E-monitoring uses video cameras, remote sensors, and
satellites installed on fishing vessels to provide information on activities
such as retained and discarded catch, bycatch (non-target species caught),
location of catch, and movement of catch between boats.
“Observing, measuring, assessing and reporting what is happening with commercial fishing vessels at sea is critical for reducing IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated] fishing in the Pacific,” says Hugh Walton, the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Chief Technical Officer for the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2).
The Ministers at last month’s annual meeting (18–19 June) held in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), tasked the FFA Secretariat with working with members to develop an electronic monitoring policy before its next meeting in 2020. This policy is to be developed in collaboration with the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office (PNAO) and Pacific Community (SPC) researchers.
Several PNA member countries have focused on e-monitoring of longline vessels since a workshop last year. This was driven by one of its members, FSM, committing to having 100 per cent of its longline vessels with e-monitoring by 2023.
E-monitoring is particularly important for longline fishing where there is a large number of vessels with limited space, making it difficult to have human observers on every boat.
Unlike purse-seine fishing, conditions on longline vessels are often very difficult, with cramped quarters, and boats can be at sea for many months at a time.
The Pacific purse-seine fishery has 100 per cent human observer coverage on vessels. However, e-monitoring could also complement the activities of observers on these boats.
With e-monitoring, different areas of the vessel can be monitored at the same time and operate 24-7. The images and data can be stored indefinitely and reviewed multiple times.
Fishing regulators in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati have chosen the Spanish engineering company Satlink to help it modernize its fisheries management platform, the company said in a release.
Kiribati’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is responsible for monitoring an exclusive economic zone with some 15% of the world’s tropical tuna. The collaboration with the Spanish firm will allow vessel monitoring and electronic reporting information to be merged into an integrated control center later this year.
“The initiative will allow the Kiribati Fisheries Administration to evolve to a system with advanced management capabilities and enable them to exploit the available information and improve the management of their fishing resources,” Satlink said in the release.
Pacific fisheries ministers have made their strongest commitment yet to ending slavery and poor working conditions on boats operating in the region.
Forum Fisheries Agency member countries have endorsed a rule which establishes minimum conditions for crew on board foreign fishing vessels.
These include things like contracts written in employees’ languages and making sure all crew are treated with dignity and fairness.
The agency’s director general, Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, said the protections apply to both domestic and foreign fleets.
“Our members themselves have set a deadline that by 1 January 2020 they will make best endeavours to incorporate these minimum conditions into their national laws, their license conditions, their access agreements and that they will report back through our governing structures on how exactly they have incorporated these.”
The region’s fisheries ministers also endorsed a new strategy for the Pacific tuna fishery at the meeting.
They spoke of mitigating and adapting to climate change and improving management of the longline fishery and they decided to adopt a new Strategic Action Plan for the region.
Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen said it would it pave the way for a lot of important work in the region.
“The tuna our major stocks will move from west to east over time most notably after 2050. So it is critical that we start looking at what current fisheries management regimes we have in place and how we adapt and make it flexible and robust in response to that type of change.”
Palau’s patrol boat PSS Remeliik apprehends two Vietnamese Blue Boats found anchored in Helen Reef, an area located at the southernmost part of Palau. (Photo by Richard Brooks)
Two small island nations in the North Pacific are requesting the Australian government to host the upcoming Pacific Fusion Centre, which can assist North Pacific, and other Pacific island nations with the information they need to better identify and respond to security threats such as illegal fishing.
The Pacific Fusion Centre was announced in September 2018 by the Australian government to assist with security threats including drugs, illegal fishing, and people smuggling.
Palau and Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) would want the Centre located in their nations or at least in the North Pacific.
In a press statement in May, FSM President David W. Panuelo received George Fraser, ambassador of Australia and asked if the FSM could be the host for the upcoming Pacific Fusion Centre.
“The North Pacific needs more exposure [compared to the South Pacific],” said President Panuelo.
He said FSM’s commitment to the Technology for Tuna Transparency or T3 Challenge would be able to get help from the center.
The T3 Challenge seeks to acquire 100 percent transparency in its tuna fisheries by 2023.
Meanwhile, Palau made the same request with the visiting Australian officials on June 24.
Ms. Sophie Fisher of the Pacific Strategy Division of Australian Department of Foreign Affairs paid a courtesy call with the Vice President and Minister of Justice, Raynold Oilouch .
The Centre will facilitate sharing/exchange of information on transnational crimes and illegal fishing activities within the Pacific.
