Pacific nations warned of threat to sovereignty from Distant Water Fishing Nations

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HONOLULU, 13 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—- Papua New Guinea’s Fisheries Industry Association has warned delegates at the Tuna Commission to ensure their national interests are protected from the threat posed by Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) wanting to extend the jurisdiction of fishing rules.

Chairman Sylvester Pokajam said members of the Western and Central Fisheries Commission must fight for their rights.

“The biggest threat that I keep telling the members of the PNA and the FFA they (DWFNs) have now encroached into managing our exclusive economic zones and they try to also exercise the mandate of the commission into our internal archipelago waters.

“And we said no, that is non-negotiable and it’s going to remain non-negotiable because that’s our territory, so our members should not lose sight of that.

Pokajam said the WCPFC was formed to manage the high seas but external fisheries interests had encroached into management of the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of some Pacific nations.

“That’s why they should remain alert to make sure that we remain dominant because the moment they have more numbers in the commission, they may exercise their right to vote we would lose our rights and I don’t think we’d allow that.

At the moment Pacific Island nations make up a slim majority of members of the WCPFC but with other countries interested in joining that advantage could be eroded. While decisions within the WCPFC are usually taken by consensus a vote can be called as a last resort

Pokajam said it is important Pacific nations audit co-operating non-members carefully, to ensure that they are in compliance with commission regulations.

“I don’t think we should allow many (to join),” he said

Pokajam explained that members must ensure the interests of coastal states are protected.

“So (the) main objective of the coastal states – mostly the FFA members – is that we make sure that our interest is protected at all times, at all costs and at the same time the way we are seeing now is that DWFN are trying to take the power away from us,” Pokajam said.

“They (have tried) as much as possible since day one to take that power away from the coastal states but for FFA member countries we will fight for it and I think we have been very successful to date. “

Pokajam said the Pacific always remains united and nations had made some sacrifices for the sake of solidarity.

“We have been able to force our message through the purse seine industry, through the FFA and come up with our own measures through the three implementing arrangements to 100 percent observer coverage, High Seas closure – these are measures we put in place,” he said.

The VDS scheme- in which licensees pay a daily fee to operate in fishing zones – is the single most successful resource management model using rights-based control over fisheries resources.

“We have implemented the VDS. Purse seine, effect control, used to be by number of boats, that’s not the case since 2004. Effort has now shifted to days. What we are saying is you can have so many number of boats but you are limited to days,” Pokajam told journalists in Honolulu.

“And to our surprise a decade ago the value of the fisheries was about US$60 million now its more than US$400million. That’s the case because we exercise our rights and our sovereignty over the EEZ.

“The biggest threat that I can see is that they take away our rights to manage and to do whatever we want to do in our own National laws and at the same time through sub-regional and regional arrangements like the FFA, PNA and the Pacific Forum leaders.”

On Bigeye tuna, Pokajam said the Pacific must oppose US efforts to increase catch limits, saying the proposal did nothing to improve sustainable fishing.

Distant-water nations in Europe, China, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan have traditionally been reluctant to curb their tuna catches.

“It’s just because they see the green in all our fishery at the moment, Big Eye, Yellowfin, Skipjack, Pacific Albacore are all now in green,”Pokajam said.

“Our stock assessment is telling us that all our stocks are in green, safe zone. Just because we attain that good management and they try to come in to ride on it and I don’t I think we should agree with that.

“I think FFA member countries should reject that. I’m not part of the group that discuss this – I think I’ll leave it to them but I think we should not support that,” he said… PACNEWS

Fiji steps up pressure for adopting target reference point for South Pacific albacore

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HONOLULU, 14 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—-Fiji is the latest country to push the  Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to adopt a target reference point for South Pacific Albacore before the meeting wraps up this week.

The 17 members of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are advocating strongly for strengthened Conservation and Management Measures (CMM’s) and also pushing to advance several priority issues including the Tropical Tuna Measure and adoption of a Target Reference Point (TRP) for the South Pacific Albacore tuna stock.

