Enormous fisheries surveillance effort by FFA and members: media release

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Honiara, 28 October 2020 – One of the largest maritime surveillance operation in the world, Operation Kurukuru, concludes on Friday, 30 October, after two weeks of international cooperation by aircraft, ships, and national organisations to target illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in the Pacific.

The Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) coordinates the surveillance operation, which spans 21.3 million square kilometres, the exclusive economic zones of 15 Pacific Island member states and adjacent high seas pockets. 

“It’s a vast area to monitor for IUU fishing. Activities such as Operation Kurukuru 20 underline the importance of our cooperation to ensure we can be effective in conducting surveillance and enforcement,” says FFA Director-General Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen. 

“It is a significant commitment by our Members and Partners. We sincerely thank all of those who participated across the Pacific. We work best when we work together.” 

GCPB Nafanua II being deployed for vessel boarding inspection during Operation Kurukuru. Photo: Samoa NHQ.
GCPB Nafanua II being deployed for vessel boarding inspection during Operation Kurukuru. Photo: Samoa NHQ.

There are 12 guardian class and Pacific patrol boats from Pacific nations operating alongside five French navy and United States coastguard vessels during Operation Kurukuru 2020. Six aircraft from the FFA and the quadrilateral regional partners are providing air surveillance, and trials are being conducted using satellites and other emerging technologies. 

Overall, 19 countries are involved in Operation Kurukuru 2020. Local and regional partners, including fisheries, maritime police, defence forces, and other maritime security agencies were encouraged to work closely alongside one another, and the results have been positive according to Surveillance Operations Officer Commander Robert Lewis, RAN. 

“Regional cooperation towards combatting IUU fishing is really progressing,” says Commander Lewis. “We’ve seen some excellent examples of organisations working together to share information and support national priorities during this operation.”

“We’ve already identified several potential vessels of interest; that is, they may be conducting illegal fishing, have inappropriate vessel markings, or be acting unusually. Ships or aircraft have been redeployed to look into these vessels further, and the investigations are ongoing with our FFA Members,” says Commander Lewis. 

The aim of Operation Kurukuru is to detect, deter, report and/ or apprehend potential UU fishing activity, but it also works to build capacity of national surveillance initiatives through support and mentoring from the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre at FFA. 

The operation involves 15 FFA members: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The four Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group members – Australia, France, New Zealand and United States – work alongside the nations. 

ENDS// 

Officers on the Fijian patrol vessel RFNS Savenaca assessing a fishing contact during Operation Kurukuru. Photo: Fiji NHQ.
Officers on the Fijian patrol vessel RFNS Savenaca assessing a fishing contact during Operation Kurukuru. Photo: Fiji NHQ.

For more information and photos contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

About 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. Find out more here: www.ffa.int

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FFA thanks Solomon Islands Government for its support during pandemic: media release

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Honiara, 20 October 2020 – The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency has expressed its gratitude to the Solomon Islands Government for its assistance throughout the COVID-19 period during a visit by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Mr Collin Beck, to FFA headquarters.

Speaking at FFA, Mr Beck said: “The Solomon Islands Government, through our Ministry, is committed to supporting FFA to respond to the pandemic. As a host country, we will do all we can to ensure the work of FFA is able to continue during this difficult period.”

Solomon Islands Government’s assistance will include repatriating overseas staff to Honiara and measures to ensure critical activities can continue in the event of a lockdown.

FFA Director General Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen thanked the Government for its support.

“FFA was honoured to host Mr Collin Beck and his team for a meeting. We expressed our gratitude for the collaboration between the Solomon Islands Government and our secretariat here in Honiara to manage the impacts of the pandemic on our operations. We also took the opportunity to commend the Government more broadly for the measures it has taken to respond to COVID-19.”

The FFA Director-General, Dr Dr Tupou-Roosen (left) and His Excellency, Collin Beck (second right), with the two longest-serving staff of the FFA, Solomon Islands nationals Mrs Susan Olisukulu (second left) and Davinia Boso (right), in front of the FFA conference room named in their honour earlier this year.
The FFA Director-General, Dr Tupou-Roosen (left) and His Excellency, Collin Beck (second right), with the two longest-serving staff of the FFA, Solomon Islands nationals Mrs Susan Olisukulu (second left) and Davinia Boso (right), in front of the FFA conference room named in their honour earlier this year.

