The 800 or so Pacific islanders who work as independent observers on tuna boats are some of the region’s unsung heroes.
They work alone as the eyes and ears of the Pacific’s monitoring and compliance efforts, alongside crews who may not want their activities made public. As a result observers risk harassment, intimidation and even murder.
Pacific nations made improving observer safety one of their top three priorities when they met with the fishing powers in Nadi next week at the 13th session of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
“The observers are playing important but far more dangerous roles than they ever have before,” Wez Norris Deputy director general of the Forum Fisheries Agency told a group of Pacific editors gathered in Nadi to report on this year’s Commission meeting.
“Traditionally, observer programs are science based – they are there to collect information that gets fed to the scientists for their work.
“Observers are more and more being called upon now for compliance functions as well so the information that they record is used by fisheries compliance officers in investigations and prosecutions and so on,” said Mr Norris.
Their bigger role is exposing observers to increased threats.
“It exposes them to intimidation …it also exposes them to bribery and corruption issues,” Mr Norris said, “we need to take that very seriously as the information that they are collecting is absolutely essential, we rely on it very heavily.”
“We’ve been given very clear instruction by the Pacific Fisheries Ministers that these people need to be looked after. It’s a daunting job that they do and it’s very valuable to us.” Mr Norris said.
The issue came to a head in the WCPFC last year as a result of serious incidents including murder of two observers from Papua New Guinea.
“We have pushed through quite a bit of reform throughout the year,” Mr Norris said.
“If they get word from their observers that there’s a particular issue on a boat, they(have) a range of responses from simply liaising with the owner of the company and the master of the vessel, all the way to ordering vessels back into port immediately, disembarking observers, taking compliance action and so on,” Mr Norris explained.
“At the same time we see a very strong need for the Commission to have specific rules in place that require flag states and fishing companies to take specific actions.
“We want to make sure that we have as holistic a set of arrangements as possible.”
Both flag states and observer providers have responsibilities.
The FFA Deputy DG said that particular issues that they need to deal with include the issue of insurance and making sure that observers are adequately covered by the various forms of insurance – income protection, health insurance, life insurance and so on because it is dangerous working on fishing vessel and incidents do happen.
The two other highest priority areas in terms of the technical work at this commission meeting were not as well-supported as Observer Safety. They are harvest strategies and the bridging measures for tropical tuna and albacore.
Harvest strategies is basically a way of pre-agreeing management rules that the Commission would implement if a tuna stock got to a certain point or a fishery got to a certain level. It’s the way of increasing the role of science in decision making for the Commission and decrease the opportunity of politicization of some of these decisions, Norris explained.
“For us the key ones of importance are: An Albacore target reference point. So, what the target reference point does is it sets out the target at which you’d like the fishery to be in. So, it really relates to the objective of your fishery, where you want it to be.
“FFA members put forward a proposal for an Albacore target reference point last year and it wasn’t successful for a couple of reasons. First of all because it is a new concept and these things get a little while to get people on board. Secondly, currently, the Albacore fishery is currently lower than that target reference point, so it’s at a state that’s depleted lower than where actually want it to be.
“So, there’s a real fear among Commission members that once you adopt a target reference point then you also have to adopt catch and effort reduction to get back up to that target. That’s a real concern and a valid once.
“Our argument is that, adopting a target reference point is like making a statement of intent. It’s the Commission agreeing “this is where we want that fishery to be.”
He says one of the other components of a harvest strategy, important for the WCPFC13 was to record objectives for each one of the fisheries. This work, increasingly important as the Pacific heads to WCPFC14 in Manila, will focus on managing the three main fisheries in the Central and Western Pacific Tropical Purse Seine fishery. Operating mainly in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) EEZs, managed under the vessel-day scheme; there is a tropical long line fishery, which is primary targeted at bigeye and yellow fin and that operates around the equator, and a sub-tropical long line fishery, which is primarily targeted at South Pacific Albacore.–ENDS
Tokelau may have just 12 square kilometers of land on which 1300 of her people live, but her 320,000 sq. km of exclusive economic zone is blessed with an abundance of tuna and a smart management strategy is churning out millions of dollars for its government and citizens.
But instead of consolidating its booming fishery by looking inwards, Mr Feleti Tulafono and his two advisors currently attending the 13th Tuna Commission meeting in Fiji, say they want to extend and share Tokelau’s boon with cousin Samoa who is not so well endowed with fishery resources; and further out in solidarity to the Pacific family that together own some 15.5million sq. km of ocean.
