Tuna has shaped regional politics and influenced the relationship between Pacific Islands States and major trading partners including China, Japan, United States and Taiwan and South Korea.
Each year the Pacific comes together with these powerful fishing nations to set the fishing rules for more than half the world’s tuna, as well as other ocean-going species at risk of being caught by accident by the fishing industry.
Diplomacy and solidarity among Pacific countries is key to Pacific success.
Ahead of this year’s meeting of the rule-setting body – the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), organisations representing Pacific nations are stressing their commitment to work together in solidarity.
With 60 per cent of the world’s main canning tuna – skipjack – caught in their waters as well as large quantities of fish for the fresh and frozen fish market, the Pacific is an important grouping.
However, decisions at WCPFC are made by consensus, so achieving results is often difficult.
The CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement which represents the 8 tropical tuna countries plus Tokelau, emphasised collaboration with the 17-nation Forum Fisheries Agency as they hold a series of meetings in Honolulu to prepare their negotiating strategies.
“The FFA Director General reminded us that we are doing this work for the benefit of our people,” PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said in a statement ahead of this year’s WCPFC which commences on Monday.
“We are the resource owners. This is why we work together to promote effective measures at the WCPFC for sustainable management of our fisheries resources,” he said.
Over the past decade, Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) comprising of eight countries (FSM, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, PNG, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu) developed a new model of cooperation, establishing a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) to limit purse seine fishing access to their waters.
The VDS scheme is the single most successful resource management model in the Pacific using rights- based control over fisheries resources.
Under the scheme, fishing fleets are required to purchase fishing days at a minimum of US$8,000 per day, provide 100 percent coverage of all purse seiners, provide in port transhipment of tuna and an annual three-month moratorium on the use of fish aggregating devices. This has improved conservation and management of tuna caught in PNA countries while increasing the revenue share for island member countries from US$60m in 2010 to an estimated US$400m last year.
Ocean management or what is now being promoted the Blue Pacific narrative–where Pacific countries are called to exercise stronger strategic autonomy over the Pacific Ocean and its resources.
In recent years, the Pacific has witnessed increased geostrategic competition in the region and the Pacific Ocean is at the centre of this stepped-up engagements from new and emerging global players.
At the Pacific Leaders’ Summit in Nauru this year, leaders reaffirmed the Blue Pacific as the basis of ‘asserting’ the region’s solidarity on the global stage and secure potential development assistance to drive collective ambition and aspiration for the Pacific region.
In the words of the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi; “The Blue Pacific platform offers all Pacific countries the capabilities to address a changing geostrategic landscape. The opportunity to realise the full benefits of the Blue Pacific rests in our ability to work and stand together as a political bloc. And the challenge for us is maintaining solidarity in the face of intense engagement of an ever-growing number of partners in our region. We should not let that divide us! ”.
Under the flagship of the Blue Pacific identity –Pacific nations are again building a collective voice and asserting their common values and concerns. The Blue Pacific is about shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean –and the recognition that Pacific Island Countries manages 20 percent of the world’s oceans in their Exclusive Economic zone (EEZs).
To make this happen –Pacific countries realise the need to secure their maritime borders. The settlement of maritime boundaries provides certainty of ownership of the Pacific Ocean space –as Pacific people taking control of their domain, which is critical to managing their ocean resources, biodiversity, ecosystems as well as fighting the impacts of climate change. Of the 47 shared boundaries in the Pacific, 35 Treaties have been concluded so far and few more countries are now finalising their border agreements.
An Interview with Pamela Maru Fisheries Management Adviser, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Solomon Islands. Effective January 2019, Pamela will take up her new position as Secretary for the Ministry of Marine Resources, Cook Islands.
Republished from: INFOFISH (www.infofish.org). This email interview was originally published in the INFOFISH International, Issue 6/2018.
“We have the ability to shape our fisheries in a way that suits our long term needs, feeding and providing for our Pacific Islands. We need to invest in our people, and management of these resources – to give back, as we take out – if we really want to move ahead. We need to speak up more, and stop shying away from things that matter but which might be uncomfortable to raise.(Pamela Maru: quote from the ‘70 Inspiring Pacific Women campaign’)
INFOFISH: Let’s begin with the FFA proposal which was adopted last year by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) for a new Port State management measure to combat illegal fishing by boosting Pacific Island capacity to conduct port inspections. It must have been a moment to remember, particularly for you as the team leader of the project. Could you give readers an insight as to the preceding dialogue with Island nations to gather support for the initiative? We understand that the consultation processes between South Pacific countries often reflect certain cultural and traditional values.
Pamela Maru: Firstly, this really was an FFA member driven process. FFA members are made up of 17 nations from across the Pacific – north and south. It was FFA members that had been calling for proper consideration of their specific needs and special requirements, particularly as 15 are Small Island Developing States. Addressing these needs in a meaningful way is important to ensure that they are able to meet their aspirations of continuing to enhance their ability and contributions in the fight against IUU fishing. Fisheries make a significant contribution to the economies of Pacific Island nations, so the development of any programme must be adapted to suit specific objectives, their business needs, and the nature in which fisheries are managed in Pacific Islands.
The Forum Fisheries Agency is a unique entity. In 1977, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders had the foresight to establish an agency that could provide the necessary technical and legal support to Pacific Island nations to establish and manage their tuna fisheries resources. Over time, FFA members have cooperated in developing several regional initiatives, such as the Regional FFA Vessel Register, the FFA Vessel Monitoring System, Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions for Access by Fishing Vessels to EEZs, the Niue Treaty on Cooperation in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement, the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre, and regional standards for fisheries data collection and monitoring. What this has resulted in is a comprehensive framework and solid foundation for fisheries management and monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), in supplementing national capacity, on which to incorporate and further enhance measures such as port inspection regimes.
Of utmost importance is the protection of sovereignty. As coastal States and port States, ensuring their ability to manage their tuna resources and ports in a manner that does not undermine their authority, but that also enables these island nations to determine what the most effective and efficient means to achieve an objective is important. Far too often people presume to know what it is like working in small fisheries administrations, and that things could be easily put in place. When you are competing for resources against other national priorities such as health, education and infrastructure, fisheries will always rank lower.
In 2016, FFA undertook a study to quantify IUU fishing in the Pacific. What it demonstrated was that the former perception of high risk, unauthorised or unlicensed fishing vessels, has in fact diminished and now accounts for only 4% of the total estimated volume of catch associated with IUU fishing activities. This is an outcome largely driven by the suite of regional and national controls and monitoring tools established by both FFA members, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The nature of IUU fishing in the Pacific has shifted where misreporting now makes up 54% of the estimated volume of catch associated with IUU fishing activities, and 29% for non-compliance with other licensing conditions. What this means is a need to refocus compliance efforts and resources in response to these risk areas, on both flagged and foreign fishing vessels, which is exactly the approach FFA members are now taking through the development of a new Regional MCS Strategy (2018-2023).
Incorporating smart business design and risk assessment frameworks will enable smaller fisheries administrations to provide for the necessary information sharing and compliance responses needed to better implement port inspection regimes. This will help to avoid overburdening fisheries administrations that are already stretched for resources, and ensuring that systems are developed that are fit for purpose. The strengthening of port inspections is one part of the MCS toolbox that FFA members are operationalising, and working with development partners who also share this vision for a coordinated and integrated approach to MCS.
INFOFISH: You were reported to have said “It is the first time a measure really looks at the implications and impacts on small island developing states (SIDS), what those obligations might mean in terms of addressing their needs and their capacitydevelopment requirements and developing, or having, some sort of agreement to develop mechanisms that will support their ability to improve their technical capacity”. Almost a year has gone by since the adoption of the proposal. How far have the Island nations progressed in equipping designated ports and addressing fisheries compliance gaps in the relevant areas?
