Media Release: FFA leads one of largest maritime surveillance operations to end illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing

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HONIARA, 25 October 2019 – The Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) lead Operation Kurukuru is one of the largest maritime surveillance operations globally covering an area the land size of Russia, India and Egypt combined.

The multi-million-dollar operation targeting illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing was conducted from 7–18 October 2019 and covered 21.3 million square kilometres. It is coordinated from the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) at the FFA Secretariat in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

FFA Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said: “Operation Kurukuru is the largest of the four major operations coordinated and supported by the FFA each year.  These operations empower members to take collective and national action against IUU fishing and the success of these operations is due to the commitment and partnerships with our members along with the assets provided by Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States.”

“The operation consumes considerable resources, but we continue to undertake them to ensure our members have the highest levels of social and economic benefits through the protection and sustainable use of our offshore fisheries resources,” she added.

The 12-day operation saw around 132 sea days of active patrolling and 540 flight hours of maritime air surveillance. There were 131 boardings at sea and dockside, with only four infringements found.

The FFA Surveillance and Operations Officer, Commander Robert Lewis, who is seconded from the Royal Australian Navy, said: “The fact there were no unknown fishing vessels found with such thorough air surveillance coverage and only 4 infringements imposed with such a high level of boarding is evidence that current regulations and law enforcement practices are working well with the four FFA operations leading the effort.” 

Ordinary Seaman Sereima Naiqovu from the Fijia Navy was not only the first female Fijian naval person to attend Operation Kurukuru but also one of the first women to join the Fiji Navy.

In her capacity as watch keeper during the operation, she said: “The operation was a great experience for me, mostly as I got to experience and learn a lot of new things from the RFSC. I was overwhelmed to be given the opportunity to be the first female in the Fiji Navy to go for an operation, and I look forward to experiencing and learning more new things.”

Operation Kurukuru aims to detect, deter, report and/or apprehend potential IUU fishing activity, but also looks to build capacity of watch keepers, intelligence analysts and supervisory staff seconded to the RFSC during the operation, to conduct their own operations upon their return home.

The operation involves 15 FFA members – Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. It also involves the Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group: Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States of America.

##ENDS##

For more information contact Donna Hoerder, FFA Media, ph: +677 21124

 donna.hoerder@ffa.int

About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA assists its 17-member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. www.ffa.int

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Japan remains a key partner in Pacific Tuna Fisheries

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Tuna continues to be a delicacy in Japan.

Japan is known for its love affair with seafood. If we say tuna, we think of sushi and sashimi – two of the most famous dishes in Japanese cuisine.

Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials told visiting Pacific Islands journalists in Tokyo last month that a sizeable amount of tuna Japan consumes are sourced from the Japanese vessels licensed to fish in the Pacific region.

Japan is a major fisher of tuna species in the Pacific region; Japan officials said: “fishing is very important to Japan.”

To protect valuable marine resources and to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks, Japan’s Free and Open Indo Pacific Strategy includes a commitment to peace and stability, including assistance to the Pacific in enhancing maritime safety and stability.

This year, Palau and Japan are celebrating 25-years of diplomatic ties that “friendship” Japan’s aid has delivered a wide range of projects from infrastructure, health, education, maritime security, and climate change.

According to the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) data, the Japanese imports from FFA members was valued at US $41 million in 2016, with Palau and Fiji as the main supplier of tuna sashimi grade products to the Japanese market.

Japan has been an important diplomatic partner to Palau in improving awareness of activities in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Boosting its marine surveillance, a Japan-funded patrol boat called PSS Kedam in now serving as the additional patrol boat for Palau.

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.

At the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Japan is one of the key players pushing for measures to conserve fish stocks, recognizing its economic importance to Pacific island nations.

Japan was also instrumental in keeping catches of juvenile tuna to below 2002–04 average levels as a conservation measure.

The government of Japan continues to assure island nations of support given that the Pacific islands states are large ocean states that are custodians of the world’s largest tuna fishery.

The WCPO share of the global catch of albacore, bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin tunas is between 55% and 58%. In 2016 the total catch of tuna species s was 2.7 million tonnes which 56% of global production of 4.8 million tonnes, according to FFA.

The Tuna Industry: Embracing technologies and sustainable strategies

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Photo: SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc.

Republished from Panay News, 23 August 2019

by Belinda Sales-Canlas

THE 21st National Tuna Congress is happening on September 4-6, 2019 in General Santos City. The Theme for this year’s Congress: “The Tuna Industry: Embracing Technologies and Sustainable Strategies”. Why this Theme?