For the past three years this matter has been deferred under pressure from Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) interests in the southern longline fishery.

Fiji’s delegate Meli Raicebe reminded the Commission that WCPFC has on its books a binding decision to adopt a target reference point for South Pacific Albacore this year.

 “Every year we give a lengthy explanation of our TRP proposal, trying to anticipate and answer all the questions that we know will be asked. And for every question we answer, a new question is raised. Usually a question that we answered the previous year.

“This year we would like to ask a question of other CCMs (member nations). The question is: what do you expect will be the likely result of taking no effective management action and the impact this will have on South Pacific small island developing states? I think you already know the answer and we are simply not prepared to see this happen. I don’t need to go into detail on the FFA proposal – it has been in front of the Commission for three years now,” Raicebe stressed.

He said FFA members are determined that WCPFC needs to follow through on this to help bring the fishery back into economic health.

“Enough to say that is based on the best scientific advice and seeks to start this Commission on the path towards effectively managing this stock in a way that will provide economic benefits to all participants in this fishery.

We thank those CCMs that have already engaged with us on our proposal and we look forward to the cooperation of all WCPFC members to ensure it is passed this year,” Raicebe emphasised.

Fiji is the latest country in the region to seek concrete action taken for the adoption of the Target Reference Point.

FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou Roosen said they are keen to see progress on rules governing the albacore tuna fishery.

“So, it is critical that as a start,as a first step that we adopt this target reference point. And it is just a first step on a long journey that we will have with our partners, our fishing partners, to develop a harvest strategy around that fishery.

“With the albacore fishery, what we are looking for with the adoption of that Target reference point, is to get to a point where we can be economically viable, despite the high operating costs or the low fish prices.  But even in those low troughs, or low peaks that we are able still able to make a profit. And we see as a critical starting point, the adoption of a target reference point, which is why it is a high priority going into this meeting,” Dr Tupou Roosen said…..PACNEWS

Small Pacific nations speak out at Tuna Commission

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HONOLULU, 12 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)— The tiny Pacific nation of Niue has called on members of the Tuna Commission (WCPFC) to ensure fisheries resources caught in the region are sustainable. 

Fisheries Minister Dalton Tagelagi, said members had a responsibility and duty to cooperate to ensure the tuna fisheries were managed sustainably.

“We owe it to the future generations that the legacy we leave behind for them should be one that that will be proud of,” Tagelagi said.

“I would like to reaffirm Niue’s commitment to effectively participate and contribute to the work of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. We believe that we can all share and successfully manage this vital fishery if we honestly negotiate in good faith and transparently our High Seas fisheries among us.

“We have already implemented conservative limits on our own fisheries and now look forward to cooperating with our regional partners to strengthen all management of the high seas and provide for future generations.”

Tagelagi told delegates that while Niue might be the smallest member of the WCPFC, they were well aware of their responsibilities to ensure that the Fisheries resources in the Western Central Pacific Fisheries region remained sustainable.

He said the agenda set for this week was comprehensive and members would have their own expectations and desired outcomes.

 “For Niue we look forward to decisions on at least three key issues. One is Target Reference Points for the South Pacific Albacore. The second is effective participation of Small Island developing States at this meeting and the third is a way forward concerning the process to establish high seas allocations for purse seine by the WCPFC16 in 2019 and the long line fishery in 2020,” Tegelagi  said.

Meanwhile, Northern Marianas Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres called on the WCPFC for financial assistance to develop their fisheries

“We have fisheries resources in our waters but lack access to capital needed to institute large scale fisheries operations. In this regard CNMI Is interested in how the commission can insist some members and territories to obtain increased benefits and capacity derived from tuna fisheries in the region,” said Torres.

Early this year the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands hosted the 23rd Micronesian Islands Forum where  heads of states adopted two resolutions related to fisheries.

