The Cape Town Agreement on the safety of fishing vessels at centre of Pacific islands gathering

28 August, 2017, Rarotonga, Cook Islands - During this week a seminar about 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 (the Agreement) is taking place with the intention of explaining this very important international instrument and gathering support for its entry into force.

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According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) there are every year at least 24,000 deaths of fishermen at sea, so there is a need to be able to tackle this issue by the implementation of safety measures.

Additionally, the entry into force of the Agreement would also help towards the consecution of other goals such as those related to life under the water, marine pollution prevention, the management of waste discharges and abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear from fishing vessels, which impact upon our migratory species. However, the Agreement is yet to have the sufficient number of ratifications for its entry into force.

“It is of great importance for the safety of fishing vessels that the 2012 Cape Town Agreement enters into force as early as possible. To date, the Agreement has only seven Contracting States, representing 884 ships with 3,600 needed for its entry into force,” presented Ms Sandra Allnutt, Head of the Marine Technology and Goal Based Standards, Maritime Safety Division of the International Maritime Organization.

“The fishing industry, from a global perspective, does not have an acceptable safety record; and, while there may be a number of factors that have contributed to this, there can be no doubt that the lack of an effective global regulatory regime has played a significant part in the status quo.”

The one week seminar is held in the Cook Islands, home of the Marae Moana - nearly two million square kilometres of a multi-use Marine Park. The island nation is pleased to host this seminar, the first of its kind for our region.

“For the Cook Islands, we will be interested to know what ratification of The Cape Town Agreement will offer us and our Pacific region in a tangible manner,” presented Mr Ned Howard, Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Cook Islands.

“Our experience over the years as related to international instruments has been too often, vulnerable countries like ourselves are pawns for the international community to champion environmental concerns, not of our doing, but for which powerful countries refuse to take responsibility for.”

Mr Howard encouraged all participants to learn, ask questions and absorb what the facilitators are here to say, to better inform of the options available to Pacific Governments and our Pacific region. The Agreement requires 22 states to ratify the Agreement. Currently there are seven states who have ratified the Agreement, none of which are the 14 Pacific States.

“Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is one of the major threats to sustainable fisheries worldwide. The main international instrument to fight IUU fishing is the FAO Port State Measures Agreement which entered into force on 5 June 2016,” presented Mr Ari Gudmundsson of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). While developed by the IMO, the Cape Town Agreement is of significance to FAO, as safety at sea in the fisheries sector is part of the work programme of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the Organization.

“Many Members of the FAO Committee on Fisheries have stressed that there is a link between safety at sea, forced labour and IUU fishing. They have in this regard referred to the Cape Town Agreement and to the ILO Work in Fishing Convention, No.188. In addition to improving safety at sea in the fisheries sector, these instruments, when in force, will also be useful in fighting IUU fishing.”

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.

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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