FFA: Aerial surveillance critical for monitoring of our EEZs — media release

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HONIARA, 25 August 2020 – Fisheries ministers at their 17th Forum Fisheries Committee meeting on 6–7 August recognized the importance of aerial surveillance, including through the Pacific Maritime Security Program–Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (PMSP/FFA), after noting the increased risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The Australian Department of Defence and FFA agreed to temporarily suspend the PMSP/FFA aerial surveillance program in March 2020 due to the swift move by Pacific Island countries to restrict travel, coupled with the uncertainty and risks involved. The suspension was lifted on 1 July following gradual easing of travel restrictions and interest received from members to conduct maritime surveillance over their exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

The FFA Director-General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said the resumption of the PMSP/FFA aerial surveillance program is highly welcomed and especially important during this time as recognized by our Fisheries Ministers.

“With the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on other forms of monitoring such as observer coverage, constant aerial surveillance is critical for Pacific Island countries to monitor their vast EEZs,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.

“We note the strict COVID-related clearance protocols in place in the region and are working with the appropriate authorities to satisfy these protocols so as to continue to provide our members with the surveillance they require.

“One of the benefits of this program is that in addition to our members being able to direct the aircraft in terms of where, when and what they would like to target IUU fishing, it also addresses other maritime security-related threats,” she added.

Since the lifting of the suspension, the aerial surveillance aircraft has been providing surveillance for Solomon Islands.

The Commander of RSIPF Maritime Division, Chief Superintendent Charles Fox Sau, noted that during this time, with the limited tools to monitor the large EEZ, the risk of not only IUU fishing but also other threats entering the EEZ are higher.

“We are grateful to the governments of Australia and New Zealand and to the FFA for providing aerial surveillance assistance, which is complementing our patrol boats in monitoring our borders — especially for the illegal entry of small craft,” Chief Superintendent Sau said.

During the FFC ministerial meeting, ministers made specific reference to the support provided by the FFA Secretariat to members through the use of the vessel monitoring system to contact-trace the movements of fishing vessels. This has been invaluable for ensuring border security and mitigating the risk of COVID-19 entering countries by sea.

Negotiations with Pacific Island countries interested in recommencing their aerial surveillance are currently underway. FFA members are encouraged to contact the FFA to ensure their access to the PMSP/FFA Aerial Surveillance Program on air.tasking@ffa.int.

ENDS//

For more information contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@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 decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. Follow us on Facebook | on Twitter | on LinkedIn | on YouTube | www.ffa.int

FFC adopts the FFA regional PSM framework: media release

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HONIARA, 5 August 2020 – The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) has successfully sanctioned the regional Port State Measure (PSM) framework at its 114th meeting, held in June. 

According to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, “This marks a significant milestone in the Agency’s efforts to strengthen and enhance port-based activities in relation to addressing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the territories of its 17 member states.” 

These efforts are also reflective of the FFA’s Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Strategy (RMCSS) 2018–2023, which highlights PSM as “one useful MCS tool in the larger MCS toolbox available to members in the fight against IUU fishing”. 

Mr Edward Honiwala, Director of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), highlighted that, “the adoption of the regional PSM framework provides the opportunity to strengthen the country’s National Port State controls, establish mechanisms that would facilitate our obligations under the WCPFC CMM on Port State Measures, and ensures that our Port State Controls are compatible with other international arrangements.”

The FFA Regional PSM Framework provides key elements, processes and responses necessary to facilitate targeted and effective PSM across the region. It provides guidance to FFA Members in developing minimum PSM standards to be applied at the national level, promoting inter-agency cooperation and coordination, and improving data and information exchange. The scope of the framework applies to all fishing vessels; therefore, members may apply these provisions to their national vessels at their own discretion.

The nature of fishing in the WCPO is multi-jurisdictional and multi-national and therefore requires internal and external networks to effectively manage any issues, such as illegal fishing and transnational crime. If implemented effectively, PSM can prevent IUU-caught fish from entering into national and international markets, and provides the foundation for further work in the area of catch certification and the Catch Documentation Scheme (CDS).

The FFA Secretariat’s PSM work is supported through a five-year investment from the New Zealand Government, which commenced in 2017 under the Pacific Islands Port State Measures (PIPSM) project.

Over the course of 2019, the regional PSM framework was developed by the FFA members. It underwent amendments and was tabled at four technical and governance meetings until it was officially adopted at the FFC114 in June 2020.

The Secretariat has commenced work on a prototype for an e-PSM tool which digitises and automates PSM processes in line with the regional PSM framework. In addition, discussions have kick-started with members that have identified national PSM priorities for support.

ENDS//

For more information contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@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 decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management.

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FFA calls for action to address human elements of IUU fishing: media release

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HONIARA, 28 May 2020 – AMIDST the ongoing challenge of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing worldwide, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) has called for collective action to tackle the human elements of IUU fishing, including: safeguarding observer safety and livelihoods, ensuring safe and decent labour conditions for crew, and unveiling the persons of interest behind IUU fishing.

FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen made the call when speaking online to the recent Chatham House International Forum on IUU fishing.

The forum was hosted online in London from 18-22 May 2020 and was attended by global policymakers, researchers, industry representatives and civil society groups from across the world.

The keynote speech concentrated on the human elements of IUU fishing, with a focus on observers, crew and persons of interest.

According to Dr Tupou-Roosen, FFA is increasingly recognising the need to focus on people, not just technology, in its efforts to combat IUU fishing.

 In terms of monitoring fishing activities, the FFA observers are the Agency’s frontline workers on fishing vessels, she said.

