come from a mixture of academia and NGOs, wich is good to see as (in my opinion) some NGOs tend to be weak on the factual analysis side, while academics (in principle) go trough a more rigorous process on their publications. The paper does not tell "unknown" truths to the people in the IUU field, but grounds those truths on a solid methodological review of the rules at RFMOs and from those, they draw some robust conclusions that go beyond fisheries.

I paste below the abstract and conclusions, but as usual, go to to the original for the full picture.

One way that illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fish catch is laundered into the seafood market is through transshipments at-sea. This practice, which often occurs on the high seas (the areas of ocean beyond national jurisdiction), allows vessels fishing illegally to evade most monitoring and enforcement measures, offload their cargo, and resume fishing without returning to port. At the same time, transshipment at-sea can facilitate trafficking and exploitation of workers who are trapped and abused on fishing vessels.

This study gives an overview of high seas transshipment as well as evaluates transshipment at-sea regulations across 17 Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), which are responsible for regulating fisheries on the high seas. Transshipment at-sea regulations have become increasingly strict in most RFMOs since the late 1990s. However, only five RFMOs have mandated a partial ban, and only a single RFMO, the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO), has mandated a total ban on transshipment at-sea.

A total ban on transshipment at-sea across all RFMOs would support the ability of oversight and enforcement agencies to detect and prevent IUU fishing and also likely reduce human trafficking and forced labor on the high seas.

The RFMOs around the world are in a unique position with respect to transshipment, and are likely to come under increasing pressure to address this activity for both ecological and sociological reasons. Given the increased overexploitation of high seas fish, sizable economic losses to illegal fishing globally, documented IUU fishing associated with transshipments on the high seas, and ever-increasing concerns about forced labor, it would be prudent to invoke the precautionary principle and instate a moratorium on transshipment at-sea across all RFMOs.

While most RFMOs have improved transshipment at-sea regulations over the last two decades, a moratorium on transshipment at-sea would provide the best ecological and social outcome for high seas fisheries. A total ban on transshipment at-sea is a primary way to ensure that human trafficking can be combated alongside preventing the laundering of IUU catch.

The socioeconomic effects of an RFMO-wide moratorium would likely be fairly immediate, as vessels would be routed into EEZs and return to port more frequently, which would likely increase the costs of fishing but also improve trafficked fishers’ opportunities of notifying authorities of human rights abuses. Ecological effects, however, would likely only become apparent over time, if the moratorium on transshipment reduced overfishing and IUU fishing.

Reduced fishing pressure on the high seas could also offset economic losses of a ban on transshipment at-sea if fishing within EEZs subsequently becomes more productive. RFMOs might adopt a precautionary approach similar to SEAFO's, which included an interim prohibition on transshipment at-sea before implementing a permanent ban.

The issue of IUU fishing and human rights abuses on the high seas deserve urgent attention, and a moratorium on transshipment on the high seas is one way to address both issues.


A database of global marine commercial, small-scale, illegal and unreported fisheries catch 1950–2014 by Francisco Blaha

I wish I had more time to read, or more validly, I was more disciplined in my job to allow reading time! Yet again a recent paper by Reg A. Watson caught my attention. In this latest work, he harmonised global fisheries landing datasets from the best public sources, interpolate missing taxonomic data, then map the records to a grid of 30-min spatial cells so as to remain consistent with all available auxiliary data and make that dataset publically available. What a legend!

Examples of database use with mapped catch rates (kg km−2 yr−1). (a) Average annual reported catch rates (including IUU) for 2010–2014; (b) Average annual catch rate of discarded marine products 2000–2004; (c) Average catch rate of sharks and rays 2010–2014; (d) Average catch rate of tunas and billfish 2010–2014.

Examples of database use with mapped catch rates (kg km−2 yr−1).
(a) Average annual reported catch rates (including IUU) for 2010–2014; (b) Average annual catch rate of discarded marine products 2000–2004; (c) Average catch rate of sharks and rays 2010–2014; (d) Average catch rate of tunas and billfish 2010–2014.

Read below my shameless quoting of his paper or go (for free) to the original.

As Global fisheries landings data from a range of public sources was harmonised and mapped to 30-min spatial cells based on the distribution of the reported taxa and the fishing fleets involved. This data was extended to include the associated fishing gear used, as well as estimates of illegal, unregulated and unreported catch (IUU) and discards at sea. Expressed as catch rates, these results also separated small-scale fisheries from other fishing operations. The dataset covers 1950 to 2014 inclusive.

Mapped catch allows study of the impacts of fisheries on habitats and fauna, on overlap with the diets of marine birds and mammals, and on the related use of fuels and release of greenhouse gases. The fine-scale spatial data can be aggregated to the exclusive economic zone claims of countries and will allow study of the value of landed marine products to their economies and food security, and to those of their trading partners.

Background & Summary
Fishing operations span the globe and occur in all but the deepest and most remote places in global oceans. Fishing remains central to the food security of many countries. It provides much needed protein and income to those with few alternatives. To wealthier nations it is associated with an extremely valuable and a highly globalised seafood trade. The world’s oceans hold continued promise to provide a range of vital services, and fishing will remain important.

Conflict for coastal land use, pollution and other increasing population-based demands are compounded by ocean acidification, warming, spread of pests, deoxygenation and toxic algae blooms. Humans need to guard marine resources, and mapping global fisheries is an important element. Fishing effort continues to increase, putting pressure on marine resources. Large ocean areas have been set aside from fishing as marine protected areas but placing these also requires knowledge of fishing pattern. Knowing the details of global fishing operations remains an important part of ensuring that the ocean’s services and productivity are not misused.

Examining the relationship between global fisheries and the marine environment, including its wildlife and sensitive habitats is challenging but is necessary before the impact on biodiversity and its values can be estimated. Publically available fisheries records are vague, especially in locating where fishing occurs. Nevertheless, it is vital to map fishing and use all available information to do so.

This information includes all public sources covering various spatial scales, and auxiliary data such as the distribution of the reported taxa, and information on the distribution of fishing fleets based on access rights and on their observed behaviour. Datasets have been compiled with increasing skill since 1999 and are renewed as more data become available.

The approach here is to use a harmonised global dataset from the best public sources, interpolate missing taxonomic data, then map the records to a grid of 30-min spatial cells so as to remain consistent with all available auxiliary data and to make that dataset publically available (Data Citation 1: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania http://dx.doi.org/10.4226/77/58293083b0515).

Data was sourced from a range of public sources (Fig. 1).

Fig 1: Flow diagram of data collation and processing

Fig 1: Flow diagram of data collation and processing

These were harmonised into a single global dataset with common coding. For each location and year, the best coverage from the available sources was selected and overlapping data removed. This dataset was filtered to retain only marine animals but excludes amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

The records were mapped to candidate cells within a system of nearly 300 k global 30-min spatial cells using information on the reported fished taxon’s distribution, the behaviour and access of the reported fishing fleets and any area description provided. A portion of the reported landings represented by each record of the unmapped global dataset was mapped to each candidate cell following a gradient based on the reported taxon’s expected distribution based on depth, habitat and other requirements. Known quotas imposed on fishing fleets were applied.

The result was a mapped dataset of catch rates (tonnes per square km of ocean) for each spatial cell separated by year, fishing nation and fished taxa. This data set was further extended to breakdown the reported landings by fishing gear type based on associations with year/country/taxa. Following this, the catch rate of illegal and unreported landings was estimated for each data record. An estimate of discards (not necessarily of the reported taxa) is also made. Though much of the input landings would be derived from large-scale fishing operations it was possible to estimate rates from small-scale fishing and adjust catch rates to minimise duplicate reporting.

Non-overlapping data sources are selected as input (Fig. 2a). In general, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture’s (FAO) dataset was the only source that provides global coverage but spatial resolution can be quite coarse. FAO’s various regional bodies provide finer spatial definition for several areas and those were used when available and possible. The breakdown of global tonnage represented by records (Fig. 2b) correlates generally to those developed by reconstructions of individual countries in another global dataset (SAUP), which uses different methodology. The number of database records varies spatially (Fig. 2c) and was impacted by the diversity and intensity of fishing and the level of management control. The number of different taxa reported also varies and is greater in coastal areas (Fig. 2d).

One of the likely conclusion of this mammoth dataset, is something we all suspect, that for more than a decade catches have plateaued and we are at maximum extraction capacity. Even if fishing effort still increasing (mostly thanks to subsidies) there is no "more" fish to take... what we have now is as good as it will get... if anything it will go down.


Inroads into Ilegal transhipments analysis by Francisco Blaha

I recently reported on an interesting report on the Global Footprint of Transshipments produced by Global Fishing Watch. As is had a flight with shitty movies, I went over the methodology of the report, and I like it. Is well thought and explained.

Is a pity that these guys don't have access to RFMO and the flag state data on observers, and logsheets, and in many cases the RFMOs don't have the manpower, budget and political will by their DWF Members to get a couple of good consultants/researchers to go over the results and track back the vessels documents, wich are at the end of the day the responsibility of the flag state. (Maybe there is a space for support from big NGOs like Pew or WWF?)

For example, one of the cases they present is of 2 vessels I got to know something about.

In page 6 they present data of an encounter between the ORION S (reefer), and the AMERICAN EAGLE (purse seiner), in 2015 at the high seas (ABNJ) between Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Both these vessels are Colombian flagged and belong to the same company that operates a dozen purseiners from the port of Manta in Ecuador. In principle, the purseiners transship in port to the carrier, and when the carrier is full it goes to Panama, crosses the canal and comes down to unload in Cartagena.

All the vessels of this company (including the carrier) are EU listed, hence for that fish to go to the EU a catch certificate is to be validated by the Colombian Fisheries Authority (AUNAP) so in principle they should have access to the logsheets and VMS of the vessels, plus it would surprise is they were to allow transshipments at sea.

In any case, the information should be there to verify the finding, and if is not, then that is a big failure by the Authority of an allegedly responsible flag state. Otherwise, they should audit the company that owns both vessels and look for the “mates receipt” that conform the volumes transferred. No captain would ever let fish go without a receipt because his payment depends on that.

The reality is that there are records for every one of those alleged transshipments, but one need the authority, the knowledge where to look and the willingness by the flag states to do something about it.

Back to the report, I pasted below the methodology of the study so that you can assess for yourself their robustness.


AIS Data
We identified the majority of the world’s reefers and then tracked the movements of these vessels using the Automatic Identification System (AIS), a type of transceiver that broadcasts a vessel’s location every few seconds. Originally meant for vessel collision avoidance, AIS can now be picked up by satellites and terrestrial receivers. This data is aggregated into global into global databases such as the one Global Fishing Watch obtains from the telecommunications company Orbcomm. The International Maritime Organization mandates that all vessels larger than 300 tons on international voyages carry AIS, and most countries have adopted similar or stricter regulations for their EEZs. In 2016, more than 300,000 vessels broadcasted an AIS signal, of which about 80,000 were fishing vessels, and a few hundred were refrigerated cargo vessels.

 Development of Reefer Database
Our database of reefers was compiled from the following sources:

  1. Refrigerated cargo vessels, fish carriers, and fish tender vessels were identified using vessel lists from the International Telecommunications Union and major Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMO).
  2. If a vessel participated in multiple encounters with fishing vessels, we conducted a web search and reviewed RFMO registries using information from the vessel’s AIS to determine if the vessel was a reefer.
  3. Additional reefers were found by investigating documentation on registry websites and other online resources and determining alternate identities that we were able to match in our database.
  4. A vessel classification neural network, developed by Global Fishing Watch to predict vessel types based on movement patterns, was used to identify possible reefers.

