24 October, Honiara – The 14 member states of the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMPII) gathered on Tuesday to plan for the final year of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) initiative. During the 7th Global Environment Facility (GEF) Steering Committee meeting, participants reflected on project’s achievements during the year and made plans for the future.
FFA representatives talked final targets for the OFMPII project before it wraps up in 2020. Next year, the project will focus on limits and allocations for tropical tuna on purse seine and longline vessels, longline electronic monitoring, and transhipment review.
Manager, Hugh Walton said one of the main concerns for the next phase of the
project was high seas management.
Fishing Nations (DWFNs), particularly China and Taiwan, want to retain that
right for the high seas transhipment.
“They have to
be able to prove economic disadvantage […] it’s not documented, and it’s not
tested, so it’s a huge loophole and we’re trying to close it.”
The Parties to
the Nauru Agreement Office CEO, Ludwig Kumoru, also emphasised that the project
could only move forward with long-term high seas allocations in place. Current
allocations ensure that available resources are equitably distributed between
fisheries who target the same species outside country Exclusive Economic Zones
Mere Lakeba, Director
of Fisheries, Fiji said that catering to countries’ individual needs was
important moving forward. Hugh Walton, OFMPII coordinator said that this would
be a priority.
the last proposal, the OMFP sent consultants to each country and produced a
template of situational analyses of what was going on in each country to identify
“There is no
one size fits all, and we would not aspire to a one size fits all approach,” Walton
Walton also spoke
of project successes including the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and
the resulting Strategic Action Programme (SAP) produced by Professor David
Vousden of Rhodes University.
The TDA and
SAP have shed light on the current challenges for the management of Pacific
EEZs, and presented Pacific countries with the steps that can be taken to
mitigate the issues.
The report put
root causes of current fisheries issues down to a lack of high seas compliance,
climate change impacts, and pollution from coastal and inland activities.
It also notes
a positive: migratory tuna stocks are currently at sustainable levels due to
the management and efforts of Pacific fisheries over the last 20 years.
All 14 member states have sent letters of
endorsement for the Project Implementation Form (PIF). The PIF was submitted to
the GEF on October 11, and outlines plans for continuing OFMPII activities. A
detailed proposal for the next phase of the project is planned for June 2020.
Tropical tuna are one of the few wild animals we still hunt in large numbers, but finding them in the vast Pacific ocean can be tremendously difficult. However, fishers have long known that tuna are attracted to, and will aggregate around, floating objects such as logs.
In the past, people used bamboo rafts to attract tuna, fishing them while they were gathered underneath. Today, the modern equivalent – called fish aggregating devices, or FADs – usually contain high-tech equipment that tell fishers where they are and how many fish have accumulated nearby.
It’s estimated that between 30,000 and 65,000 man-made FADs are deployed annually and drift through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean to be fished on by industrial fishers. Pacific island countries are reporting a growing number of FADs washing up on their beaches, damaging coral reefs and potentially altering the distribution of tuna.
Our research in two papers, one of which was published today in Scientific Reports, looks for the first time at where ocean currents take these FADs and where they wash up on coastlines in the Pacific.
Attracting fish and funds
We do not fully understand why some fish and other marine creatures aggregate around floating objects, but they are a source of attraction for many species. FADs are commonly made of a raft with 30-80m of old ropes or nets hanging below. Modern FADs are attached to high-tech buoys with solar-powered electronics.
The buoys record a FAD’s position as it drifts slowly across the Pacific, scanning the water below to measure tuna numbers with echo-sounders and transmitting this valuable information to fishing vessels by satellite.
Throughout their lifetimes FADs may be exchanged between vessels, recovered and redeployed, or fished and simply left to drift with their buoy to further aggregate tuna. Fishers may then abandon them and remotely deactivate the buoys’ satellite transmission when the FAD leaves the fishing area.
Fishing licence fees can provide up to 98% of government revenue for some Pacific Island countries and territories. These countries balance the need to sustainably manage and harvest one of the only renewable resources they have, while often having a limited capacity to fish at an industrial scale themselves.
FADs help stabilise catch rates and make fishing fleets more profitable, which in turn generate revenue for these nations.
