HONIARA and NOUMEA, 2 May 2021 –Amplifying the voices of young Pacific people and addressing their questions and concerns is at the heart of the Teen Tuna Tok campaign, launched this week to mark World Tuna Day (2 May).
The social media campaign, a joint initiative from the Pacific’s lead agencies working with tuna, has received entries from teens from across the Pacific, from Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia to the Marshall Islands and Tonga.
Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said it was wonderful to see the thoughtful questions being posed by Pacific teenagers.
“The Pacific tuna industry delivers over US$550 million per year in direct income to Pacific Island economies and nearly 25,000 jobs. It’s also an important source of protein and its consumption will reduce pressure on inshore resources,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.
“Engaging in meaningful conversations with young people, who make up more than half of our population in the Pacific, is key to improving understanding of one of the few primary industries accessible to all Pacific Island economies.”
SPC’s Director of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division, Neville Smith, said it’s a credit to these teens that they are engaging with the scientists and experts.
“The Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) is currently the only ocean region with all four key tuna species in a healthy state, being neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing,” said Mr Smith.
“We know that this is not a commonly known fact and we see that reflected in some of the questions from the teenagers. Teen Tuna Tok has been a great opportunity to share the science and create what we hope will be an ongoing dialogue with Pacific youth.”
Video animation of basics of tuna management in WCPO
The second phase of the Pacific’s World Tuna Day celebrations will see the launch of a video animation. The animation details the work of the organisations contributing to the Pacific’s record as the largest and most sustainable tuna fishery in the world. This includes the work of SPC FAME, FFA, Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
World Tuna Day evolved from a Pacific-driven UN resolution in 2016. The aim of the day is to raise awareness of the value of tuna, the threats facing tuna populations ,and the economic and social benefits of sustainably managed tuna stocks, and to share best practice.
Media contacts: Samantha Mattila, FFA Strategic Communications Manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org, mobile +61 434 567 673 Toky Rasoloarimanana, Communications Officer, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, Pacific Community, emaill email@example.com , mobile +687 89 93 94
About the 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 decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. Find out more at www.ffa.int.
About the Pacific Community (SPC)
The Pacific Community has been supporting sustainable development in the Pacific through science, knowledge and innovation since 1947. It is the principal intergovernmental organisation in the region, owned and governed by its 26 member countries and territories. Find out more at www.spc.int.
The study is also judging how well vessel operators are complying with the main rule to control marine pollution in the WCPO. This is the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) conservation and management measure (CMM) 2017-04. The rule, which came into effect on 1 January 2019, prohibits the dumping of any plastics into the ocean.
The study into the disposal of plastic waste has been commissioned by the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). It is preliminary to FFA member considering possible ways of strengthening CMM 2017-04.
FFA has noted that, despite WCPFC’s “excellent step towards curbing drastic levels” of plastic marine pollution, “the reality of current plastic disposal methods is in stark contrast to the intention of the measure”.
The Chief Technical Officer of the OFMP2 for FFA, Hugh Walton, said that, although the passing of CMM 2017-04 was a “landmark win” for FFA members, it had not necessarily equated to a decrease in the amount of waste dumped at sea. Countries had had more than a year from the adoption of the CMM in 2017 to consider the means needed once it came into force.
Clause 2 of the CMM states that: “CCMs shall prohibit their fishing vessels operating in the WCPFC Convention Area from discharging any plastic (including plastic packaging, items containing plastic and polystyrene) but not including fishing gear.”
Mr Walton said most of the other clauses did not prohibit actions, but merely encouraged signatories to prohibit their vessels from dumping waste at sea. And there was no mechanism to enforce clause 2.
“We hope this study will point to ways we can align the intention and the reality of waste disposal,” Mr Walton said.
One of the three consultants doing the study is fisheries adviser Francisco Blaha, who worked on commercial fishing vessels for many years. He has teamed up with Robert Lee, who also has a lot of experience on fishing vessels, and Alice Leney, a hands-on expert in waste disposal in the WCPO.
“We all come from operational experience,” Mr Blaha said.
“We believe it is important that we understand what it is like working in the industry. This is partly because we can’t go onto the vessels at the moment so we have to do a desktop study only.
“But also because there is this whole belief that fishers dump waste at sea by pure malice. We know what it’s like on the boats and we know that’s not true.
“People do things because there are incentives to do it that way, or because they don’t know a better way. Space is always a problem on fishing boats, so we need to consider what the main sources of plastic waste other than fishing gear, how much plastic waste is produced, and what is currently done with it in different fleets and jurisdictions. Then we can think about better ways to deal with plastics. How can people be incentivised, with the limited options of surveillance that exist at the moment? That, in a nutshell, is what we are investigating.”
“We already have quite a lot of problems with rubbish. If we’re going to take fishing vessel waste back to land, this will have a big impact on the rubbish on the islands. Other than Suva, all the other dumps are saturated: there is no more room. The highest point of Marshall Islands is the rubbish dump.”
The study team will look to quantify how much plastic waste is generated in the exclusive economic zones of FFA members and in the nearby high seas, and group it by sources such as vessel size, gear used (longline or purse seine) and the number of crew members. They will look at estimate volumes produced, disposed of overboard and brought ashore. They will investigate the impact in the ports that attract a great deal of fishing traffic of disposing of waste there.