Vessels that were identified as likely reefers by this neural network were manually reviewed through web searches and RFMO registries.

After developing the list, we verified vessel information using reputable online sources: the HIS shipping databases, MarineTraffic, ShipSpotting, VesselFinder, and FleetMon. Our database of reefers is now available through globalfishingwatch.org.

We identified a total of 794 reefers. According to the US Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook, 882 refrigerated cargo vessels were active worldwide in 2010.Assuming that the number of reefers has not significantly increased or decreased since 2010, our dataset includes about 90 percent of the world’s reefer vessels. Some industry analysis suggests the number of reefers is decreasing, meaning that this 90 percent figure is a conservative estimate.1 7 Almost all reefers are required to carry AIS. Ninety-eight percent of the refrigerated cargo vessels in our dataset are larger than 300 gross tons and the International Maritime Organization mandates that vessels heavier than 300 tons on international voyages carry AIS.

Most countries have similar regulations for their EEZs. If we are missing reefers in our dataset, they are likely to be either smaller reefers or vessels that do not make international voyages.

Identifying Transshipments: Encounters and Rendezvous Behavior
We identified potential and likely transshipments in two ways: vessel encounters and rendezvous behaviour by reefers. We extracted these signals using our AIS and reefer databases with help from locations of known transshipments from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).

Vessel Encounters
To identify likely transhipment events, we identified all interactions between two vessels which remained within 500 meters of each other for longer than 3 hours while travelling at less than 2 knots. These parameters balance the need to detect vessel pairs nearby for extended periods of time while recognising that satellite coverage and inconsistent AIS transmission rates may limit our ability to identify long periods in which vessels are in immediate contact (see data caveats below). We filtered our results to include only events where one of the vessels was a refrigerated cargo vessel and the other a fishing vessel. This left us with 5,065 encounters between reefers and fishing vessels, or “likely transshipments,” from 2012 through 2016.

Rendezvous Behaviour by Reefers
Refrigerated cargo vessels exhibit specific rendezvous behaviours during transshipments. We identified these behaviours by analysing known, observer-reported transshipments from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC; 5,874 transshipments between 2009 and 2015). Through our analysis, we identified reefers that exhibited similar patterns of moving less than 2 knots for longer than 8 hours. Distinctive C-shaped tracks and abrupt shifts in course following a period of slow speeds characterised most transhipment events. Following these metrics, we analysed 117 million reefer positions from 2012 - 2016 and identified 86,490 events where a refrigerated cargo vessel exhibited these behaviours, which we identify as “potential transshipments.”

Not all of these rendezvous events are transshipments of fish. Some may represent transfers of fuel or cargo, and others may be the reefer simply waiting until it is scheduled to travel to its next location. Future research will estimate the fraction of these loitering events that are transshipments of fish. For this report, we present these events as a proxy for transhipment of fish at sea, recognising that it is not a one-to-one relationship.

For this report, we call an event where a reefer encounters a fishing vessel a “likely transhipment” and an event where a reefer exhibits rendezvous behaviour a “potential transhipment.” Our set of “likely transshipments” is a subset of “potential transshipments.” In nearly all cases, we are not able to verify whether the transhipment actually occurs. Any reference to transshipments throughout this report is simply where we see likely or potential transhipment behaviour in our data. Also, we identified several thousand instances of reefers meeting up with non-fishing vessels, or meeting up with other reefers. For this initial report, we exclude these events, and focus only on fishing vessel-reefer encounters.

We also did not investigate transhipment between different fishing vessels.

We restricted our analysis to events occurring at least 20 nautical miles from shore to avoid capturing encounters occurring in ports. This distance is still well within the 200 nautical mile limit of EEZs. Future analysis will consider the distance from port instead of distance from shore so as to capture vessels close to shore but far from the port.

One data challenge is due to the limitations of the satellite receivers used to detect AIS signals. Satellites can fail to receive messages from fishing vessels for two reasons:

  1. High vessel density: A satellite can only record a limited number of messages at once, and when there are too many vessels beneath a satellite, some AIS signals are not recorded. As a result, in areas of high vessel density such as the South China Sea or regions off the coast of Europe, we cannot observe a vessel’s movements as accurately.
  2. Satellite coverage: Based on the number of satellites and their orbital patterns, there can be several hours a day when there is no satellite overhead to receive signals.

Fortunately, these limitations are being addressed by the launching of more satellites. In 2012, only two Orbcomm satellites, the satellite provider for Global Fishing Watch, were operating, and now 18 are in orbit. Also, these limitations do not apply along the coastlines of most developed countries, where terrestrial antennas, which are not as affected by vessel density, are present.

In addition, some vessels will not appear in the dataset for the following reasons:

  1. Vessels may intentionally turn off their AIS transmitters.
  2. Vessels may not have AIS at all. Regulations vary by country, and in international waters, vessels under 300 gross tons are not required to use AIS.
  3. AIS transmitters vary in quality, which results in patchier coverage of vessels with poorer quality hardware.
  4. Some fishing vessels use invalid Marine Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) numbers. For this analysis, we ignored these vessels, as they are difficult to identify. Doing so excluded less than one percent of our total encounters.

We have observed fishing vessels turning off their AIS in some areas of significant transhipment, including near the coast of West Africa, outside the Argentinean EEZ, and in some parts of the Indian Ocean. In future analysis, we hope to quantify this disabling of AIS and determine if it related to transhipment.

While some fishing vessels turn off their AIS from time to time, the practice is significantly more rare among reefers. We analysed all the gaps in transmission from reefers that started and ended more than 10 nautical miles from shore and lasted more than 24 hours, and found that these gaps represented only a small percentage of the total time reefers were active. We estimate that reefers in our dataset only show 24 hours or longer gaps in their track approximately 2 percent of the time while at sea. Therefore, we are confident that the AIS data for refrigerated vessels captures the majority of their footprint.

Transhipment is Most Common in the High Seas and Russian EEZ
About 43 percent of the likely and potential transhipment events happen in the high seas, with the remaining 57 percent within EEZs of different nations. About a third of the total events occur in the EEZ of Russia, where transhipment appears to be a standard part of how their fishing fleet operates. After the high seas and Russia, transhipment is most common in the EEZs of Africa and Oceania.


Very little news on the US Seafood Import Monitoring Program starting next year by Francisco Blaha

I wrote before about the US Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), when the news came out, when some more explanations appeared, when the US industry took and NOAA to court about it.  I have to admit that for a system that will affect the seafood trade of the entire world, very little has been published or made known.

Besides the implementation guts of the system, we don't know if the legal challenge would change things and which way, now that Canada has also expressed their doubts.  Furthermore, being this an initiative of the Obama administration, chances are it can be cut off by the new lot, as they did with the climate change mitigation policies. 

Like we don't have enough problems with one half cooked catch certification programme...

Like we don't have enough problems with one half cooked catch certification programme...

A very small (5 pages) compliance guide, that recycle a lot that has been written already plus a few more details has been recently published by NOAA. I posted some of the main elements below... but don't be too hopefull, ain't much there. Many of the fears I had at time comments were requested in early 2016 still not explained

Based on our experience with the EU one, I don’t think that is enough, and they should get some group to do an impact study and to assess all the possible way in which the system can be used from the fishing boats up. We don't need another system with substantial changes of interpretations a few months after implementation that finish in an incomplete system like it happened with the EU one. 

To whom does the Program apply? 
The Seafood Import Monitoring Program requires additional data to be reported at the point of entry into U.S. commerce or retained by the importer of record for imported fish and fish products identified as priority species due to the risk for IUU fishing and seafood fraud activities. Importers of record are identified to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on each entry filing. The U.S. importer of record will be required to obtain an International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP) from NOAA Fisheries to report certain harvest information at the time of entry filing, and to keep records regarding the chain of custody of the fish or fish product from harvest to point of entry into U.S.

Which species will be affected by this Program?
Thirteen species were identified as particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing and/or seafood fraud and therefore covered by the first phase of the Program, which is intended to expand in the future to cover all seafood:

  • Atlantic Cod
  • Blue Crab (Atlantic)
  • Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi)
  • Grouper
  • King Crab (red)
  • Pacific Cod
  • Red Snapper
  • Sea Cucumber(Beche-de-Mer)
  • Sharks
  • Swordfish
  • Tunas: Albacore, Bigeye, Skipjack, Yellowfin, and Bluefin
  • Abalone and Shrimp (at some stage in the future)

What information is being required to be reported at the point of entry into U.S. commerce or retained by the importer of record for imported fish and fish products? 
The information to be collected includes: 
Harvesting or Producing Entity

  • Name and flag state of harvesting vessel(s) 
  • Evidence of authorization to fish (permit or license number) 
  • Unique vessel identifier (when available) 
  • Type(s) of fishing gear 

Note: The fishing area and type of fishing gear should be specified per the reporting convention and codes used by the competent authority exercising jurisdiction over the wild capture operation. If no such reporting requirements exist, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) fishing area and gear codes should be used. 

Harvest Event – What, when and where

  • Species—FAO 3-Alpha Species Codes (Aquatic Sciences Fishery Information System - ASFIS) 
  • Harvest date(s) 
  • Product form(s) at time of landing - including quantity and weight of product 
  • Area(s) of wild-capture or aquaculture harvest 
  • Point(s) of first landing 
  • Name of entity(ies) to which the fish was landed or delivered 

Note: In cases where the imported shipment is comprised of more than one harvest event, each event that is relevant to the shipment must be reported. However, the importer does not need to link a particular fish or portion of the shipment to any one harvest event. 

Importer of Record 

  • Name, affiliation and contact information 
  • NOAA Fisheries issued IFTP number 
  • Importer of record is responsible for keeping records regarding the chain of custody detailed above. 
  • Information on any transshipment of product (declarations by harvesting/carrier vessels, bills of landing) 
  • Records on processing, re-processing, and commingling of product. 

What is the criterion to judge whether a product is included under SIMP?
The criterion to judge whether a specific fish product is included under the initial phase of SIMP is the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Code used to file an electronic entry for the import shipment. NOAA Fisheries will provide to CBP a list of required data elements for each species under the HTS codes covered by SIMP. An updated list of HTS codes subject to SIMP will be posted soon under the message set implementation guide for NOAA Fisheries at: https://www.cbp.gov/trade/ace/catair

How will this information be collected and reported? 
The collection of harvest and landing documentation for these priority seafood species will be accomplished through the International Trade Data System (ITDS), the U.S. government’s single-window data portal for all import and export reporting (maintained by CBP). Import harvest and landing data will be submitted through ITDS “message sets” at the time of entry, while chain of custody records for the fish after landing will be transferred through the supply chain and maintained by the importer of record. Importers of record are the U.S. entities taking responsibility for the import under U.S. Customs regulations and will be required to hold an IFTP issued by NOAA Fisheries. 

When will the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) programming be released?
NOAA Fisheries is working with CBP to program the ACE portal for the pilot test. As soon as the programming has been certified, we will announce a pilot test in the Federal Register. 

What is the language of record for record-keeping? 
The U.S. importer of record must be able to personally review and verify the accuracy of recordkeeping documents regardless of language. Translation of recordkeeping documents into English is not a requirement of the Program but as noted above, must be reviewed and understood by the U.S. importer of record. 

How do I obtain an International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP)? 
The International Fisheries Trade Permit may be obtained at: https://fisheriespermits.noaa.gov/npspub/pub_cmn_login/index_live.jsp  

Will product from each and every harvest event need to be segregated through processing and shipment in order to be traced back from point of entry? 
No— the segregation of harvest events through the supply chain is not required. An imported shipment may be comprised of products from more than one harvest event. In such instances, an importer of record must provide information on each harvest event relevant to the contents of the product offered for entry, but does not need to specify which portions of the shipment came from particular harvest events. 

