Vietnam must do more on its blue boats in Pacific

Categories @WCPFC13, FFA Media Fellows past eventsPosted on

By NETANI RIKA, Pacific Media@WCPFC13

VIETNAM must take responsibility for the poaching activities of its fleet in Pacific waters.

Ludwig Kumoro, CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement said Vietnam’s denial of illegal activities in the Pacific was unacceptable.

“They should not come and deny (poaching) at this forum, Kumoru said at the 13th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

“They need to take responsibility. Vietnam’s reaction was they would set up a complaints hot line – I thought they were joking. I’m definitely not happy with their response.”

Vietnam’s denial followed increased complaints of poaching by Blue Boats near Palau, Papua New Guinea and Australia. Some of these boats have been reported in New Caledonian waters.

Vu Duyen Hai, head of the Vietnamese Fisheries Ministry refused to accept responsibility for the Blue Boats – typically small, wooden vessels with a 10-man crew used to gather sea cucumber and other marine resources.

Hai said the boats were neither registered nor flagged in Vietnam.

Boat seized by Indonesia and Palau maritime surveillance authorities have been crewed by Vietnamese sailors and have been tracked from ports in Vietnam.

The cost of accommodating and transporting the crew of the seized vessels has fallen to Palau after Vietnam refused to acknowledge the men were citizens of that country.

Forum Fisheries Agency CEO, James Movick, supported Kumoru’s stand on the Blue Boats.

“Vietnam cannot be absolved of its responsibility in this area,” he said.

“We’ve raised this issue in the commission and believe that the home states of these illegal boats must take more concrete steps towards control of their activities.”

Kumoru said the fishing industry had the potential to make positive changes in the lives of Pacific people as a source of employment and for governments as a revenue stream.

“Fisheries is everybody’s business,” Kumoru said.

“Everybody should help sustain the resource. We all need to work together.”

He said monitoring of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing – which costs the Pacific around $USD152 million in lost revenues annually – where joint action was needed.

Movick acknowledged the threat of the Blue Boats to regional economies and noted the difficulty in tracking the vessels.

“Typically they are small, low in the water, difficult to detect and they don’t have tracking devices,” Movick said.

More than 90 per cent of illegal activity in the Pacific, however, is conducted by licensed vessels.

Movick said monitoring, surveillance and compliance would need to be increased to protect and conserve regional fish stocks.

“It won’t be easy, we’ll need more inspectors and to identify what ports are used for monitoring activities,” he said.

“The PNA is looking at trials for electronic reporting devices which would help monitors and there has been good progress in this area.”