A closer look at fisheries policies in East & Southeast Asia through the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency

The Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency outlines fisheries transparency best practices through its ten policy principles. In coordination with stakeholders from local organizations, the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency (CFT), conducted a brief assessment on  the ten transparency principles outlined in the Global Charter to determine whether (or to what extent) current fisheries laws, policies and practices in South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand align with each of the ten Charter Principles.

(Download the Gap Analysis: EA-SEA-Gap-Analysis-2024-3.pdf)


While the analysis does not intend to compare different geographies—which may have varying priorities, resources, challenges, and opportunities—it enhances our understanding of the current landscape of fisheries transparency at both local and regional levels, helping to set priorities for improvement in the studied areas.

Current transparency landscape

Although current fisheries management policies and practices include measures to enhance transparency, they generally do not fully achieve the goals set by the Global Charter principles. Nevertheless, the progress observed in the region is a positive indicator of their commitment to achieve fisheries transparency.

The overview presented in table 1 indicates both: progress towards fisheries transparency and the need to further strengthen transparency mechanisms.

As shown in the previous table, Taiwan and South Korea fully achieve Principle 1 by requiring Unique Identification Numbers and registration for all fishing vessels. Japan and Thailand excel in stopping the use of flags of convenience (FoC); however, other cases rate as “not achieved,” highlighting concerns over the implementation of FoC measures in the region (Principle 4). Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand also ban or closely monitor at-sea transshipment (Principle 6). 

This means that while some geographies fully adhere to principles 1, 4, and 6 of the Global Charter, there is still a group that, while making efforts in the right direction, is still falling short of complying with these principles. Areas that will require additional attention include requiring vessel registration and providing unique identification numbers to small-scale commercial vessels (principle 1); strengthening the implementation of UNCLOS article 91 by requiring a genuine link for vessel registration (principle 4); and increasing monitoring or banning at-sea transshipment (principle 6).

Where does my seafood come from?

This is a question all consumers should ask when buying seafood. The regional trend on the “seafood traceability from boat to plate” requirement set by principle 7 shows that in all cases, there are seafood traceability measures implemented to some extent. However, the fact that only a few species are included in some catch documentation schemes or a strong focus on catch documentation rather than full supply chain traceability does not allow for full compliance with principle 7. Additionally, information on where, how and by whom fishing activity is conducted at sea can be challenging to determine as none of the geographies in this study are currently making Vessel Monitoring System’s (VMS) information publicly available. However, all of them require the use of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) for larger commercial fishing vessels (principle 5). 

Knowing which vessels are conducting fishing activity at sea is essential not only for seafood traceability but also as a tool to reduce illegal fishing and human rights abuses at sea: Principle 2 of the Global Charter requires authorities to regularly publish up-to-date information, such as lists of fishing vessel licenses, authorizations, and sanctions applied to fishing vessels. While lists of licenses and authorizations are usually available in the studied geographies, information on sanctions is often either not public or not comprehensive. This information is essential for authorities to make informed decisions, such as allowing a vessel’s registration under their flag, determining necessary information before allowing a vessel into port, and conducting risk assessments.

Accessing the lists of vessels sanctioned for illegal activities and identifying their ultimate beneficiaries are crucial first steps in reducing illegal fishing, human rights abuses, and other violations at sea.


Additionally, revealing beneficial ownership information, as established by principle 3, enables the identification and accountability of the true beneficiaries to prevent them from profiting from illegal fishing practices. Two of the studied geographies: Thailand and Taiwan, collect and publish information on beneficial ownership to some extent, however, this information remains insufficient to effectively identify the ultimate beneficiaries of these fishing vessels. CFT encourages fisheries authorities in all geographies to continue their efforts to collect and publish sufficient information to identify the beneficial owners of fishing vessels.