Pamela Maru: When international agreements are developed, dictating ‘how’ something must be implemented as opposed to focussing on ‘what’ is needed, can be the fine line between enabling a developing country to fully comply with a requirement or, creating an undue burden on available resources. In the context of the WCPFC, CMM 2017-02 is the only conservation and management measure that specifically articulates areas of assistance that SIDS themselves have identified as being important in ensuring their participation and contribution in the development and enhancement of port State measures in the Pacific. Not dictated to or driven by third party interests, but communicated by SIDS in the interests of SIDS. Pacific SIDS are not always well represented or able to effectively participate in the negotiation of international agreements, and this measure provides the opportunity for a considered approach to implementing port State measures in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
Compliance assessments on countries through RFMO or market-driven processes can create the political will for developing States to invest in, for example, port State measures. But in small economies this creates an issue where limited resources are diverted from higher priority areas, to an area that could be implemented if time and appropriate capacity building is provided in a way that suits the context and nature of their operations.
The measure was specifically designed to take a phased approach in implementing port inspection regimes, and ensuring that SIDS are able to fully comprehend what their obligations are – legally, technically, operationally – and what resources and arrangements are needed to maintain sustainable port inspection programmes, before progressing to a more comprehensive arrangement.
There has been great progress in working towards enhancing port inspection capacity. Understanding how port State measures fit into the regional Pacific fisheries picture and the role each country has to play, as a flag State, port State or coastal State, and sharing the necessary information and resources to inform targeted inspections. Improvements to regulatory frameworks are well underway, and regional workshops and engagement with MCS experts are contributing to the development of a broader FFA regional policy framework and related standards. This will help to develop effective training courses specifically for port State measures that will sit within the training framework that FFA has developed for MCS officers to attain formal qualifications.
Taking advantage of emerging technologies and transitioning away from manual and paper based processes, through the implementation of electronic reporting and electronic monitoring as well as further development of information management systems, is a significant body of work that continues. This will reshape the way fisheries administrations manage and analyse MCS information and enable the retargeting of resources to respond to risk assessment outcomes and help to improve compliance responses.
INFOFISH: What assistance mechanisms and associated timeframe, including training and financial support, are included in the proposal to avoid a disproportionate burden on SIDS? What is the FFA’s specific role in the process?
Pamela Maru: WCPFC is expected to discuss this issue at its annual meeting in December this year. One innovative approach that WCPFC is advancing is the development of a strategic investment plan to better coordinate the delivery of support to developing States where capacity assistance needs are identified, as well as ensuring more effective participation of developing States in the work of WCPFC. A comprehensive analyses of assistance needs, and available resources is being collated to inform the development of the strategic investment plan. This will hopefully provide the means for SIDS to access the needed resources to progress the development of their port inspection regimes.
FFA members will continue to drive and advise WCPFC and its members where SIDS require targeted assistance, and to highlight where a disproportionate burden of conservation effort is identified in the implementation of port inspection regimes. The implementation of any conservation and management measure must take into account the costs and benefits associated with implementation efforts, and that these be mitigated or removed. Port State measures are a prime example where the displacement of flag State responsibilities has resulted in the need for port States to actively address IUU fishing and compliance risks associated with deficient flag State controls. A collaborative and integrated MCS approach is needed to close the gaps and ensure that effective information sharing and compliance responses drive any port inspection regimes.
More specifically, FFA has a five year project that aims to support its members with implementing port State measures. Through this project, collaboration with donors, NGOs and the FAO will ensure that practical solutions and coordinated efforts provide timely delivery of technical support to Pacific SIDS.
INFOFISH: As the bulk of the tuna in Pacific waters is caught by foreignowned vessels, what measures are being taken to ensure their compliance with the new Port State Measure requirements? We know that in many instances, foreign interests do not share a common vision with the governments of the Pacific Islands nations with regard to the management of tuna resources.
Pamela Maru: The bulk of tuna in the Pacific is caught in the waters of Pacific Island nations. Therefore the focus of any port State measures is not only on foreign flagged, or foreign owned, but all fishing vessels. IUU fishing must be addressed holistically, it does not make sense to focus on a specific portion of the fishing fleet. It is important to use a balanced approach that also caters for flag State responsibilities, as informed by compliance assessments.
FFA members have a long history and well established relationships with their fishing partners; as such it is common knowledge between parties on the standard suite of regional requirements for foreign fishing vessels operating in the fishery waters of FFA members. These include operational data provision and reporting, fisheries observer coverage, VMS, and regional vessel registration. Most importantly is the compliance by fishing companies with the national laws of each FFA member in which their fishing vessels operate. What this means is that there are few, if any, fishing vessels and operators in FFA waters that are unknown or do not have historical information that FFA does not have access to.
The FFA MCS network provides for comprehensive access to information and resources that allows Pacific Island nations to implement their national laws, and any applicable port State measures.
With robust monitoring and surveillance systems in place, countries are able to target inspections at high risk or areas of particular interest. FFA incorporates regional vessel registrations, national licensing, VMS, surveillance information and other available MCS data to assign a compliance index to fishing vessels. This is provided to FFA members through a shared regional surveillance picture to monitor fishing vessels and their compliance history.
The delivery of dockside boarding and inspection training, investigation and prosecution courses, review of the vessel compliance index, and recent developments on persons of interest profiles all contribute to enabling Pacific SIDS, in particular FFA members, to enhance their ability to effectively implement port State measures.
INFOFISH: Thus far, only Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu have signed up to the FAO-led Port State Measure Agreement (PSMA) which entered into force in June 2016. How does the FFA-led Port State Measure complement the PSMA, and do you see more island nations acceding to the FAO-PSMA?
Pamela Maru: It is interesting that the only Pacific nations to have acceded to the PSMA are those with very little port activity. Interesting because the burden of implementation is not as great as busier ports, yet they are struggling to implement the PSMA. The core issue is the provision of real and meaningful assistance to support national implementation, which is precisely what the WCPFC measure does. The objectives of both the PSMA and the WCPFC CMM 2017-02 are the same, but how they are implemented differs, because the nature of WCPFC tuna fisheries is unique in that the waters of the SIDS lie across the entire Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Area. The WCPFC measure attempts to provide assistance to developing States to fully understand what their obligations are, and to work through implementation issues before having to commit to a binding or more comprehensive arrangement.
FFA members Australia and New Zealand have also ratified the PSMA, but recognise that SIDS have special requirements to consider. Particularly important is the contribution by New Zealand to the FFA Pacific Islands Port State Measures Project, a comprehensive five year project to target assistance where FFA Island nations require support to enhance their port State measures. This project not only aims to support the implementation of the WCPFC measure and the PSMA, but broader support to develop systems and processes that will strengthen MCS capacity in ports.
The WCPFC measure balances the responsibility to address IUU fishing by enabling any WCPFC member, cooperating nonmember or participating territory to request that a port State undertake an inspection on a vessel that is believed to have engaged in IUU fishing.
Under the PSMA, countries are provided assistance once they become Parties, but with the WCPFC measure it was important to SIDS that assistance be provided whilst they consider implementing more prescriptive requirements, or whether an alternative approach may be needed, yet achieve the same outcome. The most important element of both is the access to, and sharing of, MCS information.
There is significant political pressure on Pacific Islands to accede to the PSMA. Some have signed and/or ratified, while others are considering doing so. However, each nation must be allowed to make that sovereign decision as to whether or not they sign up to any international arrangement, and not be pressured into doing something that might not be suitable in meeting their needs to combat IUU fishing.
INFOFISH: The Tuna Fisheries Report Card 2018 published by the FFA makes for interesting reading, providing as it does, an update of the current status of Pacific tuna fisheries in relation to four major goals (sustainability, value, employment, food security) adopted by Forum Leaders in 2015 in the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries.
While the share of total catches in FFA Members’ waters taken by FFA fleets has risen in value from 31% in 2013 to 45% in 2017 mainly due to increased participation in the purse seine fishery, the same progress is not evident in the processing sector. Furthermore, employment in processing tends to be concentrated in certain areas. What are some initiatives that are in the FFA pipeline which might help to boost the processing sector and to ensure more equitable distribution of activities?
With regard to the export value of tuna from FFA Member countries, the Report Card notes that there was an increase of 25% in 2017 from 2015 levels. However the Card states that this was mainly as a result of continued growth in the value of catches by the fleets of FFA Members which made up for the global fall in prices. To reduce this over-reliance on global prices, does the FFA have proposals to enhance export diversification?
