19 Feb 2018 Story Green economy

Supporting a shift to more sustainable fishing

The global seafood trade is estimated to be worth about $140 billion. However, the health of fisheries and ocean ecosystems are increasingly being put at risk by overfishing, as well as illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing. In 2016, such practices accounted for one quarter of all fish caught.

Information on fishing practices is currently mostly paper-based, making it difficult to trace fish origins and monitor fisheries stocks. To combat this, the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business has established a Fisheries Language for Universal Exchange (FLUX) standard. The standard is a free, open and global tool that allows Fishery Management Organizations to automatically access the electronic data on fishing vessels, as well as trip identification, fishing operations, fishing data, landing and sales information, license information and inspection data. The EU has already adopted the FLUX as a mandatory information standard for its Member States.

The standard is one novel mechanism that can contribute to conserving and sustainably using oceans (Sustainable Development Goal 14), which will be supported by a dedicated Team of Specialists on Sustainable Fisheries. This team – an inter-governmental group consisting of public and private sector stakeholders, including from the fishing industry, civil society and academia – held their first meeting on 29-30 January 2018.

The aim of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, which hosts the Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, is to “promote standards for exchange of information related to fishery activities, share experiences on development and implementation issues, and facilitate and support the implementation of these standards worldwide”. The ultimate goal is to improve the exchange of information on fishing and relevant supply chains, in order to foster a more sustainable and ecosystem-based management of marine and aquatic resources.

To inform the Team of Specialists and the country representatives that were present at the meeting, UN Environment’s Environment and Trade Hub, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and representatives of other organizations provided insights into its work around the FLUX information standard. In particular, the Hub provided a perspective on how the FLUX standard can inform the work on fisheries subsidies and current discussions at the World Trade Organization.

The FLUX information standard is important for enhancing the transparency of fisheries supply chains, thereby facilitating the elimination of subsidies to overfishing and illegal and underreported fishing. These insights build on earlier work undertaken by UN Environment and partners as part of their joint voluntary commitment issued at last year’s Ocean Conference. Through this partnership, the three organizations are committed to support states in designing and implementing trade-related policies towards fulfilling their commitments under several specifica targets of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14.4, 14.6 and 14.b).