Transparency on fisheries management and vessel worker’s information

All geographies partially align with principle 9 by collecting and publishing fisheries management information and allowing (limited)  public participation in fisheries management decisions. Common concerns include insufficient fisheries management information on the capacity and budget for monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS), specifics on fisheries subsidies, and the lack of unified websites to access fisheries information. A positive aspect in the region is the availability of spaces for public participation, such as fisheries councils. In certain instances, civil society organizations (CSOs) may request meetings with authorities, although there is no assurance of securing a place on their agendas. CFT recommends that fisheries authorities continue to engage with local stakeholders such as artisanal fisherfolk, CSOs, and coastal communities to identify the best available information, determine relevant information that is still needed, and make it public, thereby building on their current efforts toward fisheries transparency.                                

Similarly, information about why fish workers are onboard fishing vessels, who they are, for how long they stay at sea, is vital to prevent potential human and labor rights abuses at sea. In this analysis, we identified that most geographies collect vessel workers’ information through different processes such as interviews or permit allocations that require providing this information. However, in some cases data may be either not up to date, not comprehensive, and/or not published according to local stakeholders. CFT recognizes the efforts to collect this information and encourages all stakeholders to strengthen their initiatives towards the collection, verification, and publication of vessel workers and their conditions onboard fishing vessels in alignment with principle 10To date, the International Labor Organization (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention (ILO -C188) has been ratified only by Thailand within the region. This convention establishes international standards for decent work in the fishing sector, promoting safety, social protection, and fair labor conditions for fishers. Ratifying and implementing this and other relevant agreements is crucial to ending illegal fishing practices and human and labor rights abuses in the region. CFT encourages all parties to ratify and implement fisheries management agreements and the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency as an initial step to express public commitment to a fair and transparent fishing industry.


The geographies presented in the analysis demonstrated adherence to the Global Charter’s transparency principles in certain aspects, such as the publication of fisheries licenses and authorizations (Principle 1). Five out of the six geographies currently share information on fishing licenses, and four of them publish information on fishing authorizations to some extent. Areas that require attention include the publication of sanctions imposed on fishing vessels, adherence to mandates which require all commercial fishing vessels to carry tracking devices and publish vessel position information (Principle 5), the ratification of international conventions (Principle 8), such as ILO -C188, which is ratified by only one of the six geographies under study, and the publication of relevant fisheries data for informed decision-making (Principle 9). Beneficial ownership information needs to be collected and published to allow the identification of final beneficiaries of fishing vessels activities (principle 3) and information on sanctions needs to be publicly available. The Coalition for Fisheries Transparency (CFT), a global initiative which works together with governments, civil society organizations (CSO) and a variety of stakeholders globally to improve transparency and accountability in fisheries governance and management through the endorsement and implementation of the Global Charter. For additional information on this study or to provide input, please contact us at info@fisheriestransparency.net.   

Promoting fisheries transparency through an inclusive approach to fisheries management: examples from the Philippines

Aligned with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)  and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the UN 2030 Agenda  for Sustainable Development, and other international agreements, the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency recognizes through Principle 9, the rights to access to information and public participation in decision- making as an essential element for informed policy decisions, and inclusive fisheries management practices. This principle, frames as an essential aspect of fisheries transparency the publication of fisheries management information and the inclusion of diverse stakeholder groups in the decision-making process on fisheries management as follows:

Principle 9: ‘Publish all collected fisheries data and scientific assessments in order to facilitate access to information for small-scale fishers, fish workers, indigenous communities, industry associations, and civil society in developing fisheries rules, regulations, subsidies and fisheries budgets, and decisions on access to fisheries resources. Make these processes, policies, and decisions easily accessible to the public and enforcement agencies.’

Civil society organizations across the world have implemented mechanisms to promote transparency in the fishing sector through access to information and public participation in fisheries management, as put forth in Principle 9 of the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency. Two examples from the Philippines – the Karagatan Patrol and the Virtual Digital Classrooms – showcase the use of technology, public participation, and collaboration with government agencies in an effort to advance fisheries transparency at a national/regional level.

Karagatan Patrol

Development of the platform “Karagatan Patrol” is an example of collaboration among civil society organizations, government agencies, and coastal communities to collect and manage data.  Launched as a nationwide campaign by Oceana in the Philippines to stop illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters, this interactive mapping platform is the result of partnership with the League of Municipalities of the Philippines. The Karagatan Patrol helps report cases of illegal fishing in municipal waters, and disseminates information about potential illegal fishing activities or other environmental violations to the local government, security and enforcement agencies, fisherfolk, industry actors, and media.


