Honiara, 28 October 2020 – One of the largest maritime surveillance operation in the world, Operation Kurukuru, concludes on Friday, 30 October, after two weeks of international cooperation by aircraft, ships, and national organisations to target illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in the Pacific.
The Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) coordinates the surveillance operation, which spans 21.3 million square kilometres, the exclusive economic zones of 15 Pacific Island member states and adjacent high seas pockets.
“It’s a vast area to monitor for IUU fishing. Activities such as Operation Kurukuru 20 underline the importance of our cooperation to ensure we can be effective in conducting surveillance and enforcement,” says FFA Director-General Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen.
“It is a significant commitment by our Members and Partners. We sincerely thank all of those who participated across the Pacific. We work best when we work together.”
There are 12 guardian class and Pacific patrol boats from Pacific nations operating alongside five French navy and United States coastguard vessels during Operation Kurukuru 2020. Six aircraft from the FFA and the quadrilateral regional partners are providing air surveillance, and trials are being conducted using satellites and other emerging technologies.
Overall, 19 countries are involved in Operation Kurukuru 2020. Local and regional partners, including fisheries, maritime police, defence forces, and other maritime security agencies were encouraged to work closely alongside one another, and the results have been positive according to Surveillance Operations Officer Commander Robert Lewis, RAN.
“Regional cooperation towards combatting IUU fishing is really progressing,” says Commander Lewis. “We’ve seen some excellent examples of organisations working together to share information and support national priorities during this operation.”
“We’ve already identified several potential vessels of interest; that is, they may be conducting illegal fishing, have inappropriate vessel markings, or be acting unusually. Ships or aircraft have been redeployed to look into these vessels further, and the investigations are ongoing with our FFA Members,” says Commander Lewis.
The aim of Operation Kurukuru is to detect, deter, report and/ or apprehend potential UU fishing activity, but it also works to build capacity of national surveillance initiatives through support and mentoring from the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre at FFA.
The operation involves 15 FFA members: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The four Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group members – Australia, France, New Zealand and United States – work alongside the nations.
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. Find out more here: www.ffa.int.
Honiara, 10 September 2020 –A visit by executive officers of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) headquarters on Tuesday this week has highlighted the commitment to continuous cooperation between the two organisations, especially during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.
During a meeting with the FFA Director-General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, the RSIPF officials, led by Acting Deputy Commissioner National Security & Operation Support, Ian Vaevaso, were congratulated for their hard work during this challenging time. Dr Tupou-Roosen also briefed them on FFA’s work and opportunities for further collaboration.
With the cooperative work with FFA in ensuring the sustainable management of tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), Dr Tupou-Roosen acknowledged the support from the RSIPF towards its surveillance operations – with the recent Operation Island Chief 2020 (OPIC20) being a fine example.
“We sincerely thank the leadership of RSIPF for their visit and the constructive discussions. We identified some key areas where we can enhance our collaboration, including in the area of combatting IUU fishing, and we look forward to implementing these,” the Director-General said.
The RSIPF officials also visited the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) to see first-hand what the FFA is actually doing in supporting member countries to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the strong linkage of this work to maritime security ,and the current COVID-19 support of vessel contact tracing.
At the surveillance centre, the FFA Director of Fisheries Operations, Allan Rahari, and FFA RFSC staff gave a brief overview of the roles and functions of the centre; the planning, conduct and coordination of regional fisheries surveillance operations, including the recent Operation Island Chief; and COVID-19 response, support and assistance to members. Mr Rahari also thanked the RSIPF for staff support during OPIC20 and hoping to see more local police officers engaged in future operations.
For some of the RSIPF officials, this was their first ever visit to the FFA headquarters and the RFSC, and Acting Deputy Commissioner National Security & Operation Support Mr Ian Vaevaso said, “it is a privilege for us to see and hear first-hand information on the work that FFA does and the support the Centre provides to FFA members.”
Mr Vaevaso added that cooperation is what the RSIPF always long for, and that is the way forward.