Then they will summarise the mechanisms for disposal that could be applied, and recommend strategies and practices that will lead to better application of the present regulatory frameworks.
“If we look by type of vessel, the area where we have the biggest volumes is longlining, as there are numerous fleets. But also purse-seine is quite remarkable,” Mr Blaha said.
“There is only 5% observer coverage on longliners, but from what we know, about 60% of what goes into the water is plastic. On purse-seiners, with 100% observer coverage, it’s 37%.
“We have identified that the main source of plastic waste for longliners is the liners in the bait boxes, and for purse-seiners, it’s the salt bags.” (Salt is used to make a brine that is used in freezing the fish.)
He said it was difficult to estimate the volume of these items, because there were so many variables to take into account.
“Let’s look at longlining. How many hooks get soaked into the ocean? There were over 800 million of them in the WCPO in 2019. Then we work out bait size and weight, and adjust for the type of tuna being caught. For tropical tunas, you may be baiting 100 hooks per box, but for albacore it may be 150 hooks, so the number of boxes used varies,” Mr Blaha said.
“With the salt bags in the purse-seine fleet, it is complicated by cultural variations in the ways people operate, for example in how the brine is prepared or how much you reuse the brine, or if you flood wells for unloading.
“With crew waste, we look at crew-generated plastics: food wraps, cups, water bottles. The totals depend on the number of crew, not just on the gear on the vessels,” he said.
Volumes were less difficult to calculate when vessels came into ports than if they stayed on the high seas, although there were still many variables to consider.
“It’s way more complex that we ever thought it would be – and we knew it would be complex,” Mr Blaha said.
“This study is the first step. This is an area that is only going to grow. It needs to be fine-tuned in the future. But for this step, we wanted to make sure that whoever reads this knows we considered as much as we can for the estimates, that this is not a back-of-the-envelope estimate.
“How any recommendations can be enforced is always the big question in anything related to fisheries.”
One way to verify compliance with CMM 2017-04 might be to strengthen the capture of marine pollution data using the electronic monitoring cameras on board that are increasingly being used on fishing vessels to help monitor compliance with other fishing rules.
The team was also exploring an idea that visitors to national parks in countries such as New Zealand and Australia are familiar with: that you take out with you what you brought in.
“If the carriers bring the bait, bring the salt bags, they can take them away again, as carriers may have incinerators on board, or at least more space. We are also exploring the idea of bonds: they get their bond money back when they show that the rubbish has gone back with them,” Mr Blaha said.
FFA’s Moana Voices series on women shaping the future of oceanic fisheries is edited, researched and produced by Lisa Williams. This interview for Moana Voices 2021 edition is with Joyce Samuelu Ah-Leong from Samoa. She is a fisheries management adviser with FFA. The interview is published here to mark International Women’s Day.
I came into fisheries because my Dad thought I was playing too much rugby while my classmates were getting jobs. True story.
He just turned to me one day and said, “You better go find a job.” I went to the Public Service Commission office, keen to see if they had any work in the environment ministry. I remember the lady behind the desk telling me the environment jobs were all taken, looking at my study program at USP and saying how my marine biology degree program sounded like something related to fisheries. She gave me a letter and told me to head over to the fisheries ministry.
It was an eye-opening experience for me. My marine biology degree, which I had taken only through for my passion for the environment, suddenly made sense. The field work and my love for the sea, all in seven months of on-the-job experience – snorkelling doing coral reef monitoring, fish monitoring, invertebrate monitoring, fish-market surveys, fish-landing surveys – even a krill census! By the end of that seven-month experience, when I headed back to Fiji for my studies, I knew fisheries was where I wanted to be.
It was also good timing as Samoa Fisheries was undergoing a massive restructure and I was listed for a post on graduation. I came back with my degree and went straight into fisheries, and it’s been my passion ever since.
Right now, I’m a fisheries management adviser with the Forum Fisheries Agency in Honiara, working with our countries on fisheries policy, management systems and processes. This links to our regional voice at the Pacific Tuna Commission, or WCPFC. That’s a huge focus of my current work, supporting our Pacific nations in the technical meetings and annual Tuna Commission session, helping members to discuss and develop regional positions on the issues relating to management of the tuna fishery.
Fisheries management work in the Pacific is really living the dream for me. I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’m not really one for over-thinking things or wanting to know where I will be a decade from now. I am more an in-the-moment kind of person. And fisheries are such a critical part in our lives as Pacific people. As large ocean states, we depend on fisheries for livelihoods, income generation, economic benefits. Tuna fisheries are the economic core for many of the Pacific island states, particularly the small island states. It’s such an important field that for many Pacific nations you can just look around and say tuna money did that, license fees did that. It’s more than food: it affects how governments earn, and cover goods and services for their people. Then, of course, there is the private sector and employment benefits; the list goes on. That’s been part of the dynamics of tuna fisheries management in the region for many decades. It continues to evolve and shift.
With all the latest changes, science, and technologies to improve what our nations are doing, and how we work in this field, it’s exciting work. Even though it’s been my only career choice, I feel like there’s fresh directions every time I look. I don’t feel myself feeling tired and wondering what the next move will be. I just know that in less than a decade this sector is going to look different – an improved version of what we see now. In that sense, I want to continue to be the best that I can be in this role of service to the Pacific, with all its exciting challenges and opportunities.
