The south central province of Phu Yen is taking urgent measures to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities, as part of the national effort to tackle the European Commission’s IUU yellow card.
Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Tran Huu The said educational campaigns are an important measure to enhance local fishermen’s awareness about IUU.
The province will intensify inspections of fishing activities at sea and in ports, take strict punishment against violations of regulations on fishing and ship registrations and management.
According to Nguyen Tri Phuong, deputy head of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, fishery inspectors have coordinated with the border guard force to keep watch on fishing boats, inspect ships’ records on fishing, and issue certifications for origins of seafood.
Phu Yen is working on a fishing database which will integrate information on local fishing boats, the registration and licensing of fishing vessels, fishing sector’s labour and activities of local fishing ports.
The provincial border guard force has undertaken measures to curb illegal fishing in foreign waters, such as monitoring vessels’ activities, keeping close contact with fishing boats at sea and encouraging vessels’ owners and captains to sign commitments not to violating other countries’ waters.
Vietnam received a “yellow-card” from the European Commission (EC) because of its failure to meet standards over IUU fishing last year, and the country has been offered the opportunity to take measures to rectify the situation within six months.
The EU will assess Vietnam’s efforts to fight IUU fishing in April.
The “yellow card” is followed by a “green card” if issues are resolved or a “red card” if they are not. A “red card” can lead to a trade ban on fishery products.
On December 13, 2017, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued Directive 45/CT-TTg on some urgent tasks and solutions following the EC’s warning.
Many coastal localities of Vietnam have also taken actions to end IUU fishing.
A two-year mission to examine the movement of yellowfin tuna and Indo-Pacific blue marlin was launched in Palau late last year.
Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), together with Dr. Alan Friedlander from National Geographic’s Pristine Seas and the University of Hawaii, and with support from the Government of Italy and National Geographic Pristine Seas, are working on the mission to determine the effectiveness of a large-scale marine protected area for the conservation of highly mobile species and its potential value to local fisheries.
Palau is the first country to declare 80 percent of its 193,000 square miles of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as a no-take zone, or the so-called Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS).
The study is to look into the extent to which the PNMS will provide protection for highly mobile species such as tuna and billfish, which are a major focus of the local fishery.
A press release from the PICRC said that effective management under the PNMS depends upon understanding the amount of time these fishes spend within the sanctuary, the extent of their migrations, and the importance of Palau as a spawning and nursery area for these species.
“This is the first ever scientific examination of the effectiveness of a large-scale marine protected area for the conservation of highly mobile species and its potential value to local fisheries,” says researcher Dr. Alan Friedlander.
The researchers will work with local fishers with the use of advanced satellite and acoustic technologies to examine the movement of tuna and other important fisheries species.
The press release said preliminary results suggest young adult yellowfin tuna and blue marlin are well protected within the PNMS.
While some yellowfin fish moved outside of Palau’s waters, most tuna and all the blue marlin tagged stayed within the sanctuary boundaries. Further research will expand our knowledge and understanding of the movements and behaviors of these species.
Understanding the movement of open-ocean fishes in and around Palau is critical to the sanctuary’s success.
Science and monitoring is a key component of the PNMS, and data from this study will provide valuable information about the ecology of yellowfin tuna, billfish, and other open-water species. This will provide essential baseline information to compare the fisheries’ productivity before and after the establishment of the PNMS.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, in their year-end report for 2017 submitted to Palau President Tommy Remengesau, said that historically, reef fish have been a staple of the Palauan diet. However, increased fishing pressure on these often slow-growing species has caused a significant decline in their biomass in recent years.
As part of the PNMS, which will be implemented by 2020, transitioning Palau’s pelagic fishery – which is currently dominated by foreign fleets – into a purely domestic fishery should alleviate pressure on reef-associated species and help preserve pelagic fish stocks within the EEZ for Palauans.
Under the PNMS law, 20 per cent of the EEZ will be a domestic fishing zone.
Palau partners, including National Geographic, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) have committed to the project.
Improvements in the design of fish-aggregating devices (FADs) could make a major difference in improving the sustainability and efficiency of skipjack tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean, according to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.
