Tuna canning process.
Photo supplied by Palau’s MRNET.
of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism (MNRET) have attracted at least
20 participants in a tuna canning training to take place Sept. 22 to 27.
The training will be hosted by the Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR) and led by FoodStream
Earlier, MNRET has requested the Parties
to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to provide tuna canning training for small and
medium enterprises (SME) in Palau citing that as the nation gets ready for the
full implementation of a national marine sanctuary by January 1, 2020.
“As we are
preparing for full implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary
(PNMS), a central aspect of our focus is to build capacity and options for a
domestic pelagic fishery. This includes approaches to improve the business
feasibility of small-scale, locally-owned and operated vessels and businesses,”
MNRET Minister Umiich Sengebau said in a June letter to Maurice
BrownjohnCommercial Manager of PNA Office.
Palau is also looking into options to promote “Palau to the tourism market
through its conservation approach to sustainable pelagic fisheries, through
such initiatives as the Choose Pelagics Presidential directive.”
He said Palau is
also exploring the potential promotion of Palau’s FADs-free zone through
Pacifical, and “through unique, locally produced souvenir jars and cans, or
‘Fish With A Story’
He said micro canning will help improve
food security and provide employment and business opportunities for Palauans at
the same time, providing tuna canning training for small and medium
enterprises (SME) in Palau.
“The training is
aimed at individuals who intend to produce canned foods on the micro or small
commercial scale. Participants will learn how to preserve tuna and other
pelagic fish, as well as other seafood, meats, fruits, and vegetables,” MNRET
public announcement said last month.
The 5-day training
will be delivered through lectures, tutorials, group discussions, and practical
sessions. Topics covered include Introduction to Canning; Pre-cooking Tuna in
Commercial Operations; Retort Systems and Container Handling; Packaging Systems
for Processed Foods; Microbiology of Canned Foods; Principles of Thermal
Processing; Retort Operation & Production Records; Water Chlorination and
Canning Sanitation; and Regulations relevant to Thermal Processing.
successfully complete the whole week of training and pass all exams will be
issued a Retort Supervisor’s Certificate.
training is looking for participants who can commit to the full week and pass
written exams and a practical exam. The course requires high school-level Math
and English skills.
company FoodStream has conducted tuna processing training in Fiji and Papua New
Guinea, Marshall Islands Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia.
in the Pacific started four years ago, Brownjohn said. He said there are
volumes of “by-catch,” from tuna fishery although not suitable for large
commercial exports but can still be perfect to eat and can be canned locally.
He said jars could also be utilized to preserve food.
said the training provided by FoodStream is the same qualification as you were
trained in a reputable cannery in Thailand or somewhere else.
said in Palau, small scale canning is also a way to attract tourism.
tuna canning operation, “you are able to produce a shelf-stable product made
in Palau,” Brownjohn said.
is able to offer a jar, a fish, and a story behind it.”
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.”
The recent Pacific Community (SPC) 11th Heads of Fisheries meeting held in Noumea, New Caledonia from 11-13 March 2019 has been briefed on a large marine partnership initiative to improve economic, social and environmental benefits for Pacific states.
The PEUMP programme addresses some of the most serious challenges faced by the region such as the increasing depletion of coastal fisheries resources; threats to marine biodiversity, including negative impacts of climate change and disasters; the uneven contribution of oceanic fisheries to national economic development; the need for improved education and training in the sector; and the need to mainstream a rights-based approach and promote greater recognition of gender issues within the sector.
It focuses on six key areas targeting gaps in fisheries science; fisheries development; coastal resources and livelihoods; Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing; ecosystem-based management; biodiversity conservation; and capacity building at national and community levels.
Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation for the Pacific, Christoph Wagner reaffirmed the role of the EU as a reliable and close partner of the Pacific and said: ”The Pacific–European Union Marine Partnership Programme supports the sustainable management of fisheries, food security and blue growth in the Pacific region, in line with the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries. The oceans are a life force that sustains our planet and every person on it. Therefore it is so important to join up in the Pacific and set an example on how to manage marine resources more sustainably.”
Speaking on behalf of Sweden, Åsa Hedén, Head of Development Cooperation, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific said: “Following the New York Ocean conference co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden in 2017, Sweden presented its largest national budget for supporting environment, ocean and climate initiatives. In this commitment, we recognise the PEUMP programme as a unique intervention with its multi-sectoral approach with different stakeholders at regional, national and local levels working towards sustainable management of the Ocean. As a co-financier, we are pleased to be part of this initiative. It is evident that the PEUMP programme has taken on a serious people-centred approach to promote direct opportunities and positive changes for the people of the Pacific Islands, targeting women, men, youth and vulnerable groups.”
The SPC is leading implementation of the multi-partner programme which is working in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Vanuatu.
SPC’s Director General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said: “As the largest region on Earth and with climate change being more widely recognised as an immediate and pressing priority, the Pacific region will quickly become a hub for international climate change research and a focus for debates around conservation and resource management. The Blue Pacific narrative will ensure that our region has a leading, independent and united voice on these issues. The PEUMP partnership will provide further support to help ensure that, as stewards of the Pacific, we are working collaboratively to manage and preserve our ocean resources to ensure a sustainable future.”
The Pacific environmental agency SPREP says it’s happy with the progress made on conservation issues at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in The Philippines last week.
Measures approved by the commission included prohibiting the dumping of plastic from fishing vessels and moves to protect threatened species, namely seabirds, turtles and sharks.
SPREP’s threatened species advisor, Mike Donoghue, says they are substantive gains for conservation in the Pacific.
“We’re very pleased that we now have an opportunity to hold vessels and their skippers more accountable. We will be very pleased to work with Pacific island countries to and other interested parties to develop and deliver training modules so that crews understand that what used to be accepted practice in years gone by, just isn’t acceptable anymore, ” said Mike Donoghue.