Japan pledges to help Palau’s maritime security

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Japan has pledged US$3.6 million in aid to strengthen Palau’s maritime security and fisheries.

Last month in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met President Tommy Remengesau Jr. and reiterated Japan’s continued cooperation with Palau for a“free-and-open Indo Pacific”, including maritime security and connectivity.

Both leaders attended the signing ceremony on grant aid, which includes the provision of motorboats and floating markers as assistance towards the fields of maritime security and fishery.

During the visit both leaders also confirmed their continued cooperating on the recovery of the remains of the war dead, the stable operation of the Japanese fishing vessels, and people-to-people exchanges including those of young generations.

Japan has a pending request with Palau to allow small scale fishermen from Okinawa to fish in Palau’s waters, even after the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) in 2020.

Remengesau, however, said the fishing should occur in the Domestic Fishing Zone which encompasses 85,896 square miles of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Eighty percent of the EEZ would be a “no-take zone.”

“We are not going to compromise the integrity of the PNMS,” he said. “However, we are mindful of the 20 percent domestic fishing zone, which is a big area.

During the meeting with Abe, both countries have agreed to further discuss the request.

Japan is one of Palau’s closest allies with  millions of aid provided to the country to build roads,  infrastructure and  recently a new patrol boat to help police Palau’s EEZ.

Japan has also  pledged support  to Palau’s hosting of the Our Oceans Conference in 2020.

Under the PNMS law, a dedicated 20 percent of the EEZ will be accessible to domestic fishing fleets. But the domestic fishing zone will be reserved for local fishermen and prohibit exports

The law also requires that any fish caught in the domestic fishing zone   should be offloaded in Palau.

Currently the fishermen from Okinawa conduct fishing outside the domestic area, which will be closed to commercial fishing when the PNMS law takes effect by January 1, 2020.

Taiwan, Palau forge coast guard cooperation

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Taiwan and Palau signed a coast guard cooperation agreement to help police the island nation’s conservation area and fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) and maritime crimes.

During the state banquet, March 22, hosted by the Palau government for President Tsai Ing-wen and her delegation, Taiwan announced that in line with the agreement, it is gifting  the island nation with a patrol boat to help stem maritime crime.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. thanked Taiwan for continuing to be a “staunch partner” of Palau as it prepares to prohibit a huge part of its exclusive economic zone to commercial fishing by January 1, 2020.

“Tonight sees the handover of one of the most visible forms of this partnership through the new patrol boat for our coast guard. As our friends from Taiwan know all too well, as island states, securing our ocean spaces is vital to allow our respective national projects to flourish,” Remenegsau stated.

 Vice President Raynold Oilouch and Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu signed the agreement.  Foreign Minister Wu also presented two miniature model patrol boats to Vice President Oilouch as a gift.

President Tsai praised Palau as a tourist destination and vowed Taiwan would continue to work with the country in various fields including marine conservation.

Tsai said Palau and Taiwan’s relationship: “show that oceans do not separate us, but bind us together.”

Under the agreement, Taiwan and Palau “agree to seek feasibility of cooperation in the following: exchange of personnel visiting; exchange of personnel for training; Maritime Search and Rescue; Fisheries Law enforcement; and cooperation in combating transnational crime;

Taiwan has also donated a total of $1 million to the marine sanctuary fund, a pledge it made in 2015 when the legislation was signed. 

Remengesau said the new patrol boat: “will augment our marine capabilities, strengthen our security, and be a vital tool in ensuring that the Sanctuary contributes to our sustainable development.”

Palau students currently on scholarships at the Taiwan Naval Academy would join the patrol boat crew when it’s officially delivered, Remengesau said

The Taiwanese naval patrol frigate Hsun Hu No. 7 took part in joint exercises with Palau’s Coast Guard on March  23.

By January 1, 2020, Palau is prohibiting all commercial fishing in 80 percent of its EEZ while 20 percent will be designated as domestic fishing zone to improve the nation’s food security.

Fishing nations that largely conduct commercial fishing in Palau are from Japan and Taiwan.

