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by Bernadette H. Carreon
WCPFC14, Manila, Philippines – Illegal fishing by boats from Vietnam continues to be a problem in the Pacific, with New Caledonia and Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) raising the issue anew at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
New Caledonia’s representative Manuel Ducrocq warned the WCPFC that the blue boats are back in the region.
“Despite the statement of several Commission members during last plenary session, despite the joint effort between FFA (Forum Fisheries Agency) members, the QUAD (military forces from USA, Australia, New Zealand and France) and New Caledonia to join their knowledge and diplomacy, despite the yellow card delivered by the EU to Vietnam, Blue Boats are back in our waters,” Mr Ducrocq told the opening session of WCPFC.
Last week New Caledonia intercepted two Vietnamese Blue boats in its waters.
On board were five tonnes of gutted and salted sea cucumber. Shark fins were also found during the apprehension. These had been caught in a shark sanctuary, in violation of international rules and New Caledonian law.
“One more time, it is not acceptable,” the New Caledonia rep stated firmly.
To reach New Caledonia the Blue Boats had to travel more than 7000 kilometers from their homeland through the exclusive economic zones of other Pacific countries.
Blue Boat incursions continue pose a serious and ongoing threat to many coastal nations including to fisheries, livelihoods and sovereignty a Forum Fisheries Agency statement read to the WCPFC by Eugene Pangelinan, head of the FSM’s National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA) stated.
The FFA has requested an update from Vietnam on its implementation of its official directive which was supposed to deal with the issue of the blue boats. It also wants Vietnam to tell the Commission of what it has done to deal with the boats.
Bypassing tuna, these poachers target coastal fish stocks and other marine resources that are easier to harvest. Blue Boats have been spotted in Palau, FSM, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Caledonia and Solomon Islands.
Days before the official opening of the WCPFC, Tuna Commission Executive Director, Feleti Teo warned the continued poaching by Blue Boats might affect Vietnam’s application to be a member of WCPFC, although he conceded the issue has not been raised directly at the Commission level.
“In the context of the Commission there has been attempt to link (Blue Boats to membership) because as you know most of the Blue Boats originate from Vietnam and Vietnam is a cooperating non-member,” Teo stated.
In May this year the FFA convened a special meeting on Blue Boats.
FFA director General James Movick said existing monitoring, control and surveillance of Pacific tuna fisheries can help Pacific countries address threat from Blue boats.
The Philippines is hosting this year’s annual meet from Dec. 3 to 7.
WCPFC sets fishing rules for migratory fish, particularly tuna. Its meetings bring the resource-owning states of the Pacific together with global fishing powers to agree on ways to protect and maintain fish stocks.–ENDS