How will the data collection requirements be applied to small-scale fisheries? 
The Program exempts an importer from the requirement to individually identify small-scale vessels—or small scale aquaculture facilities—if the importer provides other required data elements based on an aggregated harvest report. Aggregated harvest report is defined as a record that covers: (1) harvests at a single collection point in a single calendar day from small-scale vessels (i.e., twelve meters in length or less or 20 gross tons or less); (2) landing by a vessel to which catches of small-scale vessels were made at sea. 

Are all products containing priority species included? 
No. The reporting and recordkeeping requirements will not be applied to imports of certain highly processed fish products, including but not limited to fish oil, slurry, sauces, sticks, balls, cakes, puddings, and other similar highly processed fish products, in cases where these products cannot currently be traced back to one species of fish or a specific harvest event(s) or identified through product labeling. The specific HTS codes for which the program applies are listed in the NOAA Fisheries Implementation Guide at: https://www.cbp.gov/trade/ace/catair

Does this Program require any labeling modifications? 
No. The Seafood Import Monitoring Program is not a labeling program.

Does the Program apply to U.S. domestic seafood? 
U.S. domestic regulations are already in place requiring that catch and landing information for domestically caught seafood is reported to NOAA Fisheries. The rule establishing the Seafood Import Monitoring Program applies only to seafood entering the U.S. from a foreign country. 

Does the Program apply to domestically harvested seafood that is subsequently sent to a foreign facility for processing and/or storage and later imported back into the U.S.? 
Yes, it does. No exception for domestically caught seafood is made. Fish or fish products initially harvested in the U.S., but subsequently sent to a foreign country for processing, reprocessing, and/or storage prior to being sold in the U.S. are subject to reporting and recordkeeping requirements of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program for re-entry into the U.S. 

Some tuna products are already under existing regulatory reporting requirements for imports, how will they be impacted by the Seafood Import Monitoring Program? 
NOAA Fisheries has established harmonization of recordkeeping and reporting requirements of the Tuna Tracking and Verification Program used to document the harvest of tuna products being sold or exported using the dolphin-safe label includes many of the harvest, landing, and chain of custody elements included in SIMP. Implementation of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program data requirements will not create redundant reporting and recordkeeping requirements for importers of tuna products. Rather, the ITDS business rules will be written to ensure that each data element is reported only once in a given case. In order to ensure parity among the two programs, NOAA Fisheries may revise the Tuna Tracking and Verification Program to reflect new reporting and recordkeeping requirements as appropriate. This may also be the case for imports of swordfish and certain species of tuna covered by existing international statistical document or catch documentation programs. 

Will the data reporting and filing requirements of this rule be a matter of public or consumer record? 
The information collected under this program is confidential. SIMP establishes a business-to-government reporting system to allow U.S. government agencies to confirm the legality of imported fish and fish products. To address concerns about data confidentiality, data security will be given the highest priority throughout this process. Information collected via ACE and maintained by CBP systems such as ITDS, is highly sensitive commercial, financial, and proprietary information, and is therefore generally exempt from requirements for public disclosure (for example, the Freedom of Information Act). 

What is the effective date for implementation of the Program? 
Compliance with reporting and recordkeeping requirements in the rule for priority species other than shrimp and abalone will be mandatory starting January 1, 2018. As of the effective date, entries under the specified HTS codes subject to the program will require the message set and the U.S. importer will be required to have a valid IFTP. Entries subject to the Program that are filed without a complete message set (harvest event data and IFTP number) will be rejected and won't be released by CBP until the message set and IFTP number are provided. 
Because imported fish entered into U.S. commerce on or after January 1, 2018 will have been harvested prior to that date, the harvest event message set will pertain to fishing activity that occurred in advance of the compliance date. U.S. importers must work with suppliers to ensure that information on the harvest event exists for any product in the supply chain that will be entered after the compliance date.

Will there be any assistance provided toward complying with this rule? 
Subject to the availability of resources, NOAA Fisheries and the broader U.S. Government intends to provide assistance to exporting nations and domestic imports to support compliance with the requirements of the rule, including providing assistance to build capacity to: 

  •  Undertake effective fisheries management; 
  •  Strengthen fisheries governance structures and enforcement bodies to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud; and 
  •  Establish, maintain, or support systems to enable export shipments of fish and fish products to be traced back to point of harvest. Priorities for capacity building are identified in a Strategic Action Plan for Building International Capacity to Strengthen Fisheries Management and Combat IUU Fishing 

Who can I contact if I have further questions? 
Information and materials about the final rule are posted to www.iuufishing.noaa.gov  
 For questions related to requirements of the SIMP, contact Celeste.Leroux@noaa.gov  
 For questions related to the use of the ACE or ITDS, contact Dale.Jones@noaa.gov  

Incorporating carbon footprints into seafood sustainability certification and eco-labels. by Francisco Blaha

I like reading because it makes me think, and I like thinking. This week a recent paper from Marine Policy by two Australian authors (Elizabeth M.P. Madin and Peter I. Macreadie) touched on a couple of issues I blogged before, carbon footprints and life cycle assessment. Since more and more we are expected to pay a premium for ecolabeled products (wich are a private business), I like to see that the assessments are "totally encompassing or we stay as we are. 

from the original paper

from the original paper

There a couple of areas I struggle with ecolabels and this is one of them, all the schemes avoid fully incorporating these topics. The other one I struggle more is flag state performance and the compliance index (or history) of the vessels in the assessment unit… but this is a topic for another blog

I quote parts of the paper below (go to the link above for the full version), the numbers you see in the text are the bibliography in the original.

The seafood industry has become increasingly interconnected at a global scale, with fish the most traded commodity worldwide. Travel to the farthest reaches of the oceans for capture is now common practice, and subsequent transport to market can require hundreds to thousands of miles of travel by sea and air. Refrigeration of seafood products is generally required at all stages of the journey from ocean to dinner plate, resulting in substantial energy expenditure. Energy input for aquaculture (including mariculture) products can also be high, namely due to the large amounts of feed required to support fish growth. As a result of these factors, the seafood industry has a substantial carbon footprint. Surprisingly, however, carbon footprints of seafood products are rarely integrated into assessments of their sustainability by eco-labels, sustainability certification, or consumer seafood sustainability guides. Suggestions are provided here for how carbon footprints could be incorporated within seafood sustainability schemes.

Incorporating carbon footprints into seafood sustainability
This study proposes another important way in which seafood awareness campaigns can be improved: through explicit consideration of the carbon footprint of seafood products. Including carbon footprints into their certification criteria would provide a more holistic basis for consumers and businesses to assess the sustainability of seafood products. This proposition is in line with recent calls by leaders in the field for seafood awareness campaigns to include the full seafood-production process into sustainability assessments [9] and has been suggested as a useful next step for wild-caught seafood eco-labels [10]. Explicitly considering carbon footprints would allow these campaigns to have a potentially far more powerful net effect by not only helping to mitigate specific environmental impacts of each fishery, as many currently aim to do, but would broaden their impact to confronting the global-scale problem of climate change. Given the substantial per-unit-product carbon emissions of fisheries, this is an area of environmental sustainability in which consumer and business choices could potentially have a large impact.

While a number of “single-issue” carbon footprint eco-labels for other industries have been implemented – i.e., those that specify the exact or relative carbon footprint of a product and rank it on this basis only – it is suggested that this measure should be considered alongside other key sustainability criteria to generate a robust measure of a seafood product׳s overall sustainability. To our knowledge, only one international seafood awareness campaign, Friend of the Sea, explicitly incorporates carbon footprints into its selection criteria and one smaller-scale domestic seafood eco-label, Swedish KRAV [4], does so. While many campaigns have energy and pollution consideration built into their assessment criteria [9], none of the most widely recognised or scientifically rigorous campaigns, including the world׳s largest by far (Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC), incorporate climate effects in any explicit fashion. Nonetheless, the idea of incorporating carbon footprints into the criteria used in these campaigns has the support of at least one major international conservation NGO, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF; [11]). Likewise, Food and Water Watch, an environmental and consumer rights NGO organisation, has identified this gap as a concern with existing seafood eco-labels [12]. Given recent calls for overhaul of, for example, the MSC certification programme [13], as well as calls for integrating other sustainability criteria (such as pre-emptive credits for fisheries that set aside no-take areas [8]), inclusion of carbon footprints into its criteria would seem an obvious and important step towards increasing its potential to ensure environmental sustainability.

Benefits and methods of integrating the carbon footprint
Inclusion of carbon footprints into seafood awareness campaigns could potentially have a number of key benefits on both the consumer and producer ends of the seafood industry. First, giving consumers and businesses (e.g., restaurants) information about the relative contribution to climate change that one product has versus another may promote lower carbon footprint products (e.g., by shifting buying towards locally-produced seafood (Fig. 2c)) or, conversely, towards imported products that have a lower carbon footprint than locally-sourced products (e.g., Fig. 2d). This could come about through a number of mechanisms. Limited evidence suggests that giving consumers access to information about other aspects of seafood sustainability can lead to preferential buying of lower-environmental impact products when presented with a range of choices varying in environmental impact [14]. Conversely, consumers׳ choices can be constrained through retailers stocking only “sustainable” seafood products. Evidence to date suggests that the latter mechanism may be more likely to have a substantial impact on consumption patterns, given that uptake of seafood eco-labels by a number of major retailers has already occurred and continues to grow [e.g., Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Tesco (but see [18]); [9]]. By including carbon footprint criteria, these actions could potentially increase both consumer and industry awareness of the impact of the seafood industry on climate change, opening up the potential for specific fisheries to consider if and how they could modify operations to achieve lower carbon footprints and thus potentially greater demand by retailers and/or consumers.

A seafood product׳s carbon footprint can be measured through life cycle assessment [4]. This assessment results in a net carbon contribution of a specific product, from “cradle to grave”, for a given point of origination and point of sale (e.g., [4]). Carbon footprints could be integrated into existing sustainability certifications, eco-labels, and/or consumer guides via regionally-specific labels or guides. At least one major, scientifically-robust consumer guide (the Monterey Bay Aquarium׳s Seafood Watch guide) already produces regionally-specific guides for different areas that reflect the regional availability of different seafood products. Carbon footprint could be added as an additional criteria calculated as an average over spatial scales that match these existing regional guides, for example. Alternatively, campaigns could provide consumers, retail businesses and seafood producers with information tables of various products׳ estimated carbon footprints to cover various combinations of points of origin and sale. One seafood certification organisation, Friend of the Sea, has done so partly by devising a carbon footprint calculator. This tool allows users to input distance travelled and method of transport and subsequently returns the product׳s transport-generated CO2 emissions [15]. This organisation further provides the option for fisheries to buy carbon offsets (through the organisation), in turn receiving “credits” towards reducing their carbon footprints that are presumably reflected in their calculator. Various other possible methods of carbon footprint integration could be tailored to other existing seafood awareness campaigns or integrated from the outset in future campaigns.