“We look forward to working closely with FFA in terms of information and intelligence sharing especially on areas of Maritime security and fisheries enforcement,” he said.
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. Find out more here www.ffa.int
Honiara, 3 September 2020 – A fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance operation in the Pacific concludes this week, with excellent cooperation demonstrated between nations despite the challenges of COVID-19 continuing to affect surveillance in the region.
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) led Operation Island Chief, which took place from 24 August to 4 September, conducting surveillance over the EEZs of all FFA Members. This year the operation included Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, after their Operation Tui Moana was postponed in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Especially during these challenging times with the focus of the world on the pandemic, we welcome and sincerely thank our Members and partners for their commitment and cooperation demonstrated across the region to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in our waters,” says FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen.
“The strong collaboration between the FFA, our embers, and national security partners has achieved positive surveillance results during this operation.”
FFA Director of Fisheries Operations, Mr Allan Rahari, added, “We are particularly delighted to see the way Cook Islands worked with Niue to conduct cooperative surveillance of both EEZs under the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA). The NTSA provides the legal framework for exchange of fisheries data and information, as well as procedures for cooperation in monitoring, prosecuting and penalising operators of IUU fishing vessels. This is the first time that the Niue Treaty Information System (NTIS) has been used to record these arrangements during a surveillance operation.”
The Pacific QUAD partners, Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States, provided support through aerial surveillance alongside the FFA Aerial Surveillance Programme aircraft, further enhancing the maritime surveillance coverage during the operation.
The FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) team, supported by three officers from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF), had an increased focus on intelligence gathering and analysis, providing targeted information before and during the operation in order to support surveillance activities by Member countries.
Over 180 vessels were sighted or boarded during Operation Island Chief.
“There were several occasions where the RFSC coordinated with nations to divert assets to conduct specific intelligence led surveillance,” said Mr Rahari. “There are a couple of fisheries investigations underway from patrol efforts during Operation Island Chiefbut so far no IUU activity has been identified, which shows that our regulatory and surveillance efforts are working.”
Despite the threat of COVID-19, FFA Members and QUAD partners demonstrated their ongoing commitment to fisheries surveillance across the region.
“The crews persevered to interrogate vessels, and in some cases to conduct boardings, in some exceedingly uncomfortable weather conditions,” said Mr Rahari.
Dockside boardings, as well as boardings at sea, were conducted under national authority, and followed protocols to ensure crew were not exposed to unnecessary risks.
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. Find out more here www.ffa.int.
HONIARA, 14 July 2020 – A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K2 Orion aircraft is currently conducting three days of aerial surveillance over Solomon Islands’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a task coordinated by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
The targeted maritime surveillance patrol was requested by Solomon Islands Government in order to monitor the activities of tuna fleets in its EEZ, as part of FFA’s ongoing surveillance in the region to detect and deter illegal fishing activities. The tasking included surveillance of the western border as well as the east and south fishing areas. This is the first such operation over Solomon Islands’ waters since March.
FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said, “Maritime patrols are a key way of enhancing our knowledge of what’s occurring at sea. It also acts as an invaluable deterrent for illegal activities. We’re so pleased that Solomon Islands was host to the first extended-duration aerial surveillance patrol since restrictions on travel have been imposed under COVID.”
“We congratulate the Government of Solomon Islands and the Government of New Zealand for this cooperation and continued commitment to combatting illegal fishing in our region. We also acknowledge and sincerely thank the Government of New Zealand for this significant contribution,” she added.
New Zealand contributes to regional efforts to tackle illegal fishing to ensure fisheries are managed effectively for future generations.
“Fisheries are a vital resource and value asset of Pacific nations, one that must be preserved and protected” the New Zealand High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Georgina Roberts, said.
“Surveillance operations like this are ways in which New Zealand can continue to support Pacific nations to preserve this taonga.”
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) cooperates with regional agencies and Pacific neighbours on patrols to detect and deter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activity.
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.
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
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.
information, please contact Vicki Stevens, FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance
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.