Through all my meetings and travel to Honiara or around the region and beyond to represent Samoa Fisheries at the FFA level, I was inspired by the work here and had my sights set on eventually doing the same. Working at the regional level requires a step up in professional intensity and approach. It’s a chance for those who want to take national experience and career networking to the next level.
But whether you are national or regional, one thing doesn’t change: at the centre of all the work we do is the humble tuna fish, which feeds millions and millions of dollars into our Pacific nations and is eaten all over the world.
There have been many standout memories along the way. When Tokelau was chair of the Forum Fisheries [Committee], hosting the forum officials in Nukunonu and then the ministerial [meeting] in Atafu, it struck me how many fisheries officials and leaders were affected by the boat travel between Apia and Tokelau—talking about oceanic fisheries is one thing, and being out in the ocean habitat of the tuna was another!
A more solemn moment was the presentation of the Samoa Fisheries Management Bill to a parliamentary review committee, and with members of parliament invited to sit in. I was head of fisheries at the time, holding a bill with all its clauses in English and doing my translation and discussion in Samoan to the elected leaders. I thought of my parents and all they had done for me—especially my father and his “get a job” push for me, which started it all. It was a huge moment. The bill went through to its third and final reading with no changes, although it was almost 10 years of drafting before it made it to Parliament, and I don’t think there’s many women who’ve been able to have that memory of Parliament.
Fisheries is the same kind of space: more men than women across all senior levels, unless you are in the cannery or the market. But things are changing. I know when I started, I was one of a handful of women fisheries officers back then. There’s still an imbalance in the numbers, but the scale of our contribution is equal, and I think there’s a camaraderie and support which is above gender issues. I don’t think coming into a male-dominated environment bothered me that much. It helped strengthen relationships for us female colleagues; we were like sisters in fisheries, and it was the same at the regional meetings and networks, to this day. From the early days of my career, I brought an attitude with me which refuses to let gender be an issue for anything. I’ve always had that strong-headed approach to life, so if it was happening around me, I was probably a bit blind to it, to be honest.
Realistically, the future of fisheries will remain challenging. There have been so many changes, both natural and man-made, and it will continue to require all the demanding work to continue what those who’ve come before us in setting up arrangements and processes have started. I have faith in the Pacific way of producing solutions to fit our circumstances, even while we are nodding at everything that’s happening in the world around us. We’ve worked very hard over the years and put together many arrangements, systems and processes that allow us to work within ourselves to withstand our changing environment. It’s important to improve, to be ahead of the times, such as with technology.
Ten years ago, everything was a paper trail. Now we’re talking about electronic monitoring, electronic reporting, and that is making us look across at everything else we do – our systems and processes across the board. These also need to step up and maybe transform to another level of management where we’re no longer talking about just identifying risk, we are implementing risk management and improving systems for monitoring and evaluation in a timely way. It’s got to be a constant part of work because fisheries management is constantly changing, enforcement is always expanding, and change is a fact of everything we do.
Pacific nations are sovereign owners and responsible for the world’s largest ocean areas and EEZs [exclusive economic zones]. The management of the tuna resources is something that heads of fisheries and anyone who works or studies in this field takes so seriously, because the oceans are connected to everything else in our communities. That’s how engaged people are.
Acronyms are part of any regional organisation’s work. It’s not just in fisheries. I would say WCPFC is probably my favourite. I just like the way it sounds. But imagine having to say that whole Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission every time you talk about the Tuna Commission [laughs], so that’s a definite favourite, simply watching people trying to get through the mouthful. The least favourite depends on what pops up at any time. Right now, it’s the CMS, or catch management system, where the specifics of fisheries gear and species are so detailed and there’s so much data around each species, bycatch from fishing, and so on. [But it’s] an important part of keeping on top of fisheries licensing compliance and sustainable management.
Ten years down the track, I’d like to be in a role where I am providing experience and knowledge to those countries that need it in fisheries, maybe working for myself, if I am not still in regional service with FFA or from another corner of the region.
Advice to my younger self? I would say, take more risk, look beyond and outside of the box. When you’re young, you can take more risk and have a go. You don’t have to be the smartest in the room. You do have to work hard and be prepared for challenges and opportunities in equal measure. What I’ve seen is the ones who seem smartest are often just the best-prepared, and anyone can do that. I think strong work and team ethics go a long way in any career. For regional work, they are essential.
In this field, I have so many people that I look to for inspiration. They are too many to name. Of course, our Director-General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen. I’ve known her prior to that role, and seen the work she puts in. I’ve seen so many fellow friends and colleagues from my years in fisheries accept senior roles at national and regional levels, and they’ve all taught me something. They take the time for conversation, and it’s always the type of talk where you leave inspired and wanting to do better and work harder.
The wisdom I would share comes from my faith. One phrase I often pull out to gain strength or live by is that the will of God will not take you where the grace of God will not protect you. It really sums up everything for me, and the other comes from an economics teacher back in Samoa, who told me: if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.
As a mum, I also believe in balance. My rule is never taking my work home. At home, there is a whole other set of commitments that kick in. In our family and communities, we all have cultural ties and obligations that you must balance. At the end of the day, keeping that balance is so important to being a better person, wherever you are.
