FSM taps into technology for full tuna transparency

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The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is tapping into the latest high-tech surveillance technology to be its eyes on the vessels to monitor fishing activities in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) embarking on a commitment to Technology in Tuna Transparency Challenge.

Eugene Pangelinan Executive Director of the FSM National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA), said FSM is making use of emerging technologies to further improve national fisheries administrations, “to ensure that fish can be verified for traceability and transparency.”

Pangelinan, on the sidelines of the ongoing Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), said the goal is to use a variety of technology so that that they can collect detailed data on fishing effort, target catch composition, and bycatch of non-target species that come in on the vessels in FSM. 

Electronic Monitoring systems in fisheries use video cameras, remote sensors, satellites, and hard drives installed on fishing boats to provide a range of information, including information on retained and discarded catch. The data is provided to shore-based teams of analysts.

In tuna fisheries, gathering information in this way is particularly important in the longline fisheries where the very large number of smaller vessels makes it challenging to achieve the 5% percent target coverage by on board fisheries observers.

Pangelinan said the data it will ensure that “tuna caught in FSM was harvested legally, sustainably and without slave labor.”

FSM President Peter Christian at the Our Oceans Conference in Bali, Indonesia in October vowed to have all fleets active in its waters comply with full transparency by 2023.

Christian challenged other nations to do the same, commit to full tuna transparency by 2023 in what is known at the T-3 Challenge or Technology for Tuna Transparency Challenge.

 “By taking this lead, the FSM are committed to full tuna transparency that we hope will promote a worldwide shift in fishing practices and set the stage for global seafood market transformation for the betterment of us, and our oceans,” Pangelinan said.

 To kick start the initiative, Pangelinan said the Nature Conservancy have announced a $2.5M funding goal to support the T-3 Challenge.

Pangelinan stressed the technology is not aimed at replacing human observers but rather enhancing the compliance monitoring system. Observers provide a different kind of information and are important in ground-truthing information gained through electronic monitoring.

Pangelinan said the shore-based analysis centers will provide jobs for Pacific Islanders with observer experience.

He said FSM is falling behind WCPFC requirements of five percent coverage because of the logistical issues about placing these independent observers on long liners when they traverse the Pacific for long months and often do not return to the port from where they started their trip.  

FSM is hoping that Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and WCPFC will partner with them to achieve the Tuna Transparency challenge by 2023.  

“I think we will achieve it, but it’s just that it would be very helpful and strengthen and support us for others to have the same commitment,” Pangelinan said.

PNA officials recently considered the development of a PNA E-Monitoring Program at a workshop in Honiara. 

According to an earlier statement, PNA said the workshop was a response to both the decision of PNA Ministers to put a priority on developing a PNA E-Monitoring Program, and President Christian’s call for 100 percent coverage of longline fishing vessels by electronic monitoring by 2023.  

In FSM, revenues from fisheries account for 70 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which translates to about $50 to $60 million a year.