“The MIF leaders committed to combating illegal unregulated and unreported fishing in Micronesia and recognise the need for funding and capacity-building assistance from national and intergovernmental partners and non- governmental organizations. We also committed to monitoring fisheries resources in the context of shifting distribution of tuna stocks and other climate change impact on food security,” Torres said.

 “I look forward to working cooperatively with commission Members, Cooperating non-members, participating territories and other delegates during this week’s session and onward for sustainable fisheries development programme,” said Torres……PACNEWS

France calls for strong collaboration to combat IUU

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HONOLULU, 12 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—-France has called on Pacific and Atlantic tuna organisations to join forces in the fight against Illegal Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.  

Matthieu Le Quenven from French Maritime Affairs said France strongly supported the harmonisation of management and controls between the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) that manages the world’s largest tuna fishery to work with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC ).

“In particular we intend to maintain a high standard of control at sea and dock-side monitoring,” LeQuenven said.

“We also call for harmonisation of the High Seas boarding inspection between WCPFC and IATTC to make something more effective and fair to fight against IUU fishing operation in an area under permanent fishing pressure,” he said.

However, Le Quenven said France was concerned about the management of the Eastern High Seas Pocket, the ambiguities about its geographical configuration and the lack of joint data available to neighbouring territories.

 “I think the time has come to act for better monitoring of fishing activity in this zone,” Le Quenven said

“A direct transmission of VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) to the Cook Islands, Kiribati and French Polynesia and to the WCPFC will seem to be an excellent way to allow good level of monitoring in this area to which we pay great attention and is charged with ensuring that the species under its jurisdiction, including commercially valuable tropical tunas, are sustainably managed.”

He told the 15th Regular Session of the WCPFC that France had drafted a letter regarding the overlap area to the WCPFC and the IATTC to indicate that it would  favour WCPFC regulations during the next three years.

“This choice will be motivated by a strong concern for clarification of the strong conservation and management regime applicable to French Polynesia’s vessels in the waters of the Shared Management Zone,” Le Quenven said.

“This legal clarification is not intended to call into question France’s participation in the IATTC nor with respect to our commitments to this regional fisheries management organisation.”

 He said Fish Aggregating Device management was also a matter of concern.

“Even if new technical measures limit the impact, FADs are not subject of a significant reduction proposal this year despite the fact that data at our disposal seems to show that the break-even point will be around 120 buoys for the biggest fishing vessel,” LeQuenven said.

He also raised concerns on Blue Boats entering French territory and fishing illegally in the New Caledonia waters.

” The continuity of new boatsl ast year in New Caledonia we regret to see again too many incursions in our EEZ in violation of our laws – no VMS, no declaration of entrance or exit in our ports, fishing gear or any suspicious objects alongside fishing vessels without authorization,” Le Quenven said

Blue boats are typically highly economical wooden vessels operating out of Vietnam and Indonesia involved in poaching activities targeting beche de mer, clams, abalone and some coastal fish.

Most of these situations could be easily resolved by a single VHF contact in accordance with IMO Resolution A703″, he said…. PACNEWS

Regionalism critical for strengthening fisheries solidarity in Pacific

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HONOLULU, 11 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)-— With claims and counter claims by global powers that the Pacific is their strategic‘ sphere’ of influence, sub regionalism has been touted as the best way of cooperation to address complex fisheries issues for members of WPFC.

Tuna has shaped regional politics and influenced the relationship between Pacific Islands States and major trading partners including China, Japan, United States, Taiwan and South Korea and the European Union.

Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) chairperson and Cook Islands secretary for foreign affairs Tepaeru Herrmaan, says Pacific nations are seeing fisheries increasingly being elevated within both regional framework priority setting and also within a dynamic geopolitical space.

Last year Forum leaders in their communique elevated fisheries as a standing agenda item at their annual Meeting.

“Fisheries Ministers this year decided that, in addition to the Forum Fisheries committee meeting, they would create a regional fisheries ministers meeting, which would better allow them to also take into consideration coastal fisheries, or inshore Fisheries, so that committee will now convene. And that decision was supported by leaders,” Tepaeru Herrmann said.