The Tokelau take on Pacific solidarity, an inclusive communal way of sharing, was highlighted at the renewal of the US Tuna Treaty that was signed last Sunday ahead of the Tuna Commission meeting.
The Treaty signing was the endpoint of a lot of hard work over the last five to six years according to Mr Stan Crothers, one of Tokelau’s fisheries advisors.
“It should be considered a great success for all countries in terms of increasing their fisheries revenue.”
It will yield an estimated US$70m annually for Pacific countries; while the US fishing fleet becomes the only foreign fishing nation to gain an exclusive allocation of fishing days to the Pacific fishery.
The successful outcome, “is a fantastic example of Pacific solidarity,” Mr Crothers told Pacific Guardians.
“This is all the countries of the FFA [Forum Fisheries Agency] coming together, working hard together even though they have different sets of interests, to negotiate, with the biggest economy in the world and win – for the benefit of everyone.”
There is no question that solidarity was the pillar for success, showcasing it as a model of how the Pacific can benefit if they work together he added.
But solidarity needs wisdom to ensure the details, the terms and conditions are well defined and framed so that today’s bounty is harvested without being blind to how the future is impacted.
As Mr Crothers explained, “We’ve been very careful in negotiating this Treaty within the boundaries of sustainable management. That the [US] Treaty is part of the overall management regime in the Pacific. Specifically, it contributes to the sustainable management of the Purse Seine fishery and in that respect, yes, it certainly makes a big contribution.”
For Tokelau, its fishery generates 99 per cent of the country’s revenue, with the Purse Seine fishery, which is at the heart of the US Tuna Treaty, generating 90 per cent of the total income estimated “for 2016 at US$13.5million,” said Mr Crothers.
“This is the money that funds its teachers, doctors, support communities, hospitals, schools, its solar power project, this is really important for our development.”
But it wasn’t always this good for Tokelau – its fishery boom only started six years ago, with the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) central to success – specifically, the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS).
According to Mr Crothers, prior to 2010, Tokelau’s average return from its fisheries was less than US$1million.
That all changed in 2010 when the Tokelau General Fono (its legislative assembly) approved a new fisheries policy that ushered in a new era.
“As a result of that decision, we negotiated to become part of the PNA Vessel Day Scheme, and negotiated new access agreements with companies from Korea, from the European Union, Taiwan and others.
“The net result is we’ve gone from earning US$1m in 2010 to US$13.5m in 2016.
“For a small community of around 1200 people this is a significant amount of money and makes a significant difference to the lives of the people of Tokelau.”
Since 2016, Tokelau has taken a series of large steps forward in managing its EEZ.
“We’ve made good progress in that time. Now what are the next steps in that progression you may ask? Well there are two area we’re working on right now: (i) Building capability and capacity to allow Tokelau to take greater management responsibility of its EEZ, (ii) we are just in the process of implementing the VDS for our Longline Fishery. We’ve implemented it for our Purse Seine fishery with very good results and now we’re embarking on the same exercise with our Longline Fishery.
Central to that development is Tokelau reaching out in solidarity to close neighbor Samoa. Since Tokelau does not have ports or processing factories and its 25 licensed longline vessels fishing in its EEZ are catching a lot of fish, “a significant amount of that Longline fish is now being landed in Samoa, supporting the processing plant in Apia.
“This is a great example where Tokelau and also Samoa are benefitting. People are employed; facilities and supporting services are utilized. So it’s a win-win.
“That is a success story based on Tokelau’s tuna fishery the majority of people don’t know. A story of how Tokelau is adding value to Samoa’s economy.
“More importantly, we in the Pacific have made a lot of progress over the last 10 years. And what I’m very pleased about are fisheries officials across the region working together to generate more opportunities for the people of the Pacific. That’s Pacific solidarity at work.
“So watch this space because there is plenty more to come.”
Ultimately, the ‘Persons of Interest’ path would lead to the end of the IUU fishing chain and nab those truly benefitting- the vessel owners, the individual/entity hiring drivers, controllers, operators and ships’ masters – the true source and sustenance of IUU activities. Pacific Guardian’s newshub founding editor Fatu Tauafiafi was in Denarau with the Pacificmedia@WCPFC13 team.
A major breakthrough that could significantly cripple illegal fishing operations and activities in Pacific waters was revealed at the 13th Tuna Commission meeting in Fiji last week.