Commercial fishing boat detection maps can be accessed by users to demonstrate possible intrusions of commercial fishing vessels in municipal waters. With data analysis from the map, it’s possible for enforcement authorities to detect incidents in municipal waters and prioritize enforcement efforts to report illegal fishing. Additionally, this platform has a Karagatan Patrol Facebook group and a Twitter account, which allow fisherfolk, officers from Local Government Units, members from law enforcement and regulatory agencies to share information, photos, videos, report violations, and ask assistance from law enforcers to report ongoing illegal fishing.

Virtual Classrooms

In 2021, Oceana’s team in the Philippines launched “virtual classrooms” to share information with fishing communities from different parts of the country, with the objective to actively engage them in the decision-making process and fisheries management efforts. The “Classroom for Fisherfolk” learning series aims to gather information from fisherfolk on the 12 Fisheries Management Areas (FMA) system, established in the Philippines’ territorial sea to promote science-based management  and address illegal fishing activities. The classrooms, among other things, voice concerns from fishermen and exchange insights with government officials to jointly deal with the challenges raised.

© Oceana /Chris Jude Orbeta


The examples provided by  the Karagatan Patrol and Virtual Classrooms in the Philippines demonstrate the critical role transparency, technology, and inclusive collaboration play in  advancing fisheries management efforts. By leveraging digital platforms for information sharing, fostering public engagement, and building partnerships with government agencies and coastal communities, these initiatives highlight best practices that can be replicated and adapted by organizations across the world, offering valuable insights and guidance for promoting transparency and inclusion in fisheries management. Through shared knowledge and collective action, it is possible to ensure the responsible use of marine resources and promote the well-being of coastal communities for generations to come.

Monitoring vessels at sea: a crucial first step to achieving transparency in fisheries

About 75% of global industrial fishing and 25% of other vessel activity is not publicly tracked, asserts the new publication,  Satellite mapping reveals extensive industrial activity at sea, issued in Nature with lead authors from Global Fishing Watch – a non-governmental organization that seeks to advance ocean governance through increased transparency of human activity at sea. The findings suggest that these vessels may be at higher risk of participating in illegal fishing activities, like fishing in marine protected areas, or contributing to forced labor or potential human rights abuses.

This also means that our understanding of  “who” is fishing “where”, “how” and “in what conditions” the fishing activity occurs, can be limited.  As a result, possible negative consequences for coastal communities, marine ecosystems and the global economy are almost impossible to measure.

Over 740 million people depend on the ocean for their livelihoods, nutrition, or both. That creates immense pressure on the ocean, combined with a wide range of harmful human activities that affect its state.  Moreover, about a third of fish stocks are fished beyond biologically sustainable levels (threatening the reproduction of fish populations), and an estimated 30–50% of critical marine habitats have been lost owing to human industrialization.

What does public vessel tracking information mean for fisheries transparency?

According to Nature, some of the largest cases of illegal fishing, together with human rights and labor abuses occurring at sea have been committed on vessels that were not using –or required to use- tracking devices. The study revealed that out of the approximately 63,000 vessels detected by GFW between 2017 and 2021, close to a half of them were industrial fishing vessels. Less than 25% of all industrial fishing vessels were publicly tracked, as presented in the following map (adapted from the publication).


When governments do not require the use of tracking devices for fishing vessels or do not make this information public, their vessels cannot be publicly tracked at the level required to effectively manage fishing activities at sea. For example, this research found fishing vessels not publicly tracked inside protected areas, including Galapagos Marine Reserve (~5 vessels/ week) and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (~20 vessels/week).

What needs to be done?

The Coalition for Fisheries Transparency (CFT) is a global initiative that brings together civil society organizations to promote transparency in the global seafood sector. The coalition’s work is based on the 10 policy principles included under the Global Charter. One of them – principle five – requires governments to mandate the use of vessel tracking devices and make vessel position data publicly available. Sharing vessel tracking data can help reduce the likelihood of labor rights violations, measure the real impact of fishing activity to effectively manage fish stocks, and detect potential illegal fishing activity within marine protected areas. In 2023, CFT organized a regional workshop in Southeast Asia to learn more about members’ concerns around fisheries transparency, current efforts in the region, and opportunities for possible future collaboration with local organizations. Surprisingly, none of the countries in the Asia region currently makes vessel position data from vessel monitoring system (VMS) publicly available, and while data from Automatic Information System (AIS) is public, most countries do not require the use of AIS for all commercial fishing vessels. 