The abandonment or loss of FADs adds to the growing mass of marine debris floating in the ocean, and they increasingly damage coral as they are dragged and get caught on reefs.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t know how the distribution of FADs affects fishing effort in the region. Given that each fleet and fishing company has their own strategy for using FADs, understanding how the total number of FADs drifting in one area increases the catch of tuna is crucial for sustainably managing these valuable species.
Where do FADs end up?
Our research, published in Environmental Research Communications and Scientific Reports, used a regional FAD tracking program and fishing data submitted by Pacific countries, in combination with numerical ocean models and simulations of virtual FADs, to work out how FADs travel on ocean currents during and after their use.
In general, FADs are first deployed by fishers in the eastern and central Pacific. They then drift west with the prevailing currents into the core industrial tropical tuna fishing zones along the equator.
We found equatorial countries such as Kiribati have a high number of FADs moving through their waters, with a significant amount washing up on their shores. Our research showed these high numbers are primarily due to the locations in which FADs are deployed by fishing companies.
In contrast, Tuvalu, which is situated on the edge of the equatorial current divergence zone, also sees a high density of FADs and beaching. But this appears to be an area that generally aggregates FADs regardless of where they are deployed.
Unsurprisingly, many FADs end up beaching in countries at the western edge of the core fishing grounds, having drifted from different areas of the Pacific as far away as Ecuador. This concentration in the west means reefs along the edge of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are particularly vulnerable, with currents apparently forcing FADs towards these coasts more than other countries in the region.
Overall, our studies estimate that between 1,500 and 2,200 FADs drifting through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean wash up on beaches each year. This is likely to be an underestimate, as the tracking devices on many FADs are remotely deactivated as they leave fishing zones.
Using computer simulations, we also found that a significant number of FADs are deployed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, left to drift so they have time to aggregate tuna, and subsequently fished on in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This complicates matters as the eastern Pacific is managed by an entirely different fishery Commission with its own set of fisheries management strategies and programmes.
Growing human populations and climate change are increasing pressure on small island nations. FAD fishing is very important to their economic and food security, allowing access to the wealth of the ocean’s abundance.
We need to safeguard these resources, with effective management around the number and location of FAD deployments, more research on their impact on tuna and bycatch populations, the use of biodegradable FADs, or effective recovery programs to remove old FADs from the ocean at the end of their slow journeys across the Pacific.
Tuna canning process.
Photo supplied by Palau’s MRNET.
of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism (MNRET) have attracted at least
20 participants in a tuna canning training to take place Sept. 22 to 27.
The training will be hosted by the Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR) and led by FoodStream
Earlier, MNRET has requested the Parties
to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to provide tuna canning training for small and
medium enterprises (SME) in Palau citing that as the nation gets ready for the
full implementation of a national marine sanctuary by January 1, 2020.
“As we are
preparing for full implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary
(PNMS), a central aspect of our focus is to build capacity and options for a
domestic pelagic fishery. This includes approaches to improve the business
feasibility of small-scale, locally-owned and operated vessels and businesses,”
MNRET Minister Umiich Sengebau said in a June letter to Maurice
BrownjohnCommercial Manager of PNA Office.
Palau is also looking into options to promote “Palau to the tourism market
through its conservation approach to sustainable pelagic fisheries, through
such initiatives as the Choose Pelagics Presidential directive.”
He said Palau is
also exploring the potential promotion of Palau’s FADs-free zone through
Pacifical, and “through unique, locally produced souvenir jars and cans, or
‘Fish With A Story’
He said micro canning will help improve
food security and provide employment and business opportunities for Palauans at
the same time, providing tuna canning training for small and medium
enterprises (SME) in Palau.
“The training is
aimed at individuals who intend to produce canned foods on the micro or small
commercial scale. Participants will learn how to preserve tuna and other
pelagic fish, as well as other seafood, meats, fruits, and vegetables,” MNRET
public announcement said last month.
