New technologies promise monitoring breakthrough for transhipment at sea

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Republished from FFA Trade and Industry Newsvolume 13, issue 4, July–August 2020

Technologies such as vessel monitoring systems, onboard electronic catch monitoring and blockchain traceability continue to gain attention as tools for monitoring industry activity related to the fishing sector. 

Government and inter-governmental bodies (e.g. the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre), as well as the private sector and NGOs [non-government organisations], have developed and deployed these methods and are experimenting with next-generation approaches. 

In general, these tools aim to develop methods for monitoring elements of the fishing supply chain that are generally outside of the view and reach of authorities.*

Recent months saw a new tool in this realm join the ranks of new technological and data-based initiatives to contribute to progress in management – this one focusing on transhipment at sea. 

The tool – the Carrier Vessel Portal – was developed through a collaboration between two NGOs, the Pew Charitable Trusts and Global Fishing Watch (GFW). The partners describe Carrier Vessel Portal as the world’s first public, global searchable monitoring portal of carrier vessels. 

The portal is based on GFW work that combines satellite data on vessel location (AIS data that cargo ships are mandated to keep on board by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) and machine learning to study global transhipment patterns. The portal is public and searchable and includes vessel identity and authorisation status.

The developers hope that regulators, policy makers and researchers will utilise the portal directly for the monitoring and enforcement of transhipping. 

In releasing the portal, GFW and Pew have emphasised the multiple purposes it can serve, including: 

  • verifying carrier vessel activity
  • identifying suspicious or illicit behaviour
  • tracking vessel activity between RFMOs
  • and ideally, guiding reform.

In addition to the Carrier Vessel Portal, GFW has developed a range of tools and analyses to monitor the location and activity of fishing vessels, and is working to develop partnerships that will enable such tools to be used directly in the management sphere. (GFW has a list of papers published on its findings.)

Monitoring transhipment at sea has been a high priority for management in the WCPO, given it is estimated that more than US$142 million worth of tuna and other seafood products are lost in illegal transhipment annually, and missing and fraudulent reporting undermines management efforts and scientific data that is used to understand population dynamics and to inform management decisions. 

However, transhipment at sea has proved remarkably difficult to monitor, making regulations difficult to enforce. Generally, transhipment data are reported from governments to RFMOs, usually in summary form and often a year after the data are collected in-country. It has been demonstrated that official reports are often incomplete and thousands of transhipments on the high seas are unreported.

* For more on the use of electronic monitoring and blockchain technology, read the following:

Coordination and commitment during regional fisheries surveillance operation: media release

Categories Media releases, NewsPosted on

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.”

Cook Island Pacific Patrol Boat Te Kukupa at Alofi Wharf, Niue, during 2020 surveillance Operation Island Chief. Photo: Niue NHQ.
Cook Island Pacific Patrol Boat Te Kukupa was unable to remain alongside at Alofi Wharf, Niue, due to heavy swell. It proceeded to conduct surveillance in the Niue EEZ during OPIC20. Photo: Niue NHQ.

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. 

Fisheries, Maritime and Ports Authority officers monitor a fishing vessel unloading under COVID-19 protocols in Apia Port, Samoa. Photo: Samoa NHQ.
Fisheries, Maritime and Ports Authority officers monitor a fishing vessel unloading under COVID-19 protocols in Apia Port, Samoa. Photo: Samoa NHQ.

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 Chief but 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. 

ENDS//

The PMSP/FFA Aerial Surveillance Program (ASP) aircraft at the Honiara International terminal. Photo: FFA.
The PMSP/FFA Aerial Surveillance Program (ASP) aircraft at the Honiara international terminal. Photo: FFA.

For more information, contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media,
ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

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.

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Exchange of maritime boundaries data to boost fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance in region: media release

Categories Media releases, NewsPosted on

SUVA, 16 June 2020 – A milestone has been reached by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Pacific Community (SPC) following the successful completion of an agreement between the two organisations for the exchange of maritime boundaries data.

This milestone also represents the achievement of a key outcome under the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) programme to reduce Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing through enhanced Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) of oceanic and coastal fisheries. 

It comes at an opportune time with the global focus of World Oceans Day on 8 June being “Innovation for a sustainable ocean. Together we can protect our home.”

FFA members had recognised the need to routinely update Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) maps when maritime boundaries were agreed, made publicly available and incorporated into national laws. 