The choice of the Theme is anchored on sustainability supported by technologies. We all know that Sustainability of Tuna Resources is paramount to the fishing industry. It cannot be overemphasized that the sustainability of the ocean’s resources does not only rest on the shoulders of government. The same responsibility is likewise demanded of the private sector, especially the global players of the Tuna Industry, and the global fisheries advocates.

The Theme calls that sustainability can only be achieved if Conservation and Management Measures are dutifully observed, and international and regional agreements calling for preservation of species and recovery plans, are honoured.

Sustainability also means no overfishing.  It means that we enable an environment for Tuna and Tuna-like species to spawn and propagate for another season of catch. The intention is not to deplete our resources.

On technology, the world is currently driven by technology. The fishing industry needs to keep up by continuously upgrading systems and processes to achieve full efficiency while being ocean-friendly.

***

For 2019, the SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII) welcomes its new President, Andrew Philip Yu. Outgoing President Joaquin T. Lu has served SFFAII for 8 years, starting in 2011. He also held the chairmanship of the National Tuna Congress for eight years. 

President Lu’s accomplishments include: Active and dynamic Advocacy, Lobby Work, and Involvement in International and Regional Collaborations; Focused Partnership with National Government and Steadfast Observance and Compliance with Philippine Laws; and Implementation of the electronic Catch Documentation and Traceability System (eCDTS).

On the first, the country is a driven Member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Under his watch, the Philippines has been granted access to fish in the High Seas Pocket 1 (HSP1). This means that the country’s 36 fishing fleets can fish in the HSP1 of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This is a major breakthrough for the country. It may be recalled that for a time, the Philippines was no longer allowed to fish in Indonesia. The prohibition affected the Tuna Industry. The severity of the situation was felt in General Santos City, the home base of the Tuna Industry.

Under his leadership, the fishing industry was able to surmount the acute challenge. Of course, even as the Philippines is granted access to fish in the high seas, the country is duty bound to comply with international regulations, like the observance of conservation and management measures.

SFFAII also pushed for the Philippines’ inclusion in the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. The high seas of the Indian Ocean and the Exclusive Economic Zones of member-coastal states are potential fishing grounds for Philippine purse-seine fishing vessels. Fishing in other fishing grounds will enable our own fishing grounds to recover.

SFFAII also pushes the promotion of ASEAN Tuna globally and branding it as a suitable and traceable-produced product. SFFAII supports the move to properly label the fishing industry and its allied industries’ products. However, it likewise urges that international certification be made affordable, yielding benefits not only to stakeholders, but also on marine ecosystems.

On Focused Partnership with National Government and Steadfast Observance and Compliance with Philippine Laws. For 20 years, SFFAII has hosted 20 Tuna Congresses. The Tuna Congress is now on its 21st year. The yearly Congress has become a venue for intense lobby efforts from among the active players and loyal stakeholders of the industry. The issues and concerns afflicting the industry are highlighted in the yearly Tuna Congress.

The yields of the past Tuna Congresses include the Formulation of a Policy governing Illegal, Unlawful, and Unregulated fishing practices; Finalization, Production, and Issuance of the Philippine Fishing Vessels Safety Rules and Regulations; 2018 National Tuna Management Plan which is aimed at establishing a sustainably-managed and equitably-allocated Tuna fisheries by 2026 and promoting responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products; Creation of National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council that serves as an advisory/recommendatory body to the Department of Agriculture in policy formulation; Reconstitution of the National Tuna Industry Council; Approval of the Handline Fishing Law and the amendment of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the said law; among others.

On Implementation of the eCDTS. In 2017, a major milestone for the Tuna Industry unfolded when SFFAII partnered with USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership and BFAR to develop and implement the eCDTS. The system, when operational, will trace the movement of seafood from “bait to plate”, all the way through to export markets like US, EU, and neighbouring ASEAN markets. General Santos City has been chosen as the pilot city. Now on its final year, we will see how this system will actually impact the fishing industry.

‘No place to hide’ for illegal fishing fleets as surveillance satellites prepare for lift-off

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Republished from Mongabay News, 30 August 2019

by Gavin Haines

  • A low-cost satellite revolution is paving the way for real-time monitoring of fishing vessels using synthetic-aperture radar (SAR).
  • SAR allows researchers to monitor ‘dark vessels’ that aren’t transmitting Automatic Identification Signals (AIS) location data.
  • Disabling or manipulating AIS transmitters is a tactic commonly used by vessels engaged in illegal fishing activity.