The 5-day training
will be delivered through lectures, tutorials, group discussions, and practical
sessions. Topics covered include Introduction to Canning; Pre-cooking Tuna in
Commercial Operations; Retort Systems and Container Handling; Packaging Systems
for Processed Foods; Microbiology of Canned Foods; Principles of Thermal
Processing; Retort Operation & Production Records; Water Chlorination and
Canning Sanitation; and Regulations relevant to Thermal Processing.
successfully complete the whole week of training and pass all exams will be
issued a Retort Supervisor’s Certificate.
training is looking for participants who can commit to the full week and pass
written exams and a practical exam. The course requires high school-level Math
and English skills.
company FoodStream has conducted tuna processing training in Fiji and Papua New
Guinea, Marshall Islands Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia.
in the Pacific started four years ago, Brownjohn said. He said there are
volumes of “by-catch,” from tuna fishery although not suitable for large
commercial exports but can still be perfect to eat and can be canned locally.
He said jars could also be utilized to preserve food.
said the training provided by FoodStream is the same qualification as you were
trained in a reputable cannery in Thailand or somewhere else.
said in Palau, small scale canning is also a way to attract tourism.
tuna canning operation, “you are able to produce a shelf-stable product made
in Palau,” Brownjohn said.
is able to offer a jar, a fish, and a story behind it.”
THE 21st National Tuna Congress is happening on September 4-6, 2019 in General Santos City. The Theme for this year’s Congress: “The Tuna Industry: Embracing Technologies and Sustainable Strategies”. Why this Theme?
The choice of the Theme is anchored on sustainability supported by technologies. We all know that Sustainability of Tuna Resources is paramount to the fishing industry. It cannot be overemphasized that the sustainability of the ocean’s resources does not only rest on the shoulders of government. The same responsibility is likewise demanded of the private sector, especially the global players of the Tuna Industry, and the global fisheries advocates.
The Theme calls that sustainability can only be achieved if Conservation and Management Measures are dutifully observed, and international and regional agreements calling for preservation of species and recovery plans, are honoured.
Sustainability also means no overfishing. It means that we enable an environment for Tuna and Tuna-like species to spawn and propagate for another season of catch. The intention is not to deplete our resources.
On technology, the world is currently driven by technology. The fishing industry needs to keep up by continuously upgrading systems and processes to achieve full efficiency while being ocean-friendly.
For 2019, the SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII) welcomes its new President, Andrew Philip Yu. Outgoing President Joaquin T. Lu has served SFFAII for 8 years, starting in 2011. He also held the chairmanship of the National Tuna Congress for eight years.
President Lu’s accomplishments include: Active and dynamic Advocacy, Lobby Work, and Involvement in International and Regional Collaborations; Focused Partnership with National Government and Steadfast Observance and Compliance with Philippine Laws; and Implementation of the electronic Catch Documentation and Traceability System (eCDTS).
On the first, the country is a driven Member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Under his watch, the Philippines has been granted access to fish in the High Seas Pocket 1 (HSP1). This means that the country’s 36 fishing fleets can fish in the HSP1 of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This is a major breakthrough for the country. It may be recalled that for a time, the Philippines was no longer allowed to fish in Indonesia. The prohibition affected the Tuna Industry. The severity of the situation was felt in General Santos City, the home base of the Tuna Industry.
Under his leadership, the fishing industry was able to surmount the acute challenge. Of course, even as the Philippines is granted access to fish in the high seas, the country is duty bound to comply with international regulations, like the observance of conservation and management measures.
SFFAII also pushed for the Philippines’ inclusion in the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. The high seas of the Indian Ocean and the Exclusive Economic Zones of member-coastal states are potential fishing grounds for Philippine purse-seine fishing vessels. Fishing in other fishing grounds will enable our own fishing grounds to recover.
SFFAII also pushes the promotion of ASEAN Tuna globally and branding it as a suitable and traceable-produced product. SFFAII supports the move to properly label the fishing industry and its allied industries’ products. However, it likewise urges that international certification be made affordable, yielding benefits not only to stakeholders, but also on marine ecosystems.
On Focused Partnership with National Government and Steadfast Observance and Compliance with Philippine Laws. For 20 years, SFFAII has hosted 20 Tuna Congresses. The Tuna Congress is now on its 21st year. The yearly Congress has become a venue for intense lobby efforts from among the active players and loyal stakeholders of the industry. The issues and concerns afflicting the industry are highlighted in the yearly Tuna Congress.