Pamela Maru: Increased participation in the purse seine fishery will not necessarily result in increases in investment or employment opportunities in the processing sector. Processing has been centralised in certain areas due to the availability of support infrastructure such as harbours, roads, electricity and water. However small ventures are being pursued in some of the other islands, and FFA is supporting investment facilitation in FFA countries, including joint venture initiatives. Identifying where cooperative arrangements might be established for product supply and processing through the potential use of regional hubs is an area of work that is ongoing.
The report card indicates that the target for a 25% increase in export values by 2020 from 2015 levels was likely achieved in 2017. This is attributed to the recovery in fish prices since 2015, after values fell each year between 2012 and 2015. FFA continuously monitors market trends and has investigated the potential diversification of market opportunities. Traditional markets like the EU, Japan and the US are likely to be the main markets for Pacific Island exporters in the short to medium term. In the long term, and as major global suppliers in raw materials, FFA will continue to monitor and investigate where alternative markets and opportunities might present themselves.
INFOFISH: You are understandably a proponent of increasing the presence and authority of women, currently mainly to be found in the Pacific Islands’ artisanal sector and as labour in processing plants, except in instances where women benefit from genderspecific support. Nothing surprising here, as we see women in many regions of the world are similarly held back by cultural value systems and family responsibilities. In your opinion, what are the top three key strategies that should be employed to hasten the inclusion of women in decision-making processes in Pacific Islands’ fisheries?
Pamela Maru: Education is the greatest tool we can employ in addressing gender inequality issues. Demonstrating the value of women and their contributions to fisheries, and more broadly the communities they inhabit is needed to change attitudes and culture, and foster greater participation by women in key fisheries roles. Awareness and outreach programmes on gender equality will only strengthen this resolve, such as the recent work by Pacific regional organisations promoting the stories and experiences of female role models across all fisheries sectors. Empowering women by offering opportunities to further their education, employment opportunities and career progression, has flow-on benefits not only for the institutions they work for, but also on the dynamics and improved wellbeing of their families and communities.
Regional agencies and national administrations must invest in developing meaningful policy frameworks that review management processes and procedures, and make the necessary changes to understand and address gender inequalities that may restrict women from taking up opportunities to contribute and participate in decision making. Comprehensive and considered frameworks will ensure that workplace diversification and inclusivity are achieved, and ensuring that gender equality is incorporated in all work areas.
An example of this is the establishment of the FFA gender equity framework that seeks to address gender inequality, and promote the full participation of women in all aspects of its work, including supporting FFA national administrations and industries in developing and implementing gender equity policies, and committing resources to supporting work programmes and initiatives to institute changes that create an enabling environment. Whilst implementation is still in its infancy, it is a useful platform to drive and influence change in a way that should see continued improvements in the increasing trend of women involved in Pacific fisheries.
We do not have to wait for major changes to make an impact. Small changes count. Listen and take into account the perspectives of female colleagues, allow them to take the lead in driving outcomes, support their ability to be working mums and partners and reap the benefits of improved morale and productivity, establish support networks to strengthen their voices and respond to issues like domestic and family violence. There are lots of little things that can promote inclusivity and pulling down barriers that hinder women’s participation in fisheries, and everyone should actively seek to identify what they can add in support of this goal.
INFOFISH: On a final note (and this is in reference to you as one of the ‘70 Inspiring Pacific women’), do you have any personal goals that you wish to achieve so that you can similarly inspire other women?
Pamela Maru: A goal I have always wanted to achieve, and has recently come to fruition, is to return home to the Cook Islands and head the Ministry of Marine Resources. I have had the great fortune of being mentored and taught by some great individuals, and want to be able to do the same. Coming from a culture where caring for and sharing with your wider community is central, I too want to pay it forward, to teach and mentor not only Cook Islanders but other young Pacific Islanders making their way in fisheries, and ensuring that they take full advantage of the career development opportunities available to them, and how to manoeuvre in this dynamic industry.
Having worked for a Pacific regional fisheries agency, I have been exposed to many more prospects available to Pacific Islanders, to advance both my education and career in fisheries regionally and internationally. This has challenged me to set my sights a little higher, to continue with higher learning, and then eventually see how far up the regional ladder I can climb. Possibly internationally, but the Pacific is home and where I want to contribute my efforts to for now.
More women are taking on key roles in Pacific fisheries, managers and chairs in RFMOs and heading regional fisheries organisations. They have established the path ahead of me, and for those that follow. I’m just hoping I can add to that.
Editor’s Note: INFOFISH, in collaboration with the National Fisheries Authority, Papua New Guinea, is organising the 7th Pacific Tuna Forum on 12-13 September 2019.
Ronald Toito’ona reporting from the Thriving Pacific Workshop
Pacific leaders from fishing agencies, industries and businesses, conservationists and academics participated in a workshop this month to determine the next steps needed to realise a vision for a thriving Pacific economy, built around a healthy tuna fishery and marine ecosystem.
Peter Seligmann, chairman of Conservation International, moderated the Thriving Pacific Workshop. He is also the Founder and CEO of Nia Tero, a global collaboration to advance indigenous peoples and local community stewardship of vital ecosystems.
The goals of the Workshop were to deepen a shared understanding, adoption and commitment to sustainable fisheries by transforming the value chain and establishing a Natural Currency Standard for Pacific Tuna. Tuna is a key ecological resource deeply intertwined with the lives, livelihoods and ocean health of one of the largest fisheries on Earth.
The former Parties to the Nauru Agreement (CEO) Executive Officer and Workshop participant, Dr Aqorau said in an exclusive interview that the idea of a “National Currency Standard” is an initiative that is being developed by Nia Tero with the support of Walmart Supermarket in the US. He hopes this will lead to a strategic partnership either with the PNA as a collective group or individual PNA members.
The idea of a National Currency Standard finds its inspiration in having a Standard that reflects the values and aspirations of the indigenous communities of the Pacific region for whom tuna is a vital source. For Walmart, the largest purchaser of tuna on the planet, it is about securing a sustainable supply of tuna and supporting Pacific Islands communities.
“This will build on the progress of ratings and programs but go further in supporting cooperative governance for these shared resources,” said Dr Aqorau. “It is about securing supply and ensuring equitable benefits accrue to the communities who own the resource.”
“The idea is to link the standard to the Sustainable Development Goals [SDG]. The Standard should recognise and support regional aspirations as reflected in the Regional Roadmap, Blue Economy, Blue Pacific and the region’s shared goals. The region’s goals are to support the cultures and socioeconomic development aspirations of the Pacific Islands, which are encompassed in existing regional strategies.”
“The Standard should be backed up by full transparency and traceability, using existing Chain-of-Custody protocols and taking advantage of available technologies. The Standard should be built on the foundational principles, of environmental sustainability and social accountability, and drawing on the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) principles. But the Standard will apply it in a more robust manner, taking a broader, more comprehensive view in terms of the application of the principles, with full transparency to address weaknesses,” Dr. Aqorau said.
The former PNA boss said, in establishing and assessing against these principles, the Standard should draw on best practices from globally established ratings and certification systems for fisheries. The Standard should also incorporate criteria developed specifically for tuna by other organisations, such as the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.
Dr Aqorau further stated that these are exciting times in the global tuna industry as well as challenging, given the social and cultural issues coming to the fore in the global discourses on tuna.
“I am a fervent believer in the reshaping of our fishing rights to empower our peoples who are the custodians of the largest and healthiest tuna stocks in the world,” said Dr Aqorau.
Meanwhile, according to Dr Aqorau the next steps will be to sensitise the idea with our peoples so that is actually driven from within the region.
Background: the desire for long-term sustainability in the Pacific Islands
As the population of earth grows toward 8 billion, sustaining renewable sources of protein becomes more critical. The importance of the Pacific tuna fishery to the security and prosperity of Pacific Island countries requires an intense focus on sustainability to ensure ocean ecosystems are kept healthy and continue to provide benefits to Pacific Islanders.
Building upon the work done in Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries, a small group recently developed a draft blueprint for a Thriving Pacific, focused on bringing together proven innovations to reward sustainability in the marketplace and support effective governance that benefits Pacific Island communities. This blueprint relies on collaborative efforts among business, non-profits, and governments. We know from other conservation initiatives that only by working together with local stakeholders can a truly sustainable solution be found.