Key considerations and limitations
As with any change to the status quo, a number of challenges must be considered with regard to incorporating carbon footprints into seafood awareness campaigns. Indeed, each stage of the carbon labelling process raises issues which must be addressed, such as agreeing upon a standard methodology for calculating carbon footprints (e.g., life cycle analysis, or LCA), collecting adequate and reliable data, establishing a trusted verification process, and determining how best to present carbon footprint information to consumers and businesses within a sustainability certification, eco-label, or consumer guide. In many cases, even with a standard methodology, a lack of product-chain information could hamper efforts to calculate a carbon footprint in the first place [16]. On a related note, as with the information given in most types of non-eco-labels, the accuracy of the carbon footprint component of any eco-label or sustainability guide would be difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to check. Another challenge faced would be how to weight the carbon footprint component of a given campaign against the other environmental measures it considers (e.g., fisheries’ harvest sustainability and other environmental criteria [4] and social development and economic considerations [9]). One possible solution to this issue is for international campaigns to tailor the specific weighting of carbon footprint versus other criteria to individual countries or regions, as has been done with the Forest Stewardship Council׳s criteria [17]. Lastly, the cost of generating the carbon footprint information for any given product will be an important consideration for its ultimate feasibility. As an example, UK׳s supermarket-giant Tesco recently dropped its highly-publicized adoption of the Carbon Trust׳s carbon reduction label on many of its products, citing the prohibitive time and costs involved in researching products׳ carbon footprints [18]. Likewise, only a tiny fraction of small-scale fisheries from developing nations, which collectively make up the majority of fisheries worldwide [7], are currently certified by MSC [13] – a likely consequence of the prohibitively high cost of becoming certified. The cost of adding yet another certification criteria, such as carbon footprint, would need to be factored in so as not to further this imbalance.

Moving forward
This study has proposed that integrating carbon footprints into existing and future seafood awareness campaigns would create more holistic yardsticks by which the environmental impact of fisheries products can be assessed by consumers, retail businesses and producers. Emerging technologies and tools, such as the recently launched Global Fishing Watch (www.globalfishingwatch.org), will increasingly facilitate accurate calculation of specific seafood sectors׳ – and even potentially individual vessels׳ – carbon footprints. The debate surrounding the inclusion of carbon footprints into sustainability campaigns in other industries is recognised – namely, that inclusion of carbon accounting into existing sustainability certification programs may overshadow other environmental and/or social objectives – and seafood awareness campaigns can learn from these industries׳ dialogues. The inherent interrelatedness of fishing pressure and climate change on fish stocks has led to calls for them to be addressed jointly [19]. This study proposes that seafood awareness campaigns provide one avenue for doing so. Importantly, both the scale of international fisheries trade (e.g., [3]) and the potential effects of future climate change on increasing variability in fisheries stocks [19] suggests that sustainability campaigns within the realm of the seafood industry have both substantial responsibility and incentive to be at the forefront of this new approach.

The PNG FAO – PSMA workshop by Francisco Blaha

It has been a good week here in PNG. The FAO – PSMA workshop included over 50 people from all the line agencies that are involved in the process of having fishing vessels arriving into a port. While well hosted by NFA (the Fisheries Authority) it included ports authority, customs, maritime safety, quarantine, navy and maritime police. Since all these organisations have a role and a mandate over the process.

lets go on board

lets go on board

The team from FAO that run it is top notch Pio Manoa is Fijian lawyer that is now based in Rome after working for FFA, the USP and many others, we had also Matthew Camilleri who has been FAO PSMA master for a few years now and is at helm of the advances over the last few years. It has been a pleasure to be working with both of them and I hope they enjoyed working with me.

The logistics were clever with not a lot of presentations, but a lot of interactions, working groups and visits to vessels in Raboul lagoon

we still on paper, but not for long :-)

we still on paper, but not for long :-)

I think that everyone got some really positives inputs and lot to think on the way home, yet on the other side our work with the CDS has incorporated a lot of the PSM principles already.

I talked many times about how fascinating and challenging is to work in PNG, I been coming here for 19 years, which is almost half the history of the country… 800 cultures trying to strengthen their identity as a nation implies a lot of challenges. Therefore challenges are nothing new for PNG, I always joke that here in PNG we have challenges for breakfast!  An my local colleagues will, as always rise to the challenge, in their own way

What a place for a group picture

What a place for a group picture

Back in PNG with FAO and Port State Measures by Francisco Blaha

I have been coming to PNG since 1999 and the place and people here have a special place in my hearth. I go back a long time with many people in NFA (National Fisheries Authority) and I see many of them as extended family, I know their family, they know mine, I been to their house, they have been to mine.

I think that those human connections are the key part of the job, since they mean trust. So I was quite happy to be invited to be part of a mission with my former colleagues in FAO to deal with a topic that is an integral part of my CDS and MCS work: Port State Measures Agreement.

The PSMA needs to approached with care, not because there is anything wrong with its principles (all the opposite), but because developing countries should move progressively towards it as not to “choke” with all the requirements and then go backwards with the steps done.

Using another analogy: PSM is a tool… and you need to know how to use the tool before trying to fix a car with it after taking from the box.

And is not an easy task, legislation need to be updated, logistics of vessels arrival, notifications, intelligence work prior use of port authorization, inspection capacity and enough people to do it, communication, reporting capacity and many more issues.

Also, you need to draw some lines on the sand, one can interpret it that the use of, and access to, ports should be denied irrespective of the gravity of the illegal activity… and while this is a potent tool to force change, has implications for developing states particularly if the measures are not taking regionally, as the boats can travel to another nearby state and have it “easier” there.

There are considerations when countries like here in the pacific have overlapping requirements as part of the WCPFC and their membership with FFA and PNA.

The reporting alone can be quite complex, as there are quite a few parts to please.

Some worry that it can be felt that small states are “subsidising” the poor flag state performance of most DWFN. Most vessels transhipping and unloading in the region are not flagged here, so it kinds of become the “obligation” of the port state to “police” them. And while one could argue that is in the coastal/port states interests to do so, this still is huge stretch for many fisheries administrations, plus the basic issue that for example Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, etc. should be taking care of their vessels and not PNG or the Solomons… they have a job to do, but the ultimate responsibility is in the flag state… and we all know how “responsible” they are.

Also, any measure taken by individual countries may loose strength if is not reflected by regional neighbours, and when you have a very different variety of resourcing and capacities (beyond political wills), the scenario can become really complex, even if all good intentions are there.

So yes, this are only some of the considerations I’ll need to take care, beyond the capacity building, the operational considerations and the IT structure behind all these.

Yet PNG has faced many challenges before and it keeps dealing with them with principle and pride, so I’m very much looking forwards to be involved with them once more


On the EU yellow cards by Francisco Blaha

I wrote many times before about the EU IUU Regulation (EC No 1005/2008), the Catch Certification Scheme (CCS) and yellow and red cards the EU has been delivering around. My 1st contact with this regulation was when 2008, 2 years before its entry into force, and since then I been working with it at various levels.

It is important to understand that the EU IUU Reg has as its implementation tool, the Catch Certification Scheme, while the “yellow and red card” is a football analogy to the process that the EU DG MARE enters when it invokes Chapter IV of the regulation with “non-cooperating third countries”.

Sri Lanka went to Red

Sri Lanka went to Red

While being a unilateral measure (meaning that it just intends to close only its market to IUU fish), the legislation brought the IUU issue to the public forefront and always recognised that is a very good thing. Its implementation tool never lived to its full potential due to profound flaws in its design and implementation. A group of us have been very vocal about this for years, and I was happy to see that that message has finally been taken by EU based NGOs. My criticism was always constructive and not against the legislation or the CCS, but aimed at maximising its benefits... yet 7 years after its implementation, the key flaws still have not been fixed.

The “cards” analogy is perhaps the most visible element of the regulation application. The effectiveness of the strategy has worked in some of the countries that have been “given a card”, the “shaming” and the possibility of having the products caught by its vessels barred from the EU market is an effective way to get them into action, no doubts there.

Furthermore, over the last 7 years, at least a big chunk of my work has been helping countries to deal with the legislation and the cards, and most of that works has been paid with EU funds. And in that aspect the EU is unique as it consistently supports developing countries with strengthening programmes, this is to be recognised (and I’m grateful for that).

Criticism is valid tho, on the way and reasons those cards have been handled. My good friend and colleague Gilles Hosch has  encapsulated that criticism in a direct way (as usual), during his response to an article (actually more like a copy of the EU press release), in a leading fisheries news website announcing the lifting of the yellow card to the Solomons (a place very close to my soul and were I spend over 2 years working on this process), criticizing the lack of journalistic depth around this issue. I quote him textually: 

"What I find striking in news items relating to EU yellow, red and green cards – such as this one above – is the complete lack of journalistic curiosity and scrutiny regarding the seemingly random selection by the EU of so-called “third” countries, threatening them with trade sanctions for their perceived lack of commitment to combat IUU fishing. Does it ever occur to anybody that 38% of all south-west Pacific island nations have been yellow-carded under the EU IUU regulation – when only 24% of countries in Asia, and 0% in South America, the near east and in Europe have been objects of such cards? Yes, of course it is nice for the Solomons to have that threat lifted – as it would be for any ACP country totally dependent on the EU seafood market for the continued survival of its export sector – but would it not be equally important to question how it is possible that small countries like the Solomon’s are serially pre-identified by the EU commission, and threatened with the extinction of their seafood trade sectors, while other major fishing nations – in their role as recognised state-sponsors of international IUU fishing ventures – are never even making it onto the EU radar!? I am missing the elements of critical and vital news reporting here"

And yes, it is hard to disagree. The initial targets have been very soft, the yellow card to Tuvalu (10000 inhabitants and 2 vessels) is quite puzzling. 

I did got hopes with Philippines and Korea, yet they got off very easily, and I have not noticed any changes regarding behavior or compliance history for their vessels operating in the Pacific.

The hopes rekindled when Taiwan and Thailand got cards (even if in the case of Thailand would not mean anything unless they are in connection with the sanitary side, as Thailand has no tuna boats). Yet not news are heard for a while out of them.

And as Gilles mention what happens with the other ones? 

Vietnam has abysmal flag state performance record with dozens of their boats been arrested in other jurisdictions… surely they would benefit of being pushed to act.

I work substantially in Latin America (as recent as last week), they as a whole must be the main exporter of fisheries products to the EU by volume and value. The evaluations we did in 2011 showed all sorts of issues, and there are no objective reasons to assume that they fisheries administrations and enforcement bodies are insulated of the otherwise well-known corruption culture that permeates their governments... but not even one yellow card. 

And then is China, by far the nation that has been involved in more IUU fishing events worldwide, had vessels sunk, arrested, detained, notorious flag hoppers and the lot... yet not one visit has been raised.

I know Brussels takes their time and if you gonna go in the fight, is better to do sparring first, the problem is that if they don’t go with the good fight to an equal size opponent, they are going to be seen as a bully and not the good guys they want to be.

Can the United States have its fish and eat it too? by Francisco Blaha

A recent paper caught my attention a few days ago. In the present situation of unilateral marine management policies that force greater reliance – and biodiversity impacts – on distant ecosystems, the authors call into question their global effectiveness and conservation from an ethical point of view. The paper has 3 NOAA employees as authors (one is retired), one of them Stephen Stohse, was kind enough to send me the paper.

I would like to have the time to do similar work with the EU approach (and with ecolabels), I’m sure the results will be in the same line, rich countries make a “firewall” around them and say, “we play our part because we can”, that way placating their “conscience” and pass the bucket down to the poor.

I quote below some parts of the paper that impacted me (the numbers refer to the bibliography)

As domestic affluence increases, nations advocate for conservation policies to protect domestic biodiversity that often curtail natural resource production activities such as fishing. If concomitant consumption patterns remain unchanged, environmentally conscious nations with high consumption rates such as the U.S. may only be distancing themselves from the negative environmental impacts associated with consuming resources and commodities produced elsewhere. 