 The Taiwan Embassy here said that presently Taiwan has 42 fishing boats operating in Palau waters which provide an “annual contribution to fishing related incomes in Palau exceeds USD 6.9 million.”

“Their future operations will be affected by the coming implementation of  PNMS in 2020,” it stated.

Although Taiwan embassy said it supports the implementation of the marine sanctuary, it hopes to “bridge a solution that can be accepted by both the ROP Government and Taiwan fishing operators.”

The embassy said Taiwan fishing operators wish to continue fishing in Palau waters, and “unload their catch in Palau; and Palau can continue to enjoy the economic benefits.”

Micronesian leaders unite to combat IUU fishing by 2023

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Micronesian nations are uniting to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) by 2023 in the Pacific.

At the 19th Micronesia Presidents’ Summit on 21 February, Palau, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Nauru signed a communique supporting a IUU Free Pacific by 2023. This challenge was set up by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).

“It is important to build on the momentum we have at the national and regional level to combat IUU and to give it a goal or a target if you will. Imagine an IUU Free Pacific by 2023,” RMI President Hilda Heine said during the summit in Palau.

“The Marshall Islands seeks your endorsement of this vision and goal, to have Micronesian Leaders support an IUU FREE Pacific by 2023 as an outcome of this important meeting.”

In October at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s Technical and Compliance Committee meeting in Majuro, Marshall Islands President Heine called on Pacific nations to agree to get rid of IUU fishing by 2023.

She urged the leaders of the Micronesian countries to make the same commitments to join the fight against IUU.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said the Micronesian region might be small but it comprises large ocean states which makes it all the more important to band together to deal with environmental degradation, including illegal fishing.

“My friends, I like to refer to our nations as the Large Ocean States. With this title comes great responsibility. Not only must we exploit our marine resources for the benefit of our people, we must protect them for our children and for the world at large,” Remengesau said when he welcomed the leaders in the February Summit.

“We must, therefore, continue to lead the world in creative responses to the environmental degradation that faces our Pacific Ocean through pollution, climate change, over-fishing, illegal fishing and the like. Together we must move forward with initiatives that prevent IUU fishing, that expand our protected areas and places limitations on pollution at every level.”

The Forum Fisheries Agency, in 2016, estimated fish either harvested or transshipped illegally in the Pacific region to be in the order of $600 million with the actual economic loss to FFA Members being around $150 million annually.

Heine, the RMI President, said IUU brings a broader scale of challenges that includes transnational crime, human rights and labour standards, pollution, and marine debris.

In the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Hawaii last year, the resolution on fishing vessel crew labour standards was adopted.

Led by Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, with the support of members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), the resolution is in line with the goal of FFA members to enhance economic benefits to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from employment on board fishing vessels licensed to fish in the exclusive economic zones of FFA members.

Heine said the RMI is working closely with the FFA Secretariat in convening an IUU Colloquium in Majuro before the end of the year.

“The target audience will include National Compliance Officers, to our Fishing partners, both flag states and distant water fishing operators,” said Heine.

She added that with development partners, RMI continues to tap into emerging technology to meet the challenges such as the Persons of Interest project to ensure that “we are not so vessel focused in the way we combat IUU fishing; that we are not just collecting information on vessels’ compliance history but more importantly, we’re also collecting information on persons involved in illegal fishing and sharing this information.”

Palau Senate wants to delay marine sanctuary implementation

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Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. is not shutting down the request from the Japanese government to allow small scale fishermen from Okinawa to fish in Palau’s waters even after the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) beyond 2020.

However, Remengesau said fishing should occur in the Domestic Fishing Zone which encompasses 85,896 square miles of the country’s  Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with 80 percent of the EEZ a “no-take zone.”

“We are not going to compromise the integrity of the PNMS,” He said.  “We are however mindful of the 20 per cent domestic fishing zone, which is a big area.”

Japan is one of Palau’s closest ally with  millions of aid provided to the country to build roads,  infrastructure and  recently a new patrol boat to help police Palau’s EEZ.

Japan has also  pledged support for Palau’s hosting of the Our Oceans Conference in 2020.

