“Globally, 1 in 5 fish is caught illegally, resulting in losses of between USD$10 billion and $23.5 billion every year.” Tony Long, CEO of Global Fishing Watch, used this stark statistic to open the ‘Youth, Women and Oceans’ Roundtable Discussion. At the current scale of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (SDG Indicator 14.6.1), the international community will not achieve the 2030 United Nations agenda, especially goals to undermine food security, alleviate poverty and improve the health of the ocean.
On September 17-18, 20 young people from across the world (Canada, Seychelles, Mauritius, Belize, UK, Barbados and Uruguay) gathered on the margins of the G7 Joint Session on Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy. The event was convened by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, SIDS Youth AIMS Hub (Seychelles) and Youth Climate Lab (Canada).
Importantly, participants brought diverse experiences and backgrounds to the Roundtable. For example, Lincoln Odeya from Kenya stated, “We lose an estimated $100m annually due to increased IUU fishing activities in [Kenya’s] EEZ. Our country has hitherto felt the real impacts of these activities as they undermine resource conservation; threaten food security and livelihoods; [and] destabilizes vulnerable coastal regions ecosystems due to limited law enforcement capabilities.”
Vanessa Fladmark from Haida Gwaii, British Columbia provided her views, “In my experience, Canadians really want to support sustainable, local fisheries but are often shocked to hear that a majority of seafood is mislabelled and potentially from illegal sources. An important way to combat this issue is to empower the consumers with information so they can make sustainable choices.”
In order to better understand current efforts to combat IUU fishing, Roundtable participants met with experts in the field. Tony Long of Global Fishing Watch explained the organization’s mission and the technology that is used to gather data on fishing vessels.
The participants were very clearly inspired by Global Fishing Watch’s mission of transparency and using technology to pursue resilient oceans. As you will see below, the two recommendations that resulted from the Roundtable focus on similar themes: 1) fostering the technical capacity of youth to tackle IUU and 2) improving supply-chain transparency.
The first recommendation is that that G7 countries commit to tackling IUU by creating a “Blue Action Challenge” for early-career researchers and young entrepreneurs. This Challenge would allow micro-grants to be delivered through mini challenges across the G7 for innovations to tackle IUU fishing. This would allow countries to harness the expertise of citizens, particularly in the scientific community and communities that are often excluded from decision-making.
“The Blue Action Challenge recommendation allows for IUU fishing to be addressed through utilizing the innovative ideas of young researchers and entrepreneurs. Youth and women will be provided with opportunities, while suppliers, fishers and businesses benefit from creative, attainable solutions,” according to Molly French from Edmonton, Alberta.
Within this recommendation, mentorship and apprentice programs would pair students with businesses across the fish/seafood supply-chain to identify challenges— at the national and international level. By identifying challenges, youth and early-career researchers will be able to use technology and innovative approaches to combat IUU fishing.
The youth also recommended G7 countries commit to tackling IUU fishing through efforts to increase transparency in fisheries and seafood supply chains. This would be done by standardizing the labeling information on fish/seafood sold in the G7. Accountability would be achieved through national audits to ensure fishers are following the rules. Each member would conduct its own audits and develop its own enforcement mechanisms.
“This recommendation is important because it gives consumers the knowledge to buy products that are sustainable and safe,” says Manzel Ngirmeriil from Palau, “Ultimately, because of labelling, fishers will be forced to practice sustainable fishing in order to sell their product.”
Canada’s G7 Presidency has emphasized the importance of the inclusion of youth in dialogues about issues that affect our future. However, there is still a long way to go in order to fully engage youth, women and technology to address IUU and other harmful fishing practices.
To conclude the Roundtable, these recommendations were presented to the Honourable Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson and Deputy Minister Catherine Blewett. The Minister was particularly interested in how G7 leadership in this space could have a ripple effect for nations globally. Both the Minister and Deputy Minister stated that the teams at Fisheries and Oceans would use the recommendations to inform decisions in the future.