“The importance of observers cannot be overstated as these are our eyes and ears at sea who collect critical data for science and compliance, such as monitoring catches and ensuring fishermen are following the rules.”

“This is a vital role in protecting our oceans and preserving fish stocks,” she said.

However, she added that this can be a dangerous and lonely role as they can face hostilities from those that they are monitoring, sometimes leading to accidents or loss of life.

She stated that the safety of FFA observers is a key priority for the agency.

Therefore, steps have been taken by FFA members including establishing conditions of fishing access to include minimum safety standards for observers and the FFA push at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission for the adoption of an observer safety measure.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, the immediate impact has been on our observers. For their health and safety during this global pandemic, FFA Members have had to temporarily suspend the use of observers to monitor activities on vessels as well as transhipment of fish between vessels,” Dr Tupou-Roosen stated.

She also highlighted that while these temporary measures are in place, the agency still has an integrated suite of tools in its monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) framework, including vessel logsheets, a vessel monitoring system and transhipment reports to collect much-needed data.

“The current situation also provides an impetus to prioritise work on tools such as electronic monitoring and electronic reporting. These technologies will support the observer’s role.

A fisheries observer onboard a fishing vessel.

“However, the repatriation of FFA observers due to the coronavirus risk has severely impacted their livelihoods.”

Therefore, the FFA will explore ways in which the role of observers can be broadened to ensure they are not heavily dependent on fishing trips for income, and that their valuable data analysis skills can be applied readily on land.

Similarly for crew, Dr Tupou-Roosen said there is much work to be done to improve their working conditions on vessels. There has been a lot of coverage highlighting this form of modern-day slavery and she underlined the collective responsibility to address this.

“FFA members drove the adoption of the Resolution on Labour Standards for Crew on Fishing Vessels at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in 2018. Notably, this is the first regional fisheries management organisation to make a stand for crew.”

Last June, FFA members adopted a landmark decision for minimum conditions of access to their waters relating to crew employment such as: ensuring there is a written contract for the crew member, humane treatment of crew, decent and fair remuneration, proper medical care and sufficient rest periods.

 Dr Tupou-Roosen stated that the work does not end there.

“There has been much talk globally about improving observer and crew safety in the fishing industry, but I suggest that we can all do better in walking that talk and prioritising steps to ensure their safety and wellbeing,” she said.

When introducing her address, the DG said the approach to combatting IUU fishing has to-date been heavily focused on vessels compliance history.

But as the DG noted “It is people who commit fisheries offences, not vessels. Vessels are just one platform for IUU activities. This is why it is very important to identify the persons of interest.

 “persons of interest profiling, including information about the history and performance of persons, would be extremely valuable as a tool for proactive decision-making, and increasing the information for decision makers,” she stated.

A key task in this project is to go behind the corporate veil to reveal beneficial owners, to ensure that key persons involved in a vessel’s IUU activity are held accountable,” the DG said.

At the end of the week-long program, the DG made the call to cooperate to address the human elements of the IUU fishing.

“I conclude with a call to action for all of us to build on this opportunity presented by Chatham House to work together on addressing these human elements,” she said.

 “I have every confidence that we in the Pacific can persevere and be successful with these key elements at a regional level.” The FFA DG referred to the Pacific model of cooperation which provides an example of what can be achieved.

However, this is not work that we can do alone,” Dr Tupou-Roosen added.

“We all recognise that IUU fishing is a global challenge.

“The ‘people factor’ inherent in our industry must be addressed in a more concerted way. The potential benefits in cooperation are manifestly positive,” she concluded.

Click here to see the pre-recorded video of Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen’s address to the 12th International Forum on IUU Fishing, aired on Friday 22 May, 2020.

For more information and photos contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@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 decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. www.ffa.int

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FFA continues to monitor fishing amidst COVID-19 situation: media release

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HONIARA, 22 May 2020 – As Pacific nations face the threat of coronavirus to their health and economic growth, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) has taken action to continue to monitor and control fishing of the world’s largest tuna stocks. 

A key tool in FFA members’ efforts for monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing in Pacific nations is observers, placed on board fishing vessels to verify catches, transhipment of fish at sea, and compliance with other key rules. 

However, worried by the threat of observers catching and spreading the coronavirus, FFA’s 17 member countries decided to suspend the mandatory requirement for use of observers until further notice, a decision later endorsed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. 

FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said: “Stopping the use of observers on board fishing vessels during the coronavirus crisis does not mean that illegal fishing will go unchecked. 

“Right now, FFA continues supporting Pacific countries with other tools such as the Vessel Monitoring System, surveillance operations and data analysis.

“FFA member countries have responsibilities for the safety and health of observers, who are their citizens, often traversing international borders and regions, and to uphold national border control and shutdowns. 

“This is the primary reason that the use of observers has been suspended, and in the meantime other monitoring, control and surveillance tools will help ensure that fishing vessels are monitored and that action can be taken if required,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen. 

Vessels detected fishing that are not licensed and on the FFA Vessel Monitoring System (a live database tracking vessels through automatic satellite locator devices) can still be boarded and inspected to confirm activities are in accordance with the law. 

Necessary social distancing and protective equipment is to be used by maritime officers to ensure safety of these inspections. 

Chair of the Officials Forum Fisheries Committee Mr Eugene Pangelinan said that continuing fishing was a priority for Pacific Island countries, where licence and access fees are a major source of government revenue.

“Our intent is to do everything we can to minimise disruption of fishing operations in a manner where we can still monitor such operations, despite the COVID19 situation. 

“This will help limit any negative economic impacts of the coronavirus situation in the Pacific,” Mr Pangelinan said.

# ENDS #

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. www.ffa.int

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