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UNECE showcases its contribution to halt overfishing at UN Ocean Conference in New York

Showcasing the direct contribution to the Sustainable Development Goal 14, in particular target 14.4 on harvesting and overfishing, UNECE participated in the first ever UN Ocean Conference in New York (5-9 June), which was co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden. The Conference concluded with a declaration to support the implementation of SDG 14: conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

In the opening remarks, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said “Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself”. Pursuant to this statement, UNECE’s FLUX (Fisheries Language Universal Exchange) standard, which enables record and exchange of electronic and harmonized data (e.g. daily catches, location, vessel information etc.) from fishing vessels to other parties, was termed as a key tool to preserve fish stock, stop illegal fishing and adopt sustainable fisheries management.

The UNECE responded to the Global Call for Action for supporting SDG14 by submitting two Voluntary Commitments to the Conference, notably: a) Promoting standards for sustainable fisheries management and traceability of fish products on a global scale and b) Provision of subject matter expertise on the application of risk management tools in regulatory frameworks supporting SDG14.

Speaking at the Partnership Dialogue 4: Making Fisheries Sustainable, Ms. Maria Ceccarelli, Chief, Trade Facilitation Section, UNECE, described how FLUX provides accurate fishing data for improved management of fish resources, which will allow future generations to have access to animal protein, especially in developing countries. According to FAO, more than 3 billion people, mostly in  developing countries, depend on fish for animal protein and the daily intake is on the rise.

The side event co-organized by UNECE, CITES and the Swiss Government on Traceability for Sustainable Fisheries, featured how FLUX improves traceability of fish, which is a key factor for the fight against Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU). In 2016, illicit fishing was reported to account for up to 26 million tons of fish per year, which is a staggering 25% of fish captured annually from the oceans. As a result, about USD 23 billion is lost each year to legitimate fishers.

Noting UNECE’s contribution to the SDG 14, Mr. Martin Krebs from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs said: “the FLUX standard is a milestone for the fisheries industry, which needs wider implementation to realise the potential impact of the SDG 14”.

Approximately four thousand delegates from governments, private sector, NGOs, academia and international organizations attended the week-long Conference and side events. The Conference ended with a declaration ‘Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action’, which provided further impetus to the work of UNECE as actions on enhancing sustainable fisheries management and further work on catch documentation and traceability of fish products were stipulated.