The world needs safe, sustainable and legal fishing – this is why the Cape Town Agreement (CTA) needs to be ratified now, IMO says and explains how it can enhance fishing safety.
ishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world, with thousands of fishers estimated to lose their lives every year when working to supply the world’s growing appetite for fish and fish products.
For this reason, IMO has been working to increase safety in this sector for many years in partnership with stakeholders. However, the IMO treaty on training for fishers is in force (STCW-F), but the Cape Town Agreement of 2021 (CTA), the global treaty for safety of fishing vessels, is not yet in force.
The importance of the Cape Town Agreement
The CTA, when in force, will contribute to safe, legal and sustainable shipping. The agreement is expected to boost safety standards for more than 64,000 vessels world wide that are 24 metres in length. It is aimed at facilitating better control of fishing vessel safety by flag, port and coastal States.
In order to support the ratification of CTA, IMO published 10 reasons why this should happen:
#1 Enhance the safety of fishers and observers
- Fatality rate in fisheries is unacceptably high compared to other human food-related activities.
- A safety culture is needed for a level playing field with better constructed and equipped fishing vessels.
- The CTA brings minimum standards for construction and maintenance of vessels, as well as for safety equipment including navigation, communications and life-saving appliances.
#2 Inspection of fishing vessels
- There is not any internationally binding regime for the safety of fishing vessels.
- The Agreement will enable the vessels to be subject to flag State and port State inspections under harmonized global standards.
#3 Enhance the safety of fishers and observers
- Sub-standard vessels are highly likely involved in IUU fishing practices, as they are generally operated by unscrupulous owners/operators.
- FAO’s Port State Measures Agreement (FAO) requires port State inspections to monitor IUU fishing.
- The 2012 Cape Town Agreement can complement such inspections from safety aspects, while targeting sub-standard vessels and increasing transparency of fishing activities.
#4 Contribute to combatting modern slavery
- As is the case with IUU fishing, sub-standard vessels are highly likely operated by irresponsible owners/operators that abuse the crew’s work and living conditions.
- On such vessels, crew may be subject to squalid circumstances.
- ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (C. 188) allows for inspections of vessels and the Agreement can complement this while targeting sub-standard vessels.
#5 Conservation of marine environment & resources
- There is a link between safety, marine pollution protection (i.e. fishing gear as marine debris) and IUU fishing.
- Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear can become a navigational hazard, as well as being a source of marine litter.
- Lack of governance of unsafe vessels at sea, inadequate law enforcement, and insufficient transparency and accountability throughout seafood supply chains, contribute to unjust exploitation of limited marine resources.
#6 Completion of the missing pillar in sustainable fisheries
The Agreement will complement the following international treaties, which contribute to various aspects of fisheries for sustainable and safe fisheries:
- 1995 STCW-F Convention (IMO)
- 2007 Work in Fishing Convention (C. 188) (ILO)
- 2010 Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) (FAO)
#7 Protecting search & rescue (SAR) services
- Unsafe vessels are involved in marine casualties, usually for preventable and unnecessary causes due to lack of safety precautions and maintenance.
- Search and rescue (SAR) services are considerably occupied by addressing such incidents.
- SAR personnel’s lives as well as those of all seafarers and fishers called to provide assistance are also at risk under heavy and risky weather conditions.
- If the vessels are safer, SAR operations for substandard fishing vessels might consume fewer resources.
#8 Contributing to better employment & working conditions
- In many countries, the wider perception of fishing is dangerous and demanding. This leads to fishing activities being less attractive.
- If the vessels become safer with better working conditions, then this perception would improve and become more appealing especially for young generations, both men and women.
#9 Contributing to competitiveness of a nation’s fishing fleet
- When fishing vessels are constructed and operated to the required safety standards, their competitiveness on markets will increase and such vessels will become more attractive to buyers, even on the second-hand market, which will positively impact a nation’s economy.
#10 Contributing to ship construction & equipment industry
- As the Agreement requires certain construction and equipment standards, those nations which have shipbuilding industries will increase profits, in particular for new vessels that will be subject to the provisions of the Agreement.