The insides of the FAO Port State Measures Agreements implementation

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Republished from Franciso Blaha’s blog, 5 September 2017

by Francisco Blaha


The last 2 weeks I have been working for FAO as a resource consultant for a series of workshops on the formulation of national strategies and action plan for compliance with the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures Agreements in 5 very different countries. More than ever Frank Zappa’s “One Size Fits All” keeps resonating in my ears.

There is no doubt that the PSM concept is fantastic: vessels need to come to port, therefore, it is really cost effective in comparison to at sea boarding and so on… and it is largely the quality of Port State monitoring and the work of its fisheries officers that determine the risk of illegally or unreported fish entering the supply chain.

For this Port states must consider the following mechanisms:

  • Two-way communications for acquiring information about vessels using or intending to use port facilities; communications with flag states and parties such as coastal states and RFMOs are basic and fundamental.
  • Designated specific fishing ports for foreign fishing vessels must be made mandatory as to enables effective oversight.
  • Incoming vessels must formally request port entry to enable resources to be allocated for port procedures, vessel inspections if required and processing of catch certificates and so on.
  • A system of authorizations for entering ports and unloading should be in place to ensure that permissions are denied in cases of suspected or established IUU fishing.
  • When inspections are required, sufficiently competent fisheries inspectors with law-enforcement powers must be on hand.
  • Standard inspection information must be recorded and transmitted in accordance with PSMA and/or RFMO rules.

In some developing countries the denial of a port use, hence of a landing authorization and potentially the denial of validation under a CDS, may involve minimal legislative changes and can be implemented by training the relevant officials, and so establishing a simple path to providing the enforcement function of a responsible port state.

Even if you don’t have a strong sanction regime, when you to deny port access to fishing vessels suspected of IUU fishing, or to deny landing authorizations and access to port services or even just delay them for investigations. These actions provide for substantial losses for illegal operators, and there are also economic consequences in terms of delays for carriers, incomplete orders, loss of trust and in many cases financial penalties associated with incomplete volumes under contract.

If we tackle the illegality at the port, any issues down the chain are around volumes: misreporting, underreporting, fish laundering and here is where a CDS comes to play.

Said so, the PSMA is a high-level document agreed by many countries, yet the realities of different countries are so varied that it cannot just be “implanted” and so just apply to all countries and to the realities of its different ports.

How can you bring the realities of places like Thailand, Tuvalu, Ghana, Uruguay, or Curacao Just to name a random few) into one document without some serious customization? Thankfully this possibility is somehow contemplated, but to an extent only

Furthermore, this customization needs to include the role of regional organisations in each region, for example in the Pacific the role of FFA is overarching for all its member and supplies the Port State a strength that sometimes cannot be totally captured by the view or a “single” State.

Also, there is the fact that if country may choose not to become a party (sign and ratify) for reasons related to cost effectiveness for example, yet still can comply with the principles of PSM.

Many busy ports in developing countries may be reticent to sign because this will imply compliance with strictly regulated systems inside the PSMA (such as reporting and exchange of information with various actors including flag state, state of nationality of the master, FAO, RFMOs, etc.)

For some regions, similar outcomes could be achieved via RFMO CMM like the one that IOCT has endorsed and has been discussed by the WCPFC

Independently of the methodology, PSM is here to stay and it would become the norm with time.

A lot of my involvement in this topic relates to vessel pre inspection intelligence, inspection and enforcement. Yet these are areas that I know from being at the receiving end of them, as well from training Inspectors on the “tricks of the trade”. But I have never been a fisheries officer and don’t come from an enforcement background (i.e. police, coast guard) as many of my colleagues, so I need to be extra careful not to be too casual about methodology.

Personally, I’m learning a lot, even if sometimes I get a bit down since most of the outcomes of this work, at this stage at least, are all paper based: strategies, policies, etc… and some days I feel I don’t produce much more than stacks of words only. But as my friend Pam told me, those documents can be the start of better things to come, and she is normally right.

… Read the rest of the blog post here

One Noro at a time

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Republished from Franciso Blaha’s blog, 20 May 2017

by Francisco Blaha


For some reason, weekends are busy days in most fishing ports in the world; the cynic in me thinks it has to do with the fact that most fisheries administrations (as most non-emergency related public servants) work Monday to Friday. Not in Noro: the fisheries office here runs 7 days a week.

We have NFD‘s 6 Purese Seiners, two Pole & Line (all locally flagged and crewed) unloading exclusively for Soltuna cannery and then various Taiwanese Longliners that use NFD as an agent for unloading of targets species and the port facilities for transhipping of by-catch.

We had 4 Taiwanese longliners coming to Noro this Friday. They announce that on Wednesday, which gave us the time to cross-check via FFA VMS their tracks and compliance index, furthermore via FIMS we can verify the whereabouts since their last port of call. As many of them are using e-reporting, we get to see how much fish they have declared, plus the EEZ where they fished, as well as the licenses they hold.