The yields of the past Tuna Congresses include the Formulation of a Policy governing Illegal, Unlawful, and Unregulated fishing practices; Finalization, Production, and Issuance of the Philippine Fishing Vessels Safety Rules and Regulations; 2018 National Tuna Management Plan which is aimed at establishing a sustainably-managed and equitably-allocated Tuna fisheries by 2026 and promoting responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products; Creation of National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council that serves as an advisory/recommendatory body to the Department of Agriculture in policy formulation; Reconstitution of the National Tuna Industry Council; Approval of the Handline Fishing Law and the amendment of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the said law; among others.
On Implementation of the eCDTS. In 2017, a major milestone for the Tuna Industry unfolded when SFFAII partnered with USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership and BFAR to develop and implement the eCDTS. The system, when operational, will trace the movement of seafood from “bait to plate”, all the way through to export markets like US, EU, and neighbouring ASEAN markets. General Santos City has been chosen as the pilot city. Now on its final year, we will see how this system will actually impact the fishing industry.
Market wharves of Honiara, Solomon Islands. Photo: Francisco Blaha
Solomon Islands, Tuesday 6 August 2019 –the Honourable Chief
Justice of the Solomon Islands Sir Albert Palmer and the Director-General of
the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen yesterday
opened the first Pacific regional judicial symposium on the theme “Responsibility
The judicial symposium is attended by members of the
judiciary from the Pacific Islands region, a judge of the International
Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and international law experts, and will
discuss in particular the responsibility of States, the responsibility of
international organisations, and the responsibility of persons, in the
governance of fisheries.
The Honourable Chief Justice said: “Globally, this
area of international law is relatively new and gaining prominence and it is
essential that members of the judiciary are appraised. This Symposium provides
an opportunity for our region to be a pioneer in considering the attribution of
responsibility in fisheries to States, international organisations, and
FFA Director-General said: “Fisheries plays a central
role for Pacific Islands people – in our culture, food security and economic
development. It is for these fundamental reasons that our FFA Members take
their responsibility in fisheries very seriously and continue to set
world-leading standards. This judicial symposium is significant – it is an
expression of that commitment. It is also important that the symposium is held in
the very week of our 40th anniversary. Our ongoing work honours the
visionary decision of our Leaders to establish FFA.”
It is anticipated that the discussions will be robust
and delegates will gain an enhanced recognition and understanding of their role
in attributing responsibility under international law vis-à-vis the
responsibility of: States in their capacity as flag States, coastal States,
port and market States; international organisations including regional
fisheries management organisations and advisory agencies; and persons. The judicial symposium will be held from 5 –
8 August 2019 at the FFA Conference Centre in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries
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
sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional
decision making on tuna management. www.ffa.int
Judge Tomas Heidar of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea addresses the regional judicial symposium on IUU fishing and the international law of the sea
Honiara, Solomon Islands, Monday 5 August 2019 – Judge Tomas Heidar of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), who serves as President of its Chamber for Fisheries Disputes, today delivered a keynote address to the regional judicial symposium on the topic “IUU fishing and the ITLOS advisory opinion”.
This appears to be the first time a judge of ITLOS has participated in a regional judicial conference.
Judge Heidar described how the ITLOS Advisory Opinionfrom 2015 on the request of the Sub-regional Fisheries Commission elaborates on the responsibilities of coastal states and flag states in combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Honourable Judge Heidar said: “The ITLOS advisory opinion in particular gives teeth to the relevant treaty provisions on flag-state obligations and has already had an impact on state legislation and practice.
“It offers guidance to coastal states for holding liable the flag state of a vessel conducting IUU fishing activities in their EEZs for a breach, attributable to the flag state, of its due diligence obligations prescribed in the advisory opinion.”
The Director-General of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, said: “The contributions of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on the interpretation and application of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea are noteworthy.”
Dr Tupou-Roosen added: “The ITLOS advisory opinion provides useful guidance on the management of fisheries resources.
“The advisory opinion is clear that coastal states have primary responsibility for management of fisheries resources, and that flag states also have responsibility to exercise due diligence over their flagged vessels.”
The judicial symposium is being attended by members of the judiciary from the Pacific Islands region, and international law experts, and will discuss, in particular, the responsibility of states, the responsibility of international organisations, and the responsibility of persons in the governance of fisheries.
