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.
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.”
The WCFPC has toughened its stance on tuna fishing. It has extended fishing limits, expanded the official observer program, and made tougher rules against bycatch, including the compulsory use of non-entangling FADs.
Tougher rules to protect tuna stocks as well as boost struggling Pacific Island economies were the focus of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) decisions at its recent annual policy-setting meeting.
The most important measures agreed to at the WCPFC15 meeting in Honolulu in December 2018 are:
setting a target reference point (TRP) for South Pacific albacore tuna, to balance the preservation of fish populations and economic needs
The rule applies to FADs to be deployed in or that will drift into the western and central Pacific Ocean. During discussion at WCPFC15, the European Union reported that it already used non-entangling FADs in other oceans, and that they had no impact on the amount of tuna caught. The WCPFC agreed that, to prevent animals becoming tangled up in FADs, fishing fleets should avoid using mesh if possible. However, if mesh is to be used:
the netting must be less than 7 cm when stretched, whether used on the raft or in the hanging “tail”
if the raft is covered, the mesh is to be wrapped securely so that animals cannot become enmeshed
any mesh used in a tail is to be tightly bundled and secured into “sausages” that are weighted so that the tail hangs straight down in the water column and remains taut.
It recommended a solid canvas sheet as a better option for the tail.
Biodegradable FADs recommended
The WCPFC flagged the introduction of biodegradable FADs, to reduce the amount of plastic rubbish in the ocean and that washes up on reefs and coastlines. The Scientific Committee (SC) and the Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC) are to present suitable designs by 2020.
FAD closure extended
The Commission also increased by two months a year the period in which FADs are banned from use in some areas. They were previously prohibited from 1 July to 30 September by purse seiners operating on the high seas and in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) between 20°N and 20°S. The ban is now extended for an extra two months on the high seas.
Protection zone extended to reduce seabird bycatch
Longline fishing vessels must use several approved measures to reduce the number of seabirds accidentally caught while fishing.
The measures were already in place for the Pacific Ocean south of 30°S. From 1 January 2020, that area will be extended, with vessels fishing between 25°S and 30°S to also use approved measures, although the EEZs of Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Tonga are exempt. The measures allowed are detailed in CMM 2018-03 and summarised in policies and rules on Sustainpacfish.
Seabird bycatch mitigation measures
North of 23oN:
large longline vessels of 24m or longer to use at least 2 mitigation measures, including at least one from Column A
small longline vessels of less than 24m to use at least one measure from Column A.
Between 25oS and 23oN:
longline vessels are encouraged to use at least one of these measures, and preferably more.
Side setting with a bird curtain and weighted branch lines
Night setting with minimum deck lighting
Deep-setting line shooter
Weighted branch lines
Management of offal discharge
The commission also amended the rules to conserve and manage turtles, but failed to agree on new measures for sharks.
Interim target set for catch of South Pacific albacore tuna
Pacific small island developing states cautiously hailed the adoption of limits to the catch of south Pacific albacore tuna. The limit, called a target reference point (TRP), tells fishing nations how many fish can be taken, based on the combined weight of all breeding-age individuals (called “spawning biomass”) of that species.
Catch rules clarified for Pacific bluefin tuna, and limits maintained for tropical tuna
The WCPFC clarified the catch rules for bluefin tuna so that, when a country exceeds its effort and catch limits in one year, the amount extra it has taken is deducted from the catch it is allowed the following year.
The Northern Committee of the WCPFC had argued for a catch-documentation scheme (CDS) to be applied to Pacific bluefin tuna to help bring populations of this depleted species back to sustainable levels. This will be developed as part of the conservation and management measure (CMM) on bluefin tuna. The goal of the CDS is to create a paper trail (physical or electronic) in fisheries to make it much more difficult to sell illegal, unreported or unregulated fish, since they wouldn’t have required documentation.
Despite some pressure to relax catch limits for the main commercial tropical tuna species—bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack—the WCPFC extended current limits for another two years. These three species are worth more than US$4.4 billion a year.
Reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
Last year, the president of the Marshall Islands, Dr Hilda Heine, said: “A five-year target to eliminate IUU fishing by 2023 is bold, but the stakes are too high not to be audacious in the goals we set. If we are serious about combating IUU, we need a tougher mindset.”
Strengthen the observer network and compliance
WCPFC members agreed on several measures to strengthen compliance.
The Commission also expanded the compliance monitoring scheme (CMS), with some reporting information to be made publicly available online, and searchable. Flagging of alleged violations has also been formalised, with deadlines given for countries to address violation notices.
Calls to make work safe for fishing crews and observers
IN the Japanese port of Ishigaki, the longline fleet has braced for the impact of the decision of a tiny Pacific state to ban fishing in its waters from January 1, 2020.
The fate of 20 small fishing vessels is hooked to this conservation move which Palau – once occupied by Japan – has deemed necessary to protect its coastal waters.
A ban will mean the Ishigaki fleet from Okinawa Island will no longer have access to the katsuo (bonito, also known as Skipjack) which is the ingredient for tataki – tuna seared very briefly over a hot flame or in a pan, and can be briefly marinated in vinegar, sliced thinly and seasoned with ginger.
And so, on the periphery of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries (Tuna) Commission in Hawaii this week, Japanese delegates approached the subject of research in Palau waters post 2019.
It’s a thinly veiled move to allow Ishigaki fishermen to cross into Palauan waters and fish for Skipjack under the guise of research while actually catering to the tataki tables of metropolitan Japan.
Japan’s Head of Delegation at the Tuna Commission, Shingo Ota, said Palau was concerned about the closure because of its impact on the Okinawa fleet of what he described at 20 small-scale longliners.
“If Palau is going to close the area those vessels have nowhere to go, “ Ota said.
“They have been dependent on the same fishing ground for many years and it’s very difficult for them to find alternative fishing grounds because they are accustomed to the Palau EEZ and maybe (it’s) easy for them to find fish.”
There has been no mention of the 2000 tonnes of Big Eye which the Okinawa fleet also catches each year off Palau.
Palau’s fishing grounds are closest to Okinawa and Ota acknowledged that the ease of access to the EEZ by the Japanese fleet was also related to proximity and, by extension, economic reasons including fuel and supplies.
While Ota acknowledged that Japan had approached Palau to make exceptions for the Okinawa-based fleet after the fishery closure, he would not be drawn into details of the request.
By small-scale, Ota means vessels with the capacity to catch no more than 20 tonnes compared to the large scale which is usually 400 tonnes gross tonnage.
When Palau closes its Exclusive Economic Zone, the area will effectively become a sanctuary in which fishing and mining is prohibited.
A dedicated 20 per cent of the EEZ will be accessible to domestic fishing fleets which will off-load in Palau in an effort to boost local industry and create employment.
President Tommy Remenegsau pushed for this measure, citing the need to restore the health of Palau’s ocean for future generations.
Under this initiative Remengasau hopes to increase fish stocks in the EEZ and encourage more diving tourism which has proved to be attractive to Asian visitors and lucrative for local tour operators.
But even before the sanctuary has been established, the Distant Water Fishing Nations – in this case Japan – have started not-too subtle attempts to unpick a landmark decision by a Small Island Developing State.
And Japan can wield influence over its tiny eastern neighbour.
Japan is one of Palau’s largest foreign donors, providing aid which has enabled the building roads, water improvement and, possible future funding for the expansion of the airport.
The Roman Tmetuchl International Airport development will allow for 200,000 visitors a year to access Palau.
How much influence Japan is willing to exert will depend ultimately on whether Remengasau’s government pushes back on the attempt to secure the future of the Okinawa fleet.
But in an attempt to bring Pacific islands to the table, Japan has used the region’s often-touted appeal for consideration of traditional practice as a trump card.
“In addition to (the impact of) distant water fishing fleets, some of the species are migrating into Japanese waters, particularly skipjack,” Ota said.
“(But) we have seen very poor migration of skipjack in recent years and so our coastal fishermen are very much concerned about skipjack.”
So what impact has this had on Japan’s coastal fisheries?