Thriving Pacific Workshop
Convened by Conservation International, Nia Tero and Emerson Collective, this workshop on Thriving Pacific brings together leaders from across the Pacific Island tuna supply system—fisheries management entities, supply chain companies, fisheries conservation experts and retailers. It aimed to provide insights and perspective to form a practical, market-based approach to account for the full value that Pacific tuna represents for the people who depend on it as a food, whose well being and livelihoods are affected by it, and the ocean ecosystem with which it is intrinsically linked. The discussion at this Workshop will inform the work ahead including a set of regional meetings in the Pacific Islands in 2019.
Theory of Change
To realise the vision of the Roadmap, a small number of aligned resource owners, value chain companies, and retailers must envision and act in a coordinated way on three things:
A definition of sustainable tuna that includes the highest standards of cultural, social, environmental and economic best practices (“Natural Currency Standard”)
A concurrent strategy to hit the ‘reset’ button on consumer awareness of ‘sustainable tuna’ in the USA and other major markets to drive consumer demand and market penetration of the Natural Currency Standard (e.g., ‘Got Milk?’, ‘Pork, the other white meat’ campaigns)
A practical, economically viable approach to rethink the supply chain by improving supply chain efficiencies, reducing waste, and ensuring transparency and traceability to scale and support a product portfolio that adheres to a Natural Currency Standard
A Natural Currency Standard
Although the present economic value of Pacific Island tuna fisheries is well understood, the broader natural capital value of these species is not embedded in the market and governance systems for these resources. Furthermore, existing ratings and certification programs have been developed without incorporating the aspirations of indigenous cultures, experience of private sector partners, and support for cooperative governance of a shared resource. Harnessing these experiences can help incorporate the true value of tuna species and help ensure sustainable management of this critically important resource. We propose to develop a Natural Currency Standard (NCS), establishing a globally recognised set of criteria to support environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and cultural perpetuation.
We will draw on best practices from globally established ratings and certification systems for fisheries, such as the Marine Stewardship Council, and incorporate criteria developed specifically for tuna by other organisations and platforms. These environmental best practices will consider the broader ecosystem role of tuna and incorporate predicted climate driven shifts that will affect management, ensuring that a healthy fishery and ocean ecosystem will continue to produce tuna indefinitely.
A new, comprehensive social responsibility standard is encompassed in the Monterey Framework, which has three core components:
(a) Protect human rights, dignity, and access to resources;
(b) Ensure equity and equality, and
(c) Improve food and livelihood security.
The NCS will incorporate these social responsibility dimensions, addressing egregious practices such as slavery and other labor/human rights abuses and supporting social improvements in tuna fisheries.
The Pacific Islands’ shared goals to support the cultures and socioeconomic development aspirations of the Pacific Islands are encompassed in existing regional strategies that have been developed and approved by all Pacific Island leaders.3 The NCS will incorporate the regional aspirations encompassed in these guiding frameworks and strategies, as well as a full range of sociocultural values.
Creating consumer demand for sustainability
Commodification of tuna presents major challenges to the sustainable seafood movement, particularly where canned tuna is concerned. Consumers have higher expectations and demands for sustainability and companies that incorporate sustainability into their business have outperformed their peers in the marketplace. To better support sustainability in Pacific tuna fisheries, we need to learn and understand more about the desires, attitudes and trends of consumers. Given that many consumers are confused about their choices when purchasing seafood, there is an opportunity to shape the space favourably to support sustainable practices.
There are many opportunities to explore marketing high quality skipjack tuna from the Pacific Islands to support a transformation in practices and benefits for local economies. In the USA, entire protein, dairy, nut and fruit categories have been successfully rebranded, awakening the category from a flat to declining market-share to margin and sales growth. Much like pork, milk and almonds prior to concerted marketing campaigns, we believe that sustainable skipjack is not getting its deserved status in the marketplace despite investments in fishery management and is being overlooked as one the world’s most healthy, tasty, nutritious and sustainable forms of protein.
Rethinking the supply chain
Market pull-through is essential for the success and durability of systemic change in a supply chain. In the Pacific Island tuna value chain, aligning the sustainability principles of major retailers with the development aspirations of the Pacific Island region generates significant opportunities to rethink the supply chain.
Technology will be key to improving efficiencies and solving key sustainability issues in the supply chain. Building on proven approaches, technology can improve monitoring and traceability along with lowering the cost of energy and water that benefit producers, processors, brands and consumers. Process innovations and local investments that shorten time to market, improve access to labour pools, and/or improve the ability to store product can also play an important role in supply chain improvements. These improvements lower cost of handling and bring more financial benefit to local islands.
Ultimately, properly aligned incentives can help to encourage responsible management for long term benefits. There are a range of bright spots and long-term investments that can be scaled, as well as a set of frontiers in innovation and business models that can be explored to re-think and re-imagine the tuna supply chain of the 21st century.
Economic benefits can come in different forms: royalty returns from selling fishing rights to foreign nations, and providing fish for the domestic market at a time when food security is an issue.
The third possibility is jobs in the fishing industry. UN figures show unemployment rates in the Pacific can run as high as 60% in the worst affected countries, with women and youth being the hardest hit.
Dr Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi, Chief Executive Officer at Tonga’s Ministry of Fisheries, outlined a new approach his country is taking, to increase employment by encouraging local operators into longline fishing.
“We need to manage and develop the local industry, and shift our reliance away from foreign vessels,” he said. “Currently we have about 70 locals employed in fisheries. A new approach could boost the employment of marine engineers, crew, fishermen, and observers.”
“There will also be new opportunities for women, in marketing and administration.”
Dr Halafihi (also known as Hau) said that Tonga currently has only one local longline operator and seven foreign vessels, and their new plans provide for 20 licenses, 10 each for foreign vessels and locals.
Employment is the major benefit, but one side effect of a stronger domestic fishing fleet will be to increase compliance and reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This is a significant because Tonga does not have the capacity to enforce laws with foreign fleets.
Hau mapped out the steps Tonga will take: controlling of licences, incorporating the new measures in law, increasing the number of local operators using bareboat charters, seeking out donors to provide vessels, and training.
The Solomon Islands are planning a similar approach. Ferral Lasi, Undersecretary Technical at the Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources, says the main idea is not to issue licenses to foreign vessels for fishing or export.
“We want to cut foreign longlining. At the moment, we have 91 longliner foreign vessels licensed but no domestic operators,” he says. “We hope to sign an MOU this year to start the 5-year process of changing the face of our fishing industry.”
He expects the benefits will be considerable.
“Local owners will make money, stimulating business. Employment will be boosted on vessels and in processing centres. We are looking at bringing $200-300 million into the economy of the Solomon Islands,” he says.
Ferral puts the current value of longlining at about $900 million, with license fees amounting to $20-40 million.
“It will all be linked to a national fisheries hub. For some fish (like bigeye) the value is higher if we manage the process of export ourselves, so we plan to handle, process, and export fish like this. There will be many people employed in the hub,” he says.
He says training programs are part of the plan, and also jobs for women.
“Our cannery employs a lot of women, and this will happen in the Hub. We are about to finalise a policy about gender and it will relate to all our activities,” he says.
This will be a total change for the Solomon Islands and will need a lot of work involving willing partners.
“We need to develop the concept, and a plan. The whole project will be handled by Solomon Islanders and phased in over a transition period. It involves Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC) and donor partners (including Conservation International). The memorandum of understanding (MOU) will spell out who will do what,” Ferral says.
Changes are also coming to the Cook Islands, as they move swiftly to adopt a new e-reporting system developed by SPC.
Marino Wichman, Data Manager at the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR), has been tasked with implementing a new electronic reporting system to manage the longline quota management system approved in 2016-17.
“The Ministry works closely with SPC and FFA to ensure our information management systems are at optimal operational standards for both our data technicians and industry operators. E-reporting is of particular interest, as the Ministry has now introduced longline quota for albacore and bigeye tuna.
“It can be quite tricky on the reporting side of things,” he says. “The old system of recording catches and entering fish data into the data bases was cumbersome. Paper sheets got lost, some data had to be re-entered up to seven different times, and delays meant accurate up-to-date information was difficult.”