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
HONIARA, 25 October 2019 – The Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) lead Operation Kurukuru is one of the largest maritime surveillance operations globally covering an area the land size of Russia, India and Egypt combined.
The multi-million-dollar operation targeting illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing was conducted from 7–18 October 2019 and covered 21.3 million square kilometres. It is coordinated from the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) at the FFA Secretariat in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
FFA Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said: “Operation Kurukuru is the largest of the four major operations coordinated and supported by the FFA each year. These operations empower members to take collective and national action against IUU fishing and the success of these operations is due to the commitment and partnerships with our members along with the assets provided by Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States.”
operation consumes considerable resources, but we continue to undertake them to
ensure our members have the highest levels of social and economic benefits
through the protection and sustainable use of our offshore fisheries
resources,” she added.
The 12-day operation saw around 132 sea days of active patrolling and 540 flight hours of maritime air surveillance. There were 131 boardings at sea and dockside, with only four infringements found.
The FFA Surveillance and Operations Officer, Commander Robert Lewis, who is seconded from the Royal Australian Navy, said: “The fact there were no unknown fishing vessels found with such thorough air surveillance coverage and only 4 infringements imposed with such a high level of boarding is evidence that current regulations and law enforcement practices are working well with the four FFA operations leading the effort.”
Ordinary Seaman Sereima Naiqovu from the Fijia Navy was not only the first female Fijian naval person to attend Operation Kurukuru but also one of the first women to join the Fiji Navy.
In her capacity as watch keeper during the operation, she said: “The operation was a great experience for me, mostly as I got to experience and learn a lot of new things from the RFSC. I was overwhelmed to be given the opportunity to be the first female in the Fiji Navy to go for an operation, and I look forward to experiencing and learning more new things.”
Operation Kurukuru aims to detect, deter, report and/or apprehend potential IUU fishing activity, but also looks to build capacity of watch keepers, intelligence analysts and supervisory staff seconded to the RFSC during the operation, to conduct their own operations upon their return home.
The operation involves 15 FFA members – Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. It also involves the Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group: Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States of America.
information contact Donna Hoerder, FFA Media, ph: +677 21124
About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency
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. www.ffa.int
Japan is known for its love
affair with seafood. If we say tuna, we think of sushi and sashimi – two of the
most famous dishes in Japanese cuisine.
Japan Ministry of Foreign
Affairs officials told visiting Pacific Islands journalists in Tokyo last month
that a sizeable amount of tuna Japan consumes are sourced from the Japanese
vessels licensed to fish in the Pacific region.
Japan is a major fisher of tuna
species in the Pacific region; Japan officials said: “fishing is very important
To protect valuable marine
resources and to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks, Japan’s Free and
Open Indo Pacific Strategy includes a commitment to peace and stability,
including assistance to the Pacific in enhancing maritime safety and stability.
This year, Palau and Japan are
celebrating 25-years of diplomatic ties that “friendship” Japan’s aid has
delivered a wide range of projects from infrastructure, health, education,
maritime security, and climate change.
According to the Forum
Fisheries Agency (FFA) data, the Japanese imports from FFA members was valued
at US $41 million in 2016, with Palau and Fiji as the main supplier of tuna
sashimi grade products to the Japanese market.
Japan has been an important diplomatic partner to Palau in improving awareness of activities in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Boosting its marine surveillance, a Japan-funded patrol boat called PSS Kedam in now serving as the additional patrol boat for Palau.
The new patrol boat Kedam is funded with the grant by the Nippon Foundation at a cost of over $30 million. The Kedam is expected to enhance Palau’s marine surveillance capabilities and police its s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
At the Western and Central
Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Japan is one of
the key players pushing for measures to conserve fish stocks, recognizing its
economic importance to Pacific island nations.
Japan was also instrumental in
keeping catches of juvenile tuna to below 2002–04 average levels as a
The government of Japan
continues to assure island nations of support given that the Pacific islands
states are large ocean states that are custodians of the world’s largest tuna
The WCPO share of the global
catch of albacore, bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin tunas is between 55% and
58%. In 2016 the total catch of tuna species s was 2.7 million tonnes which 56%
of global production of 4.8 million tonnes, according to FFA.