This unintended displacement of ecosystem impacts, or leakage, associated with conservation policies has not been studied extensively in marine fisheries. This paper examines this topic, drawing on case studies to illustrate the ways in which unilateral marine conservation actions can shift ecosystem impacts elsewhere, as has been documented in land use interventions. 

The authors argue that the U.S. should recognize these distant ecological consequences and move toward greater self-sufficiency to protect its seafood security and minimize leakage as well as undertake efforts to reduce ecosystem impacts of foreign fisheries on which it relies. 

Six solutions are suggested for broadening the marine conservation and seafood consumption discussion to address leakage induced by U.S. policy.

1. Introduction
Due to the spatial separation of production from consumption activities, consumers in higher-income countries may be unaware or otherwise fail to account for the full environmental costs caused by the production of goods they utilize [9]. These negative environmental externalities, or impacts which manifest outside existing borders, are referred to as “leakage”,2 of which there are four types: conservation, production, consumption, and trade. Conservation leakage results when domestic measures to conserve resources lead to negative environmental impacts from an increase in foreign production to meet persistent demand; production leakage arises when regulation of domestic producers results in a transfer of production effort to foreign producers; consumption leakage results when unmet internal consumption demand is satisfied by external supplies (e.g., imports); and trade leakage results when an import ban from particular industries causes a redirection in the flow of trade to other consumer markets Leakage related to land use including forest conservation policies has been well documented at local and national [12–16] and at international [17–20] scales. Similar efforts to evaluate leakage caused by marine conservation policies affecting U.S. fishery production systems (i.e., the capture or culture of finfish and shellfish resources) are limited (i.e., [21–25], even though the U.S. continues to be a major importer of seafood [26], ranked second only to Japan for all fishery and fishery product imports [27].

A recent debate has emerged over whether U.S. marine conservation policies3 that curtail fishing activities externalize negative environmental impacts of U.S. seafood consumption to other jurisdictions.
Some conservation policy advocates argue that marine conservation efforts in the U.S do not redistribute ecosystem impacts.4 However, the potential for transnational leakages seems probable when U.S. consumers rely on fishery production systems beyond the reach of U.S. management authority. Given international trade in seafood products, a unilateral conservation regulation that reduces production in one nation's fishery can be met by increased production in another nation where such conservation measures may be less stringent, thereby offsetting the environmental protections in the regulated fishery. Furthermore, the limited availability of information on such conservation leakage impacts makes them difficult to detect - much less address.

4. Leakage related to U.S. fisheries
Leakage occurs in a given fishery or fisheries when production impacts such as overfishing, habitat degradation, or bycatch are curtailed by regulations resulting in reduced supply in one area and a shift in production to other less regulated areas. 

For example, regulatory policies to address sea turtle bycatch in the Hawaii swordfish fishery provide an example of multiple types of leakage occurring concurrently. Both swordfish and sea turtles are trans boundary (transnational) resources and vulnerable to multiple fleets serving global seafood markets. Concerns about domestic bycatch of leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles led NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to close the Hawaii swordfish fishery in 2001. The fishery was reopened in 2004 with several additional technological and administrative requirements. Sarmiento [21] measured trade leakages (i.e., transfer effects) generated by the closure and determined that imports of swordfish from other nations, primarily Ecuador and Panama, increased appreciably. Rausser et al. [22] calculated conservation leakage resulting from the closure, with an estimated increase of 1602 mt of swordfish imported annually due to the closure, resulting in an estimated 2882 additional (net) sea turtle interactions from the swordfish fisheries of foreign nations combined.

In a similar study, Chan and Pan [24] examined the period when the Hawaii shallow-set longline swordfish fishery reopened (2005– 2008), and estimated that the increase in average annual Hawaii swordfish production contributed to 1841 fewer turtle interactions worldwide by displacing imports from fisheries that had higher sea turtle bycatch rates. They concluded that the regulatory changes reducing Hawaiian swordfish production did not reduce total regionwide sea turtle bycatch because the Hawaii fleet has one of the lowest sea turtle bycatch rates among the fleets fishing in the region [41].bInstead, with the reduced swordfish production from Hawaii's fleet, foreign fleets increased their harvests to maintain overall production, resulting in a net increase in sea turtle bycatch.

Squires et al. [25] provide another example of leakage associated with a time-area closure in the West Coast drift gillnet (DGN) swordfish fishery. In an effort to reduce fishery interactions with the endangered leatherback sea turtle, NMFS established the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area (PLCA), which overlaps substantially with the DGN fishing grounds along the U.S. West Coast. Since 2001, this time-area closure has prohibited DGN fishing for three months during the prime swordfish fishing season. The authors’ benefit-cost analysis of the regulation's impacts determined a U.S. production leakage of $27.5 million due to lost producer and consumer surpluses in the West Coast fishery with increased imports. In addition, the transfer of swordfish effort to other Pacific Rim nation swordfish fleets is estimated to have caused a conservation leakage of an additional bycatch of 1457 endangered leatherback sea turtles compared to 45 turtles had the U.S. fishing grounds remained open.

Policy-induced leakage is not limited to international contexts; it also can occur domestically. Cunningham et al. [42] reportedly found evidence of production leakage between two adjacent regions subject to management by two separate U.S. fishery management councils (FMCs) resulting from a catch share program. The authors assert that such leakage is most acute in fisheries with low institutional barriers, similar gear, and high market substitutability for managed stocks with other species.

5. Discussion
While documented examples in fisheries are rare, the foregoing examples suggest that market-driven, economically-based leakage can occur in fisheries when unilateral conservation policies are put in place similar to land use interventions. Marine conservation policies can stimulate resource production or exploitation activities in other locations, leading to production leakages in foreign [25] or neighbouring jurisdictions [42]. This finding is not surprising as a regulated decrease in production at one location coupled with unchanged demand is expected under standard economic theory and assumptions to shift demand to other locations, stimulating increased production and increasing producer revenues elsewhere. Wear and Murray [12] documented the case where U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA)-driven restrictions on federal timber harvests in the Pacific Northwest implemented to protect northern spotted owl habitat redirected production to southern U.S. and Canadian lumber producers. Mayer et al. [17] demonstrated how the increasing demand for wood products along with new forest conservation programs in Finland increased pressure on forests in neighbouring Russia through wood imports.

The case studies also illustrate examples of trade leakages from increased imports [21], and conservation leakages from increased bycatch [22,24]. Consequently, reducing domestic production to achieve a particular conservation objective can lead to unintended negative consequences, reducing the net gains – and possibly increasing net losses – globally. Such outcomes suggest the need for multiple within- and across-border policy instruments to reach an optimum regulatory strategy.

The need for global cooperation has been recognized in fishery [43] and forest conservation efforts [18,44]. At the local and regional scale, policy-makers should be mindful of negative consequences that may arise from unilateral actions especially in the context of global markets and possibly weaker environmental governance in other locations. In particular, as part of the ESA and National Environmental Policy Act consultation processes, federal managers need to take leakage into account as part of the net effects analysis for any proposed Federal action.

In terms of marine biodiversity, conservation leakage is of particular concern because much of the seafood imported into the U.S. is believed to be harvested under less stringent conservation requirements than imposed on U.S. fisheries [49–51]. Such leakages could be minimized if there were greater reliance on countries with sustainable fishing practices and more importantly, on U.S. capture and culture fisheries. However, efforts for greater self-sufficiency can only succeed if there is a fundamental change in U.S. attitudes that reconciles marine conservation goals with the reality that eating fish means harvesting seafood somewhere, just as Berlik et al. [44] reasoned that using wood means cutting trees somewhere.

Such changes in attitude could begin with shifting from excessive or outright fishing prohibitions to finding ways to minimize domestic biodiversity impacts. For example, the PLCA closure was implemented as an avoidance strategy to prevent interactions between DGN gear and leatherbacks sea turtles. A more effective alternative might have been considering other gear types that produce a comparable volume of swordfish catch with lower sea turtle interaction rates. Such a tactic would have reduced the negative economic impacts to fishermen and the reliance on imported swordfish while still achieving conservation goals. 

Another approach could include transitioning from static management regimes to dynamic ones where fisheries are managed in real or near-real time in response to shifting oceanographic, biological and ecological conditions [52–55]. The use of adaptive tactics also could be adopted by other nations to enable compliance with proposed NMFS regulations prohibiting seafood imports that do not meet U.S. standards for marine mammal protection.

6. Solutions
Global demand for food is expected to continue increasing well into the second half of this century corresponding with continuing population growth [45]. Seafood consumption is expected to continue to rise at a faster rate than freshwater fish consumption in both industrial and developing countries [56]. Environmentally concerned U.S. consumers can distance themselves from leakage concerns by reducing their seafood consumption, albeit at the expense of foregoing the known health benefits derived from seafood [57]. Further, limiting consumption of fish may generate leakage into agricultural production systems, which can create other environmental externalities such as fertilizer and pesticide runoff, which degrades terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. Alternatively, the U.S. can consider its own seafood security by moving toward greater self-sufficiency as well as undertaking efforts to reduce biodiversity threats in foreign fisheries it relies upon to meet domestic seafood demand. To meet these challenges, several approaches for addressing leakage are suggested:

1. Increase awareness of U.S. fisheries. Most Americans remain unaware of the high environmental standards by which U.S. federal marine fisheries – and many state fisheries - are managed, in compliance with multiple state and federal laws. These standards conform to or exceed internationally accepted guidelines for sustainable fisheries adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [58]. Sea Grant Extension Programs in U.S. coastal states and territories have conducted education and outreach, with NOAA Fishwatch and a number of nongovernmental organizations also helping to bridge this gap. However, further efforts to address this lack of understanding are needed.

2. Develop U.S. domestic aquaculture to complement capture fisheries. The global status of marine capture fisheries is considered stable; however, increased catches are considered unlikely [59], suggesting that aquaculture will need to play a greater role in seafood security [60]. Aquaculture is considered the fastest growing animal food production sector and supplies more than half of the world's seafood for humans [61]. While there has been a reluctance to embrace aquaculture more enthusiastically in the U.S. because of its own set of externalities (e.g., environmental impacts of fish feed, waste, disease control substances), it is a form of seafood production that can be managed for ecological and economic sustainability.

3. Support sustainable fishing practices in other nations. Such capacity- building efforts include transferring best fishing practices, technologies and monitoring practices to nations whose fisheries continue to supply U.S. markets. A few examples include NMFS programs for training Columbian fishermen on the effective use of turtle excluder devices in Caribbean and Pacific coast shrimp fisheries, instructing fishery observers in Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Gabon, and providing circle fishing hooks to South American countries.

4. Multilateral cooperation. Overarching World Trade Organization consistent trade laws and regulations can help address production and trade leakages and their negative impacts across the entire ranges of affected stocks. Policy instruments and harvest strategies addressing information requirements (e.g., eco-labeling, certification, standards, consumer awareness campaigns and similar approaches) on bycatch reduction can be designed to create market prices and conditions that address external costs and benefits. U.S. delegations participating in international regional fishery management organizations and other fora can initiate that dialogue.

5. Recognize the externalities of management decisions. Leakage occurs when the spatial scale of intervention does not match the scale of the targeted problem [62]. Ignoring environmental impacts associated with goods produced elsewhere creates what Berlik et al. [44] described for U.S. timber management as the “illusion of natural resource preservation.” Policy-makers need to be mindful of and evaluate the challenges and trade-offs among the full range of impacts, including those beyond their jurisdictions, as part of the decision-making process.

