Palau gets help from new technology to combat illegal fishing

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Microsoft’s Paul Allen, who on a number of occasions has visited Palau and lauded its marine conservation efforts, is pilot testing a new technology that will combat illegal fishing around the island-nation.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. recently announced that Allen will test the new technology in Palau starting in December, and that it will be up and running in 2018.

Allen made the announcement during Our Ocean conference in Malta on October 6.

According to a press statement from Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc. Allen is concerned about illegal fishing depleting global fish populations.

“Vulcan is developing a system that uses satellite imagery and data-analysis software to help countries spot and catch unlicensed fishing boats,” Allen said.

Called SkyLight, the new technology will also be tested in the African nation of Gabon.

Skylight uses technology to aid enforcement, particularly in countries with thousands of miles of coastline to patrol and few resources to do so.

Allen is reportedly spending $40 million to develop the SkyLight system.

SkyLight will input multiple data sources from satellite images, shipping records and information manually collected by officials standing on docks.

It will then use machine-learning software to track and predict which vessels might be operating illegally.

Skylight will contribute to implementing Palau’s monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) plan developed in 2016 with assistance from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

FFA also supports the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2), which funds a MCS coordinator to implement Palau’s MCS plan, and bring together the surveillance activities of the various Palau government agencies.

The MCS coordinator facilitates e-monitoring on fishing vessels operating in the Palau EEZ, which is where SkyLight will be important.

The machine learning capabilities of the SkyLight system is similar to what Vulcan has developed with its Domain Awareness System (DAS) that was developed to stop elephant poaching in Africa.

The solution is expected to be officially available for implementation during the first half of 2018.

“Our oceans produce half the oxygen we breath, 80 percent of life on earth, 16 percent of our planet’s animal protein, and $2.5 trillion in annual commerce.

But illegal fishing is robbing our seas and fueling a crisis of declining fish stocks around the world that not only threatens the global food supply and marine ecosystems, but also destabilizes global economic and national security,” said a statement on the Skylight global website stated.

Palau has declared 80% of its exclusive economic zone as a marine sanctuary and bans all foreign commercial fishing but needs assistance in policing its waters.

In 2016, Palau released a five-year monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) plan to fight illegal activities and manage emergency responses in its waters.

The plan guides Palau’s efforts to build the capacity and expertise to deter, detect, and stop illegal activities in its waters. It aims to protect the nation’s natural resources from illicit fishing and thwart other activities detrimental to its environment and the surrounding international waters.

“If you come to Palau to steal our fish, we will find you and you will be punished,” President Remengesau has earlier said about illegal fishing in Palau.

“To back up these strong words, we are strengthening our surveillance and enforcement system to better protect our ocean resources from poachers.”

Fisheries sector ‘key economic driver’ in Pacific Islands states

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Republished from The National, 15 September 2017

 

The fisheries sector will be a key economic driver in the region if tuna is processed in the Pacific Islands states, according to the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association.

Association chief executive John Maefiti spoke of the challenges and opportunities in growing Pacific Islands-based tuna fishing and processing industries during the regional tuna industry and trade conference in Port Moresby on Wednesday.

He said there were foreign resource-user boats in the region which went in every year to get access licence from the Pacific Island states.

“They will go fishing and when they get a full catch, they then offload the fish to bigger ships which transported them to Bangkok in Thailand and other countries to be processed and then re-exported by Europe and United States markets,” Maefiti said.

“We should ask why most of the fish are processed outside the countries that they were caught in. Because if they are processed in the Pacific Islands States, the fisheries sector could be the key economic driver in the region.”

Maefiti said the regional body represented the national associations in the region.

“We were established in 2005 and our key objective is to provide the united voice for our members on issues that affect our business interests in the region.”

No more breadcrumbs for Pacific Island fisheries

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Republished from Papua New Guinea Today, September 2017

 

Now is the time for Pacific Island Nations to work together to end predatory behavior by companies that take unfair advantage in the fisheries sector, so that value can be added to exports.

This was the message from Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill CMG MP, speaking at the Pacific Islands Forum Private Sector Dialogue on Ocean Commerce today.

PM O’Neill said the political strength of Pacific Island Nations to correct inappropriate practices is often underestimated.

“In the Pacific we are small in population, but we can be very influential when we work together in the global community,” PM O’Neill said.

“The ocean territory our countries occupy is vast, and has an abundance of marine resources.

“Too often the great wealth that belongs to the people of the Pacific has been exploited and taken to foreign shores.

“For many years in Papua New Guinea we had been licensing foreign vessels to fish in our waters.

“This delivered minimal benefit for our economy and did not create any jobs for our people, while our fish stocks were seriously damaged.

“Manufacturers from other countries had also taken advantage of inefficiencies in the sector and only ever processed the bare minimum.”

The Prime Minister said the Government reached a point where enough was enough, and is now making deliberate interventions where exploitation is taking place.

“We are now changing the dynamics of the fisheries sector in our country so that we do not let foreign companies take away the wealth and simply leave breadcrumbs behind.

“We are getting behind our fisheries sector to stimulate growth in onshore fish processing.

“This proactive approach is creating thousands of jobs, increasing revenue and providing jobs for young fishermen.

“We are pursuing this agenda vigorously and we will work through the Forum and with our parents to stimulate reform around the Pacific.

“All Pacific Nations have the right to protect their marine resources and to draw value from these resources for their people and their economies.

“When we review licensing arrangements that we have in our countries, and the arrangements we have for processing, we can work together in the Pacific to add value together.

“Only by working together can we protect revenue in our countries, create jobs and make sure revenue goes to the right people.”