The Pacific will be equipped technologically and manned with properly trained people to analyse and interpret surveillance data and advice PIF countries to respond properly.
Earnest Ongidobel, Oilouch’s Chief of Staff, says the request also amplifies the wishes of North Pacific countries for Australia to give more focus to this side of the Pacific.
He added that the Centre would also complement the existing assistance it already receives from various allies in its surveillance efforts in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), especially as it closes 80 percent of its EEZ in commercial fishing by 2020.
Australia has not announced a location but has said it will be established in the middle of this year.
A statement from the Australian Embassy in Pohnpei said that: “Australia is working with regional partners to establish a Pacific Fusion Centre to strengthen the ability of Pacific governments to enforce their laws and protect their sovereignty.”
It said that as part of the pilot phase, an interim Centre will be established in Canberra in mid-2019 to “test the product and build regional analytical capacity ahead of the Centre’s establishment in a Pacific island country in 2020.”
The statement added that the Centre is also aligned with the vision of the Boe Declaration signed by the Pacific leaders and Australia in 2018 to address security challenges in the region including illegal fishing, people smuggling and drug trafficking.
The embassy also noted that a regional Reference Group will provide guidance and advice on the design, establishment, and operationalisation of the Pacific Fusion Centre. The Group will include representation from Pacific countries, regional security organisations, Australia and New Zealand.
Papua New Guinea’s fisheries sector is losing out because climate change is driving fish away from its waters, PNG’s Fishing Industry Association says.
Association president Sylvester Pokajam, who’s the former managing director of the National Fisheries Authority, said shifting climatic conditions in the western Pacific were pushing certain fish species away from PNG.
The sector is struggling for revenue as a result, Mr Pokajam said.
On the bright side, more fishing vessels are flying the PNG Flag, he said.
Mr Pokajam also praised fishing companies who had established canneries in PNG, providing employment for local people.
PNG-based operations are processing nearly half of the fish caught in the country’s waters, a large portion of which is tuna, he said.
The association recently applied to have its purse seine skipjack and yellowfin tuna fishery assessed for certification by the Marine Stewardship Council.
The fishery includes onshore processing plants supported by PNG-flagged vessels and locally-based foreign fishing vessels.
13 Leading environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) focused on global tuna conservation stand together to call on Regional Fishing Management Organizations (RFMOs) that regulate tuna fishing in the Indian, Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern Oceans to require observer coverage on all industrial tuna fishing vessels.
Photo: PR Newswire
PITTSBURGH, June 25, 2019 /PRNewswire/ –13 Leading environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) focused on global tuna conservation announced today that they are standing together to call on Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) that regulate tuna fishing in the Indian, Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern Oceans to require observer coverage on all industrial tuna fishing vessels.
These NGOs include: Birdlife International, Conservation International, The Earthworm Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defense Fund, Fishwise, Greenpeace, International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), Monterey Bay Aquarium, The Nature Conservancy, PEW Charitable Trusts, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, and World Wildlife Fund. Below is their statement.
Unmonitored tuna fisheries are unacceptable.
In many tuna fisheries around the world, the lack of independent monitoring of fishing activity means there is much we cannot see – including many known conservation and compliance problems such as illegal fishing, misreported or unreported catch, and bycatch of endangered, threatened & protected species. What we can’t see creates risk to fish stocks, to fisheries, and to companies that purchase tuna.
Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) have the power to reduce these risks by requiring 100% observer coverage – human and/or electronic – on industrial tuna fishing vessels. 100% observer coverage provides the means to mitigate the conservation and compliance issues that put tuna stocks, ocean ecosystems, and tuna supply chains at risk.
100% observer coverage can and must happen soon. There are no longer credible reasons to delay.
We are committed to working together to make 100% observer coverage a reality. Join us in support of 100% observer coverage requirements across all tuna RFMOs.
The NGOs will seek broad support from commercial concerns, fisheries organizations, conservation organizations and foundations for 100% observer coverage requirements across RFMOs and fisheries agencies responsible for management of global tuna stocks.
Consumers can join these NGOs in their call for 100% observer coverage on industrial tuna fishing vessels by adding their signature to the statement of support above by clicking the following link: #UnmonitoredUnacceptable .
All smiles … Francisco Blaha and a Solomon Islander at work on a pole-and-line vessel in 2010. Francisco is this year’s SeaWeb Seafood Champion for advocacy. We profile him here. (Photo: Francisco Blaha)
Francisco “brings a unique perspective and has the credibility of very different but complementary groups in fisheries”, SeaWeb said when it announced the 2019 winners earlier this month. It noted that some of his ideas had been adopted by big players in the fishing industry.
