The Marshall Islands and Thailand establish cooperation and exchange of information to prevent IUU fishing practices

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Republished from Francisco Blaha’s Blog FEBRUARY 23, 2019

I have been at the 6th Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop (GFETW) here in Bangkok since the 18 Feb. As we ( the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority MIMRA) have been invited to present what we are doing in terms of our Port State Measures (PSM) system to authorise transhipments.

I say “we” because there are 4 of us; Sam Lawni (Deputy Director), Laurence Edwards (Legal Counsel) and Beau Bigler (Fishery Officer) and myself as an Offshore Fisheries Advisor. I was quite keen for all of us to come to this GFETW as conference only happens every two or three years. It was organised by the International Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) Network to improve and enhance the capacity and communications of MCS practitioners around the world. The fact that we are in Bangkok made it more special.

While a lot of effort has been focused on the control of transhipments at sea, transhipments from fishing vessels to refrigerated carriers in port are a vital element in the Pacific tuna fishery and a daily occurrence for us. Thailand is the biggest tuna processing country in the world, and I’d say that half of the transhipments we authorise in Majuro will be arriving here to be processed; we call it the “tuna highway”.

From the “transhipment port” perspective, PSM best practices require the port to take a series of steps prior to authorising port use for transhipment, including: a standardised and integrated process of advance notice and arrival fishing vessel intelligence-based risk analysis using available remote sensing capacities, a transhipment authorization protocol, the estimation of volumes transhipped, and the departure clearance of the carriers with full traceability of fish on board and hatch plan totals.

From the receiving port perspective, as is the case in Bangkok, it must be considered that the fish on board the carriers have “not been previously landed”. Thailand’s Department of Fisheries (DoF) under the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) principles has to evaluate compliance on the legality of the catches of each of the fishing vessels being transported on the carrier, plus the volumes on departure from the last transhipment port. This is to assess the possibility that the carrier would have received fish on board since the last declared port departure. As in many other cases worldwide, the processing states do not have access to all the compliance tools used by the flag states of the fishing vessels, and perhaps most importantly the coastal states where those catches were taken. Having a direct link of collaboration with the regional port states where those vessels transhipped initially facilitate the fulfilment of their obligations under PSMA.

On the other side, only on receiving the fish at the processing plants in Thailand are the verified weights per species per vessels known. Before this, volumes and species composition are based on estimates from the logsheets and observers/monitors estimations. In fact, a 2017 FFA study on the quantification of IUU for the region identified underreporting of catches as the region’s biggest threat in terms of IUU. Yet Thailand’s DoF as part of their e-Traceability program collects all the “weigh in” values of the fish originating on each fishing vessels inside every arriving carrier. This verified information available in Thailand is vital to further understanding the magnitude of the underreporting problem in the Pacific.

6th Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop (GFETW), Bangkok. Image: Francisco Blaha

Based on the understanding of this reality, the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA), as the fisheries body of the most important transhipment port in the Pacific (>400 a year), approached Thailand’s Department of Fisheries to establish an MoU for cooperation and exchange of information of common interest and mutual benefit.

The MoU, signed on 22 February, is the result of over a year-long engagement I have been fostering between these 2 countries I work substantially with. Both sides identified that reciprocal exchange of fisheries data was an area of critical importance that would require mutual collaboration between key players. In this case, the Marshall Islands (Majuro) being arguably the busiest transhipment port in the world and Thailand (Bangkok) as the largest tuna processing and port State.

With the signing of the MoU, the Marshall Islands, through MIMRA, will now be able to receive verified weights of tuna catches that are transshipped in Majuro and offloaded in Bangkok from Thai fisheries inspection officers on a regular basis.

In essence, this will enable officers on both sides to trace the catch both ways to ensure its legality throughout the entire chain of custody, thereby preventing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. This verified information is vital to further understand the magnitude of the catch underreporting problem in the region.

The MoU is in line with the Marshall Islands IUU-Free Pacific initiative as declared by H.E. Madam President Dr. Hilda C. Heine last year. Having this direct link of collaboration with a key player like Thailand further facilitates the fulfilment of obligations under the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which the Marshall Islands, through MIMRA, is currently considering signing and ratifying in the near future.

At a personal level it has been a huge 10 days as I facilitated a workshop for PEW and WWF full of people I admire, then presented at global fisheries MCS workshop on what are we doing in the Marshall Islands , and realise that I’m a consultant to both the gold (Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency) and silver (ThaiDoF/OceanMind) winners of the stop IUU awards! and then facilitating the Marshalls-Thailand MoU.

PRESS RELEASE: Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Signs Fisheries Collaboration MoU with Thailand’s Department of Fisheries

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Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, 22 February 2018 – Tuna transhipments from fishing vessels to refrigerated carrier vessels is a daily occurrence in Majuro port and represent a vital element of the Pacific tuna fishery and the ongoing Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) efforts undertaken by Pacific Island countries.

Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) officials, along with their NZMFAT Offshore Fisheries Advisor, were in Bangkok, Thailand this week to attend the 6th Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop (GFETW)* from 18 – 22 February 2019.

Along the margins, the team took the opportunity to hold brief bilateral discussions with the Thailand Department of Fisheries on issues of mutual interest, namely, the signing of a fisheries cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The MoU, signed on 22 February, is the result of a year-long engagement between the 2 countries whereby both sides identified that reciprocal exchange of fisheries data was an area of critical importance that would require mutual collaboration between key players, in this case, RMI (Majuro) being arguably the busiest transhipment port in the world and Thailand (Bangkok) as the largest tuna receiving/processing port.

With the signing of the MoU, the RMI, through MIMRA, will now be able to receive verified weights of tuna catches that are transhipped in Majuro and offloaded in Bangkok from Thai fisheries inspection officers on a regular basis.

In essence, this will enable officers on both sides to trace the catch both ways to ensure its legality throughout the entire chain of custody thereby preventing Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. This verified information is vital to further understand the magnitude of the catch underreporting problem in the region.

MIMRA will provide relevant transhipment data to Thailand’s Department of Fisheries including estimation of volumes transhipped in Majuro port along with departure clearance of carrier vessels with full traceability of catch on board and hatch plan totals – information that Thailand has otherwise been unable to collect from Coastal States whose EEZs the catch is taken and in this case the port of Majuro where a large volume of the tuna that ends up in Bangkok is transhipped from purse seine fishing vessels onto carrier vessels.

The MoU is in line with the RMI IUU-Free Pacific initiative as declared by H.E. Madam President Dr. Hilda C. Heine last year. Having this direct link of collaboration with a key player like Thailand further facilitates the fulfilment of obligations under the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which the RMI, through MIMRA, is currently considering signing and ratifying in the near future.

*The GFETW is a biennial or triennial conference organized by the International Fisheries Monitoring Control and Survelliance (MCS) Network to improve and enhance capacity and communications of MCS practitioners around the world. Sustainable fisheries can only be achieved when fishing is pursued in compliance with the applicable rules, and therefore all fishing activities in the world’s oceans and seas should be subject to adequate levels of monitoring, surveillance, inspection and enforcement.

MEDIA RELEASE: FFA wins global Stop IUU Fishing prize

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BANGKOK 22 February 2019 – The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) was awarded the top prize in the 2019 Stop Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing competition yesterday.

“This achievement recognises FFA’s work in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance initiatives to deter IUU fishing in the Pacific. Well done to the team at FFA, past and present, and all of our FFA member countries. And the award is particularly timely given FFA has just kicked off our 40th anniversary celebrations,” said FFA Director General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen.

“This award is a reflection of the work we do to protect the rights of FFA members over the tuna within our Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), and the foundation of the economic and social benefits that flow from that. We have to ensure that there is long term sustainability of oceanic fish stocks to secure our peoples’ future livelihoods and regional food security.”

A panel of judges used a range of key criteria including demonstrated success and innovation in reducing IUU, the feasibility and cost of IUU mitigation activities, the potential for replication and approaches to education and capacity building.

“In preparing our submission for the award, the FFA Secretariat felt we were well able to demonstrate high level performance against all the criteria” said Dr Tupou-Roosen. “Our integrated approaches to combatting IUU are coordinated through the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre at FFA and encapsulated in our Regional Fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Strategy.”

“The underpinning theme of FFA and the IUU strategy is our regional cooperation. That is our Pacific way and it is the only way we are going to ensure a successful, safe, secure and prosperous future for our region,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.

The bi-annual competition is run by the Global Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Network and was announced at its meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

While receiving the prize on behalf of FFA, the Acting Director for Fisheries Operations, Mr Allan Rahari, extended his thanks to the judges for their confidence in FFA, as well as the hard work and commitment of the FFA Secretariat’s current and former staff, and the Member countries. The FFA video that was part of the Agency’s submission for the award can be viewed below.


About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
FFA was established to help its 17 member countries sustainably manage their fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA is an advisory body providing 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 through agencies such as the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). www.ffa.int Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

FFA was established to help its 17 member countries sustainably manage their fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA is an advisory body providing 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 through agencies such as the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). www.ffa.int Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

#Ourfishourfuture #tuna #forumfisheries #fisheries2019 #ourmoanaourfish #FFA40th

Fiji gets US help for border protection

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Republished from Radio New Zealand, 24 January 2019

Fiji’s efforts to protect its fisheries and borders received a boost this week following the arrival of a United States Coast Guard patrol vessel.

Credit: kelleherphoto/123RF

The Commander of the Cutter Mellon, Stephen Burdian, told Fijivillage the ship will help Fiji to patrol its waters for illegal fishing and to counter drug-trafficking.

He said the exercise is part of a Pacific Fisheries Commission agreement which Fiji, the US and 41 other nations and agencies are party to.

Captain Burdian said the commission aims to manage and preserve fish stocks in the region.

The crew will also visit an animal shelter and children’s hospital while in Fiji.