The new approach is to focus on ‘Persons of Interest’ the “drivers, controllers, and operators of rogue vessels,” Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, Legal Counsel for the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) told Pacific Guardians on the side of the Tuna Commission meeting.
One of the effects of this approach is people on the list with a history of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) involvement could see the fishing licenses and vessel registrations of those they work for – declined or revoked.
“We have been so vessel-focused in how we combat IUU fishers,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen. “We look at vessels of interest when we compile IUU lists. The information we collect and monitor is all about the vessel and its compliance history, yet it is not the vessel that does the illegal fishing.
“It’s people who are the source of IUU fishing.”
Ultimately, following this path would lead to the end of the chain where the beneficial owners who hire the drivers, controllers, operators and ships’ masters are found.
They are the source stealing around 306,440 tonnes of the Pacific’s tuna resource every year. In the ‘Towards the Quantification of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in the Pacific Islands Region’ report released in March this year, the dollar value of this criminal haul is estimated at US$616.11million annually.
The number is actually around US$152.67million after analyses of economic indicators carried out by the study, “Based on the most recent estimates of profitability in the [Western Central Pacific Ocean] WCPO purse seine and longline sectors, we estimate the [economic rent lost as a result of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) activity] is around US$152.67million.”
The new approach according to Dr Tupou-Roosen came out of their in-country work to establish national legislations to implement the NTSA to combat IUU.
“As we roll out our work to assist countries implement the NTSA, what we found is that our small countries are not collecting this information [operators of rogue vessels]. So even those that are parties to the NTSA haven’t set up systems, or turn their minds completely to collecting this type of information.
“It made us look internally at the FFA Secretariat and how we’d undertake this task. At the Secretariat, we have been so vessel-focused in how we combat IUU fishing. Even at the Tuna Commission level we have been vessel focused. We look at vessels of interest when we compile IUU lists. Here at the Commission it’s all about the vessel and its compliance history.
“At FFA what we have is the regional surveillance centre – it’s a great tool for mapping out vessels, seeing where they are, in one space. It plots onto that space using FFA’s Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) so it can see where all the vessels are. It also houses information about those vessels. It profiles its history, who [country] its been flagged to, who the current flag [country] is, it talks about information relating to the vessel. But it does not talk about the masters on the vessel or have information to tell us about compliance history of those masters – so there’s a missing link there.
“So this work with the NTSA is an opportunity to broaden our approach to combating IUU fishing, to target the source of IUU fishing, the drivers, the controllers, the operators of those rogue vessels.”
The information collected will be used in two ways according to Dr Tupou-Roosen.
“At the national level, when an application comes in for a license, you check the names of the applicants against a list that you could have at national level or combined into a regional list that we hold at FFA, to check the compliance history of the person that you’re allowing to fish in your waters.
The other step is at regional level.
“We have the responsibility of registering vessels that are licensed to fish in our members waters. So across the board of our countries you cannot license a vessel unless you are in good standing on that regional register which is called the FFA Vessel register.
“As a pre-requisite to licensing, already at the regional level our FFA Secretariat needs to be able to use that type of information, and have clear procedures on when it can use it. At the same time, resident in FFA’s Director General, is the authority not to register a vessel because the applicants are on a list of rogue operators. So, that idea is still in progress, but we’re taking small steps to seeing how we can start filtering it into the work that we do with the current structures we have.”
One of the areas that was filtered and progressed through at the Tuna Commission last week relates to the annual publishing of companies and their vessels on its IUU list.
“We saw the opportunity that we can ask for the master’s name and nationality to be put alongside in this adopted final list. The information is already available as the Commission collects those data.”
To further tighten the net around ‘Persons of Interests’, Dr Tupou-Roosen is well advanced in developing a system that would register a ‘unique identifier’ for individuals, similar to how each vessel has a UVI (Unique vessel identifier).
“A UVI stays with every vessel so it doesn’t matter if the flag changes or the owner changes, the UVI tells us it’s the same vessel. We want to see the same for a person.”
At this Tuna Commission meeting FFA members were given the heads-up that FFA is looking into a strategy for profiling persons involved in IUU fishing including finding a unique identifier for them “because we know names of persons can change,” she confirmed.
“This is a work in progress but we’ve introduced the idea to the Commission that it’s coming. And those who are registered or licensed in our waters or in our region will need, in the future, this type of information if they are applying.”
Dr Tupou-Roosen said they are very excited about the ‘Persons of Interest’ approach as “we think it’s really the way forward to getting to the heart of IUU fishing.
