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Outcomes from meetings on illegal fishing

Outcomes from meetings on illegal fishing

HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS, 25 MARCH-1 APRIL 2011: The 17 members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) met last week to discuss how to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing at the 14th Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Working Group.

Observers to the meeting included the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC); Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) Forum Regional Security Committee (FRSC); U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. NOAA Office of Law Enforcement and Enforcement and Litigation, Australian Royal Navy Maritime Surveillance Officers (MSA), United Nations Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO); Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) and PEW Charitable Trust Environment Group.

Over 60 MCS practitioners and observers participated in the Working Group representing the largest such gathering for this meeting in the last 10 years.

Key topics discussed include: NATIONAL ASSISTANCE PROVIDED BY FFA TO MEMBERS: FFA member countries and territories provided advice regarding their needs for assistance from FFA regarding MCS of their fisheries. DEVFISH 2: FFA members discussed plans for implementing an EU funded project to assist sustainable development of Pacific Islands fisheries which also included an element specifically designed to increase protections of Pacific Islands against IUU fishing. REGIONAL FISHERIES MONITORING, CONTROL and SURVEILLANCE STRATEGY: This document, endorsed by FFC74 last year, represents the overarching strategic document for guiding the FFA Secretariat and members in the efforts to promote an effective and efficient MCS system in the region. FFA members have begun to implement this strategy this past year and the work group discussed priorities and progress made thus far. NIUE TREATY: A key legal agreement between countries to share information and cross-vesting enforcement powers of personnel and assets regarding suspected illegal fishing and other security concerns, known as the Niue Treaty, was discussed with recommendations for greater sharing of information on suspected illegal vessels and other issues of common concern between countries. The working group discussed in detail operational applications of many of the elements envisaged under the Niue Treaty in order to advance the development of an updated multilateral agreement. REGIONAL FISHERIES SURVEILLANCE CENTRE: FFA members endorsed the nomination of the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre as an MCS entity to receive data for MCS activities, provided that the MCS Related Data Security Policy is in line with national legislation. SAFETY OF FISHERIES OBSERVERS: FFA members agreed to take action to increase the overall safety of observers such as through greater cooperation and collaboration with investigating incidents as reported by observers for potential follow-up enforcement action, setting minimum pay and conditions for observers in FFA countries and improved observer training and debriefing as their role pertains to compliance. WESTERN AND CENTRAL PACIFIC FISHERIES COMMISSION MEASURES: Tonga will take forward ideas from FFA members to draft recommendations to WCPFC which would ensure coastal states have the right to set “adequate severity” of punishments for fishing vessels found fishing illegally in the region.

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Outcomes are generally in the form of recommendations, which will now be taken for endorsement by relevant government and political leaders in FFA member countries.

The Drafting Group established under the Niue Treaty also met last week to advance work on the multilateral subsidiary agreement for better monitoring, control and surveillance, as mandated by the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders and funded by Australia. This work is significant as it will facilitate further cooperation between FFA Members in combating IUU fishing.

FFA Director of Fisheries Operations Mark Young said: “Our meeting this year is significant as it represents our first meeting since the formal endorsement by the Ministers in May 2010 of the Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Strategy. Their endorsement of the Strategy is consistent with the 2007 Vava’u declaration “Our Fish, our Future” by the Forum Leaders, which was reaffirmed in Niue in 2008, Cairns in 2009 and most recently in Canberra in 2010, committing themselves to working with the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) to ensure members are able to manage tuna resources, and maximize economic returns from the long-term sustainable utilization of this resource for the enhancement of sustainable development and food security for the Pacific islands.”

“Your thoughtful recommendations are extremely important – the recommendations you bring forward from this week’s meeting topics will be carefully considered for endorsement by the Forum Fisheries Committee at its annual meeting in Samoa in May this year.”

Young also thanked Australia and New Zealand for their continued funding to support the work at the FFA, as well as commended France and United States of America for their continued support to Surveillance within the member countries Exclusive Economic Zones.


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