A landmark moment in the fight against illegal fishing has been reached as the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) becomes the first binding international agreement designed to prevent trade in illegally caught fish.

On the 30th March 2016 Gambia’s national assembly ratified the PSMA, the 25th nation to do so. The PSMA will now formally come into force on the 5th June 2016.

The difficulties associated with identifying illegal fishing and conducting inspections at sea makes port inspections a cost effective and efficent means of combating IUU fishing. The PSMA sets out the minimum controls a state should use when foreign fishing vessels enter, or apply to enter one of its ports, and to verify that all fish landed are legally caught. The ‘port state’ designates which of its ports can be used by foreign vessels and follows a set of standardised procedures to decide whether to allow the vessel to enter, to inspect the vessel and to report and share the results of the inspection  with other states.

FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva empahsised the importance of this measure “By denying unscrupulous fishers safe haven and access to markets, the PSMA will drive the seafood industry toward greater sustainability and have significant ripple effects throughout the entire fisheries supply chain. “

Sandy Davies of Stop Illegal Fishing welcomed the news ‘We are delighted to see the PSMA come into force, and to see so many of the key port States from Africa amongst the initial 25 parties. FISH-i Africa has already demonstrated how effective it can be to deny access to ports, especially when a region stands together and makes a coordinated response. The PSMA will become stronger with every country who ratifies and implements the agreement. Stop Illegal Fishing will continue to support the use of port state measures and the implementation of the agreement as a significant tool to counter IUU fishing.’