“We’re targeting the perpetrators, the people behind it. And we are working to really tighten the net over IUU fishing and their operators.”
The work is intense and complext. It started with the Cook Islands in Febraury this year and is to be extended out to other NTSA parties Samoa, and the Federated States of Micronesia, the latest to ratify bringing the NTSA membership to eight.
“The full FFA membership have endorsed it in principle but those who haven’t become a member yet can buy into the idea alongside NTSA parties as they start to put the structures up. Once we’ve got it for one member, it’s easier to roll it out.
“I think that once countries see it implemented successfully by one or two countries sharing and especially use the information then it will get traction.”
NTSA: THE NOT-SO SECRET WEAPON
The IUU threat is not new to Pacific leaders. They have long recognized its financial toxicity to their fishery. It was as far back as 2007 when the Vavau Declaration on Fisheries included, “a decision they [Pacific leaders] made ‘we must strengthen our Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) mechanisms,” stated Dr Tupou-Roosen.
“It wasn’t until 2010 at the Pacific Leaders Forum in Port Vila that they did. Through a multilateral instrument, the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA), a legal agreement that would allow them to protect the fisheries and ensure the sustainability of the resource for the benefit of Pacific peoples.”
NTSA: THE NUTS AND BOLTS
In a nutshell, ‘information’ was identified as the kryptonite to IUU, and the NTSA was built with the intent of allowing members to do two things with the ‘information’:
Share resources: Allows parties to cooperate in conducting joint surveillance and enforcement activities; and
Exchange information: Allow the sharing of fisheries data and intelligence. And flexibility to use the acquired information for broader law enforcement.
“Because in MCS, information is key. It’s the only way things can work,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen. “If they share the information, they can plan together and conduct joint operations together.”
On the broader potentials, the NTSA can facilitate the exchange of information between enforcement agencies. “If you [during fisheries operations] find drugs on a fishing vessel, who exactly do you provide that to? The NTSA provides for that,” she explained.
“The other unique aspect of the agreement is that they [other enforcement agencies] can share back. Anything that they find during the course of their work, they can also share back if its something that’s relevant for fisheries purposes. So the agreement, the way it’s set up, can facilitate all of this.”
That is why, she added “we are investing heavily in this system because when all countries are on board and use the system, it will reduce further the losses our members are experiencing through IUU fishing.”
The type of information to be shared and how it is shared revolve around a central information database called the Niue Treaty Information System (NTIS). Information is populated by members whose only substantive obligation under the NTSA is agreement to a minimum data requirement that must be shared.
So far, seven of FFA’s 17 members have ratified the NTSA allowing it to enter into force on 30 July 2014. [FSM ratified in July this year bringing the number to eight]
Dr Tupou-Roosen illustrated a scenario why there is an obligation for a minimum data requirement, using three of the seven members to the NTSA in her illustration.
“Let’s say Nauru would like other parties, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to come and help in its waters. One of the minimum data that Nauru must provide is the license list. Otherwise they would just go around willy-nilly targeting any vessel when they should for example, be targeting only ‘unlicensed vessels’.”
She added, “This obligation is to ensure that all information critical for any operation are mandatory to share. Another example is the VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) data in your zone. You must share it with someone who’s coming to help you because they will know exactly where vessels of interest are. Otherwise they will be working off a ‘dark zone’.”
The central issue of ‘information security/confidentiality’ is dealt with at two levels.
The NTIS is managed by FFA where the administrator is FFA’s Director General. His responsibilities and central protocols are written in the Agreement stating “that we [FFA] must maintain it to the standards that have been adopted by the FFA governing council” in terms of “managing it, storing it, circulating it and accessing it,” Dr Tupou-Roosen confirmed.
While at the members’ level, a thorough in-country review of their domestic law to ensure that necessary components to comply with requirements under the NTSA such as data security measures, exist in their domestic legislative framework.
“We look at their national security policy to ensure they have these certain elements,” she assured.
On top of the legal safeguards, FFA is also close to finalising the ‘Standard and Operating Procedures’ for carrying out joint operations “which is like the detail that supports the legal framework,” she said.
“Say there are three officers from three different countries involved in a joint operation, what are the steps? What does the boarding officer do? Who do they inform? Who can access that boarding inspection report?
“The standard operating procedures will clarify those areas.”
She also expanded on the theme that the NTIS can be used as a ‘One Stop Shop’ for MCS operations.