Kayangel State, one of the sites of the coastal surveillance system. Photo: Richard Brooks
The United States is stepping up its
presence in Palau to protect it from a range of threats like illegal,
unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) with the official launch of the
coastal surveillance system (CSS).
On Oct. 2, the United States Defense
Department, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Palau government held a
ribbon-cutting ceremony to announce that the CSS in outlying states of Kayangel
The CSS is to help Palau monitor maritime
traffic and vessels’ presence in its EEZ especially with the nation about to
close a huge portion of its waters to commercial fishing by January 1, 2020.
CSS according to marine law enforcement can operate the system and see vessel
movement and help the nation achieve maritime security and enhance capabilities
to deal with threats at sea.
systems were installed in Angaur and Kayangel and in the future in other
Southwest Islands States where there have
reports of IUU fishing in these areas.
Scharamek, Academic Program Management Officer of Scripps said that Palau would
be the first nation in the world to test the new surveillance system.
US, which funded the radar, will also install the system in three more sites in
the Southwest Islands of Hatobei and Sonsorol States.
said because of the distance of those states from Koror, where the marine law
is, the system can help respond to issues faster.
Vice President Raynold Oilouch said the system would help the country combat
maritime security issues such as IUU and provide the needed technology to be
able to monitor vessels of up to 75-mile radius.
with the official launching of the CSS, the US deputy military commander for
the Pacific, Army General John “Pete” Johnson said that the US is stepping up
its involvement in the region to help deal with economic threats like illegal
was in Palau last week to attend the celebration of Palau’s 25th Independence
Day on Oct. 1.
are committed to the defense of Palau in any aspect regardless of the threat,”
The UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates IUU fishing accounts for up to 26
million tons of fish a year, translating to between $10 and $23 billion.
Remengesau has earlier said that “The Palau sanctuary law is more than a conservation
policy. It also enhances our capabilities to combat pirate fishing,” IUU
fishing is a global problem that requires global solutions,
Marine Sanctuary will cover an area encompassing 500,000 square kilometers and
roughly 80 percent of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The law takes
effect in 2020 and, 80 percent of the country’s EEZ will still be a no-take
zone, while 20 percent is designated as a domestic fishing zone.
All smiles … Francisco Blaha and a Solomon Islander at work on a pole-and-line vessel in 2010. Francisco is this year’s SeaWeb Seafood Champion for advocacy. We profile him here. (Photo: Francisco Blaha)
Francisco “brings a unique perspective and has the credibility of very different but complementary groups in fisheries”, SeaWeb said when it announced the 2019 winners earlier this month. It noted that some of his ideas had been adopted by big players in the fishing industry.
Francisco sees his award as recognition
of his ability to work with three groups that were often at odds with each
other: governments, industry, and non-government organisations (NGOs). He says
the SeaWeb awards brings together many people trying to do the right thing.
“This is a good thing, with all the bad
news that fisheries get,” Francisco says.
“There are no superpowers attached to the award, to the disappointment of my daughter.”
SeaWeb is a project of the Ocean Foundation. It has presented awards in four categories since 2006 to recognise individuals and companies for outstanding leadership in promoting the production of environmentally responsible seafood.
It comes in part because he works for
himself, and does not have to follow any company line, he told Tuna Pacific
after winning the award.
“I guess people appreciate that I don’t
pretend to be anyone or anything I’m not: I’m just a dyslexic fisher that got
lucky with access to education and work for himself,” Francisco says.
“I have never had to use a suit and ties,
even when I was working with the UN [United Nations] in Rome. Whatever I got was on my own terms. I don’t
‘sell’ anything for anyone. If I don’t like something, I just don’t accept the
job, and I’m vocal on why I disagree with it.
“I dislike profoundly ingratitude and pretentiousness.”