Francisco sees his award as recognition
of his ability to work with three groups that were often at odds with each
other: governments, industry, and non-government organisations (NGOs). He says
the SeaWeb awards brings together many people trying to do the right thing.
“This is a good thing, with all the bad
news that fisheries get,” Francisco says.
“There are no superpowers attached to the award, to the disappointment of my daughter.”
SeaWeb is a project of the Ocean Foundation. It has presented awards in four categories since 2006 to recognise individuals and companies for outstanding leadership in promoting the production of environmentally responsible seafood.
It comes in part because he works for
himself, and does not have to follow any company line, he told Tuna Pacific
after winning the award.
“I guess people appreciate that I don’t
pretend to be anyone or anything I’m not: I’m just a dyslexic fisher that got
lucky with access to education and work for himself,” Francisco says.
“I have never had to use a suit and ties,
even when I was working with the UN [United Nations] in Rome. Whatever I got was on my own terms. I don’t
‘sell’ anything for anyone. If I don’t like something, I just don’t accept the
job, and I’m vocal on why I disagree with it.
“I dislike profoundly ingratitude and pretentiousness.”
Francisco discovers a love of the ocean
Anyone who has read Francisco’s popular blog – he says it had 25,000 individual readers in 2018 – knows that he began his fishing life working on boats taking squid, hake and toothfish in southern Argentina. But they may not know that he has an earlier association with the sea.
Francisco grew up far from the ocean, in
the traditional lands of the Guaraní people around the border of Paraguay and
Argentina, with his local mother and European father.
“My family crossed the Atlantic on board
a cruising ship from Germany all the way to Argentina when I was six years old.
I like to think that trip marked my life,” Francisco said.
It wasn’t the only thing that influenced
him to take up a life on the sea.
“I guess some people grow by action: they
decide they want similar things to their parents and other people around them.
Others, like me, grow by reaction, by going the opposite way. As anything to do
with the ocean was outside my family’s influence, I went that way,” Francisco says.
By joining the Argentinian navy as a
cadet, Francisco was able to go to high school. He learned a lot about “the
ocean, and rowing and swimming” – and then a second-hand 1976 National
Geographic fell into his hands.
“It had an article about the trip of the Hokule’a,
the Hawaiian double-hulled canoe that went from Honolulu to Papeete. I started
learning, reading history, and fantasising about the South Pacific,” he says.
Francisco loved the ocean, but not the military life – he admits to having a strong anti-authority streak – and when he was released from the navy after the Falklands War, he decided to go fishing for a few years, and worked as technician on board fishing and research vessels while he gained a Masters in fisheries science.
His experience of working during this time taught him that he had no desire to work in a job “where you spend half your time navigating political storms” of bureaucracies and grooming political connections to get jobs and promotions.
“So, I decided to come to the Pacific and
go to all those places I had read about in the article on the Hokule’a
as teenager. Two weeks after graduation, I got in a sailing boat that was going
to Tahiti via Cape Horn … no plans, no contacts, just hopes and a smile.”
He spent almost two years heading west, fishing
and doing odd jobs in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, before landing in New Zealand in
1995. He fell in love with the country, and has set up his life there.
An introduction to fisheries compliance
Francisco worked for New Zealand fishing
companies such as Sanford and Simunovich Fisheries. It was here that he was introduced
to a level of fisheries compliance he had not experienced. To his surprise, he
enjoyed the work.
Having decided it would be useful to have
a degree from an English-speaking university, he earned a Masters in food science,
then started doing domestic consulting work.
“I found international fisheries
consulting work mostly by chance,” Francisco says. “I didn’t know such a job
existed. But if fit me well: I know fishing, I have a good practical and
academic background, and I love travelling and spending time with fisheries
people. I also have a total lack of embarrassment about trying new languages,
and that helped, too.”
Apart from a two-year stint with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome, he has worked for himself for the past 25 years.
A familiar face in the Pacific – and around the world
Francisco is now a familiar face in the
Western and Central Pacific Ocean, where he holds contracts with governments,
charitable and non-government organisations, and international bodies. Most of
his work these days is with monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) to
combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. This involves him in
the development of port state measures (PSM) and catch documentation schemes
He does a lot of work with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA), from high-level development of procedures such as the Port State Measures Framework to training compliance officers to the use of new hook-type scales to monitor transhipment volumes.