A patrol boat of Federated States of Micronesia during a boarding and inspection observation in 2004. Photo: FFA Media.
A patrol boat of Federated States of Micronesia during a boarding and inspection observation in 2004. Photo: FFA Media.


Acknowledging that it was crucial that stakeholders were all working from the same data, members authorised SPC to release its dataset to FFA, using the international standard format, to enable updating of the FFA VMS. Through an ongoing Service Level Agreement (SLA) between SPC and FFA, this has now been achieved and authoritative Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) data has been included and operationalised into the FFA VMS, which is used to track fishing fleets across the Pacific region.

When FFA developed the region’s state-of-the-art VMS, the only EEZ boundaries available were provisional lines developed from different sources under the Maritime Boundaries Project which was later transferred to SPC. As Pacific Island states and territories made progress in delimiting, negotiating, and declaring their maritime boundaries, more updated datasets were made available via open source platforms and this was used to update the VMS.

While expressing his congratulations, the Ambassador of the European Union for the Pacific, HE Sujiro Seam said, “The European Union is proud to have partnered with SPC and FFA in the operationalisation of such an awaited data sharing agreement. 

“It reaffirms EU’s global commitment to promote the sustainable management of marine resources and the achievement of the SDG14 – Life below water. It recognises the importance of marine issues for the Small Island States of the Pacific, which are big Ocean States, in line with the ‘Strategy for a Blue Pacific Continent’ endorsed by the Pacific Island Forum Leaders at their meeting in Tuvalu in 2019. It adds value for the toolbox to fight IUU fishing and ensure a high level of maritime security in the region.”

FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said FFA is happy with the continuous collaborative work with SPC, especially with regards to the Service Level Agreement on maritime boundaries.

“We are very pleased with the continued strong collaboration between FFA and SPC to support our Members in the sustainable utilisation of our valuable offshore fisheries resources. Specifically, the work on the delimitation of maritime boundaries is fundamental as has been underlined by our Pacific Island Forum Leaders.”

Dr Tupou-Roosen also spoke highly of the PEUMP programme for supporting the milestone achievement, saying, “We are very appreciative of the collaborative approach that PEUMP is taking in implementation as a multi-partner programme which has resulted in these types of successful outcomes.”

SPC’s Director-General, Dr Stuart Minchin, said, “National fisheries officers can now respond to cases of illegal fishing within their maritime zones with confidence, knowing that the boundaries displayed are internationally recognised. Fisheries are a critical source of wealth for the peoples of the Pacific and strengthened monitoring and management of fisheries has exponential impacts on the sustainable development of our region.”

Pacific representatives participating in the region’s first virtual MCS Working Group Meeting in May congratulated the FFA and the SPC on reaching a critical milestone for fisheries management in the region. 

Following several years of collaborative work, the two regional organisations completed Phase 1 of the SLA in April 2020, and the updated EEZ information has been on display since May. 

ENDS //

Background

All of the boundary data shared through this agreement has been collected, analysed, and catalogued through the Pacific Regional Maritime Boundaries project. The project was originally established to assist Pacific countries to obtain greater certainty in the limits of their EEZs to support fisheries management and enforcement, and it has supported the successful declaration of 19 shared boundaries between countries since 2001.

The project is coordinated by SPC and is supported by a consortium of partners, including the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner; FFA; the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); Geoscience Australia; Attorney-General’s Department, Australia; University of Sydney; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT); GRID-Arendal; Commonwealth Secretariat; as well as the European Union and Sweden through the PEUMP programme.

For more information, contact:
Debbie Singh, PEUMP Communications Officer, SPC, email debbies@spc.int
Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

About the Pacific Community (SPC)

The Pacific Community (SPC) is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. Learn more at www.spc.int.

About the 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. Follow us on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, and www.ffa.int.

About the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme 

The Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme addresses some of the most serious challenges faced by the pacific countries. Among these are the increasing depletion of coastal fisheries resources; the 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; and the need to mainstream a rights-based approach and to promote greater recognition of gender issues to ensure inclusiveness and positive changes for the Pacific island people. This five-year PEUMP programme is funded by the European Union (EUR 35 million) and the government of Sweden (EUR 10 million). It is implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) in close collaboration with Non-Government Organisations and the national authorities.