Now SPC has made available a new app called Onboard.
Andrew Hunt, of SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme, says Onboard helps captains of longline boats to complete their log sheets.
“Instead of filling out a paper-based form, captains submit the information electronically. Onboard has features like GPS and the camera to improve data quality, and captains can submit new reports while they are still at sea, providing daily updates of their data,” he says.
“It’s on an Android Tablet, and loaded up and given to captains of commercial vessels. Each day they’ll log their fishing activity into the tablet, recording what kind of hooks they’re using, and how many, and the types and weights of fish they catch.”
“And then when they’re finished they submit the data straight into the database.”
MMR has been trialling the system for its Cook Islands flagged vessels operating out of America Samoa and Rarotonga.
Mr Wichman says, “We found that captains liked the concept and took on board the onus of keeping records in a safe place to keep them updated, but they don’t like tablets, and want to use laptops.”
After discussion with MMR earlier in the year, SPC has now provided a PC version of Onboard for use on shipboard laptops and computers, which will enable the app to tie into existing satellite data feeds onboard vessels.
MMR Director Offshore Tim Costelloe says: “With the large size of our EEZ and the need to tie e-reporting verifications into weekly and daily reporting for our Quota Management System, we found that an app using a handheld device did not fit the needs and requirements of our legal framework. This latest PC version greatly improves the standard of delivery and will benefit all stakeholders with more timely reporting and better monitoring of catches.”
The Cook Islands licenses 54 longline vessels, of which 26 are Cook Islands flagged. The remainder of the longline fleet are charter vessels flagged to China under access agreements with the Cook Islands Government. MMR is aiming to have 100 per cent e-reporting coverage on all licenced longliners by the end of 2019.
“We still have some way to go, as it is new technology and we need to work out the kinks, but the end result will include up to date info sharing, better monitoring, and greater control of catch limits,” Mr Costelloe says.
In the context of the programming directions for International Waters in the GEF, the project makes significant contributions to FFA activities in support of both the blue economy and improving the management of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).
Cooperation in the management of tuna fisheries by Pacific Island countries is a direct application of the principles of the blue economy. This concept aims to promote economic growth, social inclusion, and the preservation and improvement of livelihoods while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability of the oceans. It is closely linked with Sustainable Development Goal 14, specifically 14.4 and 14.7.
The Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) tuna fishery is the largest tuna fishery in the world and the 2.7 million ton annual WCPO tuna catch accounts for sixty percent of global production with sixty percent of this catch coming from the waters of FFA Members. Tuna fisheries are a key resource for all Pacific Island countries – for many the only renewable economic resource. The WCPO is the only tuna fishery on the planet in which all four target stocks are currently rated as sustainably fished with no overfishing occurring.
The Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) is a fisheries management system that establishes rights in the shared fishery for coastal state and has been driven by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a sub-regional grouping of FFA member countries. The consolidation of VDS which allows members to sell the rights to purse seine fishing days in their waters has seen SIDS revenues from the purse seine fishery increase from from 220 million in 2012 to 480 million in 2016, accounting for more than 40% of government revenue in five member SIDS and supporting 25,000 jobs in FFA Member countries in 2017. Of those employed in the processing sector 80% are women.
The Regional Fisheries Surveillance Programme is a unique collaboration between the members of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) to address illegal, unreported and unregistered (IUU) fishing in support of SDG 14.4. A range of regionally agreed systems and tools and best practice technology applications provide a high level of monitoring, control and surveillance and the agency is active in a range of activities supporting IUU mitigation such as the implementation of electronic monitoring and reporting systems on WCPO vessels.
In terms of activities supporting improved management of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), the OFMP2 project supports the annual FFA Management Options Consultation (MOC) meeting in which FFA Members Countries actively participate in WCPFC decision making and includes the improved management of ABNJ. MOC processes have provided the opportunity for supporting the adoption of high seas Special Management Areas and promoting strengthened catch and effort limits on the WCPFC high seas for tropical tuna fisheries, as well as an allocation process that will take account of the WCPFC Convention’s recognition of the special requirements of SIDS.
OFMP2 has also assisted PNA countries to develop the capacity to implement their prohibition on PNA-licenced purse-seiners from fishing in the two western high seas pockets.
Wider FFA promoted and supported measures such as FAD closures, 100% observer coverage in the purse seine fishery and coordinated approaches to high seas boarding and inspection activities also support more effective management of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.
The GEF OFMP II is a key contributor to the success of the blue economy in the WCPO.
This story provides an illustration of how GEF IW projects are already addressing themes in the new GEF IW strategy for the 7th GEF Replenishment. In this case the story highlights how projects can address Objective 1. Strengthening Blue Economy opportunities. In GEF-7, investments will be strengthening nations Blue Economy opportunities, through three areas of strategic action: 1) sustaining healthy coastal and marine ecosystems; 2) catalyzing sustainable fisheries management; and, 3) addressing pollution reduction in marine environments.
In a significant development for global fisheries, blockchain technology is now being used to improve tuna traceability to help stop illegal and unsustainable fishing practices in the Pacific Islands tuna industry.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, in partnership with US-based tech innovator ConsenSys, tech implementer TraSeable and tuna fishing and processing company Sea Quest Fiji Ltd, has just launched a pilot project in the Pacific Islands tuna industry that will use blockchain technology to track the journey of tuna from “bait to plate”.
Blockchain technology is rapidly evolving beyond Bitcoin. Emerging applications are geared to improve business in many ways – including supply-chain transparency for all kinds of products.
A blockchain is a digital ledger that is distributed, decentralised, verifiable and irreversible. It can be used to record transactions of almost anything of value.
Essentially, it is a shared (not copied) database that everyone in the network can see and update. This system provides multiple benefits for supply chains, including high levels of transparency. This is because everyone in the network can see and verify the ledger, and no individual can alter or delete the history of transactions.
For consumers, this means you will be able to scan a code on an item you want to buy and find out exactly where it has been before landing in your hands. It will be easy to answer those tricky questions about whether or not an item – such as a fish – is sustainable, ethical or legal.
Using blockchain to trace tuna
The WWF pilot project will use a combination of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, quick response (QR) code tags and scanning devices to collect information about the journey of a tuna at various points along the supply chain. While this use of technology is not newfor supply-chain tracking, the exciting part is that the collected information will then be recorded using blockchain technology.
Tracking will start as soon as the tuna is caught. Once a fish is landed, it will be attached with a reusable RFID tag on the vessel. Devices fitted on the vessel, at the dock and in the processing factory will then detect the tags and automatically upload information to the blockchain.
Once the fish has been processed, the reusable RFID tag will be switched for a cheaper QR code tag, which will be attached to the product packaging. The unique QR code will be linked to the blockchain record associated with the particular fish and its original RFID tag. The QR code tag will be used to trace the rest of the journey of the fish to the consumer.
At the moment, linking tags is not difficult because the project is focusing on whole round exports – that is, the whole fresh fish minus head, gills and guts. It gets a little more complicated when the fish is cut up into loins, steaks, cubes and cans, but the project team is now able to link the QR code tags on the packages of the processed fish with the record of the original fish on the blockchain.
While it may be possible to use RFID tags throughout the whole process, the expense of these tags could prohibit smaller operators in the fishing industry from participating in the scheme if it expands. There is also potential to use near field communicator (NFC) devices to track the fish all the way to the consumer in the future.
Bringing much-needed transparency to the industry
While this use of the blockchain is the first of its kind for the Pacific Islands region, it is not a world first. A company called Provenence and the International Pole and Line Association (IPLA) has already completed a successful pilot project tracing products from Indonesian tuna fisheries to consumers in the UK.
Provenance is also working on using blockchain to track a range of other physical things – including cotton, fashion, coffee and organically farmed food products. However, the potential of blockchain goes further. For example, Kodak recently launched its own cryptocurrency to help photographers track and protect their digital intellectual property.
Blockchain technology is just starting to change the way business is done. If it delivers on its promise of supply-chain transparency, it will be a great tool to help ensure that industries – including the tuna industry – are doing the right thing.