During his visit to FFA headquarters in Honiara, Mr Beck and his team toured the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre, to see first hand what FFA is doing to support member countries during the pandemic, as well as maintaining ongoing programs to combat illegal fishing.

COVID-related initiatives being managed by FFA include vessel contact tracing, which Solomon Islands has benefited from as an FFA Member country.

ENDS//

FFA staff with Mr Beck and his delegation at the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre
FFA staff with Mr Beck and his delegation at the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre

For more information and photos contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

About 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. Find out more here www.ffa.int

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FFA fisheries ministers progress observer and crew safety and longline fisheries development

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Republished from FFA Trade and Industry News, volume 13, issue 4, July–August 2020

The seventeenth annual Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers Meeting (FFC Min17) was held on 6–7 August 2020. In light of COVID-19 travel restrictions, this meeting was held virtually, with representatives participating from seventeen Pacific Island countries and territories. 

During this meeting, key activities and achievements of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) during 2019–2020 were highlighted including: implementation of the FFA Strategic Plan 2020–2025; addressing the impacts of climate change on tuna fisheries; progressing the Regional Longline Strategy action plan; FFA members’ achievements within the WCPFC; work to address observer safety and crew welfare; and work to further enhance the contribution of fisheries to Pacific Island economies, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Given considerably better fishery performance and higher economic rents generated from the Western and Central Pacific purse seine fishery compared to the longline fishery, Ministers welcomed FFA’s development of an action plan for implementation of the Regional Longline Strategy and identified this as a key priority.

This strategy aims to progress a zone-based management approach within WCPFC, with catch and/or effort limits established within FFA members’ EEZs, as well as binding limits set on the high seas. Ministers also welcomed the adoption of the Regional Longline Electronic Monitoring Policy, particularly in light of the suspension of human observers on vessels due to COVID-19 related health risks and travel restrictions, as a means of improving transparency of longline fishing operations. 

Ministers called for a strengthening of measures in the WCPFC relating to observer safety, including further investigation into regional options for ensuring observers are fully insured and that their families are supported in the event of tragedy at sea. Currently, observer safety issues are addressed at WCPFC through the Conservation and Management Measure for the Protection of WCPFC Regional Observer Program Observers (CMM 2017-03), but this CMM does not address insurance or observer family support. 

 On crew safety, Ministers called for full implementation of the harmonized minimum terms and conditions on human rights and labour conditions for crew adopted at FFCMIN16 in 2019. These legally binding MTCs came into effect on 1 January 2020 for all foreign and domestic vessels operating in FFA members’ waters. The Government of New Zealand will support a comprehensive multi-year project aimed at improving labour conditions at sea in the Pacific region. 

The suspension of onboard observers and port inspection activities as a result of COVID-19 has increased the risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity in the Pacific region. Ministers highlighted the need to rely on other important monitoring, control and surveillance tools available during this time including aerial surveillance, vessel monitoring systems, as well as vessel of interest information and the regional surveillance picture, managed by FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre.  Regarding climate change, Ministers stressed that fisheries issues should be firmly placed onto the wider climate change agenda, including through the Pacific’s engagement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and that Pacific regional organisations need to collaborate more closely on climate change-related needs of the region

Purse-seine chopper pilot absconds with helicopter

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A Spanish contract pilot who flew a fish-spotting helicopter for a Taiwan-flagged purse seiner is now facing criminal charges in the Marshall Islands. Pictured is one of the Win Far tuna fleet purse seiners with a helicopter on the bow. Photo: Karen Earnshaw.

Republished from FFA Trade and Industry News, volume 13, issue 4, July–August 2020

In late June 2020, a helicopter pilot working onboard the Taiwanese purse seiner Win Far 626 that was fishing in the Kiribati EEZ absconded with his helicopter and flew northward, landing on Nallu Island, Mili Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, after what was said to have been a two-and-a-half-hour flight. Mili is about 112 km south of the capital, Majuro, and roughly the same distance from the EEZ boundary with Kiribati. 