FFA calls for action to address human elements of IUU fishing: media release

Categories Media releases, NewsPosted on

HONIARA, 28 May 2020 – AMIDST the ongoing challenge of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing worldwide, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) has called for collective action to tackle the human elements of IUU fishing, including: safeguarding observer safety and livelihoods, ensuring safe and decent labour conditions for crew, and unveiling the persons of interest behind IUU fishing.

FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen made the call when speaking online to the recent Chatham House International Forum on IUU fishing.

The forum was hosted online in London from 18-22 May 2020 and was attended by global policymakers, researchers, industry representatives and civil society groups from across the world.

The keynote speech concentrated on the human elements of IUU fishing, with a focus on observers, crew and persons of interest.

According to Dr Tupou-Roosen, FFA is increasingly recognising the need to focus on people, not just technology, in its efforts to combat IUU fishing.

 In terms of monitoring fishing activities, the FFA observers are the Agency’s frontline workers on fishing vessels, she said.

“The importance of observers cannot be overstated as these are our eyes and ears at sea who collect critical data for science and compliance, such as monitoring catches and ensuring fishermen are following the rules.”

“This is a vital role in protecting our oceans and preserving fish stocks,” she said.

However, she added that this can be a dangerous and lonely role as they can face hostilities from those that they are monitoring, sometimes leading to accidents or loss of life.

She stated that the safety of FFA observers is a key priority for the agency.

Therefore, steps have been taken by FFA members including establishing conditions of fishing access to include minimum safety standards for observers and the FFA push at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission for the adoption of an observer safety measure.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, the immediate impact has been on our observers. For their health and safety during this global pandemic, FFA Members have had to temporarily suspend the use of observers to monitor activities on vessels as well as transhipment of fish between vessels,” Dr Tupou-Roosen stated.

She also highlighted that while these temporary measures are in place, the agency still has an integrated suite of tools in its monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) framework, including vessel logsheets, a vessel monitoring system and transhipment reports to collect much-needed data.

“The current situation also provides an impetus to prioritise work on tools such as electronic monitoring and electronic reporting. These technologies will support the observer’s role.

A fisheries observer onboard a fishing vessel.

“However, the repatriation of FFA observers due to the coronavirus risk has severely impacted their livelihoods.”

Therefore, the FFA will explore ways in which the role of observers can be broadened to ensure they are not heavily dependent on fishing trips for income, and that their valuable data analysis skills can be applied readily on land.

Similarly for crew, Dr Tupou-Roosen said there is much work to be done to improve their working conditions on vessels. There has been a lot of coverage highlighting this form of modern-day slavery and she underlined the collective responsibility to address this.

“FFA members drove the adoption of the Resolution on Labour Standards for Crew on Fishing Vessels at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in 2018. Notably, this is the first regional fisheries management organisation to make a stand for crew.”

Last June, FFA members adopted a landmark decision for minimum conditions of access to their waters relating to crew employment such as: ensuring there is a written contract for the crew member, humane treatment of crew, decent and fair remuneration, proper medical care and sufficient rest periods.

 Dr Tupou-Roosen stated that the work does not end there.

“There has been much talk globally about improving observer and crew safety in the fishing industry, but I suggest that we can all do better in walking that talk and prioritising steps to ensure their safety and wellbeing,” she said.

When introducing her address, the DG said the approach to combatting IUU fishing has to-date been heavily focused on vessels compliance history.

But as the DG noted “It is people who commit fisheries offences, not vessels. Vessels are just one platform for IUU activities. This is why it is very important to identify the persons of interest.

 “persons of interest profiling, including information about the history and performance of persons, would be extremely valuable as a tool for proactive decision-making, and increasing the information for decision makers,” she stated.

A key task in this project is to go behind the corporate veil to reveal beneficial owners, to ensure that key persons involved in a vessel’s IUU activity are held accountable,” the DG said.

At the end of the week-long program, the DG made the call to cooperate to address the human elements of the IUU fishing.

“I conclude with a call to action for all of us to build on this opportunity presented by Chatham House to work together on addressing these human elements,” she said.

 “I have every confidence that we in the Pacific can persevere and be successful with these key elements at a regional level.” The FFA DG referred to the Pacific model of cooperation which provides an example of what can be achieved.

However, this is not work that we can do alone,” Dr Tupou-Roosen added.

“We all recognise that IUU fishing is a global challenge.

“The ‘people factor’ inherent in our industry must be addressed in a more concerted way. The potential benefits in cooperation are manifestly positive,” she concluded.