The judicial symposium is being held from 5–8 August 2019 at the FFA Conference Centre in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
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 sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. www.ffa.int
Climate change will cost Pacific island countries and territories about $60 million in lost tuna-related revenue by 2050, Johann Bell, senior director of Pacific tuna fisheries at Conservation International, reportedly told the Pacific Islands News Association.
The estimate is based on recent modeling done with tuna biomass within the exclusive economic zones of the Pacific island countries and territories, assuming a 15% movement of skipjack and yellowfin to the east, he said. As a result, he explained, regional governments will receive less revenue because foreign fishing fleets will take more of their tuna catch from the high seas where they do not have to pay licensing fees.
Bell was reportedly speaking at the conclusion of the Pacific Community workshop for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, an event held in Noumea, in the French territory New Caledonia.
In 2016, license fees revenue for all the Pacific island countries and territories was about $465m, he said.
In a communiqué on the outcomes of the meeting, the ministers noted that all stocks were continuing to decline and that there were gaps in tuna management, particularly on the high seas and in the longline fishery.
This was despite progress on meeting targets of the regional roadmap for sustainable fisheries. Progress had been driven largely by the purse-seine fishery, they said.
The ministers also “welcomed the priority that the FFA is placing on work to respond to the threat of climate change, which they say “is the single greatest threat to the security of Pacific Island countries”. They called for greater investment in research into the impact on tuna of climate change.
The ministers discussed improvements in minimum working conditions for crews working on foreign vessels that are licensed to fish in FFA members’ waters. They would extend these conditions to cover domestic fleets.
E-monitoring uses video cameras, remote sensors, and
satellites installed on fishing vessels to provide information on activities
such as retained and discarded catch, bycatch (non-target species caught),
location of catch, and movement of catch between boats.
“Observing, measuring, assessing and reporting what is happening with commercial fishing vessels at sea is critical for reducing IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated] fishing in the Pacific,” says Hugh Walton, the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Chief Technical Officer for the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2).
The Ministers at last month’s annual meeting (18–19 June) held in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), tasked the FFA Secretariat with working with members to develop an electronic monitoring policy before its next meeting in 2020. This policy is to be developed in collaboration with the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office (PNAO) and Pacific Community (SPC) researchers.
Several PNA member countries have focused on e-monitoring of longline vessels since a workshop last year. This was driven by one of its members, FSM, committing to having 100 per cent of its longline vessels with e-monitoring by 2023.
E-monitoring is particularly important for longline fishing where there is a large number of vessels with limited space, making it difficult to have human observers on every boat.
Unlike purse-seine fishing, conditions on longline vessels are often very difficult, with cramped quarters, and boats can be at sea for many months at a time.
The Pacific purse-seine fishery has 100 per cent human observer coverage on vessels. However, e-monitoring could also complement the activities of observers on these boats.
With e-monitoring, different areas of the vessel can be monitored at the same time and operate 24-7. The images and data can be stored indefinitely and reviewed multiple times.
All smiles … Francisco Blaha and a Solomon Islander at work on a pole-and-line vessel in 2010. Francisco is this year’s SeaWeb Seafood Champion for advocacy. We profile him here. (Photo: Francisco Blaha)
Francisco “brings a unique perspective and has the credibility of very different but complementary groups in fisheries”, SeaWeb said when it announced the 2019 winners earlier this month. It noted that some of his ideas had been adopted by big players in the fishing industry.
Francisco sees his award as recognition
of his ability to work with three groups that were often at odds with each
other: governments, industry, and non-government organisations (NGOs). He says
the SeaWeb awards brings together many people trying to do the right thing.
“This is a good thing, with all the bad
news that fisheries get,” Francisco says.
“There are no superpowers attached to the award, to the disappointment of my daughter.”
SeaWeb is a project of the Ocean Foundation. It has presented awards in four categories since 2006 to recognise individuals and companies for outstanding leadership in promoting the production of environmentally responsible seafood.
It comes in part because he works for
himself, and does not have to follow any company line, he told Tuna Pacific
after winning the award.
“I guess people appreciate that I don’t
pretend to be anyone or anything I’m not: I’m just a dyslexic fisher that got
lucky with access to education and work for himself,” Francisco says.