According to an affidavit filed by the Marshall Islands’ Director of Immigration, “The pilot took off without permission and unannounced from the vessel.” The pilot, 39 year-old Brazilian and Spanish dual citizen Jose Eduardo Marinho Goncalves, later told authorities that he was tired of eating fish and rice almost every day and missed his family after a long period at sea and wanted to return home.

After being advised by Mili officials of the helicopter’s landing, the Marshall Islands Government dispatched its patrol boat, Lomor, and several government officials to Mili where Goncalves was arrested and brought to Majuro. He was charged with entry at an unofficial port of entry, entry without a valid visa, and failure to surrender any document.

The illegal entry offenses were particularly concerning to Marshall Islands officials, since the country has been in a border lockdown since late March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has banned all entry of people into the country and so far, has not recorded any COVID-19 cases.  

Upon arrival in Majuro, Goncalves was handed over to the Department of Health, was tested for COVID-19 and immediately went into quarantine at a facility that has been set up by the Department of Health during the pandemic. The Lomor crew and others onboard were also tested, with all tests including that of Goncalves returned as negative.  After completion of quarantine the pilot had his first appearance in front of the Marshall Islands High Court and was released on his own recognizance. Goncalves was represented by the Chief Public Defender who entered into negotiations with the Marshall Islands’ Attorney General prior to a plea hearing on 24 July.

At the hearing, the resident of Madrid, Spain apologized for his illegal entry and expressed his appreciation for the treatment he received while in the Marshall Islands. Also present at the hearing was Spain’s Honorary Consul in the Marshall Islands, Deborah Kramer. As part of a plea bargain between the Chief Public Defender and the Attorney General, Goncalves pleaded guilty to entry at an unofficial port of entry, which is a misdemeanor. The other two charges, entry without a visa and failure to surrender any document, were dismissed by the Attorney General. Chief Justice Carl Ingram gave the pilot a suspended sentence and said that if the court has not revoked probation and imposed a jail sentence at the end of six months, he would vacate the conviction from Goncalves’ record.

In what was a happy ending for Goncalves, he departed Majuro on 24 July on the United Airlines special monthly repatriation flight that had been recently introduced for outgoing passengers only. It is not known if either the company that owns the Win Far 626 or the owner of the helicopter, Guam-based Hansen Helicopters, are planning any further legal action against the pilot.  What is known is that at the end of July the helicopter was still stuck on Mili. Hansen, which also has a base in Majuro where they service helicopters used by the purse seine fleet in the Western Pacific, asked Goncalves to assist in retrieving the helicopter by flying it from Mili to Majuro before his departure, but he declined to do so. Whilst there are no indications in this particular case of human rights or labour abuse, this demonstrates the highly challenging nature of life at sea on distant water fishing vessels, even for those in higher-level positions.

China’s distant-water fleet continues to expand, gather critical attention in its wake

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Around 260 Chinese fishing fleets were recently detected in the seas surrounding the Galápagos islands off the coast of Ecuador. The vast armarda of fishing vessels in the biodiverse Pacific islands has raised alarm bells over the fishing practices that conservationists say could severely damage the region’s protected marine ecosystem. Photo: www.greenqueen.com.hk

Republished from FFA Trade and Industry News, volume 13, issue 4, July–August 2020

China’s distant-water fishing fleet is in the headlines once again. In a story hitting the international media, a flotilla of an estimated 243 China-flagged tuna longliners, squid boats, supply vessels and reefer carriers was fishing on the border of the Galápagos Islands EEZ in the eastern tropical Pacific.

The environmental concern is sharpened in these waters because the Galápagos marine reserve has a concentration of shark species, including endangered whale sharks and hammerheads. Further, the Ecuadorian navy claimed that 149 of these boats had turned off their vessel monitoring systems. 

China’s ambassador to Ecuador responded to queries raised by Ecuadorian authorities that “except for some delays or temporary loss of satellite signal, all Chinese ships keep operating and using monitoring systems normally,” adding that “China is a major fishing nation … and it is also a responsible fishing nation.” The spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsequently announced that China would ban fishing near the Galápagos from September to November.