FFA’s Moana Voices series on women shaping the future of oceanic fisheries is edited, researched and produced by Lisa Williams. This interview for Moana Voices 2021 edition with ‘Ana Finau Taholo, of Tonga. She works at FFA as a VMS adviser, and is former assistant compliance manager at WCPFC. It is published here to mark International Women’s Day.
If you had told me in 1997 when I started my first job with a fishing company in Tonga called Sea Star Fishing, that by 2020, I would be the assistant compliance manager at the Pacific Tuna Commission in Micronesia for seven years, and about to take up a new job with the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in the Solomon Islands, I would have laughed out loud.
At the time I was in stepping-stone mode, using the opportunity to get me to the next level towards my dream job, and for the 20-something me, that was definitely not fishing! While at high school in Tonga and even into my university years, I fancied, among other things, becoming a writer.
Shortly after joining Sea Star, I was awarded a study scholarship bonded to the Tonga Ministry of Fisheries, so grabbed that opportunity for further education, thinking I was still on track towards finding something better and landing my dream role. Fast forward to 2020 and I have been living the dream job for the last 20 years – and loving it. It is a far cry from my early days at Tonga Fisheries. I had to oversee the trial of this new initiative called VMS, the Vessel Monitoring System. Back then, I had no clue what VMS stood for! Fisheries is loaded with acronyms and to someone outside of fisheries, these are verbiage, but being in fisheries for a while, it becomes your everyday language.
During my service with Tonga Ministry of Fisheries, I was involved in fishing vessel inspections, particularly checking VMS units and conducting observer placement meetings.
The vessel operators and crew did not like having a woman come on board and checking things and, at times, made it difficult for me, ignored me or simply did not take me seriously. But I continued about my job as professionally as I could and eventually they accepted me, and I enjoyed the rapport of a good working relationship built on mutual understanding.
In my early years at Tonga Fisheries, I was part of a team, the youngest and only woman, sent to the outer islands to conduct consultations with vessel owners and operators on having VMS on board their fishing vessels. I had to do a presentation on VMS to stakeholders. I prepared for that presentation for weeks and I did a great job delivering it. But right after my presentation, one male vessel owner who was against having VMS on board his vessel got up and wrote off my presentation, simply because I was young, and a woman. He was blunt about it. I must admit I was floored. It was hard not to take it personally. But under the guidance and encouragement of my superiors at the time, I was able to rise above it. I was more determined in my work, and after the week-long consultation that same operator asked to have VMS installed onboard his vessel – and to be trained along with others on the use of the VMS software to track their boat while out at sea.
Fisheries is a male-dominated area, especially when I started about 20 years ago. The first regional meeting I attended was the Forum Fisheries Agency’s 7th working group on monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) in 2004, in Madang, Papua New Guinea. I was one of a handful of women at that meeting. So, it is very pleasing to see more women in fisheries nowadays and especially in leadership roles.
Fisheries is often seen as a blue-collar job and not for women. But I tell people, especially youth, that there are a lot of exciting opportunities in fisheries. It may be challenging, especially in an area where it is male-dominated, but that just means we must work harder and smarter. Young people love to travel, so I often use that as an enticement: that a career in fisheries can take you places where you meet different people.
My parents taught me the value of hard work, perseverance and humility, and my late father lived by this Tongan phrase while raising us: ”Koe sipinga ‘oe mo’ui, faka’aki’aki mui” – a call to all that, no matter how much you achieve and are successful in life, stay humble. It’s a reminder to me to stay grounded, and I think surrounding yourself with good, grounding people is a great way to live those words.
It has helped me connect with mentors who’ve helped me navigate the complicated but exciting world of fisheries. The compliance manager at North Pacific Fisheries Commission, Peter Flewwelling, and the late Colin Brown of the Cook Islands gave me so much of their time and mentored me in my early years when I joined fisheries. It helped solidify my interest in fisheries and my decision to stay with fisheries as the dream career.
Along this journey, I have met so many wonderful women who are an inspiration to me: the current FFA Director-General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, and the former WCPFC chair, Rhea Moss-Christian. They are an inspiration to me because they give all heart and dedication to the work they do and the people they serve. They prove that with hard work and determination, women can succeed in what we put our mind to, floating above the noise, achieving focus to get work done.
Compliance work at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission WCPFC) involves developing draft compliance monitoring reports (CMRs) for each country involved in the WCPFC. These reports track each country’s compliance with its WCPFC obligations. It also flags areas where technical assistance or capacity building may be needed to assist small island developing states attain compliance.
But the fun part of the rules and what keeps me in this field – other than the fish – is the people! The work we do is service to people at its core.
Our oceanic fisheries resources are crucial to our people for food security, social and economic development, and the Pacific Island identity. I have met and worked with a lot of great people with whom we share the same passion about what we do, and they have become great friends and family to me. I see these as my fisheries family, which does also keep me in this field.
I am joining the FFA within the next few weeks as the compliance policy adviser. I look forward to joining FFA as I am passionate about serving our people and this will give me a greater opportunity to work directly with our countries to effectively manage and conserve our resources for generations to come.