Under the PNMS law, a dedicated 20 per cent of the EEZ will be accessible to domestic fishing fleets. But the domestic fishing zone will be reserved for local fishermen and will prohibit exports. The law also required that any fish caught in the domestic fishing zone should be offloaded in Palau. 

Currently, the fishermen from Okinawa conduct fishing outside the 20 per cent Domestic Fishing Zone. 

However, Remengesau is keen to accommodate the fishermen alluding to the possibility of amendments to the PNMS law specifically about the provision that requires that all catches should be offloaded in Palau.  

“It’s about the livelihood of their people, its not a commercial operation; the question is can we do a win win situation? I think we can,” he told reporters. Japan also has the backing of the Senate which recently passed a joint resolution supporting  the wishes of the small-scale fishermen . 

(Photo: Richard W. Brooks)

Senate Joint Resolution 10-45 supports the Government of Japan’s request to allow vessels to continue its commercial fishing operation.

The Senate Committee on Resources, Commerce, Trade and Development stated in its report that Japan has assisted Palau in various infrastructure development and capacity building and that it should “reciprocate” by allowing some “fishing rights.” 

There is also a move from the Palau Senate to  delay Remengesau’s signature policy.   Sen. Frank Kyota, chair of the Senate Committee said  in an interview that his panel and several other senators will endorse the bill that seeks a delay of the PNMS implementation to 2025 instead of 2020

Kyota said extending the wind-down period would allow the country to recover from the tourism slump and increase revenues from the Pristine Paradise Environmental Fee (PPEF).  The fee is collected from visitors to Palau. 

A portion of the fee would go to the PNMS fund to support the implementation of the law.

But despite the tourism slowdown, Remengesau said it would hardly affect revenues it collects from foreign fishing licenses.

Remengesau said revenues that will be earned from the PPEF and the benefits to Palau from the Parties of Nauru Agreement’s (PNA) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) are bigger than the income it could earn from licensing of commercial fishing in Palau.

“So it’s not so much an emergency impact if there will be no fishing because the money we receive from licensing  is a small amount compared to what we get from PPEF and also from what we receive from PNA,” Remengesau told reporters at apress conference .  

Based on the Ministry of Finance Financial report for the fourth quarter of 2018, Palau earned $8.4 million from fishing days under the PNA’s VDS while it earned only $767,417 from fish exports. Revenues collected from PPEF amounted to  $1,034,775.

 Enacted in October 2015, the law set aside 500,000 square kilometers or 80 per cent of its maritime waters for full protection with the rest set aside as domestic fishing zone.

With less than a year before it is implemented, the President vowed to reject  any attempt to delay the policy. 

However, Kyota said the Senate wants to pass the bill to generate discussions on how the tourism numbers will impact the PNMS funding mechanism.

Kyota said the Senate is not  “destroying the PNMS,”  with their push to delay the implementation but extending the wind-down period to give Palau time to recover from the tourism slump.

He noted that although he expects that the President will reject the bill, the Senate wants to be on record that it has tried to save the PNMS from losing revenues due to the tourism slowdown.

In a January 11 letter to the Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism Minister, Umiich Sengebau, Kyota’s committee raised concerns that revenues from the VDS will decrease as well when the PNMS is fully implemented.

 The committee said “since our economic frailty is an urgent matter,” the Senate needs to act on the proposed bill expeditiously.

 Sengebau in response to the committee’s concerns said there are locally-based fishing companies that are looking into the options of maintaining operations beyond the full implementation of the PNMS, such as fishing outside of Palau’s waters or at the high seas and offloading their catch here. 

The Minister also clarified that Palau can continue to earn money from the VDS through directly selling its vessel days directly to companies and any surplus days can be traded to another PNA member country.

The VDS sets an overall Total Allowable Effort (TAE) limit on the number of days fishing vessels can be licensed to fish in PNA Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) per year. Each country is allocated a share of the TAE for use in its zone each year.

These VDS days can be traded between countries in cases where a country has used up all its days while another has spare days.

The minimum benchmark for a vessel day fee for purse seiners is at $8,000.  