6. Treat wild capture and aquaculture fisheries as part of the food system. Seafood represents a part of the nation's food system [63,64]. Nonetheless, within the context of managing marine resources and ecosystem impacts, seafood rarely is acknowledged as a component of the human diet, despite its recognized importance as a source of nutrition and sustenance. Olson et al. [64] argue that treating seafood as a food production system provides a different frame of interpretation that does not end with harvesting but also includes distribution and use. Such a broader conceptualization can re-establish the connection between consumption and production behaviours, which underlies the reality that humans are part of the marine ecosystem.

7 Concluding remarks
The title of this paper plays on the popular 16th century English proverb questioning whether people can both have their cake and eat it too. This aphorism describes the challenge confronting fishery management decision-makers and seafood consumers. Reckoning with the inherent tradeoffs between conservation goals and seafood consumption demands may be a more practical approach rather than assuming “win-win” outcomes, where both are fully satisfied [65].

Decision makers cannot dismiss this reality especially in the context of climate change and a growing human population [60]. Unilateral marine management policies that force greater reliance – and biodiversity impacts – on distant ecosystems call into question their global effectiveness and conservation ethicality.

Rothman [31] questioned whether wealthy nations were merely “passing the buck” when distancing themselves from the environmental degradation associated with their consumption habits. The full impact of U.S. seafood consumption patterns needs to be considered at the global level in light of continuing efforts to further marine biodiversity protections. Failing to do so only serves to counteract the effectiveness of domestic actions by externalizing negative environmental costs to others.

Tenders invited for Capitalisation of Vessel Day Scheme Effort Study for PNA by Francisco Blaha

PNA is inviting for tenders of Consultants to conduct a Study to provide preliminary advice to VDS participants on the feasibility and the potential benefits and costs of transforming the value of VDS PAEs into capital assets for the purpose of improving access to development finance.

Fishing rights have value.  Private rights holders in several countries, including Iceland, Chile, Peru, Namibia, New Zealand and Russia are known to have been able to capitalise this value of rights in ways that have increased the willingness of banks to finance ventures associated with the rights or increased the price that buyers might pay for the business.  

Some VDS participants have taken the capitalisation process a step further and have used the value of VDS days made available for a venture as their contribution towards the equity of joint ventures.  In this way, they have ended up as part owners of a vessel or vessel-owning venture through contributing only the value of VDS access without contributing cash or other assets.

The primary objective of the Study is to provide preliminary advice to VDS participants on the feasibility and the potential benefits and costs of transforming the value of VDS PAEs into capital assets for the purpose of improving access to development finance.

As part of this work, the Study is also aimed at:

  1. establishing the value of VDS PAEs for the purposes of measuring the effectiveness of the VDS over time and benchmarking the effect of proposed changes to the VDS; as well as establishing a basis for counting PAEs as assets of VDS participating governments, including for the purpose of the operation of a capital market for PAE; and
  2. providing advice on including the value of PAEs as assets in the public accounts of VDS participating governments for the purposes of making governments and communities aware of the value of their PAE and their tuna resources and how that value changes over time and is affected by the management and operation of the VDS; as well as strengthening the financial position of VDS participating governments.

The full details of this opportunity are at the following link  http://www.pnatuna.com/node/398 

The use of life cycle assessment (LCA) in fisheries by Francisco Blaha

My views on ecolabelling are not new, and a recent experience with a leading ecolabel assessment I did, leaves me with an “incomplete” feeling, particularly regarding vessels compliance history and flag state performance. On that frame, my friend Elsie sent this blog by Teressa Pucylowski that added an interesting twist.

Jameel, F., Daystar, J., & Venditti, R. A. (N.d). Environmental life cycle assessment

Jameel, F., Daystar, J., & Venditti, R. A. (N.d). Environmental life cycle assessment

I quote here from her thought-provoking blog:

Many concerns regarding seafood harvest are often overlooked. For instance, how much fuel do fishing boats use or how much feed was used to produce farmed salmon? Life cycle assessment has shown these two factors are the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from wild and farmed fish, respectively (2). Such information is rarely considered by current sustainable seafood sustainability labels or consumption advisories.
LCA can account for more than just greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, this method allows consideration of other broad but significant environmental impacts that are often overlooked in other methods—including toxic emissions released by food production systems such as antibiotics and pesticides, and the use of limited resources such as freshwater and oil.
Life cycle assessment is not a new methodology – it was originally designed to follow a given product from “cradle-to-grave”, beginning with the assemblage of raw materials and resources used for its production and ending with its disposal, thus giving it a holistic analysis [3, 4]. To put this into a seafood perspective: you could, for example, follow the production of one ton of live lobster starting with trap setting and bait selection, continuing through the supply chain, and ending with the lobster served on your dinner plate [5]. As one study mentioned “not even certification, which assesses products, takes a product perspective”; in other words, programs like MSC do not look at the full environmental consequences of actually processing a product [2].
LCA can also be broken down into subsystems like “feed production” or “transport”, identifying all inputs (e.g. electricity use) and outputs (e.g. emissions) within the system. Thus allowing identification of stages within the system with the highest environmental impact [3]. Importantly, this is a standardised method so that impacts can be quantitatively compared between products [2].
With a growing number of LCA studies focused on seafood we are continuing to gain new insights into our current understanding of sustainability. For example, the amount of fuel used to harvest an overfished stock is significantly greater than that for an abundant stock due to the extended amount of time needed to find enough fish. The type of gear used to catch fish can also make a notable difference in fuel use, e.g. using seine nets to collect tuna is three to four times more energy efficient than hook-and-line methods. Even the energy source itself is an important thing to consider, i.e. whether it comes from fossil fuels or renewables. LCA is useful in that it actually takes into account all of these considerations, thus amplifying our understanding of the environmental impacts of seafood production [2].
Unfortunately, none of the above-mentioned methods adequately address social issues. However, as awareness of inequity and social injustices relating to the seafood industry rises, there is increased pressure to include these elements in sustainability assessments. In recent years, efforts to include social and economic implications have been developed within LCA studies, although there is much progress yet to be made.
The bottom line is that there is a lot to think about when choosing what fish to buy. The number of factors to consider can be overwhelming, but it is important to be aware of the various contemplations. With all this contrasting information, it may also seem nearly impossible to pick a truly sustainable seafood option. You may decide to go with values that matter most to you. Are you mostly concerned with climate change and carbon emissions? Are you worried about chemical use and potential effects on human health? Perhaps high rates of bycatch are the most troublesome to you. Regardless, LCA can help make this information available for consumers to make their own educated choices.

I discussed before the question of When a fishery is sustainable? and of course there are not easy answers. But my gut feeling is that at this stage, true sustainability is long gone. Furthermore, as I expressed before, it would be imposible for science, policy and MCS to tell you what environmental impacts are low enough – that is a question of individual choice and public policy via political pressure.

And I know this will sound terrible, but the only guaranteed way to have no impact on our environment is for all of us (humanity) to disappear (fast and at once). All other options imply compromises


[1] Pelletier, N., & Tyedmers, P. (2008). Life cycle considerations for improving sustainability assessments in seafood awareness campaigns. Environmental Management, 42(5), 918-931.
[2] Ziegler, F., Hornborg, S., Green, B. S., Eigaard, O. R., Farmery, A. K., Hammar, L., … & Vázquez‐Rowe, I. (2016). Expanding the concept of sustainable seafood using Life Cycle Assessment. Fish and Fisheries.
[3] Baumann, H., & Tillman, A. (2004). LCA in a nutshell. In The hitch hiker’s guide to LCA: An orientation in life cycle assessment methodology and application (pp.19-41). Lund, Sweden: Studentlitteratur AB.
[4] Pelletier, N. L., Ayer, N. W., Tyedmers, P. H., Kruse, S. A., Flysjo, A., Robillard, G., Ziegler, F., Scholz, A. J., & Sonesson, U. (2007). Impact categories for life cycle assessment research of seafood production systems: review and prospectus. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 12(6), 414-421.
[5] Driscoll, J., Boyd, C., & Tyedmers, P. (2015). Life cycle assessment of the Maine and southwest Nova Scotia lobster industries. Fisheries Research,172, 385-400.

International Women's Day by Francisco Blaha

I’m not going quote statistics, UN figures or analyse historical trends. Just say that over the 30 years I been working in fisheries, I have seen an increased number of women being involved in all areas of fisheries, and it has been an amazingly positive contribution in all areas.

Charlyn getting the taiwanese long liners in line

Charlyn getting the taiwanese long liners in line

And this is way beyond the cliché office jobs of fisheries, I had female colleagues on the field jumping form boat to boat (as my friend Charlyn form Solomons in the picture above), doing intelligence analysis in front of screens and logsheets and figuring out the most complex set of transhipments in PNG (Yaniba from PNG), compiling datasets in -20C freezers to do mass balance analysis (Suni), dealing with stocks of unpronounceable engine parts in a vessels warehouse (Phyllis on the middle of the last photo)  holding their ground to culturally chauvinistic males (as Martina in the picture below), keeping the line with agresive taiwanese captains (Cynthia on the right of the last photo), and as a captain of a 70m factory vessel (Simunovich’s Ocean Dawn - Sylvia was amazing she could do any job in the boat as good as anyone else and kept a real fair and tidy boat, I never hear anyone of the mostly man on board say nothing but respectful words about her).

Martina stating the rule of law

Martina stating the rule of law

And yes, I also had some amazing managers and contractors over the years, woman with vision, drive, compasion and and style (Pam, Anja, Donna, Ludovica, Cushla, Kim, Amanda, Judith, Victoria, Anne-Maree... just to name a few) as part of my work with FFA, GIZ, Simunovich, FAO, UNCTAD, SIPPO, NZAID and many more.

Perhaps that is the key point for me with all these amazing colleagues, is that has always been about the job to be done and respect (which always go both ways). Thankfully I did not had many conflict with man at work, but the few I had were mostly ego based. I have not had that with my female colleagues, somehow the ego/testosterone driven issues placate and everyone looks into results. I wish this was to happen more often.

Part of the amazing field crew from NFD in the solomons

Part of the amazing field crew from NFD in the solomons

Surely it has also to do with education and roles models, my mother has always been a fiercely independent woman (the 1st generation of professional woman tennis player), I married a very independent intellectual with broad knoledge and style and have proud smart girl as daughter that trully believe she is equal to anyone and everyone.

Hence, as a big burly (195 cm and 110kg) fisherman I fully celebrate woman's day and particularly in fisheries, you have been amazing to work with, and I know that because the way things are you have to do twice an effort just to be considered equal and chances are you are being paid less that your male equivalent. Please don't give up, we need you here with us, fisheries needs you.

High seas fisheries: what role for a new international instrument? by Francisco Blaha

A good study from last year by IDDRI analysed the advances on the important issue, that itself is one of the key issues in fisheries this days as more and more activities take place in ABNJ (Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction)

The study goes over the steps around a new agreement on High Seas Biodiversity since states are currently discussing the development of a new international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of ABNJ.

It is a good read as it discusses valid points

Should fisheries be in or out?
It is widely acknowledged that fishing is currently the activity with the largest impact on biodiversity in ABNJ. There is a growing consensus that a new agreement should include fisheries, though it is unclear how this can be achieved. Some States continue to argue that fisheries are adequately covered by existing frameworks.

What role should have fisheries?
Fisheries are closely linked to all elements of the package of issues under discussion, particularly area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs) and environmental impact assessments (EIAs). Fisheries management bodies will therefore likely play a role in the implementation of various aspects of a new agreement.

The need to strengthen fisheries management
A new agreement can also complement and enhance existing fisheries management frameworks and contribute to advancing an integrated approach to ocean governance. An ILBI could improve integration and place complementary obligations on States, as well as provide overarching principles to improve coherence of the global system of ocean governance.