“I think one of the things we are increasingly becoming cognisant of in our region …and increasingly those from beyond our region, is how central Fisheries is to our development agenda, not just from an economic perspective but from a conservation and international partnerships perspective. And it is offering leverage if you will, in some of our broader relationships.

“We are increasingly realising the importance …of our regional collaboration cooperation, as a means of strengthening our leverage in the fisheries conversations. So from a simple bureaucratic public servant perspective, it is certainly a very exciting time to be in the region. But I think really emphasises how much more important our regional solidarity is,” Herrmaan stressed.

She said one of the things that has been a pleasure to observe in the last couple of months is the growing collaboration between our FFA Secretariat and the office of the PNA.

“I think this is an evolution which is happening beyond fisheries space in our region (too). It is the recognition, in my personal view, that sub-regionalism has a critical role to play in strengthening regional solidarity and fisheries is perhaps one of those areas where that really comes to the fore

“A strong PNA office makes for a strong FFA collaboration, and certainly ultimately delivers better for members of the region.

Herman was asked to reflect on her recent 12-month which has seen her play a more intensive role in fisheries diplomacy.

“I think what it has particularly emphasised for me is how important national cohesion and awareness is in terms of fisheries issues, in terms of the often delicate task government must play in terms of balancing between your very valid economic development objectives as well as your obligations for conservation management at the national level and then of course, translating that into that kind of balancing in the regional space where you’ve got, in the FFA space  a number of members trying to maintain regional solidarity within those competing national priorities, which is a very difficult balancing act.

“One of the things that has certainly helped me in this very important role Is just the capability and the expertise that is within our regional Organizations both FFA and PNA but also a number of CROP agencies and I can say with a little bit of exposure we have in our Foreign Affairs service, on the global stage there is just so much we can share with the rest of the world about how we can effectively manage fisheries not just in this region, but globally.

Herrmaan said Cook Islands is very proud of its nationals who are now in senior positions in regional organisations with expertise in fisheries and that there is inspiration to be had in what those in regional fisheries have worked very hard over many, many years to ensure for the people we serve.

“I think one of the strengths of our region is this ability to bring through into a regional organisation, nationals from our countries to share not just the national context and the national perspectives but to develop and cultivate regional priorities and ownership and values, if you will, of what is the strength of this region and then to take that back (home).

WWF Bubba Cook said there are a lot of countries that depend heavily on fisheries either as distant water fishing fleets or as countries that are dependent on the tuna resource as a food source and thatgeopolitics will inevitably enter the picture.

“I think that we saw at the recent APEC meetings in Papua New Guinea that in addition to the global trade disputes  that are currently underway,  there are these regional politics that are playing out very prominently  as represented in vice president Pence’s statement at APEC where he made very clear the US’s continued interest in the Pacific region, which or may not be in conflict with the goals and ambitions of particularly China and some other Asian States in the region.

“So I think that that is unquestionably going to play in to the overall approach at meetings like this one, and other meetings related to resources in the region and I think that everyone needs to be cognisant of those additional factors, those political underpinnings that exist in the background that we have to take into account when these decisions are made. I mean, there may be things that may be said across the floor, not necessarily in concert with their particular beliefs behind closed doors and it’s, this whole process is a big chess game. It’s all about moving pieces on the board just a little at a time,” said Cook……PACNEWS

Pacific wins praise for solidarity ahead of WCPFC meeting

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HONOLULU,11 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)-—- Pacific nations attending this week’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) are on a mission to persuade members to set a target reference point for albacore tuna – the most important tuna for southerly Pacific countries – and to thwart any increase in catches of tropical tuna.

Pacific Ministers and inter-governmental bodies such at the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) have the backing of the WCPFC Chair in these aims and praise from environment groups for their new level of solidarity.

