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IMO : Ministerial Conference on Fishing Vessel Safety and Illegal

The Conference (21-23 October) brings together ministers and high-level officials from more than 100 countries

The Conference (21-23 October) brings together ministers and high-level officials from more than 100 countries to promote the ratification of the Cape Town Agreement, a key international treaty for the safety of fishing vessels. Entry into force of the treaty will bring about much-needed minimum safety measures for fishing vessels on a global basis.

A Ministerial Conference on Fishing Vessel Safety and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, organized by IMO and the Government of Spain, is being held in Torremolinos, Málaga, Spain, 21-23 October 2019.

Fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. It is estimated that thousands of fishers lose their lives every year. The safety of fishing vessels is key to reducing lives lost in the sector. However, the lack of an international mandatory regime makes it harder for effective control and monitoring of fishing vessel safety standards. But the key international treaty covering fishing vessel safety is not yet in force.

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The continuing and alarmingly high number of fishing vessel personnel fatalities and of fishing vessels reported lost every year could be substantially reduced by global, uniform, and effective implementation of the Cape Town Agreement. The hazardous working conditions fishing vessel personnel encounter working at sea can be exacerbated when fishing vessels are poorly designed, constructed, and badly maintained.

The 2012 Cape Town Agreement is an internationally binding instrument that will provide a global mandatory regime to ensure fishing vessels are designed and constructed to be safe, have the right safety equipment on board, and will be surveyed and certified to meet the requirements. Ratifying the Cape Town Agreement will also support action on illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing.

Entry into force of the Cape Town Agreement will significantly support higher levels of safety on board fishing vessels over 24 meters in length.

During the Torremolinos Conference, Prime Ministers, Ministers of fishing and maritime affairs, and high-level officials from 111 countries will meet over three days to discuss how to boost the ratification of the Cape Town Agreement

In order to take early action on accession, during the first day of the Conference (21 October), the Government of Spain has
called for the interested Member States to join them in signing a non-legally binding political declaration to publicly indicate their Government’s determination to ratify and promote the Agreement by the tenth anniversary of its adoption (11 October 2022). The signing ceremony will take place after Conference adjourns on Monday, 21 October 2019.

Ensuring safe and sustainable fishing is linked with the achievement of the targets of UN SDG 14 on the oceans. There are also links with other UN SDGs, including those relating to poverty, hunger, education and training, infrastructure, and partnerships.

Why Torremolinos?

In 1977, an international diplomatic Conference in Torremolinos, convened by IMO, adopted the first international treaty for fishing vessel safety. It didn’t enter into force, so a protocol was adopted in Torremolinos in 1993. To address technical issues which were inhibiting its entry into force, a further treaty, the Cape Town Agreement, was adopted in 2012 – effectively updating the Torremolinos Protocol.

In 2019, IMO Member States are returning to Torremolinos to harness a real momentum towards bringing into force a binding regulatory framework to provide minimum safety measures for fishing vessels.

The Ministerial Conference will be followed by a meeting of the Joint FAO/ILO/IMO Working Group on IUU Fishing, to be held after the conference concludes on Wednesday, 23 October, until Friday, 25 October 2019, at the same venue.

For cargo and passenger ships, the four pillars for safety, environmental protection and seafarers’ training and rights are said to be IMO’s SOLAS, MARPOL and STCW treaties; alongside ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006). All these instruments are in force.

For fishing and fishers, the four pillars are:

  1. IMO’s 2012 Cape Town Agreement (not yet in force)

  2. IMO’s STCW-F Convention on the training of fishers – it entered into force in 2012.

  3. ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (Convention No. 188) entered into force on 16 November 2017. It sets minimum requirements for work on board including hours of rest, food, minimum age, and repatriation.

  4. FAO’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), 2009, which entered into force in 2016. It seeks to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures

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