“The Guaraní I grew up with have a
culture that has a surprising affinity with the cultures of the Pacific, so the
customs that are the basis of Pacific life are not too foreign to me. When I
started collaborating with the FFA over 10 years ago, I found an organisation
whose values are akin to mine,” Francisco says.
“FFA is at the edge of the best practices
in fisheries worldwide. I love working for them. In fact, I consider many of
the staff as part of my extended family now.”
Home, soul and family in the Pacific
Francisco has his fingers in many other
pies, too. Among other projects, he is an adviser for the Marshall Islands
Marine Resource Authority (under a contract with the NZ Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade), “dealing with an amazing variety of stuff, from strategy
advice, procurement for boarding boats, intelligence analysis of vessels
arriving at port, inspections—and 100 other things.”
He is working with FAO on the implementation of port state measures and social responsibility and the use of blockchain technology to make the chain of fish production more transparent. And he is collaborating with OceanMind on remote intelligence analysis of fishing vessels.
A one-off project he had fun with was developing a colouring book to help train subsistence fishers of countries that belong to the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on best practice in fishing.
Francisco’s work isn’t restricted to this region. In his CV, he lists 58 countries he’s worked with around the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.
However, while he works around the world,
his work in the Pacific has special meaning for him.
“The Pacific has been home for half my
life. It has given me a second run in life, and family, friends, meaningful
work, and an oceanic playground to surf, do open-water swims, spearfish,
paddle, navigate by wayfinding … My soul is at home in the Pacific. And the
Pacific fishing problems are my fishing problems – I live off fishing in this
ocean for most of my year.”
A passion for fairness
For someone who holds little regard for
rank, the challenging world of compliance may seem like an odd choice of
“The fact that I am here today in New
Zealand with this job is a function of my past, and relates to my appreciation
of the concept of fairness and equal opportunities. I’m coming into it from the
perspective of it being fair for all sides. It does not relate to enforcing
rules,” Francisco says.
“For me, the fisheries ‘crisis’ is not a
biological crisis, but one of politics, transparency, and fairness.
“Right now, the system is not fair. When
I broke my knee on board back in Argentina, when I had exams at university, there
was a ‘system’ set up by the fishers’ union to look after me. When I see the
conditions and pay that many of the crews today have, it just upsets me!
“I have the same posture on gender and
diversity. I don’t participate any more on panels and conferences unless the
organisers can prove that there is more diversity than at the last one. This is
not some ‘new age’ thing I’m trying to pose for; it’s just that is not fair,
and that is enough for me.
“I grew up in a country with not much of
a culture of compliance, and while I felt that many of the rules were
dumb, at least I expected they should have applied equally to everyone and
not just to some. The equality of the rule of law in New Zealand is a rare
He says he had found a niche that suits him,
working “in the middle” between regulators with whom he shares insights into
fishing; industry, which he can help be more cost-effective; and the fishers, for
whom he is a voice for decent working conditions and wages.
He is proud of being trusted by all.
“People respect that you understand their
job because you have done it yourself. For example, when you go on board, crew
immediately know if you spent time fishing by the way you move on board, the
fact that you know how to operate the instruments and the bridge—and that you
can call them on technical issues when they are trying to derail the
conversation when you find a compliance problem.
“It’s the same at factories. And in boardrooms. When people know you know your stuff, that is good for everyone to improve the industry.”
Fishing is the people – men and women
Francisco likes to point out that he
doesn’t work with fish any more.
“I work with the people who work with
fish. I love working with fishermen and fisheries inspectors, factory people. I
have gained a much wider perspective by working on the ground than being in
classrooms,” Francisco says.
“In a fishing boat, you don’t have to
like the guy next to you, but you should be able to trust him. Everyone on
board has a job, and you have to do your job right. If you don’t, people die;
it’s as simple as that.
“Fishing also makes you very aware
of your overall insignificance. When you are in storm at sea and there are 20 metre
waves outside and 80 knot wind gusts, nothing really matters a lot other than
staying alive. And when you see those seas and what nature can be, it is a
profound life experience … or at least it is for me.”
He would like to see more women working
in all fields of the fishing industry.
“It still is an unfair playing field out
there,” Francisco says.
“But I would say to women that it is
getting better, mostly because other women before you started opening the way.
Now it’s your turn. Many men are also changing and walking along with you, and
you’ll be surprised how many good people are out there for each of the idiots
you will still find along your path.”