“They cannot catch skipjack, they have been traditionally catching skipjack in their coastal waters and I am telling other members that skipjack is not only important for economic objectives but also cultural objectives,” Ota said.
“Many of the coastal villages have a traditional celebration of the migration of the skipjack but recently because there is no skipjack coming to the Japanese coastal waters they often have to cancel the traditional activities.”
At the Tuna Commission in Hawaii, a group of Okinawan fishing industry representatives wearing “No Katsuo (Skipjack), No Life” shirts mingled with delegates to draw attention to their plight.
In the past Japan has used the research excuse to continue whaling activities despite an international moratorium.
Depending on Palau’s decision, the world will soon know whether Japan has been able to flout another international convention under the guise of contributing to science.
AS Pacific nations gathered at Waikiki to talk about fisheries conservation methods last week, Japanese fishermen were charged with trafficking shark fins in and out of Hawaii.
Sharks have in the past been targeted by long-line fishing fleets in the Western and Central Pacific due to their high value in the Asian market.
But a crackdown by regional governments through implementation of Commission Management Measures of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (CMMs) in the last 10 years have seen a reduction in shark finning.
In Honolulu Harbour the Kyoshin Maru No 20 was seized with 96 shark fins on board and its Captain, Hiroyuki Kasagami, Fishing Master, Toshiyuki Komatsu and Chief Engineer, Hiroshi Chiba, were charged with 11 counts related to trafficking shark fin.
The fishing boat is owned by Hamada Sulsan and operated by JF Zengyoren, a Japanese cooperative.
Each of the officers faces personal fines of up to $USD2.7million and jail terms of five to 20 years.
As the men headed on pre-trial release, another push was being made at the Tuna Commission (WCPFC) for an agreement on a comprehensive shark management measure. There are already a number of CMMs relating to sharks and the intention is to consolidate these in to a single measure.
Sharks are usually an incidental catch in the tuna industry but there are specific rules against targeting the species which can happen by deliberately setting hooks from longliners at certain depths.
But finning sharks is controlled and restricted under the licence agreements of fishing boats operating the WCPFC waters.
Around 100 million sharks died in 2000 as a result of fishing, according to a 2013 study by Social Development Direct, a UK based research group.
A 2015 study showed that deep-sea longline fishing vessels and coastal trawlers had the largest total of shark and ray by-catch.
There are no exact figures for shark deaths in the Pacific, but outgoing WCPFC Chairperson, Rhea Moss-Christian, told reporters Saturday that a shark management measure would be a priority this year.
Any shark management measure will need WCPFC members, cooperating non-Members and participating territories to prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea.
Associated with the measure will be a ban on trans-shipment, on-board retention of sharks and the landing of shark fins.
Longline boats deploy miles of baited hooks that accidentally snare sharks, among other unintended targets.
Within the FFA, strict Port State Measures offer a raft of compliance checks local authorities can make on fishing vessels according to the perceived threat posed by the boat.
This is another tool available within the Pacific to ensure the reduction of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fisheries, including catching and finning of sharks.
There is a fear, however, that some fleets are fishing for sharks on the high seas and transshipping fins to huge carrier ships which are involved in other illegal activities.
The presence of these large ocean-going carriers has caused Pacific countries to call for on-board observers on the vessels to report illegal activities.
Federated States of Micronesia National Oceanic resource Management Authority Executive Director, Eugene Pangelinan, said electronic monitoring was critical to conservation and management on the high seas.
“Electronic monitoring is more about supplementing and improving the compliance of longliners that are operating in the Exclusive Economic Zone or High Seas where current commission coverage is five per cent observer coverage,” Pangelinan said.
“We think the electronic monitoring offers an alternative – not to human observers – but more to increase the validation and compliance mechanism.
“It also offers an opportunity to improve our data collection and improvement in statistics gathering for other species of special interest such as sea turtles, non-target species sharks and so forth.
“I think electronic monitoring offers much more better eyes whereas observers are not capable of being physically accommodated on long-liners.”
Many of the fisheries with the largest by-catch of cartilaginous species like sharks and rays operate over vast areas of ocean and often in international waters, where fishing rules are weaker.