Click here to see the pre-recorded video of Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen’s address to the 12th International Forum on IUU Fishing, aired on Friday 22 May, 2020.

For more information and photos contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media, ph: +677 7304715, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

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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Solomons to boost digital compliance to make Noro an “e-port”

Categories News, NewsPosted on

HONIARA – In an effort to step up monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) efforts to improve the management of its tuna fisheries, Solomon Islands will soon be the first state in the region to introduce a digital catch documentation and traceability scheme for the Noro port. 

Following a workshop held in March in Munda, Western Province, plans are in place to have Noro port, which will be known as an e-port, conduct a pilot of the scheme. 

The port of Noro is the only one in the region with all three types of fleets: purse seine, pole-and-line, and longline. It exports regionally and internationally, shipping whole fish, loins, canned fish, and sashimi-grade tuna. 

The workshop involved representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries, customs, health, ICT services, the Forum Fisheries Agency, Soltuna Fishing Company, and National Fisheries Development (NFD). 

Participants of the workshop on the development of the Noro e-port pilot project, which took place in Munda in March. Photo: Dr Transform Aqorau.
Participants of the workshop on the development of the Noro e-port pilot project, which took place in Munda in March. Photo: Dr Transform Aqorau.

Noro project will have “regional ramifications”

Local fisheries expert, the founding director of Pacific Catalyst, and the CEO of iTuna Intel, Dr Transform Aqorau, was instrumental in the establishment of the new scheme, which is currently in its infant stage.

“The project will have regional ramifications, as there have been a lot of discussions of a regional catch and traceability system,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“The Noro e-port will be able to test the integration of electronic tools available into a pilot in a port-based context, as the starting point for a catch documentation scheme. The Noro e-port will see the digital integration of all port monitoring, compliance and surveillance related activities. 

“The data to be integrated will include the requirements of the WCPFC port state measures, unloading data, factory weigh-in, and processed volumes leaving Noro. The system will mass balance inputs and outputs, and will use tablet-based apps,” said Dr Aqorau.

He said markets require transparency along the value chain, not simply assurances about the legality of the catch. 

“Soltuna already has a world-class traceability scheme. Industry is leading the way. This is a partnership between the government and industry,” he added.

Head and shoulders portrait of iTuna Intel CEO Dr Transform Aqorau. Photo: Pacific Catalyst.
iTuna Intel CEO Dr Transform Aqorau. Photo: Pacific Catalyst.

Pilot project will test integration of electronic tools 

The pilot project will be used to test the integration of current electronic tools into port activities, as the starting point for an electronic catch documentation scheme (CDS) that should provide a substantial benefit to the region. 

“The recent development of a regional blockchain-based traceability tool that could provide assurances, beyond the regulatory scope from harvest to export, offers a unique opportunity to be integrated in the development, and hence “extend” the range of the assurances provided all the way to the final consumer,” Dr Aqorau said.

Edward Honiwala, the Director of Fisheries for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, said the scheme was part of the Solomon Islands Government’s effort to improve compliance. 

“The linkage of information and data from the fishing vessels to the market is vitally important for the government. The complete information is important for the government, through the Ministry of Fisheries, to make decisions,” Mr Honiwala said.

He said that tuna was a product in high demand globally, and the local tuna industry had to work in the international arena with both marketing and trade. There were many challenges to face, especially in compliance and monitoring. That made improvements in Solomon Islands’ MCS important.

“This e-port project will be part of our MCS tools. We have a growing tuna industry in Solomon Islands; we have Noro, the tuna hub of Solomon Islands. The Bina Harbour project is also coming up, which the government named as its priority project. With those developments in the tuna sector … we must prepare as well,” he said. 

Head and shoulders photo of The Director of Fisheries for the ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources, Mr Edward Honiwala standing behind microphone
The Director of Fisheries for the ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources, Mr Edward Honiwala

The system would complement other tools used for monitoring the tuna fishery.

Dr Aqorau said the next step was to scope and develop the project. There was still a long way to go, including identifying a developer, but the excitement of the stakeholders and their sense of ownership of the project were encouraging.

He hoped the e-port project would put Solomon Islands at the cutting edge of digitally integrated CDS. 

“This will truly put us at the forefront of port state management and enforcement that integrates blockchain technology and other innovative apps, making us a leading tuna innovator,” Dr Aqorau said.