Francisco discovers a love of the ocean
Anyone who has read Francisco’s popular blog – he says it had 25,000 individual readers in 2018 – knows that he began his fishing life working on boats taking squid, hake and toothfish in southern Argentina. But they may not know that he has an earlier association with the sea.
Francisco grew up far from the ocean, in
the traditional lands of the Guaraní people around the border of Paraguay and
Argentina, with his local mother and European father.
“My family crossed the Atlantic on board
a cruising ship from Germany all the way to Argentina when I was six years old.
I like to think that trip marked my life,” Francisco said.
It wasn’t the only thing that influenced
him to take up a life on the sea.
“I guess some people grow by action: they
decide they want similar things to their parents and other people around them.
Others, like me, grow by reaction, by going the opposite way. As anything to do
with the ocean was outside my family’s influence, I went that way,” Francisco says.
By joining the Argentinian navy as a
cadet, Francisco was able to go to high school. He learned a lot about “the
ocean, and rowing and swimming” – and then a second-hand 1976 National
Geographic fell into his hands.
“It had an article about the trip of the Hokule’a,
the Hawaiian double-hulled canoe that went from Honolulu to Papeete. I started
learning, reading history, and fantasising about the South Pacific,” he says.
Francisco loved the ocean, but not the military life – he admits to having a strong anti-authority streak – and when he was released from the navy after the Falklands War, he decided to go fishing for a few years, and worked as technician on board fishing and research vessels while he gained a Masters in fisheries science.
His experience of working during this time taught him that he had no desire to work in a job “where you spend half your time navigating political storms” of bureaucracies and grooming political connections to get jobs and promotions.
“So, I decided to come to the Pacific and
go to all those places I had read about in the article on the Hokule’a
as teenager. Two weeks after graduation, I got in a sailing boat that was going
to Tahiti via Cape Horn … no plans, no contacts, just hopes and a smile.”
He spent almost two years heading west, fishing
and doing odd jobs in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, before landing in New Zealand in
1995. He fell in love with the country, and has set up his life there.
An introduction to fisheries compliance
Francisco worked for New Zealand fishing
companies such as Sanford and Simunovich Fisheries. It was here that he was introduced
to a level of fisheries compliance he had not experienced. To his surprise, he
enjoyed the work.
Having decided it would be useful to have
a degree from an English-speaking university, he earned a Masters in food science,
then started doing domestic consulting work.
“I found international fisheries
consulting work mostly by chance,” Francisco says. “I didn’t know such a job
existed. But if fit me well: I know fishing, I have a good practical and
academic background, and I love travelling and spending time with fisheries
people. I also have a total lack of embarrassment about trying new languages,
and that helped, too.”
Apart from a two-year stint with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome, he has worked for himself for the past 25 years.
A familiar face in the Pacific – and around the world
Francisco is now a familiar face in the
Western and Central Pacific Ocean, where he holds contracts with governments,
charitable and non-government organisations, and international bodies. Most of
his work these days is with monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) to
combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. This involves him in
the development of port state measures (PSM) and catch documentation schemes
He does a lot of work with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA), from high-level development of procedures such as the Port State Measures Framework to training compliance officers to the use of new hook-type scales to monitor transhipment volumes.
“The Guaraní I grew up with have a
culture that has a surprising affinity with the cultures of the Pacific, so the
customs that are the basis of Pacific life are not too foreign to me. When I
started collaborating with the FFA over 10 years ago, I found an organisation
whose values are akin to mine,” Francisco says.
“FFA is at the edge of the best practices
in fisheries worldwide. I love working for them. In fact, I consider many of
the staff as part of my extended family now.”
Home, soul and family in the Pacific
Francisco has his fingers in many other
pies, too. Among other projects, he is an adviser for the Marshall Islands
Marine Resource Authority (under a contract with the NZ Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade), “dealing with an amazing variety of stuff, from strategy
advice, procurement for boarding boats, intelligence analysis of vessels
arriving at port, inspections—and 100 other things.”