The topic for non lawyer like me is dry as bone, but yet I make an effort to grasp it, as law is at the basis if IUU fishing, and while it may be easier to identify IUU activities, prosecute them is a totally different topic.

A man made tragedy, good UN support against Fisheries Subsidies by Francisco Blaha

I know... like there are not enough topics to write about. But as you all know, I'm really against fisheries subsidies. I am aware that their disappearance will not be the magic panacea that will fix all fisheries issues... but at least will even the economic playfield, and that would be of massive help.

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 7.54.31 PM.png

I'm so pleased that this message is been taken by the top UN bodies, and I know (from working for them) that they will not produce immediate results, yet they are like a glacier... they move very slowly but very powerfully. 

The message from Mukhisa Kitugi - UNCTAD boss,  may not be the most dynamic one but carries a lot of weight. Good on him for lending his support to the cause.

The EU delivers another bad tuna compliance report to Thailand by Francisco Blaha

Thailand has been going trough a rough patch with the EU for a while now, from the still outstanding issues from DG MARE’s “yellow card” in terms of IUU, now DG SANTE (Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety) recently published the results of an inspection that was carried out last year… and the results are bad in terms of catch traceability, eligibility and basic food safety.

Recently  I wrote that in my experience if compliance in the seafood safety area is dodgy, chances are that it would be the same on the fisheries compliance arena and vice-versa. Reading the Thailand report just confirms to me, all the suspicions many of us in the tuna world have are all well founded. 

This audit the first in a series of audits by the EU dedicated to getting a clearer picture of the tuna industry as a whole and determine if the tuna they import meets the applicable requirements concerning public health (in particular limits for biogenic amines and heavy metals) also in the context of fish policy requirements (including the presence and accuracy of catch certificates) and customs rules.
If you want to have an overview of the EU requirements for all these certificates, I shamelessly recommend this publication

The scope of their "Tuna project" extends to geographically identified hubs, where tunas and tuna-like species are caught and processed (all forms) for export to the European Union. Thailand was initially selected following a DG Health and Food Safety study of tuna imports in which it was identified as a major tuna importer/exporter operating in two of the geographically important “tuna hubs” (Indian Ocean and Western and Central Pacific Ocean). (They also were in Ecuador recently that is the other hub, the results are not publicly available yet, and while serious problems were identified, they are as not systemic as in Thailand)

The primary objective of the Thai audit was to evaluate whether the official controls put in place by the competent authority can guarantee that the conditions of production of fishery products derived from tuna species destined for export to the European Union are in line with the requirements laid down in European Union legislation, and in particular with the health attestations contained in the EU Health export certificate.

The audit team noted weaknesses that can be considered systemic in the control of the transport of fishery products of tuna species from carriers to the first land-based establishment, the control of cold stores and the European Union eligibility of the imported raw materials.

 These weaknesses (quote) do not allow the competent authority to fully provide the guarantees required by the EU export certificate

During the period (2012-16), establishments found with  traceability inconsistencies imported approximately 1,075,000 tonnes of tuna species as raw materials potentially used for the manufacture of fishery products for EU export. Those raw materials (frozen only) were sourced from establishments and fishing vessels (including freezing vessels) located in seven EU member states and forty-five non-EU countries.

From the data provided by the competent authority one can see that the majority of tuna is caught in the major FAO fishing areas 57, 71 According to the competent authority Thailand has twenty-seven fishing ports where landing of fishery products (tuna species) can take place. Of those, fifteen are dedicated to the landing of imported tuna and the remaining twelve to tuna captured in waters of Thailand and neighbouring countries (FAO areas 57 and 71) and 77 (Indian and Pacific Ocean). Some tuna was also caught in the major FAO fishing areas 34, 41 and 47 (Atlantic Ocean), 51 (Indian Ocean), 61 and 81 (Pacific Ocean).

In principle, the official control system covering landing sites provides adequate guarantees with regard to the public health attestations of the EU export certificate. However, the deficient control by the competent authority of the transport conditions and the practices observed during the audit do not allow one to conclude that the competent authority can provide the same assurances with regard to the transport of fishery products.

The competent authority cannot ensure that cold stores participating in the production chain of fishery products to the EU comply with requirements at least equivalent to the EU rules, in particular, the relevant requirements of Regulation (EC) No 853/2004, (the requirement related to HACCP)

The competent authority cannot ensure that products kept at the cold stores are EU eligible due to the fact that cold stores cannot demonstrate unequivocally the origin of those products. (quote)

The ability of the competent authority to guarantee that all establishments included in the EU list comply with requirements at least equivalent to the EU rules is weakened due to the shortcomings observed during the audit.

The competent authority cannot ensure that all imported raw materials used in the manufacture of products to be exported to the EU comply and were obtained in compliance with the EU rules and as such is not in a position to certify the public health attestations of the EU export certificate for those products. (quote)

The audit team noted in the files assessed and the data provided by the competent authority that products had been imported to Thailand by reefer vessel (whole fish frozen in brine) or in containers (frozen tuna loins) from facilities located in seven EU member states and forty-five non-EU countries.

From the data provided the audit team noted that 92% of the imported raw material originated from 14 countries (one EU member state and the remainder non-EU countries). Of those biggest suppliers of raw material, three countries were not included in Annex II to Decision 2006/766/EC, hence not authorised to supply fish to the EU. The audit team noted that, in total, Thailand received raw materials potentially used in the manufacture of products for EU export from nine countries currently not included in Annex II to Decision 2006/766/EC, representing roughly 16% of those imported raw materials.

In the import certificates reviewed the audit team found in several of the files the following shortcomings (related to the products prior to their arrival in Thailand)

  • Major inconsistencies on transhipment dates.
  • Unknown location of the products during periods of time ranging from eighteen days to four months:
  • Freezer vessel unloading in a certain port different from the one where the container was loaded into the carrier vessel (470 km distance and eighteen days difference) and no health attestation produced.
  • Freezer vessel unloading to a port area and container dispatch from the same port area months later.
  • Freezer vessel unloading in a port of a non-EU country not included in Annex II to Decision 2006/766/EC, dispatch of the container at uncertain date (no shipping date available) and arrival into Thailand four months after the fishing trip finished. 

All the above puts into question the reliability of the guarantees provided by the competent authority with regard to the public health attestations of the EU export certificate. Furthermore; 

  • The audit team noted in one case out of the five cans placed on the EU market that the fishing area declared was different from the one set out in the supporting documentation.
  • The audit team also noted another case where the fishing area was not precisely indicated (two FAO areas cited without the indication of which one was relevant).

The assessment of those files showed that for imported raw materials used in the manufacture of products for EU export the competent authority cannot provide full guarantees with regard to the EU eligibility of those materials and to the public health attestations of the EU export certificate

The audit team noted weaknesses that can be considered systemic in the control of the transport of fishery products of tuna species from carriers to the first land-based establishment, the control of cold stores and the European Union eligibility of the imported raw materials. (quote)

These weaknesses do not allow the competent authority to fully provide the guarantees required by the EU export certificate when exporting fishery products of tuna species to the EU. (quote)


The report is quite strongly worded, and Thailand should have spotted their game long ago. If we were to stay on best practices, DG SANTE should ask that establishments that been processing non eligible fish should be delisted. Yet doing that could cause supply problems and Ecuador would take advantage and raise prices, but then they have problems of their own… even if not “systemic”. So in reality is hard to know what they would do.

What I do know is what my friend Gilles Hosch pointed out when he read this report… if the EU would have set a good electronic CDS (Catch Documentation Scheme) instead of continuing with the present paper based system, Thailand would be in less problems since eligibility could be checked electronically and the EU consumers could be more reassured that they have been eating legal and safe fish, since Thailand is the biggest tuna exported to the EU.

Lack of Jurisdiction in Criminal Proceedings Regarding IUU Fishing and Related Crimes by Francisco Blaha

I wrote before in regards the failure of the Spanish courts to criminally charge members of the Vidal family for their involvement as beneficial owners of notorious IUU vessels. My colleagues from Stop Illegal Fishing published an excellent collaborative article (link to the original), I quote below since it analyses the details of the case.

Screenshot from the original post

Screenshot from the original post

This article shows to my non-legal understanding, something we all know... the law and justice are different things.

In March 2016, a joint operation between Spanish police and INTERPOL resulted in the arrest of six people linked to the fishing company Vidal Armadores. The company, along with its affiliates, had long been connected to a string of illegal fishing cases and had more recently been in the spotlight as renewed efforts finally led to high profile captures of the group of six infamous toothfish poaching vessels: the THUNDER, VIKING, KUNLUN, PERLON, SONGHUA and YONG DING.

This case is important to Stop Illegal Fishing as it epitomises the issues faced by many African countries which have rich marine resources but are grappling with the hindrances associated with lack of, or complex and unclear jurisdiction and often weak legal systems. These hindrances, all too often result in countries being unable to bring more than administrative penalties against the beneficiaries of illegal fishing and related activities. Furthermore, several of these vessels were illegally active in African waters, making the outcome of this case important to those States affected.

In December 2016, the Spanish Supreme Court concluded that the courts of Spain did not have jurisdiction in the Vidal Armadores case. The previous ruling by the High Court of imprisonment with bail set at EUR 100 000 for each of the four family members and two workers that were arrested, was therefore overturned and the criminal charges dropped.

Following the conclusion of the case before the High Court, the defendants appealed to the Supreme Court because Spanish courts do not have the jurisdiction to make rulings regarding the acts for which Vidal Armadores was being accused.

All the criminal charges faced by the defendants – including money laundering, falsification of documents, environmental crimes and criminal conspiracy – were based on fishing without a license in international waters.  The defence appealed the criminal charges by contesting the jurisdiction of Spain’s courts over the issue of fishing without a licence in international waters. The issue regarding the jurisdiction of Spanish courts to make a ruling in this case is discussed below.


Under the principle of territorialism, the Spanish courts have jurisdiction when an act is committed within its territory, including acts committed on its vessels. The vessels were not flagged to Spain, although the beneficial owners were Spanish, and the acts were committed in international waters, therefore this principle meant the Spanish courts had no jurisdiction unless the barriers imposed by this principle could be broken.

Principles and provisions exist that would justify a break from the principle of territorialism, as outlined below.

Exceptions to Territorialism


Under the protective principle, for specific acts such as terrorism and the trafficking of illegal drugs, the Ley Orgánica del Poder Judicial (LOPJ) allows Spanish courts to break the restrictions imposed by the principle of territoriality. These specific cases are instances in which the crime has a particularly serious impact on national interests, committed outside of Spain by either foreigners or nationals. The Supreme Court concluded that it could not break the principle of territoriality as crimes against the environment, document fraud and integration into criminal organisations or groups are not classified under the protective principle and neither is fishing without a licence.


The principle of personality gives Spanish courts jurisdiction in cases where nationals (or foreigners who subsequently become nationals) commit a crime, in whole or part, outside Spanish territory if the act is also criminal in the location where it is committed. This can apply either under international law applicable to Spain or under the national law of the territory within which the act was committed.

The acts were committed in international waters and therefore foreign national criminal law was not applicable. Although the acts were committed in the area governed by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources (CCALMR), no provisions regarding criminal procedures against such infractions were present in the text of the Convention. This was echoed by European Commission (EC) Regulation no 601/2004, resulting in the conclusion by the Supreme Court that the acts were not criminal in the area committed.

Under Spanish Criminal Code the gear used is not among the list of gears which constitute a crime in Spain (use of poisons, explosives or other gear with similar harmful effects).[1] Furthermore the species targeted is not listed as protected or at risk of extinction and its consumption and harvesting is common practice.[2] Thus there is no double-criminality, meaning that the principle of personality is not applicable.

Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that Spain had no jurisdiction to make a ruling regarding the criminal charges in the current case.


Under Spanish law, the guilty party may be equally punished for money laundering if the crime from which the proceeds came is committed within Spain or outside of Spain. However, there must be a preceding crime from which these proceeds came for there to be money laundering. As shown above, the acts were not criminal where committed (neither were they criminal in Spain) and therefore the Court concluded that there cannot be money laundering in this case.


Although the Spanish have legislation[3] which covers the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in international waters, the sanctions which are applicable thereunder are not criminal, they are administrative.

Despite the criminal charges against the owners of Vidal Armadores being dropped, the administrative fines and suspensions placed on associated companies and individuals reportedly, remain unaffected.

This case reiterates the need to implement legislation which allows the beneficial owners of vessels carrying out IUU fishing activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction to be prosecuted in criminal proceedings: loopholes in legislation must be closed. The deterrent of purely administrative sanctions has proven to be insufficient, with perpetrators viewing them as operational costs.

[1] Art. 336 del CP.
[2] Los arts. 335 y 336 del CP.
[3]  Ley 33/2014, de 26 de diciembre, por la que se modifica la Ley 3/2001, de 26 de marzo, de Pesca Marítima del Estado.

The importance of qualitative social research for effective fisheries management by Francisco Blaha


A recent paper that includes among their authors two people I know and like (Dr. Kate Barclay and Jeff Kinch), had in the 1st sentence of its abstract, a fundamental “truth” that I absolutely agree with: “Over recent decades it has become widely accepted that managing fisheries resources means managing human behaviour, and so understanding social and economic dynamics is just as important as understanding species biology and ecology”.

Many time in conversations (and some job interviews) I said that as a consultant, researcher and manager, I don't work with fish anymore… I work with the people that work with fish. So, I was quite happy to read their publication.

spending the day at sea with artisanal fisherman in Guatemala, my best way to get info

spending the day at sea with artisanal fisherman in Guatemala, my best way to get info

They start by recognising that until recently, fisheries managers and researchers have struggled to develop effective methods and data for social and economic analysis that can integrate with the predominantly biological approaches to fisheries management. The field is now growing fast, however, and globally, researchers are developing and testing new methods.

This paper uses three divergent case studies to demonstrate the value of using qualitative social science approaches to complement more conventional quantitative methods to improve the knowledge base for fisheries management. In all three cases, qualitative interview and document review methods enabled broad surveying to explore the research questions in particular contexts and identified where quantitative tools could be most usefully applied.

In the first case (the contribution of commercial fisheries to coastal communities in eastern Australia), a wellbeing analysis identified the social benefits from particular fisheries, which can be used to identify the social impacts of different fisheries management policies.

In the second case (a gender analysis of fisheries of small islands in the Pacific), analysis outlined opportunities and constraints along fisheries supply chains, illuminated factors inhibiting community development and identified ecological factors that are typically overlooked in conventional fisheries management.

In the third case (sea cucumber fisheries in Papua New Guinea), an interactive governance analysis assessed how well fisheries management tools fit the ecological, social and economic reality of the fishery and the trade in its products, including market influences and stakeholder values.

The qualitative approach adopted in these three case studies adds a new dimension to understanding fisheries that is not possible with a focus solely on quantitative data.

With the development of new policies on release programs (stock enhancement, restocking) and artificial reefs, and the momentum to use these interventions from recreational fishing groups, the qualitative approach will provide an important contribution to understanding their wider costs and benefits.

The case studies discussed in this paper show different ways qualitative social science can be used to help tie together the complexity of fisheries as social systems for improved governance. They cover some of the myriad ways in which social relations affect fisheries management − the interdependence of resource user groups (NSW), specific sets of social relations, such as gender, affecting natural resource use and post-harvest activities (Solomon Islands), and the interplay of factors along a whole market chain affecting fisheries governance (PNG).

Social research on fisheries may be thoroughly applied and practical in nature. Each of these case studies was commissioned by a stakeholder organisation, for purposes specifically related to fisheries management.

  • In NSW the project was requested by industry to assist in negotiations with the government and used a well-being approach.
  • In Solomon Islands it was a donor body wanting to tailor its engagement in coastal fisheries institutional strengthening incorporating a gender approach.
  • For PNG, a conservation organisation wanted to know how to best target its work in supporting a new fisheries management plan and adopted a “fish chain” approach to fisheries governance.

The wellbeing approach may be used to assess social impacts in a fishing community, and the ways in which fishing contributes to the wellbeing of the wider community. It addresses shortcomings in measuring only material standards of living, in covering also social relationships and subjective aspects of wellbeing.

Gender analysis, as used in the Solomon Islands case study, should be part of any social evaluation of fisheries, since gender norms and gender relations fundamentally shape the ways fisheries and post-harvest activities operate, the ways natural resources are used, and the community development outcomes of projects.

The interactive governance approach applied to BDM in PNG was developed as a way to tackle the complex interrelations fishing activities have with the natural world and non-fishing social and economic world. The potentially broad coverage and exploration possible with qualitative approaches enables researchers to uncover aspects of their topics they would not otherwise be able to see, providing depth and contextual understanding for quantitative findings.

These three case studies highlight the value of qualitative approaches to complement other approaches used more consistently in fisheries and would add a significant dimension to understanding the broader implications of release programs. Interviews are a key element of qualitative research fisheries scientists may incorporate to improve understanding of why fisheries operate as they do, and what the effects of policy changes are likely to be.

This means going beyond the fishers and managers themselves, to interview people with a wide range of perspectives on the fishery.

Gaining useful and reliable information from interviews is a complex research skill, it takes training and years of experience to experience to do well. Fisheries scientists may invest in developing that skill themselves, or collaborate with qualitative social researchers.


I also, totally agree with the last sentence of their conclusions, from my experience, for example I have gained much wider perspectives on artisanal fisherman by going fishing with them (exchanging skills is always a bonus!) or getting a small boat similar to theirs and heading out at sea to conduct interviews, rather than doing it at the shore.

But then that is just me :-)
My favourite Māori proverb or Whakataukī says:
He aha te mea nui o te ao (What is the most important thing in the world?) 
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata (It is the people, it is the people, it is the people)

A global footprint on Transhipments by Francisco Blaha

Back in November 2014 and then later September 2016, I wrote about the Global Fishing Watch initiative as a compelling web based tool that while limited regarding MSC (Monitoring, Control and Surveillance), it had a unique value as to show the positions and share amount of fishing and carrier vessels involved in “apparent fishing activity" occurring around the world.

From the Oceana report

From the Oceana report

This week, they hope to make another splash by not just mapping global fishing activity, but by providing an unprecedented view of very specific activity by a very specific class of vessels around the world: Fish carriers/reefers 

Today, at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Indonesia, Brian Sullivan, Google’s lead for Global Fishing Watch, presented the results of our their analysis that produced the first-ever global footprint of transhipment. They released the data and analysis of these transshipments in a free report titled The Global View of Transshipment: Preliminary Findings.

At the same time, Oceana is publishing a complementary report exposing the global scale of transhipment and its potential for facilitating suspicious behaviours like illegal fishing and human rights abuses. 

In the commercial fishing industry, large refrigerated cargo ships collect catch from multiple fishing boats and carry it back to port. This practice of transhipment enables fishing vessels to continue fishing, which reduces fuel costs for fishing vessels and gets the catch to port more quickly. 

That’s why it is illegal in many cases, and it is why the ability to monitor refrigerated cargo vessels and identify when and where transhipment happens can play a significant role in reducing illegal activity at sea.

Their analysis of 21 billion AIS messages from ships on the ocean between 2012 and 2016 identified 90% of the world’s reefer vessels (794 reefers compared to the 882 identified in 2010 according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook.) 

When they applied a new algorithm we developed to finding telltale transhipment behaviour, such as drifting long enough to receive a transfer of catch, the results revealed 86,490 instances of “potential transshipments.” Drilling down through these 86,490 occurrences, they identified 5,065 confirmed rendezvouses between a reefer and a fishing vessel. They have labelled these “likely transshipments.”

In the new report, they outline our methodology for developing the algorithm and identifying important patterns in the data such as clustering of transshipment activity along the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ’s) of certain countries, and a lower prevalence of transshipment around countries with comparatively good management, such as in North America and Europe, when compared to regions with higher suspected levels of IUU fishing.

The data also show that transhipment is clearly a pan-national problem that involves ships registered to a diverse array of countries operating on the high seas and offshore waters around the world and far from their home ports.

Their preliminary report represents our first steps toward increasing transparency of the previously hidden practice of transhipment at sea. There is more work ahead for them as they continue to mine data for still more data to mine, and more. It is no doubt an interesting field that while of limited enforcement impact, it bring public attention and scrutiny to activities that until now were largely away from anyone's attention, and that is GOOD news

Download the free report and the supporting data here!

Learn about a companion report released by Oceana.

Read about how our  SkyTruth captured satellite images of a Thai reefer in a likely transhipment in a remote part of the Indian Ocean.

Source: Global Fishing Watch Blog

EU Commission lifts it 'yellow card' for the Solomon Islands by Francisco Blaha

For more than two years, I have been working a lot on the Solomon Islands to help their efforts to get off the "yellow card" that was handed to them in December 2014. I wrote many times about my work there and how much I love the fishing town of Noro "what fishing in the Pacific should be". So when today, the announcement came, it was good news.

One of the many training sessions we did over the last two years

One of the many training sessions we did over the last two years

Not going argue on the merits of the yellow card (there is no point on it at this stage) but rather honour the fact that a lot of people in the country, its industry, government and organisations like FFA and NZ AID, put a lot of effort for this to happen.

Everyone involved deserves a: "Good Job brothers and sisters". Yet, the hardest bit is just now ahead... maintain the effort now that the pressure is not on.

The press release of the EU said:
Speaking on the margins of the Economist's World Ocean Summit in Bali, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: “This is a good day for Curaçao and Solomon Islands, and good news for sustainable fisheries around the globe. Countries worldwide have a shared duty to fight illegal fishing, protect law-abiding fishermen, and keep our oceans healthy. 

Under the IUU Regulation, the European Commission warned Curaçao in November 2013 and Solomon Islands in December 2014 that they were not doing enough against IUU fishing. Since then, both countries have embarked on a series of reforms to bring their fisheries legal and administrative frameworks in line with international law, and are now equipped to tackle illegal fishing effectively. Working closely with the European Commission, they have strengthened their sanctioning system, and have improved monitoring and control of their fleets.

Interestingly, my friend Gilles reaction to this news was spot on:

what i find striking in news items relating to EU yellow, red and green cards – such as this one above – is the complete lack of journalistic curiosity and scrutiny regarding the seemingly random selection by the EU of so-called “third” countries, threatening them with trade sanctions for their perceived lack of commitment to combat IUU fishing. does it ever occur to anybody that 38% of all south-west pacific island nations have been yellow-carded under the EU IUU regulation – when only 24% of countries in asia, and 0% in south america, the near east and in europe have been objects of such cards? yes, of course it is nice for the solomons to have that threat lifted – as it would be for any ACP country totally dependent on the EU seafood market for the continued survival of its export sector – but would it not be equally important to question how it is possible that small countryies like the solomons are serially pre-identified by the EU commission, and threatened with the extinction of their seafood trade sectors, while other major fishing nations – in their role as recognised state-soponsors of international IUU fishing ventures – are never even making it onto the EU radar!? i am missing the elements of critical and vital news reporting here.