I think the future of fisheries will continue to be an urgent priority for our people. It is vital that we ensure that it continues to provide – not only economically and socially but as a secure source of protein – for many generations to come. Working to ensure that vision comes with many stand-out memories. Among them is one moment in 2008, when as part of Tonga’s delegation to a WCPFC compliance meeting, the TCC4, we successfully listed a Chinese Taipei vessel suspected of IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated] fishing in Tonga’s waters on WCPFC’s provisional IUU list. It resonates with me because a lot of work went into this, before, during and after TCC, not only from Tonga government, from New Zealand government whose air surveillance initially detected this illegal fishing, from the FFA Secretariat legal team who assisted with putting the case together, and from the FFA membership who all joined forces at TCC4 to successfully get this vessel in the provisional IUU list. Subsequently, it led to a successful negotiation and settlement with the vessel owner, resulting in a substantial monetary payment to Tonga. It reminded me that the work we do matters in protecting our resources for our people.
More recently, in my current job, witnessing the adoption of the observer safety measure in 2016 at the 13th Tuna Commission meeting in Fiji, was, I think, one proud moment for all, particularly Pacific flags at the table. To top it off, that historic moment took place under the able leadership of the commission chair, Ms Rhea Moss-Christian of the Marshall Islands.
As for the future milestones for fisheries, and my own professional and personal aspirations, I’m looking forward to the post-COVID-19 new norm, whatever that will be. In 10 years, I see myself in a leadership role, where I can continue to contribute and make a difference in the management of our fisheries resources.
To my younger self, I would say: “Be bold, be fearless and be willing to say your piece.” To youth who may be eyeing the same career path, I say: “Welcome aboard! Set your goals and take that first step. It will not be smooth sailing at times, but stay the course and you will reach your destination.”
Quantification is difficult to do but shows how to improve MCS
The quantification is complex work. To estimate volume and value of IUU fishing, the researchers must first differentiate between various types of IUU fishing. These may be as diverse as unlicenced fishing, misreporting by licenced fishers, a “whole range” of types of non-compliance with licence conditions, and post-harvest problems such as illegal transhipping.
Then the amount of IUU fishing in the various categories must be measured, and this requires using different tools for each kind so that they get useful information. Mr Souter said that in some areas, for example misreporting in logbooks of purse-seine vessels, there was quite good data. But data on some other types of IUU fishing activity was patchy.
Mr Souter said the 2016 study returned some interesting results.
“People conjure up pictures of vast fleets of pirate boats. In fact, unlicenced fishing contributed quite a small amount to volume and value. IUU fishing was dominated by licenced vessels not complying,” Mr Souter said.
“This has important implications: one of the biggest benefits of these sorts of studies is that it gives you a better idea of which kinds of IUU fishing are contributing the most. You can then look at it in a much more targeted way, because each kind of IUU fishing requires a different monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) approach.”
The benefit of having a second study was that FFA would be able to track changes in the kind of activity occurring.
“The study is primarily to inform FFA on their MCS approaches. You can target MCS much better when you know the profile of IUU fishing in the region. You can also track whether previous investments have worked,” Mr Souter said.
Improve data and monitoring to improve compliance
There were other benefits.
“It’s not so much that you need to improve compliance, but that you need to improve data, improve monitoring,” Mr Souter said.
In 2016, different data was collected on each risk. The research team made a best estimate, and came up with a minimum and maximum range of the probability of each risk occurring. Weak data gives a larger range and less confidence in knowledge about that risk.
By getting better data in 2020, Mr Souter said MRAG would be able to narrow the range values, which would give them more accurate estimates. Some ideas about where the worst problems were might change.
Better data and monitoring would allow FFA to identify risks better, and how to deal with them.
“Generally, FFA and their members do quite a good job of regional coordination of MCS. They’ve taken some strong and very coordinated measures that you don’t see in some other ocean basins. They work well together.”
He said that, overall, they had much better data this time round, particularly on illegal transhipping.
“We’ve tried to take apples versus apples approach to the two studies, so you can make direct comparisons,” Mr Souter said.
A draft of the report will be discussed at the annual FFA MCS Woking Group meeting at the end of this month, with the final report to be presented to the annual meeting of the Forum Fisheries Committee in May.
Honiara – As discussions on a new Tropical Tuna Measure (TTM) loom, Pacific island countries need to push more to get the international community to consider the impacts of climate change on the regional tuna fishery. It needs to take account of both high seas and in-zone allocations so that the measure can be more beneficial to the region.
Climate change has been come to be seen as one of the building blocks of the TTM, based on advice from the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) that it is likely to result in increasing fish migration between zones to the east and the high seas.
Therefore, it is up to the members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member countries to lead the development of new measure – and it is apparent that there will be a lot of push and pull factors coming from some developed countries.
In a media conference to wrap up the 17th Tuna Commission meeting last December, the Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC), Mr Eugene Pangelinan, said, “As we move towards developing a new Tropical Tuna Measure or successor, our experiences in the past will dictate our behaviour in the future.
“The outcomes of what will be a Tropical Tuna Measure for 2022 onwards will be based on a lot of factors. I’m concerned that issues like climate change just might fall down through the cracks as we negotiate that Tropical Tuna Measure.”