“If you want to cooperate in enforcement and surveillance, say Vanuatu and Tuvalu, who are current Parties to the NTSA, they can go to the NTIS and go shopping so to speak,” she explained.
“It’s like a shopping list of where they can get certain things for a certain activity. They decide who they enter into that activity with, how long, what area within their jurisdiction it will happen.
“It goes back to the flexibility built into the NTSA where each member can customize to their needs. It gives members a choice and options if they want to be involved on a case by case basis depending on their needs and interests at that specific time.”
INFORMATION IS KEY
Through the NTSA, Pacific nations have a big weapon in their MCS arsenal with the firepower to reduce, deter and potentially stop IUU fishing.
But the weapon cannot arm and pull the trigger by itself.
“I don’t think anything can happen without information,” Dr Tupou-Roosen told Pacific Guardians. “It needs all of our countries to ratify this agreement so they can actively share information.
“The Niue Treaty Information System could house all the information and allow parties to cooperate in those other MCS areas. The platform on which you can hang other MCS tools like Port State inspections, e-monitoring and e-reporting.”
The addition of the ‘Persons of Interest’ component has served to make the NTSA even more powerful.
As the legal expert in this area, Dr Tupou-Roosen believes information and the political will to share that information are critical to the NTSA “reducing further the losses our members are experiencing through IUU fishing”.–ENDS
DENARAU, FIJI – Next time you sink your teeth into a succulent piece of sushi or a juicy tuna sandwich spare a thought for the future of the fish.
Pacific bluefin, a highly-prized sashimi tuna caught in the northern Pacific Ocean, has been so overfished that just 2.6 percent of its original stocks remain.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), an organization that seeks to address problems in the management of high seas fisheries, met in Fiji last week with a mandate to set fishing rules in the world’s largest fishery. WCPFC members include powerful fishing nations such as the United States, Japan, China, and tuna-rich Pacific Island countries.
Nearly 2.85 million metric tons of tuna worth $5 billion USD were taken from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean in 2014, according to the Pew Charitable Trust. No strategy
As the meetings came to a close on Friday, no strategy had been set for the threatened bluefin tuna.
Many believe the commission’s inability to decide on a plan to rebuild the bluefin stock is due to a power imbalance over the decision-making process, with the nations primarily fishing bluefin having outsized influence and an unwillingness to make sacrifices.
While seeing modest progress on management issues, Ludwig Kumoru, CEO for Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA), said bluntly, “Distant water fishing nations are using the WCPFC as a vehicle to promote and protect their interests in the fishery. We see this in several big nations’ attempts to get extra fishing days, prevent expansion of our domestic fleets, and get access to trade information on the Vessel Day Scheme.” Moratorium
Pew Charitable Trust, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), and other environment groups have taken the drastic step of calling for a moratorium on fishing for bluefin.
“We have gotten ourselves to such a dire state that the only thing we can do is completely shutdown the fishery,” said Bubba Cook, WWF’s program manager for Central and Western Pacific tuna.
The canned tuna industry is in much better shape, but the news is not all good.
Pacific countries have been pioneering their own label, known as Pacifical, to denote tuna that is sustainably-caught and delivers benefits to small island states, but management of bigeye tuna – one of four commercially important species for Pacific states – is being questioned.
Again, it is the WCPFC that must decide on ocean-wide conservation measures, but the fishing powers among its members are reluctant to take action.
In 2014, it became clear that bigeye tuna numbers were falling and are now so depleted that they have dropped below the critical marker of 20 percent of original stocks.
With this track record, Rhea Moss-Christian, the new WCPFC chair and an up-and-coming young Marshall Islander, decided to take a new approach to break the impasse between fishing nations and resource-owners.
She believes small but systematic steps will win the day.
“You all know what is at stake here; you all know what needs to be done; you all know how challenging the next few days will be,” she told around 500 delegates from more than 40 nations at the opening of last week’s meeting.
Moss-Christian is mobilizing a push that has come from the Pacific Island nations for harvest strategies that set pre-agreed to rules for the fishery, which trigger conservation action if limits fish on fish numbers are breached. By establishing rules in advance it is hoped that the management failures seen thus far will slowly become a thing of the past.
But conservationists and Pacific nations realize many tuna stocks can’t wait the years it will take to establish those complex strategies. Good news
One piece of good news to come forth at the conclusion of the meeting was confirmation that the multi-billion dollar skipjack tuna industry is being effectively managed and on its target reference point for stock sustainability.