This will give consumers more information on which to base their purchasing decisions. For the global tuna industry, which has historically struggled with illegal and environmentally dubious fishing practices, this could be a turning point as visionary fishing companies demonstrate true stewardship and begin to open up the industry to full transparency.
Koror, Palau — ‘Blue Boats’ a phantom fleet of marginally registered fishing vessels, set sail from small villages in Vietnam to venture out and spread throughout the Pacific. Made of wood and painted in a hue that blends invisibly with the ocean, these boats are virtually undetectable to 21st-century marine radar.
Bypassing tuna, these poachers target coastal fish stocks and other marine resources that are easier to harvest. Although they do not come for the prized tuna catch, their unwelcome entry in the Pacific waters now poses a big problem to many small island nations in the region. These boats have been spotted in Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and New Caledonia. There is also a strong possibility that they are in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
The growing threat of these ocean pillagers in the Pacific is a serious concern raised during the annual Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting held in Nadi, Fiji from Dec. 5 to 9.
James Movick, director general of Forum Fisheries Agencies, said these poachers are not after the highly-migratory species but are stealing coastal reef resources such as sea cucumbers, clams and other sea creatures that local fishermen are not even allowed to take.
Vu Duyen Hai, head of the Vietnamese delegation to the WCPFC meeting, said Vietnam has approximately 105,000 blue boats. While aware of their intrusion, Vu could not say how many of them have illegally entered the regional waters.
“We have been informed by some other countries that Vietnamese vessels come to Palau or Micronesia to poach,” Hai said. “We are not so sure that they are Vietnamese vessel or that they are Vietnamese flagged.”
Because the blue boats are not equipped with GPS, Hai said they follow the fish and unintentionally enter the EEZ of other nations.
While it may not be clear from which villages the blue boats are coming, these fishing vessels bear the tradition of Nha Trang, the first big boat-building city surrounded by several harbors at the northern end of the South Coast and its river mouth holds hundreds of boats. These motorized fishing boats are painted, with bright red and white trim around the windows and panels in the cabin top. Their bows are tall.
Some nations take a hard-line in dealing with these blue boats, which have been compared to a “thief in the night,” who enters the home and steals the most precious resources. In Palau, Vietnam’s unwanted poaching has been put on notice with at least five boats having been burned since 2015. The vessels that had been burnt were caught fishing illegally off of Kayangel Island, with over 8 metric tons of sea cucumbers and reef fish on board. “We will not tolerate any more unsustainable acts. Palau guarantees, you will return with nothing,” Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said.
“I think they are doing very big damage. I mean we have found them in Australia, in Papua New Guinea, in Palau, and Federated States of Micronesia. So if they have found them there, then they must be everywhere,” Ludwig Kumoru, CEO of Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), told Pacific reporters at the WCPFC meeting.
Vietnam, a cooperating non-member country of WCPFC, has expressed interest to become a full member. But several WCPFC members impacted by the blue boats are not keen to accept Vietnam into the commission.
FSM Head of Delegation Eugene Pangelinan said the problem is being exacerbated by Vietnam’s failure to provide any regulation or control over boats that have been arrested in FSM waters.
It is a matter that goes way beyond our imagination.” Pangelinan said, describing how these activities seem to be condoned by flag states that allow a large number of vessels to go out beyond their monitoring capabilities or ability to exercise flagship obligations.
At a plenary session, the Vietnam delegation recommended that a hotline be established between the Asian nation and the islands so future incidences could be addressed through communication. Pangelinan rejected the suggestion. “We don’t feel like a ‘hotline’ is what the Law of the Sea convention calls for,” he said. “We want them to live up to their flag state duty to prosecute or take other actions against the blue boats.”
Between December 2014 and September 2016, the FSM has seized more than nine Vietnamese vessels and arrested approximately 169 crew members, according to a briefing paper distributed to the media at an earlier Pacific Island Leaders Summit in Pohnpei.
The FSM has borne the substantial cost of detecting the vessels, making the arrest, as well as transporting, feeding, and repatriating the crew members, Pangelinan said. He noted that some of crew members, who have been arrested and sent home by the FSM government, later came back and arrested again.
Suzanne Lowe-Gallen, chief of Compliance and Technical Projects for FSM, said surveillance and arrests of these boats has cost the FSM government more than $200,000.
According to Keobel Sakuma, Palau National Marine Sanctuary executive director, the blue boats and their destructive practices affect Palau’s nearshore marine life, resources which are vital to the tourism industry and to the island’s food security.
WCPFC chair Rhea Moss-Christian also shared her perspective, “It’s certainly an issue of concern because it relates to Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) issues in general and impacts small island coastal states,” she added that they will wait and see what the most affected members have in terms of proposals or requests for action.
FSM, which has been gravely affected, urged the commission needs to address the issue. “The impacts of IUU are not localized, but are felt across the region. And as such, collaboration is key toward combating the detrimental effects of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, in particular these unacknowledged, uninvited and unwelcome blue boats,” according to a statement by the FSM government, which was read before the commission.
The Forum Fisheries Agency will be taking steps to put into place a number of surveillance mechanisms that will allow assistance to countries that are being affected by the problem. “As a regional agency we recognize that we have a responsibility and there is an opportunity for us to use the regional platforms and mechanisms that we have in order to support those countries to better monitor and survey any possible blue boat activities. So we are planning to bring together those parties that are currently being affected sometime in the first quarter of next year in order to discuss this strategy,” Movick stated, adding that the agency is looking at utilizing satellite surveillance to get a handle of the issue.
One economic impact of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing on developing countries is the direct loss of the value of the catches that could be taken by local fishermen if the IUU fishing were not taking place. According to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s 100-page report released in March 2016, illegal fishing in the Pacific Ocean is costing more than $600 million a year and is mainly being carried out by legally licensed fishing vessels, a report has found. The agency’s report is the first in-depth attempt to investigate, quantify and place a monetary value on the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices in the region. “IUU fishing by the licensed fleet accounts for over 95 percent of the total volume and value of IUU activity estimated here,” the report said.
On the global level, the Conservationist group Oceana estimates that the world economy loses between $10 billion and $23 billion annually from illegal fishing. IUU harvests may be brought to market at a lower price as unfair competition to the same products from the regulated supply or as a mislabeled competing product. In either situation this illegal unregulated contribution to the market may lower the overall quality and price of products available, thus creating an economic burden on harvesters following the laws and regulations.–First published in Pacific Note
A real life David and Goliath struggle has unraveled in the Pacific as a young woman from a small island nation takes on the cause of protecting the world’s dwindling tuna stocks against bigger countries and interests — a role that has earned her global respect.
In her day job Rhea Moss- Christian works as the special adviser on Oceans and Trade to the government of the Marshall Islands, where she provides direct support to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is in her unpaid role as chair of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the rule-setting body for the world’s biggest tuna fishery, that she has won the respect of the world by moving the institution from a state of paralysis.
At 42, Christian had spent more than half her life working with tuna and other marine resources. “For 20 years I have been following this path on fisheries,” Moss-Christian said. Her work in fisheries started with her undergraduate study in an American University. But her career began during the time WCPFC Convention was being negotiated in the 1990’s. The convention eventually gave birth to the commission.
Straight from school she helped the RMI government during the regional fisheries meetings and the United Nations negotiations as the they struggled with other Pacific countries to establish a body that would bring sustainable management to the last healthy fishery resources.
Christian is a cheerful young mother who takes her job seriously. She made history as the first woman to chair the Pacific Tuna Commission, a body which brings together all the big fishing nations from Europe, Asia and North America with developing Pacific nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines. Her recent re-election for a second two-year term is testament to the respect she has won from the members.
She wears so many hats and has recently given birth. As she travels around Asia and the Pacific with a breastfeeding baby, she is breaking new ground for women hoping to make a positive impact in the world.
When asked about her experience as chair from a small island nation such as the Marshalls, Christina said she doesn’t see a problem dealing with commission members from large countries. “I don’t know if it affects me directly, I work very hard, I try to give equal time to delegations. I don’t see that my representation as a small island state should cloud my ability to do that,” she said.