Francisco says that he has been shaped by
fishers and fisheries; that they allowed him to educate himself, help his
family, make friends, and work in places he’d never heard of.
“I love fisheries, and fisheries are
people, for good and for bad, and they cannot and should not be separated. My
favourite Māori proverb or whakataukī
is something I appreciate more as I get older. It goes: He aha te mea nui o
te ao. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
“What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.”
Marshall Islands fisheries Minister Dennis Momotaro and Forum Fisheries Agency Director General Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen signed an agreement for aerial surveillance following the opening of the new MIMRA headquarters.
Photo: RNZI/Kelly Lorennij
Pacific fisheries ministers want to see negotiations to end harmful fisheries subsidies.
Meeting this week in Pohnpei, the ministers and senior government officials say the subsidies can be a constraint on the ability of small island states to develop their own fisheries.
Of the distant water nations, China is known to give significant subsidies to its crews.
This week’s meeting of the Forum Fisheries Committee also affirmed that climate change is the single greatest threat to the security of the region, and it issued a directive for work to be done on adaptation responses.
Among other decisions the ministers also backed enhanced human rights protections for crews.
The Forum Fisheries Agency director general, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said the meeting’s outputs are bold and far-reaching.
She said the agency secretariat will collaborate with its partners to deliver outcomes.
The scientific and statistical committee (SSC) for the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) has recommended that no catch limits be set for longliners pursuing bigeye tuna near the three US territories in Pacific Ocean — American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — from 2020 until 2023.
The panel also recommended that each of the territories be allowed to allocate up to 2,000 metric tons to federally permitted Hawaii longline vessels.
The SSC’s recommendations came during a three-day meeting concluded in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Thursday, and preceded a meeting by the WPRFMC to be held in the same city, June 25-27, where bigeye tuna catch and allocation limits will be on the agenda.
Small, developing states in the Pacific don’t have longline-caught bigeye quotas, the council explains on its website, but under an amendment to its pelagic fishery ecosystem plan, the US’ National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has the authority to specify annual catch and allocation limits for the three US territories. In recent years, each US territory had a 2,000t limit and authority to allocate up to 1,000t.
Prior to making its decision, the science panel reportedly reviewed stock projections through 2045, which showed that catch limit and allocation scenarios of up to 3,000t per territory were not significant enough to cause the stock to go over any limit reference points adopted by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, an international regional fishery management organization that develops quotas and other management measures for tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
The SSC this week also set the acceptable biological catch for the main Hawaiian Islands Kona crab commercial fishery at 30,802 pounds for 2020 to 2023. The decision accounted for the scientific uncertainties with an estimated risk of overfishing of 38%, the press release stated.
Catch limits and options for specifying annual catch limits on Kona crab also are to be on the council’s agenda next week as well as a presentation from Global Fishing Watch, an organization that uses technology to visualize, track and share data about global fishing activity.
Sixteen students and three mentors are in the United States to engage in programs aimed at technology for managing sustainable fisheries, and monitoring and protecting fisheries resources.
The students are all from the Freely Associated States of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Marshall Islands.
This is the first Freely Associated States Tuna Diplomacy Youth Leadership Program and it aims at” fostering regional cooperation among rising young leaders, and reinforcing the partnership of the United States with the countries of Micronesia to create shared prosperity for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” according to a statement from the US Embassy in Koror.
The three-week program, which started on June 7, is taking place in Oregon and is funded by the US State Department.
“The FAS leaders are preparing a future investment for their countries but it will be the young leaders of tomorrow who will see those efforts maximised and enforced. Now is the time for asking the future leaders of the FAS, What’s Next,” the statement added.
The tuna diplomacy program will arm the students with skills, motivation, and support as they discuss the long term sustainable management of their marine resources.
The US Embassy said a follow-on exchange program will take place, three or six months after the US program. It will focus on sustainable marine resource management, which will present at the Our Oceans 2020 Conference in Palau.
The students selected are high school juniors and seniors. The program also includes students from the US to build important leadership skills and help save the oceans.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Kolonia said tuna is a shared common resource among the FAS countries.
In Palau, tuna provides local food security and helps keep the pressure off its coastal fisheries. On May 1, President Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed a presidential directive calling for a “national commitment to reduce pressure on the reef, promote locally produced foods, prioritise human wellness and healthful nutrition”.
For FSM and Marshall Islands, fisheries are the nations’ top economic driver.