“I have never had to use a suit and ties,
even when I was working with the UN [United Nations] in Rome. Whatever I got was on my own terms. I don’t
‘sell’ anything for anyone. If I don’t like something, I just don’t accept the
job, and I’m vocal on why I disagree with it.
“I dislike profoundly ingratitude and pretentiousness.”
Francisco discovers a love of the ocean
Anyone who has read Francisco’s popular blog – he says it had 25,000 individual readers in 2018 – knows that he began his fishing life working on boats taking squid, hake and toothfish in southern Argentina. But they may not know that he has an earlier association with the sea.
Francisco grew up far from the ocean, in
the traditional lands of the Guaraní people around the border of Paraguay and
Argentina, with his local mother and European father.
“My family crossed the Atlantic on board
a cruising ship from Germany all the way to Argentina when I was six years old.
I like to think that trip marked my life,” Francisco said.
It wasn’t the only thing that influenced
him to take up a life on the sea.
“I guess some people grow by action: they
decide they want similar things to their parents and other people around them.
Others, like me, grow by reaction, by going the opposite way. As anything to do
with the ocean was outside my family’s influence, I went that way,” Francisco says.
By joining the Argentinian navy as a
cadet, Francisco was able to go to high school. He learned a lot about “the
ocean, and rowing and swimming” – and then a second-hand 1976 National
Geographic fell into his hands.
“It had an article about the trip of the Hokule’a,
the Hawaiian double-hulled canoe that went from Honolulu to Papeete. I started
learning, reading history, and fantasising about the South Pacific,” he says.
Francisco loved the ocean, but not the military life – he admits to having a strong anti-authority streak – and when he was released from the navy after the Falklands War, he decided to go fishing for a few years, and worked as technician on board fishing and research vessels while he gained a Masters in fisheries science.
His experience of working during this time taught him that he had no desire to work in a job “where you spend half your time navigating political storms” of bureaucracies and grooming political connections to get jobs and promotions.
“So, I decided to come to the Pacific and
go to all those places I had read about in the article on the Hokule’a
as teenager. Two weeks after graduation, I got in a sailing boat that was going
to Tahiti via Cape Horn … no plans, no contacts, just hopes and a smile.”
He spent almost two years heading west, fishing
and doing odd jobs in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, before landing in New Zealand in
1995. He fell in love with the country, and has set up his life there.
An introduction to fisheries compliance
Francisco worked for New Zealand fishing
companies such as Sanford and Simunovich Fisheries. It was here that he was introduced
to a level of fisheries compliance he had not experienced. To his surprise, he
enjoyed the work.
Having decided it would be useful to have
a degree from an English-speaking university, he earned a Masters in food science,
then started doing domestic consulting work.
“I found international fisheries
consulting work mostly by chance,” Francisco says. “I didn’t know such a job
existed. But if fit me well: I know fishing, I have a good practical and
academic background, and I love travelling and spending time with fisheries
people. I also have a total lack of embarrassment about trying new languages,
and that helped, too.”
Apart from a two-year stint with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome, he has worked for himself for the past 25 years.
A familiar face in the Pacific – and around the world
Francisco is now a familiar face in the
Western and Central Pacific Ocean, where he holds contracts with governments,
charitable and non-government organisations, and international bodies. Most of
his work these days is with monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) to
combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. This involves him in
the development of port state measures (PSM) and catch documentation schemes
He does a lot of work with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA), from high-level development of procedures such as the Port State Measures Framework to training compliance officers to the use of new hook-type scales to monitor transhipment volumes.
“The Guaraní I grew up with have a
culture that has a surprising affinity with the cultures of the Pacific, so the
customs that are the basis of Pacific life are not too foreign to me. When I
started collaborating with the FFA over 10 years ago, I found an organisation
whose values are akin to mine,” Francisco says.
“FFA is at the edge of the best practices
in fisheries worldwide. I love working for them. In fact, I consider many of
the staff as part of my extended family now.”