A challenge for Pacific small island developing states
According to Mr Pangelinan, the discussions on pushing for the effects of climate change on the tuna fisheries to be part of the TTM was going to be a challenge for the small island developing states (SIDS) of the Pacific.
This is due to the fact that the developed countries will also push for their own priorities to be considered.
“The way we see it, as we prepare for this process in 2021, I think some developed CCMs are starting to take a very strong position on their priorities, such as profits and profits for their vessels and ensuring that their vessels have a place in this fishery to retain what has been very beneficial to them,” Mr Pangelinan said. (CCMs are the members, cooperating non-members and participating territories that make up the WCPFC.)
The FFC chair said FFA had a “totally different” view, and anticipated that these kinds of issues might become watered down as people would be more focused on what members were trying to achieve through the objectives that would be agreed on in early 2021.
“So, it will be quite a challenge to bring in elements of climate change, crew and labour standards, and so forth,” Mr Pangelinan said.
Besides these areas of most concern, he said that considering the impacts of COVID-19 in the discussions, “as we start carving out or drafting new measures, it’s going to be very difficult. I will say, we’re going to just be really ready and prepared as we have these discussions, and keep those in the back of our minds that they’re equally important to our people.”
“It is also important to also have leadership directives, from our highest levels of government that these are priorities as well,” Mr Pangelinan said.
Climate negotiations as everybody’s business
The FFA Director-General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, told regional journalists after WCPFC17 that the fight for getting what’s beneficial to the Pacific island countries out of the new Tropical Tuna Measure was “everybody’s business” and could not be done by the FFA alone.
Dr Tupou-Roosen said it was a positive that Pacific leaders and ministers had highlighted the importance of climate change as the single greatest threat to their people.
“Whilst we’re faced with the immediate challenge and impacts of COVID-19 staying very much in front, on top of mind is what we do in the climate change space,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.
“And so we will see that start to play out as well, in the discussions around the Tropical Tuna Measure, in terms of the high seas allocation, given the scientists telling us that there will be substantial amount of fish within our waters that will migrate to the high seas, due to climate change.
“This will be part of the conversation next year  in that context.”
She said climate change was also linked to concerns about maritime boundaries. Discussion about this issue needed the support of all members and the regional community.
“Overall, climate change is a piece of work that cannot be done alone by the FFA and not just the secretariat and the members,” she said.
“But this is a work that needs to be done with our partners within the regional architecture we have the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme as a lead in environmental issues, and as the lead in our preparation before the COP meeting at the end of 2021, and how we ensure that there are entry points into that conversation on our fisheries matters.
“Because we all recognise that we are not the cause of these issues related to climate change and global warming: it is the large gas emitters. The conversation is not happening in our in our fishery space.”.
Dr Tupou-Roosen said that the island states cooperating as a region in debates was important “to ensure that we can influence the debate, ensure that it has flow-on positive benefits and fight for our fisheries work.”
Mechanisms such as compensation could be used to the region’s advantage in the fishing space. However, Dr Tupou-Roosen hoped that the talks would be very successful once the upcoming COP meeting was held face to face.
Their ecosystem approach would encompass the effects of climate change.
FFA and other regional fisheries organisations of the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) have already begun to take an ecosystem-wide approach to managing stocks of tuna and other commercially valuable migratory fish. Coastal fisheries, too, are increasingly being managed in a holistic way that encompasses whole ecosystems.
FFA and its partners are seeking funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to make the approach mainstream so that it becomes integral to national and regional fisheries policies, operations and scientific research.
The Deputy Director-General of FFA, Mr Matt Hooper, said that taking a whole-ecosystem approach to the threat of climate change would help the states of the WCPO to ensure secure supplies of local food and economic wellbeing.
He said an “enormous amount of work” had gone into developing the project.
“It was heartening to see the member countries contributing along with our partners and industry,” Mr Hooper said.
The project would build on the two blocks of work funded by the Pacific Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2). This funding will end in June. OFMP2 supports the 14 small island developing states (SIDS) of the WCPO to implement and enforce global, regional and subregional rules and policies that conserve populations of tuna and other commercially important fish.
HONIARA – While national and regional observer vessel placements remain suspended until at least 15 February, Pacific fisheries organisations are focused on ensuring that working conditions on fishing vessels are made safer for both observers and crew before the observer program resumes.
The Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) continues to progress suspension of the observer program, as a priority of the Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC).
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) initially suspended the observer program on 8 April 2020, to protect the health of observers working on purse-seine vessels as COVID-19 spread rapidly worldwide. The suspension has been extended several times.
Heading into the recent 17th WCPFC meeting, which was held by web link, one of the key priorities of FFA and its members was improving the safety of crew and observers.
The FFA members noted that it was simply unacceptable that observers potentially continued to face risks at sea and to suffer persecution, serious injuries and even death in the course of their work, and that human rights abuses were suffered by crew working on fishing vessels operating in the Pacific region.
In a submission to the WCPFC before the Tuna Commission meeting, FFC Chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan said the members of the FFA were “committed to addressing these issues and are taking measures to improve standards in relation to fishing within our waters, and to create a ‘safety culture’ around the role of observers.
“It is imperative that the commission collectively commits to implement such standards on the high seas. We look forward to working with CCMs and with committed partner organisations to advance this work in the commission as a matter of priority over the coming year,” Mr Pangelinan said. (CCMs are the members, cooperating non-members and participating territories that make up the governing body of the WCPFC.)
