IMO News

15 October 2019, 09:43

IMO Ministerial Conference aims for safe fishing, legal fishing

IMO Ministerial Conference aims for safe fishing, legal fishing: Banner-42

The Conference (21-23 October) brings together ministers and high-level officials from more than 100 countries to promote ratification of the Cape Town Agreement, a key international treaty for safety of fishing vessels. Entry into force of the treaty will bring about much-needed minimum safety measures for fishing vessels on a global basis.

A Ministerial Conference on Fishing Vessel Safety and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, organized by IMO and the Government of Spain, is being held in Torremolinos, Málaga, Spain, 21-23 October 2019.

Fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. It is estimated that thousands of fishers lose their lives every year. The safety of fishing vessels is key to reducing lives lost in the sector. However, the lack of an international mandatory regime makes it harder for effective control and monitoring of fishing vessel safety standards. But the key international treaty covering fishing vessel safety is not yet in force.

The continuing and alarmingly high number of fishing vessel personnel fatalities and of fishing vessels reported lost every year could be substantially reduced by global, uniform and effective implementation of the Cape Town Agreement. The hazardous working conditions fishing vessel personnel encounter working at sea can be exacerbated when fishing vessels are poorly designed, constructed and badly maintained.

The 2012 Cape Town Agreement is an internationally-binding instrument which will provide a global mandatory regime to ensure fishing vessels are designed and constructed to be safe, have the right safety equipment on board, and will be surveyed and certified to meet the requirements. Ratifying the Cape Town Agreement will also support action on illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

Entry into force of the Cape Town Agreement will significantly support higher levels of safety on board fishing vessels over 24 metres in length. 

During the Torremolinos Conference, Prime Ministers, Ministers of fishing and maritime affairs and high level officials from 111 countries will meet over three days to discuss how to boost the ratification of the Cape Town Agreement.

In order to take early action on accession, during the first day of Conference (21 October), the Government of Spain has
called for interested Member States to join them in signing a non-legally binding political declaration to publicly indicate their Government’s determination to ratify and promote the Agreement by the tenth anniversary of its adoption (11 October 2022). The signing ceremony will take place after Conference adjourns on Monday, 21 October 2019.

Ensuring safe and sustainable fishing is linked with the achievement of the targets of UN SDG 14 on the oceans. There are also links with other UN SDGs, including those relating to poverty, hunger, education and training, infrastructure and partnerships.

Why Torremolinos?
In 1977, an international diplomatic Conference in Torremolinos, convened by IMO, adopted the first international treaty for fishing vessel safety. It didn’t enter into force, so a protocol was adopted in Torremolinos in 1993. To address technical issues which were inhibiting its entry into force, a further treaty, the Cape Town Agreement, was adopted in 2012 – effectively updating the Torremolinos Protocol.

In 2019, IMO Member States are returning to Torremolinos to harness a real momentum towards bringing into force a binding regulatory framework to provide minimum safety measures for fishing vessels.

The Ministerial Conference will be followed by a meeting of the Joint FAO/ILO/IMO Working Group on IUU Fishing, to be held after the Conference concludes on Wednesday, 23 October, until Friday, 25 October 2019, at the same venue.

Read more on fishing vessel safety and why it matters here:

For cargo and passenger ships, the four pillars for safety, environmental protection and seafarers' training and rights are said to be IMO’s SOLAS, MARPOL and STCW treaties; alongside ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006).  All these instruments are in force.

For fishing and fishers, the four pillars are:

  1. IMO’s 2012 Cape Town Agreement (not yet in force)
  2. IMO’s STCW-F Convention on training of fishers – it entered into force in 2012.
  3. ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (Convention No. 188) entered into force on 16 November 2017. It sets minimum requirements for work on board including hours of rest, food, minimum age and repatriation.
  4. FAO’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), 2009, which entered into force in 2016.  It seeks to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures. 

Contact Information

Natasha Brown
Media and Communications Officer
+44 (0)20 7587 3274

Notes to editors

Key information and background including further reading  - download the info sheet  - 

Detailed Programme: 

The Conference is co-hosted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Government of Spain. IMO is the United Nations specialized agency which develops and adopts global standards for shipping safety, maritime security, efficiency of shipping and environmental protection.

The Conference is supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Torremolinos, Málaga, Spain, 21-23 October 2019

Nearly 200 delegates are expected to attend from more than 100 countries, including China, Cook Islands, Iceland, Republic of Korea, Spain, South Africa, among others. More than 30 Ministers will attend.

Key people:
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim; UN Special Envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson; Mr. José Luis Ábalos Meco, Minister for Public Works and Transport, Spain; Ministers from other countries.

Key organizations include: IMO, FAO. ILO, UNCTAD, Pew Charitable Trusts; Arctic Council, IMSO, ITF, IUMI, WWF,

Women in fisheries 

The World Maritime theme for 2019 is ""Empowering women in the maritime community". (Read more here.)
In line with this theme, the women in fisheries event will bring together key stakeholders in fisheries, to debate the issues around the role and visibility of women in the sector. 

Women in fisheries special event

  • Tuesday 24 October
  • Time: 17:40 to 18:30 
  • Location: conference venue