Kumoru said progress has been made on work to develop harvest control strategies, as well as management measures that are expected to lead to improved long-term management of the tuna fishery.
Another major outcome of the meeting was adoption the 11th hour adoption of a measure to improve the safety of fisheries observers.
Initially, the WCPFC was unable to get consensus to adopt a fisheries observer safety measure Friday afternoon. Not long before the meeting wrapped up Friday, consensus on the observer measure was reached, cancelling the need for a vote.
“Observer safety is a huge concern for PNA nations, so we are happy this measure has gone through to protect the men and women who are at the front line of our fishery,” Kumoru said.
Parties to the Nauru Agreement
In parallel to the work of the commission, some Pacific island nations are working together and using the power of access over their substantial 200-mile exclusive economic zones to set their own rules.
The eight nations of the PNA, plus Tokelau, have pioneered this approach. Purse seine fishing vessels that fish in their waters have to adhere to a strict set of fishing rules in the high seas as well as in Pacific EEZs if they want to receive a fishing license.
This approach has resulted in action to slow the decline of bigeye, including seasonal bans on the use of fish-aggregating devices, the closure of some ocean areas for conservation, and prohibitions against targeting other vulnerable species such as whale sharks.
Recently, the sub-tropical southern Pacific nations set up a similar group known as the Tokelau arrangement, which aims to use a similar mechanism to protect albacore tuna.
Worth the effort?
While headway was made for some of the tropical tunas, this year’s Commission failed to reach an agreement on even the first step towards a harvest strategy for albacore.
Despite the 13-year-old Commission’s slow progress, it has begun to set rules and bring order and legality to a previously unmanaged fishery.
However, many are asking if the commission has been worth the effort.
WWF’s Cook believes it is better to have the fishing nations at the table.
The better question, he said, is what would fisheries management in the Pacific be like without the Commission?
“I think the Pacific would be a lot worse off,” he said. “Then it would be the wild west on the high seas.”- also published in The Sunday Post
DENARAU, FIJI-– After a week of talks the Pacific Tuna Commission has failed to take any action to protect albacore – one of the four commercially important tuna species.
New data over the past couple of years, showing the stock is declining and is less economically sustainable than previously thought prompted Pacific nations including Solomon Islands to come together to form a new pact, known as the Tokelau arrangement to protect albacore.
Those countries, with the backing of the Forum Fisheries Agency made action on albacore a top priority but fishing nations, who benefit from the fishery were not interested.
The result was a split and disappointing discussions.
The Pacific nations had asked the Tuna Commission to take the first step in establishing a harvest strategy for albacore – the setting of an ideal level for stocks – known as a Target Reference Point (TRP).
Wez Norris, Deputy Director of the FFA said albacore is a species that the 12 nations of the Tokealau Arrangement were keen to see discussions progress but that they turned out to be “very disappointing”.
“It seems very clear that there’s no support from the commission as a whole to move towards this,” he told Pacific media
Mr Norris said China and Taiwan had particular areas of concern with what Solomon Isalnds and other Pacific nations were proposing.
We’re very frustrated about this,” he said.
When asked if there’s no resolution, and how the Tokelau Arrangement countries will react, Mr Norris said;
“Internally, it won’t change our priority which will continue to setting the appropriate limits for the Tokelau Arrangement Parties’ waters.
“And work on this catch management arrangement so they can start to exert more control on the fishery. But it’s really indicative of a hamstrung situation because there is a lot of catch and effort in the high seas that the coastal states don’t have the leverage over compared to say, the Purse Seine fishery”.
While Pacific countries set fishing rules in their own 200-miles exclusive economic zones in the high seas they rely on the Tuna Commission (WCPFC).
Mr Norris said Pacific countries really require the WCPFC to act.
“What it means is that we’re back to the drawing board in some respects in terms of finding better ways to engage with DWFNs that are fishing on the high seas to see how we can identify arrangements to work together,” he said
But beyond albacore the Pacific made more headway on its priorities.
Bigeye tuna has declined to below the point regarded as critical.
The Tuna Commission made the first step to help bigeye recover by deciding to work on a plan to have numbers back to their target reference point in the next ten years.–ENDS
DENARAU, FIJI– Journalists in the Pacific can play an important role when it comes to the Safety of Fisheries Observers on board the foreign fishing fleets.
This is the view of leading Observer expert, Bubba Cook, , when asked about the current investigations of 5 Observers that went missing or pronounced dead in the Pacific seas over the past years.