While the Galápagos incident garnered most attention, China’s fisheries expansion is touching all oceans, and most fisheries and markets. In Nigeria, Chinese investment of between US$1.5 billion and $2.5 billion is being poured into the creating of the Andoni Fishing Port and Processing Zone. The complex is anticipated to use Nigeria’s influence with other countries in West Africa in to create a regional hub for the landing and processing of a wide range of species including mackerel, herring, tuna, and crustaceans. Critics argue that fisheries in West Africa are already at capacity.

In Europe, Shanghai Kaichuang Marine International has announced a US$36 million investment in a new tuna processing plant in Spain under its Albo subsidiary. Shanghai Kaichuang Marine International is currently an enormous commercial presence in China’s seafood markets, especially for mackerel, tuna, fish fillets and krill, but only has a very small export presence and is looking to expand internationally. In the Pacific, China is building ever stronger ties with the Solomon Islands since ‘the switch’ in diplomatic relations from Taiwan, including proposed tuna industry investments.

More broadly, and perhaps driving these dynamics, is that China’s distant water fishing fleet is between five to eight times larger than previous estimates. Recent research by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute identified 16,900 vessels, 90% of which are flagged by China. The study uses unique fishing vessel identifiers compiled in the Krakken database, which is reportedly the world’s largest database on fishing vessels.

The seemingly relentless expansion of China’s marine fishing industry continues to give competitors the jitters. Spain’s main tuna industry association – Organization of Associated Producers of Large Freezer Tuna Vessels (OPAGAC) – is arguing that crew conditions on Chinese fishing fleets is not only morally wrong, but gives their product an unfair competitive advantage as safety and working conditions are far laxer than those for EU boat owners.

FFA to increase focus on gender equality and social inclusion in Pacific fisheries: media release

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HONIARA, 16 September 2020 – The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) has announced an initiative to create more focus on gender equality and social inclusion within the region’s tuna fisheries sector.

Announcing the initiative as part of FFA’s new five-year Strategic Plan, the FFA Director-General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said while FFA has had gender-related policies in place since 2016, more must be done to ensure women and minority groups can fully participate in the tuna fisheries sector.

“We need to make every effort to understand the specific barriers faced by women and other marginalised demographic groups in the fisheries supply chain, so policies and practices are more intentionally inclusive,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.

“What’s missing from our tuna fisheries work is regular gender and social inclusion analysis. Without this data, it remains difficult to understand the role and relations of women and minority groups within the broader fisheries supply chain.” 

Dr Tupou-Roosen noted that sustainable fisheries are vital for achieving food and nutrition security, alleviating poverty, enhancing economic growth and delivering social development. 

“Data that better quantifies the contributions of women, people with disabilities and other relevant demographic groups will provide a platform for more inclusive policies and decision-making processes. This initiative will enable FFA to influence transformative change in the Pacific region.”

In early September, a workshop on gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) was hosted at FFA which involved all employees. The “Walking the Talk” session was aimed at building a common understanding of gender equality and social inclusion within the context of FFA’s work. 

“The workshop was very valuable,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen. “It has helped all of us at FFA develop a deeper understanding of how discrimination or bias related to gender and other factors such as age, ethnicity, socio-economic background, religion and disability can prevent certain groups contributing to decision-making or accessing opportunities.”

FFA hopes to support a range of gender equality and social inclusion training and awareness workshops in future within its membership countries and the wider regional fisheries sector. The agency is also planning a gender forum in fisheries in 2021, to develop strategies for greater inclusion. 

–ENDS//

For more information contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media,
ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

About 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. Find out more here www.ffa.int.

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Commitment to enhanced cooperation between FFA and RSIPF: media release

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Honiara, 10 September 2020  A visit by executive officers of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) headquarters on Tuesday this week has highlighted the commitment to continuous cooperation between the two organisations, especially during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.

During a meeting with the FFA Director-General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, the RSIPF officials, led by Acting Deputy Commissioner National Security & Operation Support, Ian Vaevaso, were congratulated for their hard work during this challenging time. Dr Tupou-Roosen also briefed them on FFA’s work and opportunities for further collaboration. 