Disappointing decision on crew and observers at WCPFC
However, speaking to Pacific journalists at the end of the 17th Tuna Commission meeting, Mr Pangelinan said the FFA members had walked away with mixed feelings about the WCPFC decision on the safety of crew and observers.
This is due to the fact that before the commission meeting, members had hoped that all CCMs would share FFA members’ belief in the level of importance of observer safety and labour standards of crew and fishing vessels operating in the WCPFC convention area.
“Regrettably, one CCM [China] had legal as well as procedural issues about this kind of a measure being put forward by Indonesia,” Mr Pangelinan said.
At the Tuna Commission meeting, Indonesia submitted a proposal regarding the adoption of a conservation and management measure (CMM) on labour standards for crew of fishing vessels. (A resolution on labour standards exists, but resolutions are not binding and so not enforceable. It is mandatory to follow the provisions of CMMs.)
In its submission, Indonesia acknowledged that fishing crews were at risk of forced work, low or no pay, and human trafficking because of communication challenges, and the absence of proper training and of authorisation of wellbeing and work benchmarks.
In submitting the proposal to the Tuna Commission, Indonesia’s Director of Fish Resources Management, Mr Trian Yunanda, wrote: “Forced work and human dealing in fisheries segments are much of the time connected to different types of wrongdoing, for example, transnational sorted out fisheries wrongdoing and corruption.
“Another labour abuse factor is the expanding worldwide interest for fish and the quick development of modern fishing fleets alongside overexploitation. Fishing operators can have a competitive benefit by crewing their vessel with under-qualified and cheap members.”
“In the spirit of responsible fisheries management, an issue of labour abuse needs to be addressed properly and regulated accordingly, including within the convention area of WCPFC, through the implementation of conservation and management measures for labour rights.”
Mr Pangelinan told the Pacific journalists that, although the proposal did not become a CMM, with FFA members’ guidance and because CCMs were so vocal about the issue in the Tuna Commission meeting, they were able to carve out a hybrid intersessional working group (IWG) that would advance the work that Indonesia is doing.
“New Zealand will be co-chairing that process of working to address the concerns of that one CCM, in relation to whether the commission has a mandate to also address issues of labour and crewing standards and observer safety and so forth,” Mr Pangelinan said.
He also confirmed that the FFC was convinced that it did have that mandate.
“There are many legal instruments or legal provisions of the convention that lead us to believe that that is the case. And we will continue to work with other CCMs to make sure that, in 2021, the IWG does manage to or at least continues to work on even an independent study that specifically focused on this particular issue in the WCPFC area,” he said.
The FFA Director-General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, said the intersessional process “is an important outcome for this commission, given the different views among CCMs on the mandate of the commission to deal with this subject matter.
“As the chair and our members have said in strong support for Indonesia’s draft crewing CMM in the past, in the lead-up to adoption of the Korean resolution, this is a top priority for our membership. And – we’ve said this before – it’s the right thing to do: it is the human side to our work and cannot be ignored. Work must progress on this, not just within our waters but also, importantly, within this commission on the high seas,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.
Top priority to get observers back on fishing vessels
Despite the mixed reactions by members on discussion on the safety of crew and observers at the Tuna Commission meeting, getting observers back onto ships is still a top priority for the FFA and the FFC.
Mr Pangelinan told journalists: “Obviously, with over 800 observers in the Pacific, it is important that we try to put them back to work and provide for their families, and being also the eyes out on the water.”
But while COVID-19 continued to prevail in the region, “the safety of observers is of paramount importance”.
“All these additional COVID responses that we’ve had have added additional burden on the secretariat and the members in terms of compliance and reporting. And so the bit of normalcy would be something that everybody would welcome.
“Unfortunately, that’s not the case [at the moment]. And I think that, notwithstanding COVID-19 still happening throughout the region, some members were of the view that they wanted to still start the deployment, and get people back on the vessels,” Mr Pangelinan said.
“But we’re not confident yet that the commission has a robust guideline and protocol that all members must adhere to, to ensure the safety of observers as we slowly recommenced the deployment. And that’s why we called upon even other systems who have non-FFA members to show us what have they put in place that will provide us the assurances that observers will be cared for, taken care of and protected against potential contracting of the COVID-19.”
Dr Tupou-Roosen said that, in the meantime, a draft intersessional decision worked be worked on by the commission chair to be circulated by end of January or early February.
“The commission chair will work on some language that will be circulated before then to sit to determine what can be done before it [the current suspension] expires. This is something that our membership will continue to look at,” she said.
Members call for COVID-19 protocols for observers
The FFC had already established protocols and guidelines that it called best practice, ready for the day when the suspension was lifted. Most members had said that returning observers to vessels was a necessity for their vessels to continue to operate.
“But, obviously we’re just going to have to sit back and wait and see what happens,” Mr Pangelinan said.
“The commission is already starting to think ahead about how we’re going to actually do that.
FFC had called on members to share their national protocols “to see whether those match up with the kind of assurances we want for our observers – when they’re redeployed, whether they’re coming through their own ports or through some other ports – that they’re not a lower standard than what the FFA members have put together.