The measure before WCPFC15 would encourage research to identify ways to make fishing gear more selective and provide relevant information to the WCPFC Scientific Committee.
The WCPFC has the mandate to conserve and manage nearly 60 per cent of the global tuna catch, equivalent to 2.9 million tons of tuna, valued at over $5 billion.
It is also responsible for managing and conserving other migratory fish such as sharks and manta rays.
Conservation groups at the WCPFC have called for be a firm commitment, to conduct assessments on shark stocks.
Dave Gershman of PEW Charitable Trust said sharks were important to the ecosystem and as the top predators they kept the balance in the oceans.
“PEW is keen to see action for sharks before their numbers crash,” Gershman said.
“Negotiations for new rules on sharks have to take into account the widely differing interests of fishing nations and more conservation-minded resource-owning nations.”
While the Pacific negotiates the complexities of shark conservation measures behind closed doors, the US authorities have signalled that they will take no nonsense from fleets which target shark fins.
And in Honolulu Harbour there is one crew which has found out to its cost that with supportive laws, a dead shark can have a terrible bite.
WCPFC15, Honolulu, Hawaii, 12 December 2018— Albacore tuna is a vital resource for many Pacific nations but many domestic longline interests are being scuttled out of business by a growing foreign fleet and the failure of the rule-setting body –the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to act.
This week, a few words in a one-year old document will aim to claw back faith and test the credibility of the WCPFC, the world’s most successful tuna fisheries management organisation.
Last year at their closing plenary, the WCPFC, made progress on several years of discussion with an interim harvest strategy for South Pacific albacore putting the onus on an outcomes text saying the Hawaii meeting taking place this week “shall adopt a Target Reference Point for South Pacific albacore.”
The target reference point (TRP) – a notional ideal stock level – is the essential first step on which all other harvest rules rely.
The promise to set a TRP at WCPFC15 for one of the most negotiated tuna stocks in the Western Central Pacific Ocean, is set to roll out in earnest today, as the clock ticks towards the final plenary on Friday evening.
To ensure the momentum from last year’s meeting in Manila wouldn’t be lost, the WCPFC14 setup a working group with New Zealand at the helm to steer interested countries towards effective engagement on that agenda item.
Outgoing Chair of the WCPFC Rhea Moss-Christian is keen to ensure the promise of Manila is met, but her challenge is to extract consensus from a diverse group of nations with widely differing interests – a group that includes powerful distant water fishing nations as well as coastal states.
The determination and commitment of Forum Fisheries Committee members around the table, including Ministers from Samoa, Tonga, and Niue, was clear in their opening round of country statements.
Samoa’s Minister for Fisheries Afioga Lopao’o Natanielu Mua reiterated a call he made 12 months before in Manila, to the same stakeholders.
“It’s the target species for our domestic Longline fishery, that has been one of the main foreign revenue earners for our economy as well as supporting food security and livelihoods for our people,” the Minister said. He also made pointed mention of “the uneven playing field due to the subsidy support received by some fleets and therefore [the need for] an appropriate management strategy …to ensure that domestic, unsubsidised fleets remain economically viable.”
Alongside Mua are other high-level Pacific leaders in the countries most affected by the current approaches which are threatening incomes, food sources, and the long-term future of domestic longline fleets. The voices from Pacific nations most connected to Albacore are pitching the message at every opportunity that the Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore is a major part of the reasons bringing them to the Tuna Commission meeting.
Niue’s Fisheries Minister Dalton Tagalagi echoed the sentiments of his neighbourhood—South Pacific Albacore needs that target reference point to get moving on its harvest strategy.
He reminded the plenary of the shared responsibility from members to ensure fisheries are managed sustainably.
“We believe that we can all share and successfully manage this vital fishery if we honestly negotiate in good faith and transparently” he said.
Acknowledging the ongoing talks since 2015 to get traction on a strengthened conservation and management measure for South Pacific albacore, Tonga’s Minister for Fisheries Semisi Fakahau told the Commission that Tonga is committed to working with all members and fishing partners to support adoption of the target reference point for South Pacific Albacore.