Executive officers of the RSIPF, FFA Director-General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen (6th from left), FFA Director Fisheries Operations, Allan Rahari (7th from left), and FFA RFSC staff inside the surveillance centre. Photo: RSIPF Media Unit.
Executive officers of the RSIPF, FFA Director-General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen (6th from left), FFA Director Fisheries Operations, Allan Rahari (7th from left), and FFA RFSC staff inside the surveillance centre. Photo: RSIPF Media Unit.

With the cooperative work with FFA in ensuring the sustainable management of tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), Dr Tupou-Roosen acknowledged the support from the RSIPF towards its surveillance operations – with the recent Operation Island Chief 2020 (OPIC20) being a fine example.

“We sincerely thank the leadership of RSIPF for their visit and the constructive discussions. We identified some key areas where we can enhance our collaboration, including in the area of combatting IUU fishing, and we look forward to implementing these,” the Director-General said.

The RSIPF officials also visited the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) to see first-hand what the FFA is actually doing in supporting member countries to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the strong linkage of this work to maritime security ,and the current COVID-19 support of vessel contact tracing.

At the surveillance centre, the FFA Director of Fisheries Operations, Allan Rahari, and FFA RFSC staff gave a brief overview of the roles and functions of the centre; the planning, conduct and coordination of regional fisheries surveillance operations, including the recent Operation Island Chief; and COVID-19 response, support and assistance to members. Mr Rahari also thanked the RSIPF for staff support during OPIC20 and hoping to see more local police officers engaged in future operations.

RSIPF Acting Deputy Commissioner National Security & Operation Support, Ian Vaevaso. Photo: FFA Media.
The RSIPF Acting Deputy Commissioner National Security & Operation Support, Ian Vaevaso. Photo: FFA Media.

For some of the RSIPF officials, this was their first ever visit to the FFA headquarters and the RFSC, and Acting Deputy Commissioner National Security & Operation Support Mr Ian Vaevaso said, “it is a privilege for us to see and hear first-hand information on the work that FFA does and the support the Centre provides to FFA members.”

Mr Vaevaso added that cooperation is what the RSIPF always long for, and that is the way forward.

“We look forward to working closely with FFA in terms of information and intelligence sharing especially on areas of Maritime security and fisheries enforcement,” he said.

ENDS//

FFA Director of Fisheries Operations Division, Mr Allan Rahari, giving a brief overview of the roles and functions of the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC). Photo: FFA Media.
FFA Director of Fisheries Operations Division, Mr Allan Rahari, giving a brief overview of the roles and functions of the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC). Photo: FFA Media.

Media inquiries

For more information and photos contact:
Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int
Desmond Rave, RSIPF Media, ph: +677 24016/23800 (ext. 239)/7988912, Desmond.Rave@rsipf.gov.sb or rsipf.media@rsipf.gov.sb

About 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. Find out more here www.ffa.int

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Pacific cooperation ensures fisheries continue despite COVID-19: media release

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Honiara, 4 September 2020 – Member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are actively working together to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 being transmitted through fisheries operations, allowing the industry to continue making a vital contribution to Pacific island economies.

Regional protocols have been developed through a strong partnership, led by the Australian Government’s Office of the Pacific, with the Office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Community, the Australian Government’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, and Marine Resources Assessment Group Asia Pacific, in close consultation with Members. 

Infographics will be displayed on vessels and at ports to explain hygiene practices and goods-handling protocols, to mitigate against the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

At their meeting in August, Fisheries Ministers from FFA member countries emphasised the importance of supporting the fisheries sector to continue, given COVID-19 has had a major negative impact on tourism and trade in the Pacific.

“It is crucial for fisheries to continue operating at this time, providing much needed income to support the economic recovery as well as to enhance contribution to the food security of our people,” said Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, FFA Director-General.

“It is very encouraging that several Members have been utilising these protocols to inform their national activities during our regional surveillance operation that concluded today. We acknowledge and sincerely thank our partners Australia, PNA, SPC, MRAG Asia-Pacific and especially our Members for their continued support and assistance in developing this valuable tool,” Dr Tupou-Roosen added.

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement also welcomed the new protocols. 

“This is critical to the continuation of a viable fishery and the safety of our island nations in this pandemic, remembering always that complacency kills,” said CEO Mr Ludwig Kumoru.