“We have to keep bearing their safety in mind and the safety of the populations of the countries that they’re also going through,” Mr Pangelinan said.
Honiara, 21 December 2020 – Pacific Island countries have worked with fishing nations to secure crucial protection measures next year for an industry worth over US$1 billion to local economies and employing around 24,000, following global meetings last week.
Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said the virtual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) had ensured key management measures were rolled over to secure the fishery for the coming year.
“FFA member countries went into this virtual meeting with a clear set of priorities. The most important was ensuring we rolled over the flagship Tropical Tuna Measure for another year to ensure there was not a management vacuum while a new measure is negotiated in 2021,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.
“Our current measure expires in February 2021. Tuna fisheries are the social and economic lifeblood of many of our Pacific countries and we needed to ensure we had certainty. It was essential to the sustainable management of our tuna stocks that we avoided an outcome similar to recent meetings of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), who failed to reach a consensus on regulations, leaving their fishery unmanaged next year,” she said.
“We are really pleased that we were able to secure this outcome for the western Pacific region.”
The Tropical Tuna Measure regulates the tuna catch in the region and puts in place measures to ensure the amount of fishing effort and catch is kept at sustainable levels.
Forum Fisheries Committee Chair Eugene Pangelinan said virtual meetings were particularly challenging for Pacific members and in-person negotiations were a much more successful option for complex discussions.
“Pacific nations often struggle with poor internet connectivity and, to make matters worse, we frequently must contend with tropical cyclones at this time of year that cause significant disruption to communications. Trying to successfully complete sensitive negotiations under COVID conditions was always going to be more difficult,” said Mr Pangelinan.
“We managed to get key fishing nations to pull back a bit on the horns and accept the fact that this virtual commission meeting is not the time to talk about new measures which may increase bigeye tuna catch or adding fishing days to high-seas purse-seine effort limits,” he said.
“We’ve obviously got a lot of work to do now for 2021. In addition to negotiating a comprehensive tropical tuna measure, we will be looking at measures to ensure best practice approaches to observer safety and to address crew labour conditions and human rights issues at sea. It will be a busy year, but we are confident that this will be achievable, especially if face-to-face meetings can resume at some point next year.”
Pacific-caught fish contribute significantly to the diets of people in other parts of the world, with the Western and Central Pacific Ocean accounting for almost 60% of the global tuna catch, of which more than half is taken in the waters of FFA member countries.
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 decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision-making on tuna management. Find out more here: www.ffa.int.
About Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
WCPFC was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPF Convention), which entered into force on 19 June 2004. The WCPFC Convention seeks to address problems in the management of high-seas fisheries resulting from unregulated fishing, over-capitalisation, excessive fleet capacity, vessel re-flagging to escape controls, insufficiently selective gear, unreliable databases, and insufficient multilateral cooperation in respect of conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks. A framework for the participation of fishing entities in the Commission, which legally binds fishing entities to the provisions of the Convention, participation by territories and possessions in the work of the Commission, recognition of special requirements of developing states, and cooperation with other Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) whose respective areas of competence overlap with the WCPFC, reflect the unique geo-political environment in which the Commission operates. Members: Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, and Vanuatu. Participating territories: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, and Wallis and Futuna.
A process for negotiating a new Tropical Tuna Measure has been agreed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), paving the way for adoption at the end of next year.
At this year’s annual WCPFC meeting, which finished yesterday, members agreed to roll over the current conservation and management measure, CMM 2018-01, to extend it for another year.
This means the commission has avoided the problem that its counterpart in the eastern Pacific now has, after it failed to find consensus on the rollover of its equivalent measure and is left with no way of managing fishing for bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tuna.
The Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee, Mr Eugene Pangelinan, said in a media conference today that work would need to start almost immediately, because negotiations were more difficult online.
“We have a lot of work to do so that by next December we have all the building blocks read for WCPFC to make a decision, not just on the Tropical Tuna Measure, but also on South Pacific albacore, crewing conditions, and observers,” Mr Pangelinan said.
The WCPFC will convene three workshops to develop the replacement measure. The first one will be in April. Development work will continue between workshops.
The conservation and management measure will work towards the adoption of harvest strategies, as laid out in another rule, CMM 2014-06. The harvest strategy would operate hand-in-hand with the Tropical Tuna Measure and conservation and management measures for other species. Harvest strategies are used to manage commercially important species so they remain biologically sustainable while maximising profits from the fisheries.
WCPFC expected that some, and perhaps all, of the workshops would be held virtually.
Mr Pangelinan said, “There have been a lot of lessons learned this year. One of the bad things about using this platform is the lack of interpersonal engagement. This can influence outcomes,.”
The process for negotiating the Tropical Tuna Measure needed to include ways of maintaining appropriate discussion and negotiation.
All proposals would have to be put in writing and shared. They would also have to include an assessment of the impact on small island developing states (SIDS), in line with CMM 2013-06.
This CMM is to ensure the SIDS can participate on an equal footing with wealthier members of WCPFC, and that they do not have to bear unreasonable costs or workload.
One of these is ensuring that SIDS members can participate fully.
The Director-General of FFA, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said in the media conference today, “Our members are very clear about this. Capacity building to be able to work on this virtual platform is as important as being able to sit at the meetings.”