Exchange of maritime boundaries data to boost fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance in region: media release

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Solomon Islands patrol boat 03, Lata, monitors a Vietnamese blue boat that was caught fishing illegally in the Solomons waters in 2018. Photo: FFA Media.
Solomon Islands patrol boat 03, Lata, monitors a Vietnamese blue boat that was caught fishing illegally in Solomons waters in 2018. Photo: FFA Media.

SUVA, 16 June 2020 – A milestone has been reached by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Pacific Community (SPC) following the successful completion of an agreement between the two organisations for the exchange of maritime boundaries data.

This milestone also represents the achievement of a key outcome under the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) programme to reduce Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing through enhanced Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) of oceanic and coastal fisheries. 

It comes at an opportune time with the global focus of World Oceans Day on 8 June being “Innovation for a sustainable ocean. Together we can protect our home.”

FFA members had recognised the need to routinely update Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) maps when maritime boundaries were agreed, made publicly available and incorporated into national laws. 

A patrol boat of Federated States of Micronesia during a boarding and inspection observation in 2004. Photo: FFA Media.
A patrol boat of Federated States of Micronesia during a boarding and inspection observation in 2004. Photo: FFA Media.


Acknowledging that it was crucial that stakeholders were all working from the same data, members authorised SPC to release its dataset to FFA, using the international standard format, to enable updating of the FFA VMS. Through an ongoing Service Level Agreement (SLA) between SPC and FFA, this has now been achieved and authoritative Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) data has been included and operationalised into the FFA VMS, which is used to track fishing fleets across the Pacific region.

When FFA developed the region’s state-of-the-art VMS, the only EEZ boundaries available were provisional lines developed from different sources under the Maritime Boundaries Project which was later transferred to SPC. As Pacific Island states and territories made progress in delimiting, negotiating, and declaring their maritime boundaries, more updated datasets were made available via open source platforms and this was used to update the VMS.

While expressing his congratulations, the Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific, HE Sujiro Seam said, “The European Union is proud to have partnered with SPC and FFA in the operationalisation of such an awaited data sharing agreement. 

“It reaffirms EU’s global commitment to promote the sustainable management of marine resources and the achievement of the SDG14 – Life below water. It recognises the importance of marine issues for the Small Island States of the Pacific, which are big Ocean States, in line with the ‘Strategy for a Blue Pacific Continent’ endorsed by the Pacific Island Forum Leaders at their meeting in Tuvalu in 2019. It adds value for the toolbox to fight IUU fishing and ensure a high level of maritime security in the region.”

FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said FFA is happy with the continuous collaborative work with SPC, especially with regards to the Service Level Agreement on maritime boundaries.

“We are very pleased with the continued strong collaboration between FFA and SPC to support our Members in the sustainable utilisation of our valuable offshore fisheries resources. Specifically, the work on the delimitation of maritime boundaries is fundamental as has been underlined by our Pacific Island Forum Leaders.”

Dr Tupou-Roosen also spoke highly of the PEUMP programme for supporting the milestone achievement, saying, “We are very appreciative of the collaborative approach that PEUMP is taking in implementation as a multi-partner programme which has resulted in these types of successful outcomes.”

SPC’s Director-General, Dr Stuart Minchin, said, “National fisheries officers can now respond to cases of illegal fishing within their maritime zones with confidence, knowing that the boundaries displayed are internationally recognised. Fisheries are a critical source of wealth for the peoples of the Pacific and strengthened monitoring and management of fisheries has exponential impacts on the sustainable development of our region.”

Pacific representatives participating in the region’s first virtual MCS Working Group Meeting in May congratulated the FFA and the SPC on reaching a critical milestone for fisheries management in the region. 

Following several years of collaborative work, the two regional organisations completed Phase 1 of the SLA in April 2020, and the updated EEZ information has been on display since May. 

ENDS //

Background

All of the boundary data shared through this agreement has been collected, analysed, and catalogued through the Pacific Regional Maritime Boundaries project. The project was originally established to assist Pacific countries to obtain greater certainty in the limits of their EEZs to support fisheries management and enforcement, and it has supported the successful declaration of 19 shared boundaries between countries since 2001.

The project is coordinated by SPC and is supported by a consortium of partners, including the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner; FFA; the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); Geoscience Australia; Attorney-General’s Department, Australia; University of Sydney; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT); GRID-Arendal; Commonwealth Secretariat; as well as the European Union and Sweden through the PEUMP programme.

For more information, contact:
Debbie Singh, PEUMP Communications Officer, SPC, email debbies@spc.int
Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

About the Pacific Community (SPC)

The Pacific Community (SPC) is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. Learn more at www.spc.int.

About the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA assists its 17 member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. Follow us on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, and www.ffa.int.

About the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme 

The Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme addresses some of the most serious challenges faced by the pacific countries. Among these are the increasing depletion of coastal fisheries resources; the threats to marine biodiversity, including negative impacts of climate change and disasters; the uneven contribution of oceanic fisheries to national economic development; the need for improved education and training; and the need to mainstream a rights-based approach and to promote greater recognition of gender issues to ensure inclusiveness and positive changes for the Pacific island people. This five-year PEUMP programme is funded by the European Union (EUR 35 million) and the government of Sweden (EUR 10 million). It is implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) in close collaboration with Non-Government Organisations and the national authorities.