RFMO deadlines for acquiring a unique vessel identifier from the International Maritime Organization are imminent

By Victor Restrepo and Ana Justel

Tuna RFMO International Maritime Organization (IMO) number reporting requirements are almost due. Four of the five RFMOs set the deadline of 1 January 2016 for member states to report comprehensive IMO data for vessels authorized to fish in the RFMO’s corresponding Convention Area. The exception is the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), which established 1 January 2017 as the limit date for complying with IMO reporting.

Although the deadline is the same for most RFMOs, each one defined a different size threshold when outlining what vessels in their record need to comply with the new requirements. In the case of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), Recommendation 2013-13 limits the reporting requirement to vessels 20 meters in length overall or greater. The relevant resolutions or conservation measures from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the Western and Central Pacific Commission (WCPFC) and CCSBT refer to fishing vessels at least 100 gross tons (GT) or 100 gross registered tons (GRT) in size, while the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) resolution applies to all vessels in the IOTC Record of Authorized Fishing Vessels. All resolutions regard exemptions for vessels that are ineligible to obtain an IMO number and/ or other extraordinary circumstances in which a vessel owner is not able to obtain an IMO or Lloyd’s Register number despite following the appropriate procedures.

The vessel record with the lowest degree of completion of IMO numbers from qualifying vessels is IOTC, with an 8% IMO reporting. CCSBT numbers show a higher level of reporting in percentages: at present, 56% of vessels included in the resolution do report IMO numbers.

RFMO Qualifying vessels % IMO /all that qualify Approx. ∆ n. vessels to reach 100% compliance
ICCAT LOA ≥ 20m 32% ~3000
IATTC GT or GRT ≥ 100t 14-29% ~2600-900
WCPFC GT or GRT ≥ 100t 31% ~1900
IOTC All authorized vessels 8% ~5600
CCSBT GT or GRT ≥ 100t 56% ~200
All RFMOs 22% ~12400


Some might think that obtaining an IMO number constitutes a big endeavor, but nothing can be further from the truth. Applying for an IMO number merely requires navigating to the IHS Maritime website and following a series of simple steps. ISSF created a guide where this procedure is explained step by step.

Unique vessel identifiers (UVIs) like IMO numbers are a powerful tool to combat Illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. ISSF urges RFMO members to double up their efforts to meet their IMO number reporting obligation.

About the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — the world’s leading conservation organization — promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health. To learn more, visit https://iss-foundation.org/.