OREANDA-NEWS. All countries should join the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) to make sure the landmark treaty aimed at cracking down on illegal fishing succeeds in its aims of ridding the world of a multibillion-dollar scourge that damages human nutrition and environmental sustainability, FAO Director-General Jos? Graziano da Silva said today.

"We need all countries around the world to be part of the PSMA for it to be highly effective," he said at the OurOcean Conference, hosted this year by the European Union in Malta.  So far around 50 countries are party to the agreement "but we need many more."

FAO is doubling down on its commitment to implement the PSMA, and has committed hefty budgetary resources of its own to support poorer countries develop the technical, scientific and legal capacity required. That should be seen as "seed money" to be increased by voluntary contributions, Graziano da Silva said.

The PSMA, which requires rigorous inspections of vessels by port rather than flag states, is the "main tool" to tackle illegal fishing and "also helps to tackle other serious problems such as the traffic of drugs and human beings," he added.

Graziano da Silva also announced FAO pledges of $41.9 million in funding initiatives for programs aimed at the fisheries sector, including improving fisheries management and livelihoods around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

"Healthy oceans are a vital condition for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" and are particularly crucial for some of the poorest communities in the world who rely on small-scale fishing activities, Graziano da Silva said.

FAO's longstanding contribution to the sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources - which provide animal protein for more than 3 billion people and are the base on which some 300 million people pursue their livelihoods -  has intensified in recent years with its introduction. Alongside the PSMA, FAO has mustered international approval of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication.

Small-scale fisheries play a significant social, cultural and economic role around the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, constituting more than 80 percent of the official fishing fleet and a quarter of all fish landed. However, that role is at risk as 85 percent of local fish stocks are now being fished at levels assessed as biologically unsustainable.