Their cases were being dealt with by the responsible authority but the investigations are still pending, because details are sketchy, and information is sparse
“I think that there is a very important role for journalism to play in this regard to dig for the details in these stories, said Mr Cook, WWF’s program manager for Central and Western Pacific tuna
“Because, the details are not being reported to the commission and there are not being recorded, they are not being compiled,” he said.
Even key figures in the industry are not aware of how bad conditions can be on board tuna boats.
Cook said during last week’s WCPFC meeting in Nadi, an industry member who approached him was surprised to hear there were these five observers missing over six years.
“That is part of the problem this is not getting communicated to people as part of the process in this part of the region.
“And journalism can play a very important role in pushing for that information and getting that information available and getting those details out to the public,” Mr Cook added.
He said, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with due to its seriousness.
Three of the Observers are from Papua New Guinea, one from Fiji, and another from the United States of America (USA).
It was understood that, this year’s Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has the biggest coverage in the region, by journalists from around the Pacific.–ENDS
EXECUTIVES of the Pacific Tuna Commission have expressed satisfaction over the level of discussions and the outcomes that have been reached at its annual general meeting.
This comes after years of meetings from which the Pacific has left disappointed.
Chairwoman Rhea Moss Christian said at a press conference held at the conclusion of the 13th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission said the highlights were the adoption of the measures on observer safety this year.
Ms Christian said the measure was important and had been adopted by consensus adding it had given the commission the much needed motivation and pride that it had needed.
It is the first time the commission had introduced the concept of small working groups, a move which was Ms Moss-Chritian’s initiative.
Ms Moss-Chritian said the small working groups had enabled thorough discussions and the excellent progress on outcomes including the harvest strategy elements, despite the complexity of the framework, a view that was widely endorsed by both fishing nations and the Pacific.
Ms Moss-Chriistian said another key outcome was the forced reconvening of the Northern Committee during the course of the meeting last week.
This unprecedented action forced Japan and other members of that committee to go and look for more effective ways to halt overfishing of critically-low stocks of Pacific Bluefin tuna.
Ms Moss-Christian said this undoubtedly would have signalled to the distant water fishing nations (DWFN) that the commission as a whole would be taking … a closer look at the status of the Bluefin stock, and the recommendations it puts forward for adoption.
“What has happened this week sets a new tone for the way forward on how the commission addresses fish stocks that are overfished or are in a critical state,” the chair said.
WCPFC Feleti Teo said it had been a long week with the discussions on the last day of the meeting being quite tense and testing for all participants.
He said the discussions on observer topic could have provided challenges for the commission had it not been agreed to by members, in turn reflecting negatively on the work that had been done over the course of the week.
However, he is pleased it turned out well.
He said the secretariat of the commission was pleased that there were now clear directions it was getting from the commission pertaining that lies ahead for it.
In this regard its strategic plan would be key going forward.
He said while this was not one of the measures that had been adopted, the importance of having this document had been noticed among members of the commission.
“It will take time to get a common platform on which the commission would agree to the key objectives and priorities but what was agreed to was that further discussions needed to undertaken, the members need to be more involved,” he said.
Despite this the CEO said work will continue on the plan and on the important business of securing the future of the region’s tuna stocks.
“I am reasonably happy in terms of the discussions held this week ..especially the steps taken by the commission in subscribing to the new approach on harvest strategy towards the fisheries management,” Mr Teo said.–ENDS
FOR the first time observers can go to work knowing there is help if ever they fall sick or are harassed or intimated by crew members while out at sea. There is a safety net onshore to help them.
The urgency for action had been heightened by the deaths of the five observers in the last six years.
They are Wesley Talia, Larry Gavin, Charlie Lasisi of Papua New Guinea , Usaia Masibalavu from Fiji and Keith David from the United States of America who died in their line of duty, reportedly under fishy circumstances
The historic decision giving this effect, was made by the Pacific Tuna Commission also known as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, at the closure of its annual meeting which ended in Nadi, Fiji last Friday.
The adoption of this measure by the commission now means the nations providing the observers, the flag state of the boat on which they serve and the coastal state in which they are fishing are obliged to assist.
It came down to the wire and the measure would have been lost with one distant water fishing nation (DWFN) refusing to budge on the matter.
However, the united front put up by the Pacific Islands and their decision to ask for a vote on the issue prompted a last-minute announcement by Japan agreeing to this resolution.
