agriculture and fisheries

Advocates call on nations to adopt global transparency in fisheries

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Advocates call on nations to adopt global transparency in fisheries

OUR OCEAN CONFERENCE. Tony Long (far right) speaks during the opening press briefing at the Our Ocean Conference in Athens, Greece, on April 16, 2024.

Jee Y. Geronimo

'Transparency and data sharing is one excellent way and a scalable and cost-effective way for countries to understand what is happening out on the high seas,' says Global Fishing Watch's Tony Long

ATHENS, Greece – On the first day of the Our Ocean Conference in this city, advocates called on countries to adopt global transparency in fisheries, a sector that’s losing an estimated $23 billion annually to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“We think that transparency is the real vehicle for true global governance. It generates trust between nations,” Tony Long, CEO of Global Fishing Watch, said in a press briefing on Tuesday, April 16.

“It’s clear what’s happening out at sea. It’s clear who is behaving properly and who might not be. So transparency is central to that fight against IUU fishing and it will help enable and sustain fisheries and ocean management in the future,” he added.

Long was speaking before reporters in a briefing joined by Theodoros Skylakakis, the minister of environment and energy of the Hellenic Republic, Melissa Wright of the Bloomberg Ocean Initiative, Oceana adviser Alexandra Cousteau, and Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte Mayor Alfredo Coro II.

In June 2023, governments formally adopted the United Nations High Seas Treaty, an agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The Philippines, which signed the agreement in September that year, joined the European Union and 13 countries on Tuesday in urging nations to prioritize its ratification.

“A system has to be in place to understand what’s happening out on the high seas, and no one single country is responsible. So, again, transparency and data sharing is one excellent way and a scalable and cost-effective way for countries to understand what is happening out on the high seas,” Long said.

He added that transparency involves sharing information on fishing vessel activity, ownership, the beneficial ownership, and authorization, making it easier to understand through the fishing vessels’ activity whether it’s fishing legally or not.

“So, we need to come together as a community. We may have really good surveillance in one particular area, but those systems, unless they talk to each other, are just creating another barrier that illegal fishers can take advantage of. So open data is really the conduit to share this,” Long said.

Global Fishing Watch is currently mapping more than 70,000 vessels in terms of tracking. In the Philippines, meanwhile, the government has yet to fully implement the vessel monitoring system for all commercial fishing vessels.

Cousteau, adviser for international ocean conservation organization Oceana, said the fight against illegal fishing was among the four priorities they wanted to advance at the Athens conference.

“I remember when I was a kid, and I would read about illegal fishing in the high seas, and it felt like the Wild West. It felt like something we would never be able to tackle because, at that time, 30 years ago, we didn’t have the kind of technology that we have today,” said Cousteau, the granddaughter of legendary oceanographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau.

“We need to be able to apply that same sophistication of technology to helping us protect and restore our oceans. And I think that IUU Fishing is a great example of how we can do that,” she added.

The conference happening in Athens until Wednesday, April 17, aims to contribute “thematically, politically, and through its commitments,” to the 3rd UN Ocean Conference happening in June 2025 in Nice, France. –


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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.