Outgoing WCPFC Chair Rhea Moss-Christian, said one of her priorities before leaving the post is to see through the agreement on Albacore tuna is adopted. Albacore is a temperate tuna important to countries such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

The adoption of a new Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure at last year’s WCPFC was designed to ensure skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks are maintained at recent average levels and capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.

“We are expecting heavy discussions on the tropical tuna this year,” Rhea Moss-Christian told Pacific reporters in Honolulu.

Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO Ludwig Kumoru says their priorities at WCPFC this week is to support Forum Fisheries Agency members on the issue.

“Our stance will support the FFA members …. we don’t have any stand-alone strong views. Our views are the same as FFA so we will just be supporting FFA members –another thing- one of those that we don’t want to change, which is also in the FFA position, is for the tropical tuna measure as long as we don’t dilute it. Our bottom line is we stick to the same that we had agreed to. We are not going to see any change on the tropical tuna measures,” said Kumoru.

Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General Dr Tupou-Roosen said they will take precautionary approach in their work on the measure “so that is our position for the tropical tuna measure”.

“Our position is to not weaken the tropical tuna measure, we would like to maintain the strength of that measure,” Dr Tupou-Roosen explained.

The United States has put in a proposal to increase its bigeye tuna catch limit for its Hawaii-based longline fleet, based on a new system of rewards for the much higher level of scrutiny that fleet maintains from independent fisheries observers.

Dave Gershman from PEW Trust said his organisation is optimistic members of the WCPFC and Distant Water Fishing nations (DWFNs) will come into an agreement on the Tuna measures.

 “Well I think we have to continue to have discussions. Continue to have frank and honest discussions.

“I think there’s an opportunity now with bigeye not being overfished, not experiencing overfishing, there’s an opportunity to really take a step back and think about what the Commission and its members want out of the big-eye fishery and what are the measures that are going to be most appropriate at achieving those goals.

WWF’s Bubba Cook heaped praise on the FFA and PNA for their co-operation and their commitment to advancing the region’s interest in the WCPFC talks.

“I find very encouraging going into this meeting is what appears to be the increased solidarity between the FFA and the PNA, this week showing the common interest among the two groups bodes well for decision making.

“When you have both of those organisations and the combined power that they bring to the table with the unified voice, that can have a huge impact on how decisions are made at this process and so i think what appears to be an increased level of cooperation between the two organisations is a welcome signal in the WCPFC process,” said Cook

The WCPFC meeting begins today and will end on Friday……. PACNEWS.

FFA supports proposals by WCPFC to establish scientific dialogue Forum

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HONOLULU, 11 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—- The region’s Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) has expressed support to the proposals put forward by Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to establish new Science-Management dialogue.

The idea behind the Comission’s Science-Management dialogue would allow delegates at the meeting to be better briefed on the science behind fisheries.

“We are fully supportive of the proposal to establish a scientific dialogue. We see that is the appropriate mechanism where the discussions on the development of harvest strategies can take place. Right now, we don’t have a clear space for those discussions.

“We also see it as an opportunity where our scientists can explain in layman’s terms to our managers what the science means so they can make informed management decisions. All of that to take place before we come to Commission meeting and we don’t get bogged down with the details of that at an already full commission meeting but come with some clear recommendations based on the science based on the fisheries managers having their lens on this work and bring it to Commission so that our work in that one week can be more efficient and beneficial,” said newly appointed FFA director General Dr Tupou-Roosen.

She said they have one strategy and that is to cooperate with Parties to the Nauru Agreement. (PNA).

“It is the only way we can be successful as a region and we are so pleased with the close working relationship with the PNA office in particular with the CEO Ludwig Kumoru who has been very open to working more collaboratively with FFA so we are excited about that. He mentioned earlier in the week about best practice governance and we are heartened that we share the same goal with Ludwig.

Dr Tupou-Roosen said as the new DG this will be one of her priorities to ensure that the FFA utilises best practice governance.

“One of the key aspects in this work is the participation of Small Island Developing States members and by that we mean additional funds so that they can be in the room, so that they can participate and be part of the decision-making processes for this commission.