The protocols can be found on the FFA website: http://ffa.int/covid19.

ENDS//

Background

These protocols are designed as an overarching guide to health and safety, and as minimum operating standards relevant to fishing sector operations in the Pacific. These protocols may be used by Members of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency, and/or flag and coastal States that operate in the region, to guide the development of national orders related to the fisheries sector under State of Emergency legislation and policies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For more information please contact covidprotocols@ffa.int.

For more information contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

About 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. Find out more here www.ffa.int.

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Coordination and commitment during regional fisheries surveillance operation: media release

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Honiara, 3 September 2020 – A fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance operation in the Pacific concludes this week, with excellent cooperation demonstrated between nations despite the challenges of COVID-19 continuing to affect surveillance in the region. 

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) led Operation Island Chief, which took place from 24 August to 4 September, conducting surveillance over the EEZs of all FFA Members. This year the operation included Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, after their Operation Tui Moana was postponed in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Especially during these challenging times with the focus of the world on the pandemic, we welcome and sincerely thank our Members and partners for their commitment and cooperation demonstrated across the region to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in our waters,” says FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen. 

“The strong collaboration between the FFA, our embers, and national security partners has achieved positive surveillance results during this operation.”

Cook Island Pacific Patrol Boat Te Kukupa at Alofi Wharf, Niue, during 2020 surveillance Operation Island Chief. Photo: Niue NHQ.
Cook Island Pacific Patrol Boat Te Kukupa was unable to remain alongside at Alofi Wharf, Niue, due to heavy swell. It proceeded to conduct surveillance in the Niue EEZ during OPIC20. Photo: Niue NHQ.

FFA Director of Fisheries Operations, Mr Allan Rahari, added, “We are particularly delighted to see the way Cook Islands worked with Niue to conduct cooperative surveillance of both EEZs under the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA). The NTSA provides the legal framework for exchange of fisheries data and information, as well as procedures for cooperation in monitoring, prosecuting and penalising operators of IUU fishing vessels. This is the first time that the Niue Treaty Information System (NTIS) has been used to record these arrangements during a surveillance operation.”

The Pacific QUAD partners, Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States, provided support through aerial surveillance alongside the FFA Aerial Surveillance Programme aircraft, further enhancing the maritime surveillance coverage during the operation. 

The FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) team, supported by three officers from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), had an increased focus on intelligence gathering and analysis, providing targeted information before and during the operation in order to support surveillance activities by Member countries. 

Fisheries, Maritime and Ports Authority officers monitor a fishing vessel unloading under COVID-19 protocols in Apia Port, Samoa. Photo: Samoa NHQ.
Fisheries, Maritime and Ports Authority officers monitor a fishing vessel unloading under COVID-19 protocols in Apia Port, Samoa. Photo: Samoa NHQ.

Over 180 vessels were sighted or boarded during Operation Island Chief.

“There were several occasions where the RFSC coordinated with nations to divert assets to conduct specific intelligence led surveillance,” said Mr Rahari. “There are a couple of fisheries investigations underway from patrol efforts during Operation Island Chief but so far no IUU activity has been identified, which shows that our regulatory and surveillance efforts are working.” 

Despite the threat of COVID-19, FFA Members and QUAD partners demonstrated their ongoing commitment to fisheries surveillance across the region. 

“The crews persevered to interrogate vessels, and in some cases to conduct boardings, in some exceedingly uncomfortable weather conditions,” said Mr Rahari. 

Dockside boardings, as well as boardings at sea, were conducted under national authority, and followed protocols to ensure crew were not exposed to unnecessary risks. 

ENDS//

The PMSP/FFA Aerial Surveillance Program (ASP) aircraft at the Honiara International terminal. Photo: FFA.
The PMSP/FFA Aerial Surveillance Program (ASP) aircraft at the Honiara international terminal. Photo: FFA.

For more information, contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media,
ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

About 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. Find out more here www.ffa.int.

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Pacific talks ocean, climate change action with United Kingdom: media release

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A joint media release of UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific islands Forum, the Pacific Community, and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme

Suva, 2 September 2020 – Climate action and oceans realities for the Pacific have been the focus of a just-ended virtual tour of the region by the United Kingdom’s Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Lord Zak Goldsmith.