Given the pervasive lack of transparency at sea, CFT calls on governments around the world to make vessel tracking systems a requirement, and its data publicly available to effectively monitor vessel activity at sea. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency?
The Coalition for Fisheries Transparency is a network of international civil society organizations (CSOs) that work towards advancing transparency and accountability in fisheries governance and management. United around the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency, Coalition’s members urge governments around the world to adopt its principles into law and practice. The Charter comprises key transparency priorities in fisheries management that must be addressed in order to combat illegal fishing and overfishing, prevent human rights and labor abuses from happening at sea, ensure strong fisheries management, increase equitable participation in fisheries decision-making, and enable thriving coastal communities.

What does the Coalition aim to achieve?
The Coalition for Fisheries Transparency aims to bring about equitable, sustainable, and well-governed fisheries, free from harmful fishing practices and human rights and labor abuses. We do this by connecting and supporting CSOs in their efforts to advance and accelerate fisheries transparency policies around the world.

Who is part of the Coalition?
Members are at the heart of the initiative as they drive the Coalition’s work by identifying the challenges and priorities to advancing transparency in their countries and/or regions. Members are CSOs around the world that work on fisheries policy reforms. A full list of members can be found on the Members page. Guiding the Coalition is a steering committee of civil society organizations, co-chaired by the Environmental Justice Foundation and Oceana,and joined by Accountability.Fish, Global Fishing Watch, Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI), PRCM (The Regional Partnership for the Conservation of the Coastal and Marine Zone), Seafood Legacy, and the WWF Network. Together, representatives from these organizations provide assistance and share their expertise in fisheries transparency to achieve the Coalition’s mission. The Coalition’s Secretariat supplements members’ efforts through assistance in the areas of communications, research and policy analysis, coordination and partnership building, and strategy development. The Secretariat is composed of a director, policy analyst, communications manager, and associate.

What is the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency?
The Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency is a set of 10 policy principles developed to support CSOs in bringing about effective change in fisheries governance and transparency to combat fisheries mismanagement and illegal fishing, and to prevent human rights and labor abuses from happening at sea. The Charter provides a framework for member organizations to urge governments to implement fisheries transparency policy reforms, in law and in practice. While intended for the entire fisheries sector and readily implementable in industrial fisheries, the Coalition acknowledges that some principles in the Charter require further adaptation before they can be effectively applied to all small-scale fisheries.

How does an organization become a member of the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency?
The Coalition consists of voluntary members. Organizations may request to join the Coalition by submitting a Membership Application form in English, Spanish, or French. The Coalition’s Secretariat will review each application and approve or flag the application for further evaluation by the steering committee. If flagged, the steering committee will discuss the application at their next meeting, with a decision on membership made by consensus. The Coalition will provide a response to new member applications within six weeks of submission. To mitigate any potential conflicts of interest, the Coalition does not extend formal membership to governments, industry entities, or CSOs that operate and/or advocate on behalf of commercial industry. However, these stakeholders are welcome to participate in the Coalition as Affiliates and may request to become an Affiliate by submitting this form.

What are the requirements of membership?
Member expectations and requirements can be found in the Membership Handbook and accompanying Code of Conduct.

Is there a cost for Coalition membership?
There are no membership fees.

Are members financially compensated?
Members are not compensated and should disclose any conflict of interest, including financial or other interest that is adverse to the Coalition’s interests or would otherwise interfere with performance in the Coalition.

Can an organization that does not work on all Charter principles still join the Coalition?
The Coalition does not expect members to work on all Charter principles. However, when joining the Coalition, members agree to the Charter in full as its principles serve as the Coalition’s guiding framework.