One of the proposals from our membership is to have additional participant come not just to the commission meeting but also to the key subsidiary body meetings ahead if this commission – the scientific committee and the technical and compliance meetings. Associated with that is a proposal on hosting in SIDS territories, in SIDS countries.

The new Forum Fisheries Agency Director General believes hosting WCPFC is another fundamental aspect of effective participation.

“As we all know, when these meetings come to our homes it reaches a wider breadth of our people, they gain a better understanding of this Commission and its work and its importance to the region and it’s situated in this region in this region, in our region, and so we have the ability there to put into context the decisions we take as a Commission and why it is so important that we maximise economic returns from this fishery and why it is so important that when we maximise those economic returns we will naturally produce social yields social returns for us. Food security employment, alleviating poverty, prioritising health and education, adaptation to climate change all of those. That is why it is so critical for us to take this role responsibly this coming week,” a confident looking Dr Tupou-Roosen said. ……PACNEWS

PNA members add political weight to Pacific push to keep EEZ rights if they lose land to sea level rise

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HONOLULU,10 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—- The eight nations that are Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are to investigate ways to claim their current 200-mile exclusive economic zones before they lose land to climate change-induced sea level rise.

‘This is one of the most important things the PNA is going to start looking at,” PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru told journalists in Honolulu ahead of the 15thWestern and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), happening in Honolulu this week.

“We want to make sure that even if their land disappears that they (PNA member nations) don’t lose their EEZ,” he said.

Earlier this year Tuvalu Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, spoke about the need for his country’s borders to be defined by GPS positions rather than physical landmarks to allow for ownership of fisheries in the event the islands being lost due to rising sea levels.

PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru told journalists that ocean ownership after islands disappear due to climate change is one of the emerging issues which needs Pacific regional solidarity and cannot be addressed alone by member countries.

 “There are a lot of things we as PNA a cannot address alone,” Kumoru said.

“We have to work together – FFA, SPC, even with the Pacific Islands Forum because one of the things which is in there is what’s going to happen if sea levels rise and countries lose land. So, for PNA, although (climate change issues) is not directly a PNA issue …. and these are the threats. So we want to make sure that even if their land disappears that they don’t lose their EEZ.

“Where ever are our people going to migrate to, they must have a source where they are going to make money.  So that is one of the things that’s is going to betaken out in the Strategic plan, “How are we going to address it. Who are we going to work with?”

 “You know there are issues like Tuvalu Islands are sinking, you know sea level rise, so islands won’t be there anymore so we want to make sure that the boundaries are protected today so in years to come even if people migrate somewhere else that is still their EEZ, they still have licenses and support their people where ever they are going to be,” Kumoru told journalists.

The Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) is one of a consortium of Pacific inter-governmental organisations working on ‘The Pacific Maritime Boundaries Project’ to establish maritime zones under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

Law of the Sea expert and FFA Director General Manu Tupou-Roosen, reminded journalists that Pacific leaders have declared climate change the biggest threat to the region.

Dr Tupou-Roosen said the Law of the Sea does not give a clear position on EEZ claims of Pacific states in the case of sea level rise.

This makes the work of The Maritime Boundaries Project all the more urgent and important she said.

Kumoru said the initiative by the PNA would greatly benefit PNA members and Pacific nations vulnerable to the impacts of climate change

“That is what I’m saying as long as the EEZ boundary that we have now, is locked in, you don’t lose it just because your sea level, just because your Island in sinking doesn’t mean your EEZ shrinks. No, you keep it the way it is so it doesn’t shrink. Wherever they go in the next 50 years, or the next 100 years, that is their source of money you know, they can go settle around the world somewhere,” he said.

 I said, it doesn’t directly relate to fisheries but they are members of the PNA under this new strategic plan those issues we are going to be taking up.”

Kumoru said the PNA would remain abreast of these emerging issues.