Yesterday, Lord Goldsmith held a virtual regional roundtable discussion with the four largest regional organisations serving the Pacific: the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). 

The two-hour dialogue late Monday Fiji time followed a week-long virtual dialogue ‘tour’ of the Pacific for Lord Goldsmith, who met with the governments of Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. He said the UK will put nature at the heart of the climate change discussion.

“For COP26 to be successful, it needs to be truly inclusive. The UK wants to ensure Large Ocean States have a platform, and the opportunity to shape the agenda. We want to make sure COP26 delivers important change, to finalise the Paris Agreement, to ramp up ambition and put that into action to limit global temperature rises,” Lord Goldsmith said. [COP26 is the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties 26th meeting, to be held in Glasgow in 2021.]

Welcoming the opportunity for heads of Pacific regional organisations working on climate change and the ocean to meet with the UK Pacific Minister, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said the dialogue “was a valuable opportunity to reaffirm the Pacific region’s commitment to strong and ambitious climate action, as set out in the Kainaki II Declaration”. 

“Of particular importance to the Blue Pacific Continent is the ocean–climate nexus. The ocean is central to everything we represent as a region. And a defining issue is the securing of our maritime boundaries in the face of sea level rise. The UK’s COP26 presidency is a strategic opportunity for the Pacific and its people, and I am encouraged by Lord Goldsmith’s commitment to amplify Pacific issues and leadership at COP26, to ensure Paris Agreement commitments are upheld,” she said.

Building on the high-level Blue Pacific context, SPREP Director General Kosi Latu extended the focus on climate priorities, including building regional resilience, and climate financing, as well as ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement, in line with the December 2020 date. 

“The urgent need for climate action is heightened as COVID-19 increases our vulnerability. Momentum must continue — for us as a Pacific people, living on the frontlines of climate change, this is about our survival,” said Mr Kosi Latu. 

“We are encouraged by the inclusive approach of the UK, as the COP26 Presidency, it allows our collective Pacific voice to be brought to the fore.” 

The issues of maritime boundaries and sea-level rise, as Pacific priorities for the 2nd UN Ocean Conference and the UN Decade for Ocean Science, were facilitated by SPC Director General Dr Stuart Minchin. 

“We all recognize that sea-level rise will have an impact on a wide range of issues in the Pacific, including on the shorelines from which our maritime boundaries are defined” said SPC’s Director-General. 

“Working together on capturing, analysing and sharing reliable data on this issue will be essential in ensuring that our region is able to effectively manage and respond to the changing ocean environment.”

Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, raised oceanic fisheries priorities and issues that are of critical importance for Pacific nations from both an economic and a sustainability perspective. Dr Tupou-Roosen said, “It’s important that Pacific nations, as custodians of the resources within our sovereign maritime domain, build strong relationships with global allies and champions.” 

“Wherever we have the opportunity”, she said, “hard-won gains in regional fisheries cooperation on key areas including rights-based management, and monitoring, control and surveillance efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, must be leveraged to create enduring social and economic benefits for our people, especially as we look to manage climate-change impacts on our shared fisheries resources and the flow on effects on fisheries revenues of small island developing states and territories in the region.

“I was delighted to attend a virtual roundtable with regional organisations in the Pacific. We had a wide-ranging and productive discussion on how to tackle climate change and protect our ocean. There can be no more important region to be engaging with on the climate–ocean nexus than the Pacific.”

Thanking the roundtable group for the exchange of views, Lord Goldsmith noted the “fantastic ambition and leadership on climate change” at every stage of his virtual Pacific tour.

“That ambition and leadership, combined with being on the front line of climate change, and tackling its impacts, gives the Pacific a strong moral authority, which is encouraging other countries to raise ambition on climate change. We can’t solve climate change without restoring and protecting nature on a massive scale through cooperation.”

 ENDS//

logos of UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency; Pacific islands Forum; Pacific Community; and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme

 Media contacts

UK–Pacific Media, vosita.kotoiwasawasa@fcdo.gov.uk

PIF Media LisaW@forumsec.org

SPC Media, PeterF@spc.int

SPREP Media, NanetteW@sprep.org

FFA Media, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int