Labour standards push hopes for thumbs up from Tuna Commission

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Building on the success of their support for Observer safety at the 2016 Pacific Tuna Commission session in Nadi, Forum Fisheries countries are gunning for the 15th session in Honolulu this week to pass a resolution aimed at ending any cruel and unfair treatment of crew members on fishing vessels.

The non-binding resolution on Labour standards for crew comes as an increasing number of reported incidents are being heard, some of them involving Pacific nationals working on vessels in Pacific waters.

Vanuatu’s head of Fisheries Kalo Pakoa says its a national priority from where he sits, because government is keen to encourage more ni-Vanuatu to take up jobs in the sector– which has seen spikes and dips in recruitment.

“The crewing sector’s had a long history in Vanuatu since the 60’s and has employed more than a thousand workers at its heights….but seen declines as well,” he says. “We are working to rebuild the sector and develop our human resource capacity through training, and pushing for good registration and crew records of our crew on our fleets as well as other fleets in our waters”

The resolution builds on commitments in global workers rights conventions of the ILO, and the WCPFC’s founding convention. Another attraction for getting it passed is the credibility for those championing it, but Vanuatu’s government are already planning to walk the talk on the issue.

“It’s important — we have issues within our fleet with regards to human rights, welfare issues and capacity, so government has actually tasked us to come up with standards and legislation, and in future the Fisheries Department will be shouldering this responsibility, away from the current Labour Department jurisdiction,” says Pakoa.

“It’s necessary and important for us to not only focus on the other groups of people working on the value chain of the fishery, but to also look at the standard of workers, the people who are the first in line to see the fish that comes out of the ocean– so we think their welfare is also very important in this process. From the side of the FFA members, its an economic and employment opportunity aiming to improve capacity and standards of workers.”

Pakoa is chairing working-groups on the proposed resolution text which is already undergoing changes, and is likely to face more tweaking before it goes to a final plenary of the Commission late Friday in Honolulu. 

Is the resolution still ‘live’ in terms of getting all the WCPFC members on board with the Pacific call? Pakoa is positive. 

“So far it’s not a no, it’s a yes in principle –but there is work to be done to improve the text of the resolution, so there’s progress here tonight, and there’s progress in getting input of all the Commission country members into a document we will get to the Chair between now and Friday.”

He says the tweaking of the text of the resolution will ensure it aligns with national level legislation or conventions of members in their own jurisdictions, and is all part of the process. //ENDS