“We will play it by ear and see what comes up It comes up we will just have to reorganise that and see how we will address that emerging issue,” said Kumoru.

Other Pacific islands which are threatened by rising sea levels and might benefit from recognition of GPS-defined borders are Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia……. PACNEWS

Pacific steps up its fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing with call to powerful fishing nations

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HONOLULU, 10 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—–The two largest fisheries organisations in the Pacific have joined forces to ramp up work to mitigate Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the region, ahead of this week’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) annual meeting.

A report on the impact of IUU fishing prepared for the FFA in 2016 estimated the value of catch associated with illegal fishing at over US$600 million annually, with the direct economic loss to members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) of around US$150million

 The FFA and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are calling for the support of Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs), to eliminate IUU fishing.

“We want them on board and to understand this is a collective effort of the FFA and PNA to implement a best practice strategy to effectively track and hold offenders accountable,” said Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the FFA.

 “FFA and PNA monitoring, control and surveillance strategy is to develop and deploy game-changing applications in support of IUU mitigation,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

 PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said the organisations are leading the charge against IUU.

“We have implemented a management system for the purse seiners through the vessel day scheme (VDS) that has greatly reduced opportunities for IUU activity in this fishery,” said Kumoru.

“Our requirement of 100 percent fisheries observer coverage on purse seiners and other measures is a big deterrent to illegal fishing.” Over 60 percent of the tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean comes from the eight nation members of PNA.

Kumoru said IUU fishing continues to be a front-burner issue for Pacific Islands.

“Eliminating IUU fishing is a core part of our fisheries management work and we look forward to support and participation from our partner nations and the fishing industry in this effort,” said Kumoru. “Working together to eliminate IUU will enhance sustainable and economically viable fisheries for the benefit of everyone,” he said.

Dr Tupou-Roosen stressed the economic impact of IUU fishing.

 “The value of the Pacific fishery to individual Pacific Islanders and the economies of our 17 island members is enormous,” she said. “This is motivating new initiatives in support of existing monitoring, control and surveillance programmes to eliminate IUU fishing.”

At the WCPFC meeting this week, the 17 FFA member countries, eight of whom are also members of the PNA, will be advocating strongly for the Commission to adopt an “IUU List” for 2019 to include three vessels that have previously been identified for IUU fishing in the region.

FFA members have called on all Commission members “to actively work together to locate these vessels so that their illegal activities can be stopped,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

The FFA is moving to crack down on the people behind IUU fishing through its “Persons of Interest Strategy”.

“The Persons of Interest Project will collect, analyse and share personal information on the people behind rogue vessels, such as the owners, the captains, and the fish masters in order to provide greater information to FFA member authorities that issue licenses and target monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) effort,” Dr Tupou-Roosensaid.

Through FFA and PNA regional MCS efforts,national-level activity, and coordination with Australia, New Zealand, the United States and France, the region now has a layered and expanding network focused on identifying and preventing IUU fishing.

FFA operates the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center based in the Solomon Islands, a unique monitoring and enforcement facility that coordinates MCS work through the 17-member network,including through deployment of two year-round dedicated surveillance aircraft.

Under PNA’s Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS), there are now 240 purse seine vessels in the FFA region using daily electronic reporting of catch logsheets. This real time reporting allows for daily monitoring of catch across the region. Similarly,Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observers are increasingly using electronic reporting for daily upload of data forms. When combined with each vessel’s electronic Vessel Monitoring System reporting of vessel location, this daily reporting from vessels and observers means fisheries administrations are increasingly able to undertake a more focused effort on data analysis as cumbersome and time-consuming paper-based data entry is being phased out, said Dr. Tupou-Roosen. “This allows for much improved analysis of possible IUU anomalies,” she added.

