ROME A group of 91 countries have finalised the first global treaty to fight illegal fishing, seeking to shut ports to rogue vessels plundering the seas, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Tuesday.
Environmental groups estimate that one-fifth of all fish landed are from illegal, unregulated or unreported (IUU) fishing boats, dealing a heavy blow to developing countries in Africa and Asia which rely on the seas for valuable income.
"IUU fishing damages the productivity of fisheries -- or leads to their collapse. That's a serious problem for the people who depend on them for food and income," said FAO Assistant Director General for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Ichiro Nomura.
"This treaty represents a real, palpable advance in the ongoing effort to stamp it out."
Under the terms of the text, expected to be formally approved at a summit in November, foreign vessels will have to request permission in advance to dock at specially designated ports and will have to provide information on their catch.
Signatories, which include the United States, China and Japan, will also commit to regularly inspect fishing vessels in their ports according to a set of international standards.
The treaty commits states to inform other countries when a vessel is denied access to its ports and it obliges the nation whose flag the ship is flying to take follow-up action.
The treaty is expected to be given approval at a FAO World Food Summit in Rome in mid-November, and will enter force 30 days after it is ratified by 25 states.