CDS for deep-sea fisheries in ABNJ / by Francisco Blaha

Those who read this blog would know the I have a lot of respect for my friend and college Gilles Hosch, and our friendship goes back to over 20 years. The fact that we both work on CDS and MCS is based on our common views on the fisheries world we love, while coming from very different backgrounds.

Gilles’ 3rd book dives deep into the CDS hardest fisheries, just like the guys in the picture

Gilles’ 3rd book dives deep into the CDS hardest fisheries, just like the guys in the picture

What ever he writes, you know is carefully crafted and deeply researched, and therefore compulsory reading. His lates CDS book Catch documentation schemes for deep-sea fisheries in the ABNJ - Their value, and options for implementation tackles the hardest fisheries from a CDS design angle abut also from a fisherman perspective. (as someone that fished Toothfish and Orange Roughy, I can give attest that!).

Back in 2016, he wrote the definitive volume on tuna CDS, and why some in the fisheries world may not agree with the scope and extent of what he proposes, but one must know that any Tuna CDS below the standards he sets in his book will be, literally, a substandard CDS.

In 2017 we co-authored what could have been the 1st CDS book, since from the start it was evident to us that while we all discuss the CDS details, we forget that the success of a CDS is at it roots, on a minimal set of support mechanisms that correlate MCS and traceability at each type of State (flag, coastal, port, processing and end market), along the fish product value chain

He now put its name to the 3rd book on the series, Catch documentation schemes for deep-sea fisheries in the ABNJ - Their value, and options for implementation. A book I was honoured to be a reviewer.

This new book discusses the potential value of catch documentation schemes (CDS) in deep-sea fisheries (DSF), and the implementation modalities that have to be envisaged, to ensure the effectiveness of this trade-based tool to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The paper argues that CDS are indeed capable of directly addressing a number of IUU fishing practices known to occur in DSF, and that their adoption would improve compliance with fisheries management requirements.  

Key infringements that may be directly detected and addressed through a CDS include – but are not limited to – violations of closed areas harbouring protected vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) in the deep ocean, and quota overfishing. 

The paper also establishes the notion that partial coverage of given species through a CDS at the level of individual RFMOs is incongruous from a trade monitoring and control perspective, and that CDS should be considered as either/or propositions with regard to species coverage.

With most DSF species having broad distributions straddling many RFMOs, the implementation modality that avails itself as the most suitable option, enabling the operation of an effective CDS, is that of a centrally operated electronic CDS platform – called a super-CDS – shared by a plurality of institutional and state players.

As before, Gilles Hosch dives deep and does not leave stones unturned. You’ll be ill-advised to work on CDS without reading this book. And while eyebrows may be raised at the concept of a “super CDS”… just think that every time you take money from any ATM in any place in the world, you are using a system and a set of technologies that don’t go too far on its principles from a “worldwide CDS” but for money.

Chapter 1 introduces deep-sea fisheries  and catch documentation schemes . While deep-sea fisheries have been the object of a series of UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions, catch documentation schemes find their origin in voluntary instruments such as the 1995 Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the 2001 International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU) – and most recently in the Voluntary Guidelines for Catch Documentation Schemes adopted by the FAO Conference in Rome in July 2017. The paper establishes whether a catch documentation scheme (CDS) would be useful when applied to deep-sea fisheries (DSF), and it what form (i.e. under which “implementation modality”) execution should occur.

Chapter 2 provides an overview of the 2008 FAO International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas and their thrust, followed by an overview of deep-sea fish, associated ecosystems, and their fisheries. 

Chapter 3 introduces catch documentation schemes, starting with a summary of what schemes are currently in existence. The recent (2017) FAO Voluntary Guidelines for CDS are introduced, and their purpose and content is discussed in detail. The paper then delves into an assessment of the benefits and limitations of unilateral and multilateral schemes, setting the stage for the discussion of multilateral CDS approaches in DSF, and as applied within the context of DSF management rules. The latter part of the assessment highlights which management measures a CDS is able to implement directly or in combination with other for monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) tools, establishing their value as a tool to combat IUU fishing in DSF. The latter part of chapter 3 introduces harmonised CDS, and presents the rationale for such harmonisation. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is briefly described, presenting its certification scheme, and its use of a single platform and set of rules to cater for the trade certification of thousands of different species of animals and plants – including fish – under a single scheme. The notion of the global “super-CDS” – the logical end-point of harmonisation and acceptance-of-equivalence efforts – arises from this discussion.

Chapter 4 illustrates how DSF management frameworks are sensitive or conducive to CDS implementation, what typical IUU profiles are found in DSF, and what the capacity of regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) is in terms of developing and operating stand-alone (or “RFMO-specific”) CDS. The standing and consideration of CDS systems in RFMO performance reviews is assessed, in order to gain an understanding in how far the adoption of such systems by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) covering DSF has been considered in the past, and what arguments have been advanced in favour of, or against such systems.

Chapter 5 deals with the  trade in DSF, as trade conditions the relevance and the success of a trade-based tool to a very large degree. The paper establishes that the current Harmonized System (HS) classification of goods does not allow to confidently identify consignments of deep-sea species in trade documentation – with the exception of toothfish – and that a deeper analysis of DSF product trade flows in the absence of CDS data and/or enabling HS classification is very difficult. The role of customs and border inspection agencies is introduced, and CDS and their related paperwork – and the potential multiplication of individual schemes that could occur – is assessed in relation to those agencies. It is argued that a potential multiplication of schemes covering only modest amounts of total global fisheries product trade is unsustainable and likely to face implementation challenges at this critical level.

Chapter 6 lists key findings regarding the value and options for CDS implementation. The overall conclusion, arguing that the individual CDS in DSF (based on the classic RFMO-specific implementation modality) is both unsustainable and likely to fail. It highlights the benefits of a multilateral global “super-CDS”, catering for the needs of many species (throughout their global distribution ranges), a plurality of RFMOs and many states – based on a single platform provided by a central service provider. The chapter closes by suggesting a way forward to exploring and bringing about such a modality.