FFA through its Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center coordinates four large MCS operations annually, which provide coordinated regional surveillance. This integrates aerial and patrol ship support from the four FFA partners Australia, New Zealand, the United States and France, police and fisheries MCS personnel from all FFA member countries, a dedicated analytical hub and national patrol boat operations. These regional multilateral MCS operations resulted in the boarding of 743 fishing vessels from 2015-2018, resulting in 67 infringement actions issued by ship boarding personnel and 16 infringements issued by shore authorities, a joint statement from PNA and FFA said …..PACNEWS

‘Tuna diplomacy’ is one of the game-changers for the Pacific.

Categories @WCPFC15, FeaturesPosted on

Tuna has shaped regional politics and influenced the relationship between Pacific Islands States and major trading partners including China, Japan, United States and Taiwan and South Korea.

Each year the Pacific comes together with these powerful fishing nations to set the fishing rules for more than half the world’s tuna, as well as other ocean-going species at risk of being caught by accident by the fishing industry.

Diplomacy and solidarity among Pacific countries is key to Pacific success.

Ahead of this year’s meeting of the rule-setting body – the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), organisations representing Pacific nations are stressing their commitment to work together in solidarity.

With 60 per cent of the world’s main canning tuna – skipjack – caught in their waters as well as large quantities of fish for the fresh and frozen fish market, the Pacific is an important grouping.

However, decisions at WCPFC are made by consensus, so achieving results is often difficult.

The CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement which represents the 8 tropical tuna countries plus Tokelau, emphasised collaboration with the 17-nation Forum Fisheries Agency as they hold a series of meetings in Honolulu to prepare their negotiating strategies.

“The FFA Director General reminded us that we are doing this work for the benefit of our people,” PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said in a statement ahead of this year’s WCPFC which commences on Monday.

“We are the resource owners. This is why we work together to promote effective measures at the WCPFC for sustainable management of our fisheries resources,” he said.

Over the past decade, Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) comprising of eight countries (FSM, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, PNG, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu) developed a new model of cooperation, establishing a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) to limit purse seine fishing access to their waters.

The VDS scheme is the single most successful resource management model in the Pacific using rights- based control over fisheries resources.

Under the scheme, fishing fleets are required to purchase fishing days at a minimum of US$8,000 per day, provide 100 percent coverage of all purse seiners, provide in port transhipment of tuna and an annual three-month moratorium on the use of fish aggregating devices. This has improved conservation and management of tuna caught in PNA countries while increasing the revenue share for island member countries from US$60m in 2010 to an estimated US$400m last year.

Ocean management or what is now being promoted the Blue Pacific narrative–where Pacific countries are called to exercise stronger strategic autonomy over the Pacific Ocean and its resources.

In recent years, the Pacific has witnessed increased geostrategic competition in the region and the Pacific Ocean is at the centre of this stepped-up engagements from new and emerging global players.

At the Pacific Leaders’ Summit in Nauru this year, leaders reaffirmed the Blue Pacific as the basis of ‘asserting’ the region’s solidarity on the global stage and secure potential development assistance to drive collective ambition and aspiration for the Pacific region.

In the words of the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi; “The Blue Pacific platform offers all Pacific countries the capabilities to address a changing geostrategic landscape. The opportunity to realise the full benefits of the Blue Pacific rests in our ability to work and stand together as a political bloc. And the challenge for us is maintaining solidarity in the face of intense engagement of an ever-growing number of partners in our region. We should not let that divide us! ”.

Under the flagship of the Blue Pacific identity –Pacific nations are again building a collective voice and asserting their common values and concerns. The Blue Pacific is about shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean –and the recognition that Pacific Island Countries manages 20 percent of the world’s oceans in their Exclusive Economic zone (EEZs).

To make this happen –Pacific countries realise the need to secure their maritime borders. The settlement of maritime boundaries provides certainty of ownership of the Pacific Ocean space –as Pacific people taking control of their domain, which is critical to managing their ocean resources, biodiversity, ecosystems as well as fighting the impacts of climate change. Of the 47 shared boundaries in the Pacific, 35 Treaties have been concluded so far and few more countries are now finalising their border agreements.

The WCPF meets from 10– 15 December ….PACNEWS