He is working with FAO on the implementation of port state measures and social responsibility and the use of blockchain technology to make the chain of fish production more transparent. And he is collaborating with OceanMind on remote intelligence analysis of fishing vessels.
A one-off project he had fun with was developing a colouring book to help train subsistence fishers of countries that belong to the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on best practice in fishing.
Francisco’s work isn’t restricted to this region. In his CV, he lists 58 countries he’s worked with around the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.
However, while he works around the world,
his work in the Pacific has special meaning for him.
“The Pacific has been home for half my
life. It has given me a second run in life, and family, friends, meaningful
work, and an oceanic playground to surf, do open-water swims, spearfish,
paddle, navigate by wayfinding … My soul is at home in the Pacific. And the
Pacific fishing problems are my fishing problems – I live off fishing in this
ocean for most of my year.”
A passion for fairness
For someone who holds little regard for
rank, the challenging world of compliance may seem like an odd choice of
“The fact that I am here today in New
Zealand with this job is a function of my past, and relates to my appreciation
of the concept of fairness and equal opportunities. I’m coming into it from the
perspective of it being fair for all sides. It does not relate to enforcing
rules,” Francisco says.
“For me, the fisheries ‘crisis’ is not a
biological crisis, but one of politics, transparency, and fairness.
“Right now, the system is not fair. When
I broke my knee on board back in Argentina, when I had exams at university, there
was a ‘system’ set up by the fishers’ union to look after me. When I see the
conditions and pay that many of the crews today have, it just upsets me!
“I have the same posture on gender and
diversity. I don’t participate any more on panels and conferences unless the
organisers can prove that there is more diversity than at the last one. This is
not some ‘new age’ thing I’m trying to pose for; it’s just that is not fair,
and that is enough for me.
“I grew up in a country with not much of
a culture of compliance, and while I felt that many of the rules were
dumb, at least I expected they should have applied equally to everyone and
not just to some. The equality of the rule of law in New Zealand is a rare
He says he had found a niche that suits him,
working “in the middle” between regulators with whom he shares insights into
fishing; industry, which he can help be more cost-effective; and the fishers, for
whom he is a voice for decent working conditions and wages.
He is proud of being trusted by all.
“People respect that you understand their
job because you have done it yourself. For example, when you go on board, crew
immediately know if you spent time fishing by the way you move on board, the
fact that you know how to operate the instruments and the bridge—and that you
can call them on technical issues when they are trying to derail the
conversation when you find a compliance problem.
“It’s the same at factories. And in boardrooms. When people know you know your stuff, that is good for everyone to improve the industry.”
Fishing is the people – men and women
Francisco likes to point out that he
doesn’t work with fish any more.
“I work with the people who work with
fish. I love working with fishermen and fisheries inspectors, factory people. I
have gained a much wider perspective by working on the ground than being in
classrooms,” Francisco says.
“In a fishing boat, you don’t have to
like the guy next to you, but you should be able to trust him. Everyone on
board has a job, and you have to do your job right. If you don’t, people die;
it’s as simple as that.
“Fishing also makes you very aware
of your overall insignificance. When you are in storm at sea and there are 20 metre
waves outside and 80 knot wind gusts, nothing really matters a lot other than
staying alive. And when you see those seas and what nature can be, it is a
profound life experience … or at least it is for me.”
He would like to see more women working
in all fields of the fishing industry.
“It still is an unfair playing field out
there,” Francisco says.
“But I would say to women that it is
getting better, mostly because other women before you started opening the way.
Now it’s your turn. Many men are also changing and walking along with you, and
you’ll be surprised how many good people are out there for each of the idiots
you will still find along your path.”
Francisco says that he has been shaped by
fishers and fisheries; that they allowed him to educate himself, help his
family, make friends, and work in places he’d never heard of.
“I love fisheries, and fisheries are
people, for good and for bad, and they cannot and should not be separated. My
favourite Māori proverb or whakataukī
is something I appreciate more as I get older. It goes: He aha te mea nui o
te ao. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
“What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.”