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FAO Finalizes Plan to Keep Illegally Caught Fish from Supply Chains

Uganda loses an estimated USD 429 million 1.5 billion Shillings in foreign earnings annually to illegal and unrecorded immature fishing, according to Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja. This is mainly a big percentage of fish on the local market is immature and therefore not competitive on the international market.
A collection of Fish on sale
A push to establish internationally agreed standards aimed at keeping illegally caught fish off store-shelves and consumers' plates has taken an important step forward, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization-FAO.

This follows the adoption of a set of draft Voluntary Guidelines that will act as an internationally-recognized gold standard reference for governments and businesses looking to establish systems that can trace fish from their point of capture through the entire supply chain.

The guidelines are now poised for adoption by all FAO Members in July, a decision that brings an end to a 5-year negotiation effort that seeks to stop illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace.

Fishing without permission, exceeding catch quotas, catching protected species, using outlawed types of gear are among the most common fishing offenses which are costing the fishing sector billions of dollars annually.

Uganda loses an estimated USD 429 million (1.5 billion Shillings) in foreign earnings annually to illegal and unrecorded immature fishing, according to Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja. This is mainly because a big percentage of fish on the local market is immature and therefore not competitive on the international market.

On top of that, Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing' has fueled the depletion of fish stock from Uganda's water bodies. Globally, it is estimated that illegal fishing activities strip as much as 26 million additional tonnes of fish from the oceans annually, damaging ecosystems and sabotaging efforts to sustainably manage fisheries.

Under the new guidelines, shipments of fish will have to be certified by national authorities as being caught legally and in compliance with best practices.  Shipments will then be accompanied by hard-copy documentation as they are processed and marketed nationally or internationally.

A statement issued by FAO indicates that only fish with valid documentation will be exported or traded to markets where a Catch documentation schemes requirement exists. The guidelines also recommend moving beyond paper-only documentation, so that information on fish shipments is recorded preferably in a digital system that can be referenced at any point along the value chain, reducing administrative burdens but also cutting down on fraud opportunities.

"Illegal fishing is bad for the environment, is bad for food security, and is bad for economic development, which is why it is targeted for action under the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The voluntary guidelines on catch documentation schemes puts yet another tool in the toolbox," Audun Lem, the Deputy-Director of FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Resources Division says.

FAO is optimistic that the new guidelines will cut down on trade in illegal fishing.

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