Palau says it will continue to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing

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Small island nations like Palau are leading the charge in a  raft of regional programs such as addressing one Pacific challenge – Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. 

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. told reporters in a press conference on December 26 that Palau is one of the strongest advocates of sustainable future in the Pacific.

“More and more we should look at ourselves as a contributing country,” Remengesau said.

He said Palau is working with development partners to ramp up maritime surveillance in the Pacific to combat illegal fishing and other crimes at sea.

Palau, he said, will continue to work with Japan, Australia, United States and neighboring small countries.

Palau will continue to advocate for sustainable fishing as its contribution to being  a part of the eight-member of the Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA)  is to put in place policies to discourage over fishing.

“As part of the PNA member countries, we establish conservation area within each jurisdiction, in the mould of similar activities as Protected Areas Network or sanctuaries, to ensure sustainability of the fisheries resources into the future,” President Tommy Remengesau said.

 The PNA controls the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery. The PNA members are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Remengesau said under the PNA arrangement, Palau continue to receive its share of the revenues, despite small fishing activities in its waters.

Palau receives its share under the PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme (VDS). The VDS is a system where fishing effort in days is allocated to the eight members.

Fishing days are sold to fleets at a price of at least $8,000 per fishing day.

Palau has earned over $5 million in 2016 from its VDS revenue while the nation’s VDS revenue from longline fisheries amounted to $475,480 that year.

The President said Palau contributes to the PNA as one of the strongest champions against illegal and unsustainable fishing

 “We don’t want to continue with the unsustainable fishing practice of harvest, harvest and harvest, that’s why there should be an active program to ensure sustainable population of the fish stocks in the Pacific region,” Remengesau said.

He said Palau’s national marine sanctuary law is: “Palau’s contribution to the overall PNA commitment to not only harvest but also conserve the resources.”

In an earlier statement, PNA and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) quoted  a report on the impact of IUU fishing prepared for the FFA in 2016. The report estimated the value of catch associated with illegal fishing at over US$600 million annually, with the direct economic loss to FFA members of around US$150 million

In 2015, Palau led with signing into law a legislation declaring 80 percent of its waters as  a marine sanctuary, where no commercial fishing will take place.

Palau is also set to become the first country in the world to ban certain reef-toxic sunscreen and the first country to introduce a passport pledge to require tourists to protect its environment. 

Tuna Commission ended with positive measures in place

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The Western Central and Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) ended on a positive note with several measures that will ensure that tuna stocks continue to be in a healthy state, earning praise from the Pacific nations and environmental groups.

On Friday night’s conclusion of the meeting, the 26-member WCPFC under the tutelage of outgoing chair Rhea Moss–Christian agreed to the adoption of the South Pacific albacore Interim Target Reference Point (TRP).

South Pacific albacore is the main commercial species for many small island countries in temperate waters. Currently stocks sit at 52 per cent of original spawning biomass. The target reference point has been set at 56 per cent of original spawning biomass. This is not the 60 per cent sought by the Forum Fisheries Agency countries to facilitate a return to profitability for their local fishing industry but is seen by them as a very welcome step forward.

The Commission also agreed to the extension of elements of the tropical tuna measure due to expire at the end of this year, for two years.

The tropical tuna measure regulates fishing on bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna, which make up the vast majority of the Western and Central Pacific catch.

The Commission rejected the proposal of United States to increase its bigeye catch limits for its Hawaii-based longline fleet and to increase its days for purse seine fishing on the high seas.

As part of extending the tropical tuna measure the commission agreed to proposals to increase provisions for a three-month prohibition on use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by purse seiners in exclusive economic zones and high seas areas between 20°N and 20°S from July 1-September 30, and an additional two-month prohibition on FAD use on the high seas. By consensus, these FAD closures were extended through until the end of 2020.

The commission also adopted:

  •   A resolution on ‘Labour Standards for Crew on Fishing Vessels’
  • A plan to review the WCPFC transshipment measure originally adopted in 2009 next year. “This review is critical to addressing the challenge of shortfalls in information from high seas transshipment activities, particularly on longline vessels,”
  • A measure to provide additional funds to the Special Requirements Fund, which will help boost participation of Small Island Development State representatives in the decision-making processes of the Commission.
  • A new measure for the Compliance Monitoring Scheme. This will allow for continued monitoring and assessment of compliance by all Commission Members
  •  Measures to better protect seabirds from accidental catch by the longline fleet

No consensus or agreement has been made on shark management.

