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UN/FLUX data exchange standard helps tackle unsustainable fishing practices and protect ‎depleting fish stocks

Fisheries provide highly important social and economic benefits: global fish production is estimated at over 170 million tonnes, supplying around 21 kg per capita and year. As such fish and seafood consumption accounts for 20% of humans’ animal protein intake.

Yet global fish stocks are under increasing pressure. The share of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels has already decreased from 90% in 1974 to 66.9% and many of the most-productive species are now fully fished with no potential for increases in volume. Overfishing and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) are key causes for the of the depletion and collapses of global fish stocks. Global IUU fishing catches are estimated to account for between 11 and 26 million tonnes annually.

To fight IUU and to prevent the subsidizing of IUU and overfishing, fishing authorities need reliable and timely information in electronic format about fishing equipment, fishing activities, catches, fish sales and fisheries inspections.

Until recently, the management and exchange of fisheries information has largely been based on the collection and exchange of large sets of data, often in paper format using many different data formats and structures. This has greatly hindered efficient and sustainable management and control of fisheries. 

To address this issue, UNECE developed the UN Fisheries Language for Universal eXchange (UN/FLUX). For the first time, Fishery Management Organizations and states where vessels are licenced or registered have an instrument to automatically collect and exchange fishery catch data in an inefficient and timely manner to address illegal fishing and manage global stocks sustainably.

The UN Team of Specialists on Sustainable Fisheries met last week in Geneva for its third session to discuss the rollout of this standard.   

Among cases of implementation highlighted, the European Commission reported that UN/FLUX is now implemented in all EU member states and that preparations have started to control fish stocks in the North-East Atlantic using UN/FLUX.

As a further example, the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of wild flora and Fauna (CITES) uses the UN/CEFACT eCERT standard for electronic permit information exchange. UN/FLUX can be integrated into eCERT messages for better control of permits and certificates.

The ongoing work of the Team of Specialists and the meeting’s discussions will contribute to the UN Ocean Conference, to be held in Lisbon in June 2020.

Presentations and documents for the meeting are available at: http://www.unece.org/uncefact/tssf-3rdsession-2020#/jfmulticontent_c72459-2