WCPFC membership includes all the nations that fish in the Western and Central Pacific and the resource-owning island states. The aim of the commission is to put fishing for tuna and other species that range widely across the ocean on an economically and environmentally-sustainable footing. Fishing is a cut-throat industry powerful nations involved have not been willing to act even when tuna stocks drop to critical levels.
As chair of the commission, Christian shoulders a huge responsibility especially when two of the main commercial species of tuna are at dangerously low levels. The Pacific bluefin tuna and bigeye tuna are in most trouble, with bluefin down to 2.6 per cent of pre-fishing stocks and bigeye down to 16 per cent. Both stocks continue to be overfished. Christian said the challenge can be daunting as different countries have different interests. The way the commission is set up every one has to agree to measures or they will not be agreed. She said that the challenge is to help members meet their interests. There is a mechanism to do that and “there is a way for them to agree to take action even if they don’t see it immediately,” Christian added.
Christian, in her pioneering role, said she is humble about her substantial contribution and happy to see more opportunities for women.“I see myself as someone who cares about the issue not as a woman but as someone who plays on my strengths, (in) taking the role as chair,” she said. “From the time I started to now, it’s encouraging to see that there is a more balanced representation (of women) at meetings and in their delegation, I think that is just a sign of growing interests overall in the importance of fisheries especially in the Pacific region,” she said.–First published in Pacific Island Times and Pacific Note
Does the Pacific have a system capable of mounting effective surveillance, capture and arrest illegal vessels and operators in its 20million-plus square kilometer fishery? The answer to that, over more than a decade of Surveillance Operations in the region, is an emphatic ‘Yes.’
But the newer question the region is asking itself has a mixed response. Can the region deal to the ‘Vietnamese Blue Boats’ threat putting our Pacific reef systems on the line? The answer to that is Yes and No.
Yes because the 17 Pacific Forum countries have a special system specially set-up to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU) in its multi-billion dollar fishery.
The system called the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) network run by FFA is enormously powerful. Its scope is oceanic, it has multiple international partners that contribute to it [the Australian, French, New Zealand and United States of America military collectively called the ‘Quad’], and all of the Pacific’s fisheries agencies’ IUU-related networks feeding into it.
Any lingering doubts about the power it wields were put to rest last week when the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) apprehended three illegal ‘Vietnamese Blue Boats’ at the Indispensable Reef 50 kilometers south of Rennell Island, Renbel Province after being directed there by an aircraft provided by France under the FFA’s regional MCS framework.
Near midnight on Sunday, 26 March, RSIPF’s patrol boat Auki rammed and boarded the first of the four vessels, all of whom refused to stop when called. The crews of each vessel boarded were apprehended and detained aboard Auki. And even though sister patrol boat Lata later joined the fray, the logistics of managing arrested crew and corralling the three apprehended vessels gave the fourth ‘blue boat’ an opportunity to escape.
What the Solomon Islands operation demonstrated was the capability of the MCS system.
It could not have been better staged or timed as on Monday this week, the who’s who of Pacific Fisheries are in Honiara for the annual series of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance sessions to tackle IUU fishing in the Pacific tuna fishery.
FFA’s Director General alluded to the MCS network’s role in the Solomon Islands ‘blue boat’ operation, “It is important that we have this capability. That the fishing industry understand we have the capability to mount effective surveillance and to apprehend vessels if we need to,” Mr James Movick stated during his opening address to officials at the regions annual MCS working group meet. These sessions set the agenda for what MCS priorities are tabled to the regional Forum Fisheries Committee in May, with the outcomes set before Fisheries Ministers in July.
In essence, it is FFA within the regional MCS strategy that provides the centralized hub for the Pacific’s various fisheries networks such as the Regional Observer Program, Vessel Monitoring, Information and technology services. It then analyses the information from these sources along with other information layers at its Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) to assess possible and potential illegal activities in the fishery. If aerial surveillance and other actions are needed to confirm suspected perpetrators, the RFSC then links with its Quad partners and assists Pacific nations in their comprehensive response if potential IUU is confirmed.
What’s more, another MCS tool the Niue Treaty Information System (NTIS) will go live in May 2017 giving the system a turbo boost of ‘power’. This will come through the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA) by allowing Parties to the agreement to cross vest other parties to help them enforce their own national laws. It also provides the opportunity in the future for partnerships with other border control networks besides the Fisheries network as they need to.
It means NTSA Parties would be able to also share their data and intelligence with regional law enforcement agencies and other related government line ministries like Immigration, Customs, Quarantine, Transnational Crime Units, and the like.
This extra capability will not only provide these new partners with information on vessels and people involved in illegal fishing activities but also a cross-sector platform to investigate those particular vessels and people. The new capability also lends itself to working together on how to enforce, how to follow-up action. It means that this new approach can be applied to any situation that involves IUU fishing and other transnational crimes usually linked with fishing vessels such as human trafficking and illicit trade.
There are two dimensions to the No- and they may set those who are so inclined to reach for their panic buttons, but they do demand an active regional response.
First, as the Pacific MCS system gets a super upgrade, its powerful applications now showing up the ‘reef robbers’ were created for one purpose only- ensuring sustainable management by deterring IUU activity in the region’s multi-billion dollar oceanic fishery.
“As we deal with the Vietnamese blue boat issue, technically this is not within the FFA’s mandate,” DG Movick reminded participants.
FFA’s core mandate is ‘to assist members to sustainably manage Forum countries’ offshore fisheries resources’. Which means that technically, FFA’s operations do not extend to illegal activities in coastal waters where the Vietnamese Blue Boats are illegally harvesting beche de mer or sea cucumber [worth between US$60 to US$300 per kilogram on the market].
According to Movick, “We got involved because every time there are illegal boats in the region everybody says, what is FFA doing about it. So we have the responsibility but also the opportunity of using the regional MCS framework.
“So we will be looking for a full mandate from member countries.”
There is urgency, and the process FFA is expected to take will be to raise the issue, firstly, at a meeting in early May in Australia for Pacific countries immediately affected by the ‘Vietnamese Blue Boats.
The ideal officials to attend would be Attorney Generals and other senior officials from countries targeted by the Vietnamese Blue Boats.
The aim of the meeting is to gain from these officials a direction on a mandate that FFA will take to the Fisheries officials and Ministerial meetings for some form of formalization.
“We do have a very effective tool in place and we do need to use it as these are problems that are affecting the sovereignty of our countries, the livelihoods and opportunities that exist for our own people to harvest these resources.
Vietnamese Blue Boats have ransacked beche de mer in other coastal nations in Asia, where strong action by Indonesia has made them move further afield into Palau, the first Pacific nation to raise the alarm. FSM began to report incidences and lately, PNG, Vanuatu, Australia and New Caledonia have had first-hand experience with these vessels. The latest arrests in the Solomon Islands have heaped more pressure on Vietnam to take responsibility for a problem which comes from their shores.
And another issue at play is the human rights context of this criminal activity.
Already sparking strong social media conversations in online groups across the Pacific, there are questions where Vietnam itself is remaining silent on its responsibility. What is it about the economic situation confronting these young men, where they are heading out to sea on vessels which are illegal in design, intent and goal?
The crews work in illegal, inhumane and risky conditions for unseen masters reaping the high-value financial benefits of feeding the global beche-de-mer market. For them, there is an inevitable nature to their capture, apprehension and jail in foreign lands where the conditions of their captivity are like a holiday compared to their working conditions at sea.
It may be these and other peripheral issues which help the Pacific bring global pressure on Vietnam to take responsibility for its reef robbers.–First reported in Pacific Guardians
Pacific Forum countries lose an estimated US$153million each year to Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing operators.
In a region where 60 per cent of the global tuna catch is harvested, valued at US$6billion, it is no surprise that tuna is the single most important economic resource to Pacific nations.
For some of them, tuna brings in more than 40 per cent of their national income. For others like Tokelau, it brings in 99 per cent, a source that for the past two years has been the sole contributor to its Trust Fund, a core element to realize aspirations to a self-determined nation and people.
The blatant illegal and criminal offenses together with the lack of international redress are key reasons why Pacific leaders are sick of the IUU effect. It not only robs them of revenue for current needs, it steals development opportunities from future generations. At the same time, domestic fishing operations are squeezed out of their own fishery as they succumb to the skewed competition from the heavily subsidized foreign fishing operators; while adding to the injustice are Foreign Flag states turning blind eyes to their management obligations so that Pacific nations have to redirect their revenues to manage the fishery on everyone else’s behalf.
