After being continuously questioned on IUU fishing, China responds with the following: “Include harsher punishment for those caught breaking the rules, a clamp-down on vessel monitoring, new port management procedures, stricter certification requirements, and clarification of penalties”, according to conservation news website Mongabay. As per the statement of an official in the Chinese embassy to Ecuador, the government plans to knock out a $400M fuel subsidy for these fleets. (Shen and Huang, 2021)
The ‘natural resources security’ branch of the Centre for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), which also applies to maritime security displays, mentions that their role is in “[P]rotecting our ecosystems from natural resource crime by supporting enforcement action, encouraging regulatory improvements, and prompting industry change.” (C4ADS) C4ADS here attempts to identify the beneficial ownerships mostly using Publicly Available Information (PAI), which identifies the actors who continue illegal activity while avoiding regular penalties and sanctions. The often present loopholes are exploited even in countries with high regulations and checking (Brush et al. 2021)
In parallel, the organisation has developed a fisheries transparency platform, a freely available resource, in collaboration with TMT for the ‘fishing vessel ownership mapping’ (TMT, 2023). C4ADS has also published a paper, “Strings Attached: Exploring the Onshore Networks Behind Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing,” in August 2019, giving analyzed in-depth research on how these onshore networks exploit the dearth of clarity and inefficient enforcement in the sector, thus flourishing as a business. (Shereikis, 2023) It documents more than 2,000 entities, including companies, individuals, and vessels around the world. The team also identified other crimes which go hand in hand with IUU fishing, including forced labor, human trafficking, bribery, and document forgery. (The Maritime Executive)
The challenges in combating the issues often arise due to government negligence, the improper enforcement of the law and order by the victim government. Additionally, IUU fishing is mostly done in areas that are difficult to surveil. Advanced technology could also be used in certain places; the UN can aid countries unable to afford this technology with the same. Trans-shipment is also an issue where the catch is immediately transferred to other ships, making it hard to trace. The navy of a country can play a crucial role; in the case of the Galapagos, the Ecuadorian Navy serves to protect their waters against IUU fishing as well. Combating the issue requires a multi-faceted approach, involving strict governance and enforcement of penalties and surveillance. International cooperation aids in information sharing, surveillance management, and law enforcement.
The challenge lies in being able to manage environmental conservation while continuing to depend on marine resources for our food stock. This would require a sustainable approach along with the most appropriate legal enforcement measures, making this the only way forward to preserve marine genetic resources and mankind.
Clearly the time to act is already past, but we still have a chance to recover these lost marine genetic resources if the ‘freedom of the seas’ is not left to the good sense of nations or goodness of mankind – both are usually found wanting. The 30 by 30 is one step in this direction and must rapidly garner support of the world community for the common good of all mankind.