Tackling Marine Debris with global agreement on safety of fishing vessels

29 August, 2017, Rarotonga, Cook Islands - Enhanced safety of fishing vessels at sea, will lead to better ocean health and marine species. One way to help us all address this is the Cape Town Agreement on the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 2012.

Records show from 2001 – 2015, there were over 10,000 violations of waste discharges at sea primarily from purse seiners but also long liners. Plastic discharge, including abandoned discarded lost fishing gear made up 71% of these violations.

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"Marine pollution and debris is a significant threat to the Pacific, especially through its negative aesthetic, physical, chemical, biological and human health effects," presented Dr Vicki Hall, Director, Waste Management and Pollution Control of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

"The problem is growing – a global review found a 49% increase in reports of marine species being entangled in and ingesting marine debris between 1997 and 2015. A recent study in the Pacific region found plastic ingestion at 97% from examined fish species."

While there are a number of different international conventions in place to address marine debris, such as the International Convention for the Marine Pollution from Ships, 1973 (MARPOL), many of these do not apply to Fishing Vessels. This is where the Cape Town Agreement is crucial.

The Cape Town Agreement follows the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977, adopted by the IMO, which was a major achievement as the first international instrument to address the safety of fishing vessels, yet it never entered into force. This was then modified by the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol, which also never came into force.

For over a decade, the IMO adopted several measures for the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol to help to enter it into force, but as the number of ratifications was not sufficient it led to the development of a new international instrument, the "Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Implementation of the Provisions of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977". This is yet to come into force.

This week in the Cook Islands, a one week Pacific regional workshop is taking place to help Pacific islands fully understand more about the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 and the support that is available to help them ratify the Agreement.

Only 22 States and 3,600 fishing vessels of 24 metres and over operating in the high seas, are needed for its entry into force. To date there are seven states that have ratified the Agreement, none of whom are the 14 Pacific islands.

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                             Dr Vicki Hall, Director, Waste Management and Pollution Control, SPREP

"For ship sourced marine debris we can ratify international conventions and ensure compliance with MARPOL regulations through Port State Control, improved shipping practices and improved waste-management capacity and practices including sustainable consumption and production," said Dr Hall.

"However, many of the international conventions don't apply to fishing vessels. To address fishing vessels, we need to address this holistically. This is where the ratification of the Cape Town Agreement comes in as it is addressing fishing vessels safety, and by addressing this, we also improve the quality of the fishing vessels operating in our waters, many of which are old and not well equipped."

From 28 August to 1 September the Pacific Regional Seminar on the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 will be held in Rarotonga. Coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in partnership with the Government of the Cook Islands, IMO and the Pacific Community (SPC), the seminar will help countries as they work towards ratifying the Agreement.

FAO is collaborating with IMO in holding regional seminars around the world. PEW Charitable Trusts attends these seminars as an observer.

Delegates attending this training includes representatives of the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

For more information please contact Mr Anthony Talouli at anthonyt@sprep.org
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