At their most recent meeting in September 2016, Pacific leaders once again put out a strong call to international, regional and national agencies for “action to ending IUU fishing and associated activities” that would address the exploitation and injustice.
But at the end of the day, reality for the Pacific is it needs to find solutions because no one else will. And last week at a meeting in Honiara, Solomon Islands, that search looks like it has finally found an answer.
At Honiara, the NTSA entered another exciting phase and emerged from the FFA’s conference centre with a vote of confidence from Pacific members more familiar with the Niue Treaty’s operational heart, the Niue Treaty Information System (NTIS.
“Data is key to our Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) work. The collection of that data is also key. But data by itself is useless if we don’t do something with it. We must use it, analyze it, and share it” if the Pacific is to stop IUU, FFA’s Legal Counsel and legal brains behind the NTSA, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen told Pacific Guardians in an exclusive interview.
“So as part of this work for implementing the NTSA, the intent is collection of data, and sharing it with parties so that something can be done with it.
“It will enable a country to take further action should it be required because its one of its vessels or one of its nationals that’s involved. And also that the administrator [FFA Director General] undertakes trend analyses of certain violations or certain operators that commit certain offences and making that widely known to our Parties.”
The globally unique NTSA’s strength lies in setting up its own information system, the NTIS, to gather up interagency information, pool it together and make it accessible by Party. And its ability to allow that information to be used not only for fisheries purposes but also for broader law enforcement purposes.
It points to the final test run at a training, targeted for end of this month, giving the system the ‘green light’. All going to plan, that makes May 2017, the ‘go live’ date for the system and another milestone to celebrate the occasion of the UN’s inaugural World Tuna Day on 3 May.
“I have been advised by our operations and IT team that after the meeting next month where we do the training on populating directly into the live system the information that’s required; after that, by May, it will be live for all of the Parties,” said Dr Manu.
She also expanded on the key details and outputs from last week’s meeting.
“We went into the meeting thinking that one of the key outputs to achieve is a great familiarization by several of the new faces in the room on the NTSA and especially the NTIS.
“And also the ability that the information is used not only for fisheries purposes but also for broader law enforcement purposes. That’s the objective we sought to achieve and feel we did achieve.”
She felt members understanding of how the system works was enhanced, as well as gaining greater appreciation of the benefits for their country and region as a bloc.
One of the key messages she said delegates will take home “are the ‘opportunities’ available under the NTSA. And how simple, efficient and effective it will be when they become a full party to the NTSA.
“And the message to countries already Party to the agreement, is the important that they fully commit to take it on. And implement.”
‘OPPORTUNITIES’ UNDER THE NTSA?
The NTIS is intended to be a secure searchable system accessible only by Parties to the NTSA. It houses critical information and also authority to allow any of the Parties to plan and conduct cooperative activity.
Although cooperative activities are already happening outside of the NTSA framework, there are gaps.
“What you find at the moment is that various members exchange data with some or all of the other members. But it is not done consistently and there are some gaps in the current frameworks.
“So what the NTSA seeks to do is to standardize that. Make it very clear and recognize that there are certain basic data that must be shared by anyone that’s participating in a cooperative activity.”
The NTSA provides a transparent, clear way in which everything is recorded so that every Party to an activity go into the activity knowing exactly what the rules of engagements are.
Said Dr Manu, “All of this is recorded in the system. And the system is set up so that they can look at previous activities and lessons learnt and on top of that, they can share that information with other Parties who are not part of that specific activity.
“Moving forward, I expect Parties will go from strength to strength in terms of implementing and learning lessons and continue to implement this important instrument. That’s one of the opportunities.”
Another key opportunity she outlined is the NTSA’s ability to share fisheries ‘data and intelligence’.
“There’s specific minimum data to be shared by the Parties – which is the one substantive obligation upon becoming a Party.
“Specific minimum mandatory data which makes sense to everybody because it contains key information needed if you are going to assist another Party. Or if you are going to request assistance from another Party.”
There are eight “Fisheries data and intelligence to be shared” under Article 19(1) and Annex A of the NTSA.
Two of them are fishing vessel license lists (current and historic).
“If the Solomon Islands wishes for another Party to assist in its waters it makes sense the Solomon Islands must provide its license lists.
Another crucial data is the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data.
“Our EEZs are vast and so the ability to know where the vessels are from satellite tracking and being able to better target the compliance effort so when the assisting party comes to help you it makes complete sense they get access to this VMS data,” she explained.
The opportunity offered by the NTSA is this basic mandatory fisheries data and intelligence, license list, VMS data, violations and prosecutions, cases of public record, Persons of Interest (POI), Vessels of Interest (VOI), all sorts of reports; are available to allow each party to plan and conduct activities. And they are made available on an ongoing basis.
“The mandatory data is not intended to be provided by a Party with caveats,” she stated. “That it be provided by one Party to allow another Party to plan activities with each other.”
The other significant opportunity under the NTSA “is not just sharing this fisheries data and information intelligence amongst the Parties but also being able to share it for broader law enforcement purposes,” she explained.
“This is another unique feature of the NTSA: that we are able to share with those broader law enforcement agencies any information that we think is critical to them like human trafficking through our own inspection of fishing vessels; Illicit trade, any of those transnational crimes.
“So there is a real ability through the NTSA to assist the region in broader law enforcement effort. And it is not just one way, that we share with them, but also the other way, in how they share back with us any information they find in their line of work that would be relevant for fisheries purposes.”
The NTSA framework is a unique IUU weapon that can combat illegal fishing activities at inshore and offshore fisheries.
“The NTSA framework can be used in any scenario that we’ll be seeking to capture IUU offenders.”
Which means it can also be calibrated to fight the new threat posed by illegal Vietnamese fishing vessels, also known as ‘Blue Boats’. And extended to potential future threats.
“To put a halt to IUU fishing as determined by our leaders in the most recent communiqué. And in the specific situation of the Vietnamese ‘Blue Boats’, what the NTSA is seeking to do is making sure that we can share information.
“So those countries that have experiences with Blue Boats can share this through the system. Everything is recorded and if another party like the Solomon Islands, and this is the first time they have detected Blue Boats, the system will have those shared experiences to learn from. And others who will come across those experiences can also learn from those lessons because it is all documented in the one platform.
“Today we are talking about ‘data and information sharing’. But there’s also ways in which we can share how to investigate those particular vessels [Blue Boats]. Or identify the persons involved in those specific vessels.
“This is exactly what the NTSA is geared towards. That there also will be cooperation in how we investigate, how we enforce, how we do our follow-up action, all of that can help in any situation that involves IUU fishing.
“In the future there will be other types of vessels, but this history and the learning that we gain from sharing these Blue Boat experiences is something that we want those coming after us to benefit from.”
However, the system will only be as strong as its weakest link and that is the focus of Dr Manu and her team. To promote the case for members to sign up to the NTSA so the region is united and singing from the same hymn book.
So far nine Forum Fisheries members have ratified the Agreement. Australia has indicated it will ratify in July at the start of its new fiscal year. New Zealand likewise have made noises about ratifying at the end of the year. If such commitment by Australia and New Zealand comes to bear, FFA officials are quietly confident it will catalyze the remaining Pacific nations to ratify and become Party to the NTSA.
“At the national level, provided they coordinate successfully, they will able, in the first instance to populate the system because it requires even at that stage an inter-agency effort.
“For example, fisheries won’t know the baseline cost for operating a patrol boat but that’s one of the criteria to be filled out as part of the information to come into the system. It’s maritime that has that information, so unless maritime provides that then they have an incomplete notification. That is why it really requires that collaborative effort at national level.
“Equally important at the regional level, the Secretariat must also fulfill its commitments because all elements must be working and fully understood by our members,” said Dr Manu.
“That is why we are looking forward to the training next month to do more scenario runs with our Parties. Because the more we work with the system as a Secretariat in close consultation with our Parties, the more we can refine the system to make it user friendly and as effective as it is intended to be.”–Published first in: Pacific Guardians