The Washington, D.C.-based NGO is pushing for better FAD management and practices, focusing on the skipjack fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. It asserts that improvements in the design of FADs could help to cut bycatch of overfished bigeye and yellowfin tuna, as well as other species like sharks, dolphinfish, and turtles.
From surveys by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) – an organization made up of Pacific Island nations that control a large amount of tuna resources within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) – as many as 50,000 FADs are likely now in use in the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery, up from 30,000 just five years ago.
FADs became more popular in the 1990s due to dolphin-free campaigns and regulations. Tuna seiners used to locate tuna by spotting and tracking down dolphins and seabirds feeding on the schools, but in catching the tuna they also netted and killed dolphins. FADs, which can be as simple as a bamboo raft trailing some disused netting, then came into common use. Fish tend to gather around FADs, though the reason for this behavior is not well known.
Some disadvantages of FADs soon became apparent. Many FADs end up abandoned, lost, or discarded, contributing to the problem of plastic litter in the sea. There is also a higher bycatch rate when fishing on FADs, with particular concern about juvenile bycatch of overfished bigeye and yellowfin tuna, as well as sharks, rays, and sea turtles. But two trends are currently transforming the traditional FAD into a more modern, and potentially less environmentally harmful, product.
The first is that attached GPS satellite devices now allow the use of drifting FADs (DFADs). While the cost of the GPS and sonar can be more than JPY 100,000 (USD 1,000, EUR 800) per unit, vessels pay large fees based on the number of fishing days they spend in an EEZ, so they find it profitable to make the most efficient use of their days. Additionally, attaching a sonar device to a DFAD allows fishermen to remotely monitor which ones have attracted a large biomass underneath. A vessel may then focus its effort on the FADs that will yield the most fish for their effort.
As advances in technology greatly increase the number of fish a single seiner may catch, regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission have been considering strategies to manage their use. Fishing effort is usually managed by vessel days and gear, but the increased use and efficiency of electronic DFADs may now merit their inclusion as regulated gear.
The ISSF has made that recommendation to the WCPFC, along with several others. In some fisheries, supply and support vessels set DFADs, so that fishing vessels can concentrate on catching fish. The ISSF recommends the regulation or banning of setting FADs from support vessels as one way to reduce fishing effort in its report titled “ISSF 2016-11: ISSF Survey Paper on the Treatment of Supply Vessels.”
As DFADs are equipped with transmitters, it should be possible to supply all of the data to fisheries managers to allow them to better understand the number and location of DFADs, better estimate stocks of fish, and to pick up oceanographic data such as water temperature and movement of currents, according to the ISSF.
In addition to better data sharing, the organization is encouraging the WCPFC to mandate non-entangling DFAD design to reduce shark mortality. Most DFADs in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean are made with bamboo rafts trailing large-mesh seine nets –considered to be high entangling-risk FADs. ISSF is promoting an industry-wide conversion to less entangling-risk FADs and non-entangling FADs. The former are made of smaller mesh nets, such as those used for anchovies and sardines, while the latter are made of ropes and canvas, with biodegradable materials preferred to address the plastic waste problem.
This conversion will help reduce mortalities of oceanic whitetip and silky sharks, which are the sharks found most frequently around DFADs. Because these sharks must keep moving to pass water over their gills, when they get caught in the net of a DFAD, they cannot swim and soon die. As the carcasses may subsequently become free and fall off the net, this phenomenon is called “cryptic fishing” bycatch, as it generally isn’t noticed or recorded.
One recommendation the ISSF isn’t making is an outright ban on FADs, as every fishing method has its own problems. Rather, they seek to improve their design and management. The PNA has applied FAD closures in the past order to protect overfished bigeye tuna from being taken as bycatch, but found that overall catches of bigeye did not decline, as fishing effort was refocused to the high seas after the ban went into place in its EEZ.
The ISSF has numerous other recommendations for the WCPFC and other RFMOs overseeing large tuna fisheries, including the use of scientific assessments in setting catch rates and greater observer coverage of the fishing fleet. The current push is on the WCPFC because other RFMOs have already established working groups to consider measures to manage FADs.
