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.

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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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Extraordinary surveillance with Operation Rai Balang in the Pacific: media release

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Honiara, 26 March 2020 – On Friday, the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) closes the two-week fisheries surveillance activity, Operation Rai Balang 2020. The operation is unprecedented in achieving maritime surveillance across 14.1 million square kilometres, including 108 sighting and 24 boardings, during the heightened global response to coronavirus. 

The FFA coordinated air and surface surveillance assets from eight Pacific Island countries and four regional defence partners for 12 days from 16–27 March, during which time international response to coronavirus was rapidly developing. 

“Fishing doesn’t stop, so neither will our surveillance,” said Commander Robert Lewis, at the FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) in Honiara. 

“Fisheries surveillance in the Pacific is imperative to ensure compliance by the fishing fleets, and deter any illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities. Fisheries have a direct benefit for Pacific island counties economies, and that makes surveillance even more important in these unprecedented times.”

There were 24 boardings conducted during Op Rai Balang, both at sea and in harbour. 

“Twenty-four boardings is a real impact considering the current COVID-19 situation; obviously each crew considered national guidelines to ensure their safety and avoid any potential coronavirus transmission,” said CMDR Lewis. 

The participants of Operation Rai Balang were eight FFA member states: Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. This was supported by quadrilateral defence partners: Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States, and the Pacific Maritime Surveillance Programme aircraft. Due to developing global travel restrictions and recalls of national surveillance assets, not all surveillance assets were utilised as planned.

FFA Director-General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, underlined the regional coordination demonstrated during Operation Rai Balang. 

“At the outset, we sincerely thank all of those who participated to ensure the success of this operation during these challenging times.  In the Pacific, we know that together we are stronger,” she said. “The extraordinary circumstances for Op. Rai Balang presented a unique way to demonstrate our collective commitment to protecting our valuable fisheries resources and confirming that any challenge can be overcome through cooperation.  The FFA is proud to continue to assist our member states in this way.”

Operation Rai Balang is one of four targeted operations hosted by the FFA annually, however regional surveillance is supported 365 days a year through the RFSC Regional Surveillance Picture. 

ENDS

For more information, please contact Vicki Stevens, FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre, vicki.stevens@ffa.int.

Fisheries Operations at FFA provides Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) activities, policy and services, for members to strengthen national capacity and regional solidarity to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Pacific.

MCS activities of Fisheries Operations includes technical expertise, information sharing and projects around monitoring activities, regional surveillance operations, the FFA Observer ProgramFFA Vessel Monitoring SystemFFA licence information list, and staff training and support regarding relevant regional decision making bodies, notably the Technical Compliance Committee of the WCPFC

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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PRESS RELEASE: ‘Australian Chief of Defense Force visit to FFA, a reminder of the power of cooperation,’ FFA DG

Categories Media releases, NewsPosted on

HONIARA, 25 January 2019 — The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency yesterday welcomed the highest ranking military official from Australia, General Angus Campbell.

“The visit by Australian Chief of Defence Force, General Angus Campbell and his team is a reminder of the power of cooperation and is the platform upon which we enjoy excellent relations between FFA and Australia,” said FFA Director General, Dr. Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen.

“It is our Pacific way and it is the only way that we can achieve a safe, stable and prosperous region.”

The visit provided an opportunity for DG Dr. Tupou-Roosen to update the team on the work of FFA, highlight the successful areas of collaboration with Australia, and discuss further areas for close work.

General Campbell underlined the importance of FFA to the regional architecture and the future of the Pacific. He also emphasised the ‘whole-of-community value’ in the sharing of information and expressed his commitment to promoting this.

Dr Tupou-Roosen sincerely thanked him for the successful partnership between Australia and FFA which includes the funds and assistance to FFA members in areas such as the aerial surveillance, patrol boat programme, the Niue Treaty Multilateral Subsidiary Arrangement (NTSA), Persons of Interest; and secondment of defence personnel at FFA.

General Campbell was accompanied by Australian Federal Police Commissioner- Andrew Colvin, Border Force Commissioner – Michael Outram, DG Australian Security Intelligence Organisation –  Duncan Lewis, Department of Defence Director General Pacific and Timor Leste International Policy Division and Chief of Operations Maritime Border Command – Jake Campbell and DA Wing Commander – Jonathon Durden.

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For more information, please contact Donna Hoerder, donna.hoerder@ffa.int, ph: +679 9265 518

About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA was established to help their 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

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.