“It is really pleasing to me because we ended up agreeing on the Target Reference Point for albacore,” Tonga’s Minister of Fisheries Semisi Fakahau said of the outcome of the meeting.

The adoption of a TRP for south Pacific albacore was hailed as a success by Pacific nations.

“This is milestone for the management of the South Pacific albacore fishery,” Dr. Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency said.

”The setting of a Target Reference Point is something we had been advocating for a number of years now so to have been able to have the Commission agree on that was particularly significant,” said Tepaeru Herrmann, chair of the FFA’s governing body the Forum Fisheries Committee on behalf of all FFA members.

ON the tropical tuna measure Tupou-Roosensaid: “We came into this week’s meeting with the position to maintain the strength of the existing tropical tuna measure — and this is what we accomplished.

“FAD closures are an important conservation action that reduces catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna,” said Ludwig Kumoru CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.

“Maintaining the FAD closures is contributing to sustainably managing our tuna stock,” he added.

The adoption of the resolution on Labor standards delighted Pacific delegates and human rights groups.

“FFA Members continue to lead by setting the standards for responsible fishing in all respects,” Dr. Tupou-Roosen said, adding that the WCPFC is the first Regional Fisheries Management Organisation to take this critical step for to improve conditions for crew and observers on board fishing vessels.

Outgoing WCPFC  Chair, Rhea Moss-Christian said: “Members agreed …on the measures that were adopted in Manila last year. We adopted measures in Manila anticipating a positive result on the additional bigeye stock assessment. We got that positive stock assessment result. We continued the measures as they are so essential, we maintained status quo.”

PEW Officer on Global Tuna, Dave Gershman said:  “PEW is pleased that the Commission took a positive step toward ensuring the health of bigeye tuna by agreeing not to weaken its conservation measures.

PEW encouraged the Commission to use the breathing space until 2020 to develop its long-term harvest strategy for bigeye.

The United States delegation was asked for comment but was unavailable.

“Regrettably, the USA HOD is not able to comment on the WCPFC15 outcomes this evening,”  a spokesperson wrote in an email.

Next year’s WCPFC will be in PNG and the new Chair Korean, Jun-re Riley Kim will lead the Commission.

Japan seeks to continue fishing in Palau waters

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Japan stressed the importance of its relationship with the Pacific, with most of the big scale fishing by the Japanese being centered in Pacific nations’ water.

Head of Delegation for Japan Shingo Ota, speaking at the Tuna Commission meeting in Honolulu said they were concerned about 20 small-scale longliners from Okinawa prefecture operating in Palau’s exclusive economic zone.

Mr Ota said those boats fear losing their livelihood once the island nation transition’s 80 percent of its waters to a no-fishing zone.

He said Japan is currently in talks with Palau to allow Okinawa fishermen to continue to fish in Palau after 2020 or the implementation of the Palau Marine Sanctuary.

“We are very much concerned because this is the main fishing ground for those 20 small-scale longliners. If Palau is going to close the area those vessels have nowhere to go,” Ota said.

He said Japan is requesting Palau to find a way, maybe through research, to allow the fishermen from Okinawa to continue fishing.

Ota, however, declined to give further details on the request.

Japan is one of Palau’s top foreign donors and the aid provided by Tokyo has helped the island nation to build roads and infrastructure.

By 2020, Palau is set to designate 80 percent of the nation’s maritime territory as a fully protected marine reserve in which no fishing or mining, can take place. 

Twenty percent of Palau’s waters will become a domestic fishing zone reserved for local fishermen and small-scale commercial fisheries with limited exports.

The marine sanctuary is President Tommy Remenegsau’s signature policy saying, Palau wants to lead the way in restoring the health of the ocean for future generations.