“In the WCPO, FAD sets account for about 30 percent of tropical tuna catches. There is a need globally for measures that help better monitor and manage FAD usage in every ocean region,” ISSF President Susan Jackson said. “Shark mortality and other FAD-fishing ecosystem impacts in the WCPO also have to be addressed, for which the wide-scale adoption of non-entangling FAD designs is a critical step.”
The additional patrol boat to Palau from Nippon and Sasakawa Foundation is being hailed as a boost in the fight against illegal fishing in the island-nation.
The new patrol boat, PSS Kedam also amplifies Palau’s national marine sanctuary law- a signature policy of the government that will ban commercial fishing in its 193,000 square miles of its exclusive economic zone by 2020.
The PSS Kedam is named after the Great Frigate Bird of Palau, a sea bird that is the largest bird found in Palau.
“Today is a proud day for Palau, a proud day for law enforcement and the grand responsibility of safeguarding our constitutional borders surrounded by vast oceans. Today is a proud day, for the fruits of friendship and partnership between public sector and the private sector,” Palau President Tommy Remenegsu Jr. said during the handover ceremony in Palau on Feb. 13.
The Nippon Foundation at a cost of over $30 million funds the new patrol boat Kedam .
The 40-meter patrol boat is also part of the grant assistance from the Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation on the 10-year $70 million assistance provided by the two foundations referred to as the Support to Enhance Coast Guard Capabilities and Promote Eco-conscious Tourism in Palau.
The Nippon Foundation also provided new berth and the administration building, while the Sasakawa Peace Foundation provided capacity training and salary for the crew for 10 years.
A signed memorandum of understanding in 2016 with Palau government stated that the Nippon Foundation will provide financial support to cover fuel and maintenance cost for the vessel until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2027, and for the boat until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2026.
The Sasakawa Peace Foundation will fund employment of crews to operate the medium-sized patrol vessel, including the training of those crews, which will be conducted by the Japanese partner organizations until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2027. Before PSS Kedam,
Palau only has one patrol boat- PSS H.I Remeliik, which is 31.5-meter (104ft). Remeliik is Palau’s first patrol board donated by the Australian government. PSS Remeliik is due to be replaced by Australia by 2020.
Remenegsau said Kedam and Remeliik will help patrol its ocean and assist tackling the challenge of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
“We are one percent land, and 99 percent ocean. And that means, we are indeed a large ocean state, and ocean is everything to us. It is our food security, it is our economic security, it is our cultural and social security, for it is our way of life.”
“Unfortunately, we are visited by problems not of our own making, but of signs and mankind, one of them, being the challenging part of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Today’s ceremony, activities and purpose will go a long way to assist Palau in tackling this important challenge,” he added. Palau has caught in their waters poachers from Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Vice President and Minister of Justice Raynold Oilouch said the Nippon Foundation included in their donation three smaller patrol boats; a high speed inflatable boat, a pick-up truck and satellite communication facilities.
“Palau now has one of the most state of the art surveillance and enforcement operations in the entire region, coupled with the latest technology and satellite surveillance and aircraft reconnaissance, Palau will now be able to effectively and efficiently monitor and enforce our exclusive economic zone against illegal fishing, drug and human trafficking, and increase our abilities for search and rescue for missing vessels and people,” Oilouch stated during the hand over ceremony.
Mitsuyuki Unno Executive Director of Nippon Foundation sin his remarks said the partnership with Palau is due to a shared common concern to protect the world’s oceans.
“For years, the Nippon Foundation has been working to make the world’s ocean sustainable. however, to address the diverse challenges that confront our oceans, there needs to be a new global ocean regime that transcends country borders, institutions, and specializations. and to pass on a bountiful ocean to future generations, we need to work together to develop a global vision for the next millennium,” Unno said.
A Fiji company says new technology to make the tuna fishing industry more transparent could be difficult for some Pacific island states to implement.
The firm, TraSeable, is involved in trialling the blockchain technology that tracks tuna from when it’s caught to when it’s sold.
Founder and managing director Ken Katafono said strengths of the technology are that it’s difficult to hack and no one person or entity holds all the data.
But Mr Katafono siad it was likely to be hard getting all countries to buy in and provide key data.
