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Proposed Guidelines on Pre-Arrival Risk Assessments ofForeign Vessels: Using Lessons Learned to Strengthen Implementation of the UN FAO Agreement on Port State Measures


Though difficult to quantify, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing has been recognized as a global threat to marine ecosystems and fisheries resources. To combat IUU fishing, a framework of voluntary and binding international instruments has been developed over the last decades including the adoption of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA or the Agreement). The Agreement was introduced as an effective tool to combat IUU fishing by means of the implementation of a minimum level of standardized control measures by those port States that have ratified the Agreement when foreign flagged fishing vessels seek entry into their ports. Through those measures, the overarching goal of the PSMA is to prevent fish sourced from IUU fishing activities to reach national and international markets, thereby reducing the incentive for perpetrators to continue to operate.

However, there are several challenges to the PSMA’s implementation, and it appears that the best way, in part, for relevant port States to effectively implement the Agreement is through the use of a true risk analysis. Risk analysis allows port authorities to identify the level of risk of involvement in IUU fishing that a specific fishing vessel or associated refrigerated cargo vessel seeking to enter port poses. Such risk analysis can provide the basis for decisions by port authorities to grant, deny or delay port access and target their port inspections based on (i) this risk and (ii) the capacity constraints of their port inspection regime, and (iii) the States’ obligations (in terms of priority levels, especially under Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) of which is might be a Member). However, the PSMA is not prescriptive about whether such a risk assessment should take place or how to effectively perform this risk analysis.

The objective of this work is to attempt to fill this information gap and compile lessons learned from countries that have implemented a port inspection regime of which risk assessment is an integral part: Thailand and The Republic of the Marshall Islands. These lessons helped generate proposed guidelines for implementation of the pre-arrival risk assessment of foreign vessels in the context of the PSMA. The goal for these guidelines is that they will help those countries that have become Party to the Agreement or are looking into ratifying the Agreement in the future and be used as a resource by port authorities.

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