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Expanding use of UN/FLUX data standard will safeguard fisheries

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing accounts for one-fourth of all fish catches and costs a staggering USD 23 billion to legitimate fishers every year. This threatens fish stocks, ocean biodiversity and the economic security of fishing communities. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, in particular target 14.4, aims at effectively regulating the harvest and ending overfishing and IUU.

The fight against unsustainable fishing practices depends on sharing fishery intelligence between authorities across the world. Detecting and preventing IUU fishing requires a specialised, coordinated approach due to the migratory behaviour of sea life.

The United Nations Team of Specialists on Sustainable Fisheries has been working for over two years to encourage this intelligence-sharing using the Fisheries Language for Universal eXchange (UN/FLUX) messaging standard, developed at UNECE.

UN/FLUX already enables the monitoring of 85,000 fishing vessels worldwide. Its use concerns 5 million tons of fish landed annually and helps manage 470 fish stocks and quotas sustainably – making a direct contribution to achieving SDG 14. UN/FLUX is spreading throughout the fisheries of the world, from the European Union – where its use is compulsory – to countries including Brazil, Uruguay and Thailand.

At the Team of Specialists’ second session held last week, Dr Sak Segkhoonthod of Thailand, presented on how UN/FLUX has been integrated in their fisheries surveillance programmes, which concerns about 37,000 fishing vessels in their country, and said that, “since UN/FLUX has been promoted as a global standard for data exchange in fisheries, its implementation will strongly support Thailand’s efforts to achieving its IUU-free objective”. In Thailand, exports from the fish and seafood industry are worth around 6 billion USD, and the approximately 2 million Thai people employed in the fisheries sector depend on preserving and ensuring economic security for their families, as do all the people who depend on seafood for sustenance.

At the meeting, delegates and experts also discussed how the use of UN/FLUX can support the ongoing negotiations on fisheries subsidies at the WTO, and how the scope of the standard could be expanded to allow the exchange of information on compliance with fundamental labour rights, to help address abuses related to child labour and forced labour on fishing vessels.

The Team of Specialists (ToS) on Sustainable Fisheries Management mobilises international expertise to “promote, facilitate and support the implementation of the Fisheries Language for Universal Exchange (UN/FLUX) standard or other sustainable fisheries data standards on a global scale”. The ToS is open to experts with the knowledge and experience to address its mandate, and should be drawn from governmental institutions, business, civil society, consumer organizations, and international organizations.