Hence we have the tools to evaluate their activities prior arrival and approve their Port Entry and Port Use. We have been doing this with Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) in mind, either by direct signing or perhaps via a WCPFC CMM (now that Japan, who was the main antagonist, has ratified and this is BIG news). In any case, we been doing it for a while so is up to the bosses in Honiara to decide what and when.

We have a target of 100% inspection on foreign vessels,  we suspect something from the screening, we go on board to find answers. If not (as with this 4) we go to the clearing and to crosscheck the e-log with the log sheet as well as the logsheets’ consistency and format, besides making sure that the vessels are the one we have tracked via the markings and the serial numbers on the gear on board.

When (like on Friday) we had 4 Longliners in a row and all of different sizes, getting to the last one can be tricky. So my full respect to Jamie and John, but especially to Nesii, there are not many young female fisheries officers that would move so at ease like her.

Once is all good the vessels is cleared to unload, with they start doing immediately, mostly -35 to -50C YF. As you can see we (in this case Sandy) tally each fish individually, next to the buyer rep and the seller rep. The fish goes immediately into a -50C container that is aimed later to the Asian market.

While our targets for domestic vessels could be lower, we do the same procedure (vessels VMS check, e-log and in these cases many times e-observers as well), we go on board to look for issues if any, and then clear for unloading.

Have to say that NFD vessels are the best vessels I ever work with: super straight, clean, most of them only fish in archipelagic waters and they know compliance by heart. In fact, they are the only MSC certification for tuna I have personally agreed with… but that is a thorny topic for another blog!

Here in Noro for the last 3 years now, we have accounted for every kg of each species caught by the locally flagged fleet for every individual landing and we have accounted for every kg that has been exported in any shape or form to any market, plus what goes for domestic consumption.

We do a “mass balance reconciliation” prior every movement of fish out of establishments here in Noro. There is no way that “fish declared in is more than fish declared out” can happen. On a weekly basis, we audit a random landing of any of the seven vessels, and we check that “fish in = fish in storage + fish out”, just to make sure that we are doing the right job.

Thankfully NFD and Soltuna have the best inventory and process controls database that is have ever seen in the 52 countries I have worked so far. I have know Edmond, the database guru behind it, for years now and we have always interacted on what is expected of the system to do from the compliance side.

We (government and industry) can track and trace fish from any landing of any locally flagged boat from the moment it was fished to the container number in which it left Noro, and/or where in the coolstore is the balance… and we can do that without anyone getting crazy… because as I said, we do it on a weekly basis.

… Read the rest of the blog post here

Back in PNG with FAO and Port State Measures

Categories Op-Eds: Tuna newsbeat insightsPosted on

Republished from Franciso Blaha’s blog, 20 March 2017

by Francisco Blaha


I have been coming to PNG since 1999 and the place and people here have a special place in my heart. I go back a long time with many people in NFA (National Fisheries Authority) and I see many of them as extended family, I know their family, they know mine, I have been to their house, they have been to mine.

I think that those human connections are the key part of the job, since they mean trust. So I was quite happy to be invited to be part of a mission with my former colleagues in FAO to deal with a topic that is an integral part of my CDS and MCS work: Port State Measures Agreement.
The PSMA needs to approached with care, not because there is anything wrong with its principles (all the opposite), but because developing countries should move progressively towards it as not to “choke” with all the requirements and then go backwards with the steps done.

Using another analogy: PSM is a tool… and you need to know how to use the tool before trying to fix a car with it after taking from the box.

And is not an easy task: legislation need to be updated, logistics of vessels arrival, notifications, intelligence work prior use of port authorization, inspection capacity and enough people to do it, communication, reporting capacity and many more issues.

Also, you need to draw some lines on the sand; one can interpret it that the use of, and access to, ports should be denied irrespective of the gravity of the illegal activity… and while this is a potent tool to force change, has implications for developing states particularly if the measures are not taking regionally, as the boats can travel to another nearby state and have it “easier” there.

There are considerations when countries like here in the pacific have overlapping requirements as part of the WCPFC and their membership with FFA and PNA.

The reporting alone can be quite complex, as there are quite a few parts to please.

Some worry that it can be felt that small states are “subsidising” the poor flag state performance of most DWFN. Most vessels transhipping and unloading in the region are not flagged here, so it kind of becomes the “obligation” of the port state to “police” them. And while one could argue that is in the coastal/port states’ interests to do so, this still is huge stretch for many fisheries administrations, plus the basic issue that for example Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, etc. should be taking care of their vessels and not PNG or the Solomons… they have a job to do, but the ultimate responsibility is in the flag state… and we all know how “responsible” they are.
Also, any measure taken by individual countries may lose strength if is not reflected by regional neighbours, and when you have a very different variety of resourcing and capacities (beyond political wills), the scenario can become really complex, even if all good intentions are there.

So yes, this are only some of the considerations I’ll need to take care, beyond the capacity building, the operational considerations and the IT structure behind all these.

Yet PNG has faced many challenges before and it keeps dealing with them with principle and pride, so I’m very much looking forward to be involved with them once more.

… Read the rest of the blog post here