The prospect of monitoring every vessel at sea in real-time has moved a step closer to reality as a new generation of surveillance satellites takes to the skies.

The satellites are being launched by a small number of private companies with the potential to transform the monitoring of marine fisheries. One of those companies is Capella Space, which will launch a constellation of 36 surveillance satellites into orbit starting in December, following successful trials with a pilot satellite.


A 2018 map of areas likely damaged from ash and lava flow from Fuego volcano in Guatemala derived from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). Each pixel is 30 meters (99 feet) across. Radar images penetrate smoke, clouds and darkness to provide information on the structure of what is below. They can thus assess ground surface damage from volcanic activity (here, red color indicates more damage), as well as the presence of a large fishing vessel on the sea. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Copernicus/Google.

Capella’s “minibar-sized satellites” are equipped with synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) sensors, which ping signals down to Earth and use the information bouncing back to generate radar images. Though radar pictures lack the detail of optical images and cannot currently be used to identify specific vessels, they can detect the presence of any ship in the ocean, day or night, whatever the weather.

SAR’s greatest asset is that it can detect the presence of vessels that aren’t transmitting Automatic Identification Signals (AIS), so-called “dark ships”. Vessels weighing 300 gross tons or more are required to carry AIS transmitters, which broadcast a vessel’s name, country of origin, speed, and location. Crews engaging in illegal fishing activity often disable them or manipulate the data to give false coordinates.

“It’s hard to quantify how widespread this practice is, but I think it’s pretty widespread,” said Peter Horn, who leads the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Ending Illegal Fishing Project.

Paul Woods, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Global Fishing Watch, agrees. “There are a lot of vessels running around, particularly fishing vessels doing bad things, that don’t want to be tracked,” he said.


Stacks of fish found in the hold of the Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessel Yu Feng from alleged illegal fishing activity off the coast of Sierra Leone.  Members of various security agencies of Sierra Leone and U.S. Coast Guard sailors found the illegal catch after conducting a joint boarding operation. Sierra Leone is patrolling the waters further from their shore to protect their economic zone. Image courtesy of United States Coast Guard.

SAR is part of a suite of surveillance tools used by law enforcement agencies and environmental watchdogs, such as Skytruth, to check for the presence of “dark ships”. The technology is also widely used to identify oil spills and to observe changes in sea ice at the poles and forest cover in the Amazon.

Now, a new breed of satellites, which are 20 times lighter than their outdated predecessors and therefore easier and cheaper to launch, promises to greatly expand the capabilities of SAR surveillance.

Current drawbacks of SAR

SAR data are currently gathered by a handful of satellites, which are operated mainly by government agencies, such as NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), which gives its SAR data away for free. Airbus also has a SAR satellite system.

The problem with these satellites is that they provide an incomplete picture of the world’s oceans because there aren’t enough of them. What’s more, because they are large—about the size of a trash dumpster—and power-hungry, they typically operate where it is light to allow for solar charging.

“They only image a small portion of Earth every day,” said Woods. “So, we don’t have really good coverage of the oceans with SAR.”


Huge school of fish off the Mexican coast. Image by Matthew T. Rader via Pexels.

Although environmental watchdogs and enforcement agencies can task SAR satellites to take images of particular places where they suspect illegal fishing is taking place, such requests are expensive and time-consuming. Orders have to be placed many hours in advance, either over the phone or via fax, and there is always the possibility that requests will be deprioritized if the military wants to task the satellite at the same time.

“It costs thousands of dollars to order an image, and we have to order it up to 72 hours in advance, because we have to wait for the satellite to get into position,” said Woods, highlighting SAR’s current shortcomings.

This latency is the reason SAR data is mainly used for long-term strategic planning, such as deciding where to send patrols, rather than in live situations. “The guy who is doing illegal fishing will do it for six hours and then disappear,” said John Allan, Business Development Consultant for Capella Space. “If you’ve got to wait 24 hours to get an image, that’s useless.”

The holy grail of real-time SAR

Capella claims its satellites will provide a much faster turnaround and that its customers will be able to order on-demand images online through an API. Inmarsat, a satellite telecommunications company, will then transmit the order to Capella’s nearest satellite in a matter of seconds.

“It will do to satellite tasking what Amazon did to retail,” Allan said. “We’re going to make it so easy for people to task the satellites.”

Capella’s network is due to be fully operational by 2022, though each satellite will start taking SAR images as soon as it is launched. When all 36 satellites are up, Allan said, the constellation will be able to provide a new image of a target every hour at the equator and even more frequently the closer you get to the poles. This is a significant step towards real-time SAR.