Samoa and FFA sign agreement on Regional Aerial Surveillance Program

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Republished from Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

APIA, 28 February 2019 – The Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon. Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi and FFA Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise Samoa’s support for the FFA’s Regional Aerial Surveillance Program.

The Regional Aerial Surveillance initiative is funded by Australia as part of the Pacific Maritime Security Program to enhance the surveillance capacity of Pacific Island countries to deter, detect and respond to illegal or security-related activities occurring in their Exclusive Economic Zones.

Under the MoU, Samoa will host one and Vanuatu the other, of two King Air200 aircrafts fitted with high-tech sensors, avionics and communications technologies, capable of detecting fishing vessels over a wide area of ocean. Dr Tupou-Roosen said the MoU with Samoa was another significant step forward.

“I wish to acknowledge the generous support of the Government of Australia to strengthen the surveillance capabilities of participating Members through the Pacific Maritime Security Program. This will enable the FFA to assist Pacific islands countries in further addressing maritime surveillance needs and enforcement operations,” said Hon. Tuilaepa Malielegaoi.

“The surveillance programme, in conjunction with the Pacific Patrol Boat program, will provide targeted maritime patrolling and enhance the ability of Pacific island countries to defend against regional maritime security threats such as illegal fishing and transnational crime,” he added.

“The Marshall Islands signed a similar agreement earlier this month and now Samoa is also demonstrating leadership with its willingness to host one of the King Aircraft. Our Members are contributing to a new level of regional cooperation, with Australia funding the Program and the FFA Secretariat managing the planes and working in close consultation with Members,” said FFA DG, Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

The Regional Aerial Surveillance Program commenced in December 2017. Two King Air aircrafts will provide 1400 hours of aerial surveillance per year for 15 FFA Members.

The Regional Surveillance Programme provides targeted maritime patrolling
Image: FFA

For further information contact:

Donna Hoerder, FFA Media, donna.hoerder@ffa.int, ph: +677 7733097

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.

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About Samoa Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)

The Ministry is responsible for the administration of Government’s business with foreign countries and their governments as well as international organizations. It also endeavours to initiate and continue to provide high quality and professional policy advice to Government on the management of Samoa’s foreign and trade relations. The Ministry is committed to promoting Samoa’s national interests to achieve most benefits in relation to political, trade and economic and security 

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.