“In order to maintain the long-term sustainability and economic viability of the tuna fisheries in the WCPO, and to secure livelihoods for local fishermen, it is important that stronger and more effective fisheries management arrangements for migratory tuna stocks and other species are agreed at this meeting.”
Kiribati Fisheries Minister Tetabo Nakara hinted that the conversations towards locking down the reference point won’t be easy. He noted during his country statement that: “there are agenda items that may polarise our collective approach, and when those agenda items are considered I would mutually call on us all to put aside our differences and to humbly approach those issues as one group in one voice with one amicable solution agreeable to us all.”
Presenting the position of the 17-member FFA bloc to the commission, FFC Chair Tepaeru Herrmann of the Cook Islands opened with the reminder that the Target Reference Point talks holds no surprises; it’s the fourth year in a row the FFA have proposed this move.
“As we’ve stated previously, it is critical to adopt a Target Reference Point so that we can start to manage this fishery…. we have come prepared to work in the spirit of good faith upon which that decision was taken to ensure that we adopt a meaningful Target Reference Point here.”
When it comes to the time needed to reach a meaningful number, the devil will be working through the detail. The WCPFC Secretariat and SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Program have provided an Information paper on trends in the Southern Albacore Fishery, revealing a 2017 peak in annual catch estimates for albacore in the south Pacific (south of the equator) of 92,989 metric tonnes, 98% of that by long liners and the remainder by trolling. With both fishing gears, the 2017 catch is upon the previous year – 29% higher for long liners, and 12% higher for trollers.
By comparison, the 2017 total albacore catch in the South Pacific was 72,272 mt and the longline catch within the southern part of the Western and Central Pacific Commission area — excluding archipelago waters — 69,688 mt, one of the highest in the last 10 years. High seas longline catch estimates represent 51% of the total and have ranged from 27-51% of the total over the last 10 years. By flag (or attributed nationality based on charter agreements), China and Chinese Taipei had the highest catch estimates of South Pacific albacore in 2017 (29,125 mt and 12,086 mt respectively), and together represent 59% of the total catch. 70% of their catch was taken on the high seas.
Science updates on effort warn there is ‘considerable uncertainty in 2017 effort estimates, mostly due to gaps in information and data.’ The number of deployed hooks in 2017 within the commission area south of 10 degrees south was 30% higher than in 2016, and 13% lower than the high seen in 2012. The estimated longline effort in this region was estimated at 277 million hooks in 2017.
Representatives of the Pacific tuna industry are pushing hard for action on albacore at this year’s WCPFC15 in the margins of the meeting and from the floor.
“Nobody can deny the perilous state of this fishery,”John Maefiti, Executive Officer of the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association said in an intervention in the WCPFC plenary yesterday.
“Catch rates simply cannot support current costs (for Pacific operators), leaving many companies on the brink of financial failure.
“We are fortunate that the Southern Pacific Albacore is biologically healthy, but the key to economic viability of a fishery is the catch per unit effort, or CPUE. We have observed a continually declining CPUE over several years, diminishing what was once a robust and attractive fishery to a shadow of itself. The inability of the WCPFC to control a massive increase in High Seas fishing effort is a sad indictment about this commission’s ability to manage the fisheries under its charge,” Maefiti said.
The Pacific fishing industry has joined the Forum Fisheries Agency and its member governments in calling on WCPFC to take heed of advice from its Science Committee and to ensure the long-term commercial viability and sustainability of the Pacific’s southern longline fishery.
Given the scale of detail and information on the Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore and other inter-related issues such as the domination of the southern albacore fishery by China and Taiwan, there are real concerns that discussions will get bogged down once again. This would mean seeing the time window for a decision close for another year.
FFA’s new Director General and her team will be as keen as the high-level heads of Pacific delegations and the outgoing WCPFC Chair to ensure that doesn’t happen and South Pacific Albacore gets the Target Reference Point the commission has promised. But with only a few days to go and other high priority issues including the Tropical Tuna Measure for Skipjack, Yellowfin and Bigeye; Compliance Surveillance, and Monitoring; and Transhipment, another late night/early morning finish may well be on the cards for WCPFC15. —Lisa W-Lahari / TUNApacific
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
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