How is the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency different from other transparency-focused efforts?
A number of organizations and coalitions are already doing important work to increase fisheries transparency through directly partnering with governments, promoting improved management of regional fisheries management organizations, and working closely with industry to enhance their transparency and traceability practices. The Coalition for Fisheries Transparency is adding to these on-going efforts by centering its approach on organizing CSOs, helping them to accelerate transparency policy reforms through government advocacy. The Coalition’s focus on civil society enables the Coalition to complement the efforts of these other initiatives to collectively move the needle forward on transparency in fisheries globally.

How is the Coalition funded?
The work of the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency is made possible thanks to the generous financial support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Oceans 5, and Oceankind. The Coalition does not accept funding from industry or government sources.

Civil society groups launch Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency at 2023 Our Ocean conference.

The launch of the Charter by the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency lays out a new roadmap to advance marine governance around the world.

PANAMA CITY, Panama, March 02, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Coalition for Fisheries Transparency – a new international community of civil society organizations – today launched the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency. The Charter pinpoints the most essential policy priorities needed to combat fisheries mismanagement, illegal fishing, and human rights abuses at sea. Experts, ministers, and delegates from international organizations and companies around the world discussed the benefits of the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency at Our Ocean conference in Panama this Thursday and Friday – an annual meeting for countries, civil society and industry to announce significant actions to safeguard the world’s oceans.

“Ghana recognizes the critical role that transparency plays in the fight against illegal fishing to protect livelihoods and provide food security to our coastal communities,” said Hon. Mavis Hawa Koomson, Ghana’s Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development. “With the significant progress Ghana has made in the last year on ending harmful fishing practices that have encouraged illegal fishing in our waters, we are now working towards making greater efforts towards sustaining fisheries transparency in Ghana.”

Prof. Maxine Burkett, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Fisheries and Polar Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, highlighted how the U.S. plays a leading role in increasing transparency in global fisheries.

“Last year, President Biden released a National Security Memorandum that recognizes the importance of transparency for combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and associated forced labor abuses,” she said. “By enhancing productive information-sharing, the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency will serve as an important complement to the U.S. government’s activities to end IUU fishing through improving fisheries and ocean governance, increasing enforcement efforts, and raising ambition to end IUU fishing globally.”

Additionally, global partnership initiatives, like the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), emphasized the importance of equal, multi-stakeholder collaboration to increase transparency in coastal countries for achieving sustainably managed marine fisheries.

“Given the complexity of fisheries governance, multiple transparency efforts are needed to address the various challenges of unsustainable marine fisheries, such as overfishing, IUU fishing, unequal access to fisheries resources, and unfair benefit sharing,” said Dr. Valeria Merino, Chair of the International Board of the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI). “The 10 principles of the Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency recognize the need for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to fisheries transparency, and has the potential to support existing global endeavors, such as the FiTI, through a much-needed mobilization of civil society organizations to ensure that marine fishing activities are legal, ethical, and sustainable.”

Finally, the role of the civil society to maximize collective impact to improve transparency has been underlined by Mr. Wakao Hanaoka, Chief Executive Officer of Seafood Legacy (Japan), and a steering committee member of the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency. “Our membership in the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency represents a voice of an international community that allows us to strengthen and amplify our efforts amongst the seafood industry and government towards achieving our goal of making Japan a global leader in environmental sustainability and social responsibility,” he explained.

The Global Charter for Fisheries Transparency lays out a new roadmap to advance marine governance internationally, by providing a set of advocacy principles that are both effective and achievable by all stakeholders involved in fisheries governance and management.

“Continuous advocacy efforts by civil society organizations are critical to improving fisheries governance internationally as well as protecting the ocean and the people who depend on its resources,” commented Maisie Pigeon, Director of the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency. “The Coalition’s mission to deliver an urgent shift towards greater transparency in fisheries will be achieved through supporting our members in developing joint strategies, harmonizing and strengthening efforts, and finally – closing transparency policy gaps in fisheries governance,” she concluded.

Through civil society organizations from around the world, the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency calls on governments to apply the Charter’s principles in legislation and practice.

Press contact: Agata Mrowiec agata@fisheriestransparency.net +34 608 517 552