The role of Observers has become extremely important for not just scientists in ascertaining the stock levels of the fishery but for compliance.
That make it also very dangerous, with more of the information they collect being used by authorities for investigations and prosecution of non-compliance
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Western and Central Pacific Tuna program manager ,Alfed Bubba Cook, who has been a staunch advocate on issues of observer safety, said getting the measure across the line was a huge accomplishment.
Mr Cook credited all those who had been involved, particularly the Pacific Island Forum Fishing Agency (FFA) who had demanded the vote on that issue adding it was symbolic in that it sent a strong message to the DWFN, that they won’t be pushed around on matters that are important to them.
However, he said it regrettable that people had to die for this measure to gain traction.
“You would think that issue of human health and safety would not require negotiations or require coercion to get people to agree to the protection of people serving them,” Mr Cook said.
Mr Cook said had urged in his remarks soon after the adoption of the measure by the commission had said this be applied across all tuna regional fisheries management organisations as well.
Japan has a two-year exemption from the measure.
FFA’s director general James Movick said while it was a tough process and he had commended the commission, Japan and the Pacific Islands who had been unwavering in standing for the rights of those who are in the front of the region’s oceanic fishery.
Chief executive officer of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Ludwig Kumoru also lauded this achievement stating it was a huge step forward for the industry.–ENDS
DENARAU, FIJI–The 17 nations of the Forum Fisheries Agency have called Japan’s bluff on proposed new measures to keep fishing observers safe – and won.
Five fisheries observers including 3 from Papua New Guinea and one from Fiji have died in the last six years.
The Pacific nations had asked the Tuna commission meeting in Nadi last week to endorse a comprehensive package of measures to assist observers if they fell ill, were harassed or intimidated, or even die in the course of their duties.
Despite a week of talks Japan said it was unable to approve the package.
So Pacific countries asked the Chair of the Commission to call the first-ever vote in the Commission’s 13-year history, a high risk tactic but one that worked.
Minutes before the vote, Japan announced it would agree to the measure, which gave it the consensus required for adoption.
The room then was filled with joy and happiness, as Pacific delegates cheered and clapped.
Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) James Movick said, it was a tough process.
“I hope this commission will be remembered as one capable of putting human life above profit and politics.
“I am pleased that Japan did the right thing in this instance, and I salute the solidarity of the Pacific members of the Commission in standing for the rights of those who are the frontline of our oceanic fishery,” DG Movick said.
He added, had the vote proceeded this will be the first case of the WCPFC voting on a (substantive) measure.
“It would have been a monumental occasion. Organisations like WCPFC usually work on consensus, so the threat of a vote was a very powerful incentive to drive agreement,” he added.–ENDS
In an extraordinary show of strength Pacific island countries forced their bigger global tuna fishery counterparts in the Tuna Commission (WCPFC) to agree on safety measures for their observers on tuna fishing vessels.
Five observers have died or been murdered at sea in the past 6 years while providing regional scientists and compliance officials with the information they need to ensure the sustainability of tuna stocks.
The new measures were nearly lost as Japan refused to join the consensus, despite a week of talks.
As discussions hit barriers late on Friday, members were ready to take an unprecedented move and put the issue to vote.
Almost all 17 Pacific Forum nations made individual and emotional statements to the plenary session about the risks their citizens face to keep the fishery sustainable.
A final statement by the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Alfred (Bubba) Cook, a personal friend of an observer who lost his life in suspicious circumstances last year, left the room in silence.
Shortly afterwards a call from Tokyo cleared the way for approval of the new measures, which include a clause releasing Japan from having to comply for two years.
“It was a huge accomplishment to get the observer safety measure across the line,” Bubba Cook told journalists shortly after the meeting ended.
“I think that is a huge step symbolically. What they (FFA nations) have equivalently done is performed a ‘haka’ in front of the Distant Water Fishing Nations and they let them know that they are not going to be pushed around on the issues that they think are important to them and I think that’s a very very important symbolic step. “Cook said.
Mr Cook said the decision has more significance than just the win on safety.
“This is about Pacific Islands flexing their muscles and saying this is ours and we are going to protect it,” he said
At a press briefing WCPFC Executive Director Feleti Teo acknowledged the challenges in deliberations and the risk to the future standing of the commission.
“I think the observer safety discussions could have provided some difficult challenges for the commission and it could have reflected quite negatively on the work that the commission did this week. But it all turned good in the end,” Teo said.