Home, soul and family in the Pacific
Francisco has his fingers in many other
pies, too. Among other projects, he is an adviser for the Marshall Islands
Marine Resource Authority (under a contract with the NZ Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade), “dealing with an amazing variety of stuff, from strategy
advice, procurement for boarding boats, intelligence analysis of vessels
arriving at port, inspections—and 100 other things.”
He is working with FAO on the implementation of port state measures and social responsibility and the use of blockchain technology to make the chain of fish production more transparent. And he is collaborating with OceanMind on remote intelligence analysis of fishing vessels.
A one-off project he had fun with was developing a colouring book to help train subsistence fishers of countries that belong to the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on best practice in fishing.
Francisco’s work isn’t restricted to this region. In his CV, he lists 58 countries he’s worked with around the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.
However, while he works around the world,
his work in the Pacific has special meaning for him.
“The Pacific has been home for half my
life. It has given me a second run in life, and family, friends, meaningful
work, and an oceanic playground to surf, do open-water swims, spearfish,
paddle, navigate by wayfinding … My soul is at home in the Pacific. And the
Pacific fishing problems are my fishing problems – I live off fishing in this
ocean for most of my year.”
A passion for fairness
For someone who holds little regard for
rank, the challenging world of compliance may seem like an odd choice of
“The fact that I am here today in New
Zealand with this job is a function of my past, and relates to my appreciation
of the concept of fairness and equal opportunities. I’m coming into it from the
perspective of it being fair for all sides. It does not relate to enforcing
rules,” Francisco says.
“For me, the fisheries ‘crisis’ is not a
biological crisis, but one of politics, transparency, and fairness.
“Right now, the system is not fair. When
I broke my knee on board back in Argentina, when I had exams at university, there
was a ‘system’ set up by the fishers’ union to look after me. When I see the
conditions and pay that many of the crews today have, it just upsets me!
“I have the same posture on gender and
diversity. I don’t participate any more on panels and conferences unless the
organisers can prove that there is more diversity than at the last one. This is
not some ‘new age’ thing I’m trying to pose for; it’s just that is not fair,
and that is enough for me.
“I grew up in a country with not much of
a culture of compliance, and while I felt that many of the rules were
dumb, at least I expected they should have applied equally to everyone and
not just to some. The equality of the rule of law in New Zealand is a rare
He says he had found a niche that suits him,
working “in the middle” between regulators with whom he shares insights into
fishing; industry, which he can help be more cost-effective; and the fishers, for
whom he is a voice for decent working conditions and wages.
He is proud of being trusted by all.
“People respect that you understand their
job because you have done it yourself. For example, when you go on board, crew
immediately know if you spent time fishing by the way you move on board, the
fact that you know how to operate the instruments and the bridge—and that you
can call them on technical issues when they are trying to derail the
conversation when you find a compliance problem.
“It’s the same at factories. And in boardrooms. When people know you know your stuff, that is good for everyone to improve the industry.”
Fishing is the people – men and women
Francisco likes to point out that he
doesn’t work with fish any more.
“I work with the people who work with
fish. I love working with fishermen and fisheries inspectors, factory people. I
have gained a much wider perspective by working on the ground than being in
classrooms,” Francisco says.
“In a fishing boat, you don’t have to
like the guy next to you, but you should be able to trust him. Everyone on
board has a job, and you have to do your job right. If you don’t, people die;
it’s as simple as that.
“Fishing also makes you very aware
of your overall insignificance. When you are in storm at sea and there are 20 metre
waves outside and 80 knot wind gusts, nothing really matters a lot other than
staying alive. And when you see those seas and what nature can be, it is a
profound life experience … or at least it is for me.”
He would like to see more women working
in all fields of the fishing industry.
“It still is an unfair playing field out
there,” Francisco says.
“But I would say to women that it is
getting better, mostly because other women before you started opening the way.
Now it’s your turn. Many men are also changing and walking along with you, and
you’ll be surprised how many good people are out there for each of the idiots
you will still find along your path.”
Francisco says that he has been shaped by
fishers and fisheries; that they allowed him to educate himself, help his
family, make friends, and work in places he’d never heard of.
“I love fisheries, and fisheries are
people, for good and for bad, and they cannot and should not be separated. My
favourite Māori proverb or whakataukī
is something I appreciate more as I get older. It goes: He aha te mea nui o
te ao. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
“What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.”