He said slow internet speeds could also be a problem.
“Pacific island countries they are at different areas of development and they have access to different resources and infrastructure. I think implementing technology like this can be challenging for some of them that don’t have good internet connections.”
Ken Katafono said while there’s a lot of work being done by regional agencies in the Pacific in terms of digitising fisheries data, there’s still some way to go.
He said the technology, that is essentially a digital ledger, was still at a pilot stage but was expected to be commercially available this year.
Boosting its marine surveillance, a Japan-funded patrol boat arrived in Koror Palau on December 19, 2017.
An official handover ceremony is scheduled to take place in February 2018.
PSS Kedam is the additional patrol boat for Palau. Palau has the existing PSS H.I Remeliik, which is 31.5-meter (104ft). Remeliik is Palau’s first patrol board donated by the Australian government .
The new patrol boat Kedam is funded with the grant by the Nippon Foundation at a cost of over $30 million. Kedam is expected to enhance Palau’s marine surveillance capabilities and police its s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
It is also part of the grant assistance from the Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation on the 10-year $70 million assistance provided by the two foundations referred to as the Support to Enhance Coast Guard Capabilities and Promote Eco-conscious Tourism in Palau.
The Nippon Foundation also provided new berth and the administration building., while the Sasakawa Peace Foundation provided capacity training and salary for the crew.
In 2016, Palau through President Tommy Remengesau Jr., Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa, and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation chairman Jiro Hanyu. signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) .
The MOU also includes the donation of another small patrol boat.
The Nippon Foundation will provide financial support to cover fuel and maintenance cost for the vessel until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2027, and for the boat until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2026.
The Sasakawa Peace Foundation will fund employment of crews to operate the medium-sized patrol vessel, including the training of those crews, which will be conducted by the Japanese partner organizations until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2027.
On its way to Palau from Japan, PSS Kedam encountered typhoons. The vessel and crew made a stop at Ishigaki Island in Okinawa, and also detoured to Philippines to avoid two separate storms.
However the 15-men crew of the new boat, boasted of the new vessel’s capability to weather out the storm.
The patrol vessel departed from Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture on December 8th.
Members of the Palauan crew are Captain Mayce Ngirmeriil, Executive Officer Jim Shiro Kloulechad, Chief Engineer Moses Nestor, Engineer Kamrul Zaman, Navigator Duke Joseph and Officers Gerwin Ngemelas Temong, Zachary Ngiraului Remengesau, Franley Omkar Chokai, Allen Lauren Ngiralmau, Ronald Beltau Yashiro, Wyzer Meyar Seklii, Gerald Ringang, Jr., Lenin Lmatk Louis, Harley S. Remoket and Carlos R. Ngirturong. The crew was accompanied by their Japanese counterparts, including Master Hatakeyama Kaoru, Commanding Officer Ryuzaki Misao, Second Officer Matsubara Yoshihiro, Kita Shojiro, Sakurai Motonori, and Doi Shiro.
The PSS Kedam is named after the Great Frigate Bird of Palau, a sea bird that is the largest bird found in Palau.
“The Kedam is a seafaring navigator that searches for food for hundreds of miles and never forgets its way back home. Territorial and cunning, the PSS Kedam is aptly named after this magnificent bird of Palau,” said Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. during the naming and launching ceremony in Hiroshima on September 18, 2017.
The Aronga Mana of Te Au O Tonga, or the village chiefs, along with Te Ipukarea Society claimed the government’s deal with the EU lacked a full environmental impact report and was not consulted on widely enough.
In her decision, Justice Potter did question the absence of scientific information on the number of fishing days allowed, the effectiveness of a short term ban on fish aggregating devices and what she called soft catch limits, but ultimately ruled in the government’s favour.
The secretary of Marine Resources, Ben Ponia, says the judgment will serve as a landmark case for both the Cook Islands Constitution and customary law governing fisheries.
He says it was a highly technical and complex case but he believes the judge saw that government’s efforts to develop offshore fisheries were credible and legitimate.
Te Ipukarea Society president, Ian Karika, says they are disappointed but heartened that Justice Potter highlighted concerns over the deal.