Japan speaks out on ‘unfair’ US proposal

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Japan said that the United States proposal to that the Tuna Commission increase its catch-quota on for bigeye tuna is “unfair,”

“I think the US is picking up only limited factors which are in favour of their operations. So, I think it is unfair,” the Head of Delegation for Japan Shingo Ota told reporters at the Tuna Commission meeting.

Pacific nations and other members of the WCPFC are locked in tense discussions over the future of the tropical tuna fishery which includes bigeye tuna as well as skipjack and yellowfin.

WCPFC’s current members are Japan, Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, the European Community, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Japan, Kiribati,Korea, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Tonga, Tuvalu, the United States of America, and Vanuatu.

Ota was quick to criticise the US proposal, joining other Pacific nations in resisting any increase in the quota: “We don’t like it. 

“Their proposal is if a country has better observer coverage and does not conduct transshipment they can receive more allocation,” Ota said.

The US is seeking a higher catch limit for bigeye tuna by its Hawaii-based longline fishing fleet.

In its proposal, Washington highlights the significant levels of monitoring and control it maintains in the fishery, outperforming other members of the Commission.

The US points out that while large longline fleets are maintained by Japan, Korea and Taiwan have failed to meet the Commission’s minimum requirement of placing independent fisheries observers on 5 per cent of their vessels the Hawaii-based US fleet does better.

 Figures included in the proposal show the US fleet has achieved observer coverage of about 20 per cent in its deep-set fishery and 100% in its shallow-set fishery.

But Japan said the figures cited in the U.S proposal that suggest observer coverage on the Japanese fleet has gone down in the past year are “misleading.”

“Actually, the U.S figures are not correct and we are actually implementing 5% coverage. In some of the fleets a little bit less than 5% but some of the fleets are more than 5%,” Ota stated. 

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.

New push to protect sharks at Tuna Commission

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Another push is being made at Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meetings this week for an agreement on a comprehensive shark management measure.

The incidental catch of sharks while targeting other fish such as tuna has become a serious threat to the species.

A 2013 study by Social Development Direct, a UK based research group estimated that around 100 million sharks died in 2000 as a result of fishing, and 97 million in 2010.

Outgoing Commission chairperson, Rhea Moss-Christian, told reporters Saturday that the shark management measure would be a priority this year.

At last year’s Tuna Commission meeting, WCPFC  vowed to take up the issue of sharks at this year’s commission, however delays caused by fishing nations may have slowed things down.

A shark management measure would require all members, cooperating non-Members and participating territories to prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea.

It would also ban transshipment, retention on board and landing of shark fins.

Deep-sea longline fishing vessels and deep-sea and coastal trawlers had the largest total annual shark and ray by-catch according to Social Development Direct in 2015.

Longline boats deploy miles of baited hooks that accidentally snare sharks, among other unintended targets.

Blue sharks dominated the by-catch in longline fisheries. For other types of fishing gear,the species of by-catch varied across oceanic regions.

Many of the fisheries with the largest by-catch of cartilaginous species like sharks and rays operate over vast areas of ocean and often in international waters, where fishing rules are weaker.   

The measure before WCPFC15 would encourage research to identify ways to make fishing gear more selective and provide relevant information to WCPFC’s Scientific Committee.

The WCPFC has the mandate to conserve and manage nearly 60 per cent of the global tuna catch, equivalent to 2.9 million tons of tuna, valued at over $5 billion.It is also responsible for managing and conserving other migratory fish such as sharks and manta rays.

The environmental group, PEW Charitable Trust, said all species caught as by-catch fell  under the mandate of WCPFC.

Dave Gershman, PEW Global Tuna Conservation Officer said there should be a firm commitment, to conduct assessments on shark stocks in the WCPFC Convention Area.

“ PEW is keen to see action for sharks before their numbers crash. Negotiations for new rules on sharks have to take into account the widely differing interests of fishing nations and more conservation-minded resource-owning nations,” Gershman said.

Sharks are important to the ecosystem and as the top predators they keep the balance in the oceans. For small Pacific island nations, sharks can generate more money alive than dead.   Shark-based tourism in most of these nations is a lucrative business.