Nov 14, 2018 Last Updated 6:33 PM, Nov 14, 2018

Support for purse seiners

Agency monitors bigeye stocks

THE Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) is highly supportive of the Cook Islands endeavours to increase its participation in the tropical purse seine fishery, according to Deputy Director-General Wez Norris. “We generally set a fairly high standard when we consider development proposals in terms of assessing those proposals against international legal obligations, sustainability qualifications, the capacity and institutional set up of the management agency and the nature of benefits that are likely to flow to the country,” he said.

“Forgoing a purse seine fishery would not contribute significantly to the conservation of bigeye tuna, and in fact Cook Islands best prospects to influence the development of measures to create a sustainable bigeye stock is probably to do so as a participant to the fishery.” Norris highlighted the FFA’s position when consulted by the Purse Seine Special Select Committee via Skype. The committee’s report of 30 August was tabled in the Cook Islands Parliament last month.

The FFA submission said the Cooks stood to benefit greatly from its purse seine fishery, primarily though enhanced government revenues.

The FFA is an intergovernmental agency with around 100 staff whose role is to strengthen national capacity and regional solidarity so its 17 members can manage, control and develop their tuna fisheries.

“FFA was formed in 1979 and that’s quite significant because it’s when the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea was being finalised and that UN Convention is what establishes the concept of the economic zone and so the Pacific Island Forum leaders at the time recognised that with the concept of the EEZ came huge opportunities but also huge responsibilities and so they wanted to form a specialized fisheries agency.”

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Trouble in paradise

Pagopago canneries close

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Invictus News) - American Samoan tuna workers took a huge blow last month when processors suspended operations. Pago Pago-based Starkist – the territory’s largest employer announced it would close operations in October with and Trimarine-owned Samoa Tuna Processors (STP) to suspend canning on December 11. Samoa Tuna Processors processes shelf-stable and frozen tuna products distributed in the United States by The Tuna Store.

Starkist Samoa, the largest employer in American Samoa, is owned by Korean company Dongwon. StarKist’s Michelle Faist said fewer deliveries of fish were being made to American Samoa as a result of the closure of the high seas, US Exclusive Economic Zone and other traditional fishing grounds to the US fishing fleets. But Dongwon, owners of the Starkist plant in Samoa, have a number of boats fishing successfully in the waters near American Samoa.

The boats do not supply their own plant in Pago Pago. Dongwon has bounced back and bounced high this year with its operating profit expected to exceed KRW 100 billion after its second-quarter operating profit surged 206 per cent on year to KRW 45.2 billion (USD 40.4 million). Operating income on sales was up 60 per cent on year and tuna prices climbed to around 30 per cent more than this time last year.

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Ministers net US fish deal

A MUCH anticipated deal between Pacific island nations and the United States tuna fleet is close to completion after $USD6million in costs for workshops, seminars and informal meetings. But once ink is put to paper, the Pacific’s smallest states will earn up to $USD14,000 a day from fishing boats – a massive hike from the current $USD2000.

On top of that there will be a gradual separation of the aid component of the old US Pacific Tuna Treaty from the fishing agreement and each nation will receive up to $USD850,000 a year in assistance. This financial help is separate from bilateral agreements between the US and the Pacific states.

Forum Fisheries Agency Director General, James Movick, said in Vanuatu last month that discussions to finalise an agreement with the US and its mainly San Diego-based tuna fleet had not been easy. “It was a long and involved process starting in 2009,” Movick said after the 13th Forum Fisheries Ministers’ meeting.

“There were 18 formal sessions and 14 workshops, seminars and informal meetings. This has cost $3million in venues and travel cost and that much again in salaries.” The matter came to a head last year with tuna boat operators trying to sell back around 2000 fishing days which they had earlier bought at subsidised prices from the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).

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AUSTRALIA will fund an $AUD15million aerial surveillance platform for 30 years to control illegal fishing in the Pacific. For the first time, the programme will involve the private sector which will operate aircraft for maritime surveillance patrols over 30 years beginning in July 2017. The 13th Forum Fisheries Ministers Meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu, last month heard that the surveillance contract would be offered on tender to interested aircraft operators.

One or several companies will operate flights over the Pacific and provide reports on fishing vessel movements to the Forum Fisheries Agency surveillance centre in Honiara in the Solomon Islands. This information will be accessed by Pacific countries to enable their naval or maritime police units to intercept illegal or suspect fishing boats.

Tuvalu’s Fisheries Minister, Elisala Pita, welcomed the programme and noted that the Pacific had a world class Monitoring, Control and Surveillance system in place. “We know there is an excellent programme. What is needed now is regional cooperation and political will together with effective national MCS programmes,” Pita said.

The Australian-funded aerial surveillance platform will be provided by manned, fixed wing aircraft – ruling out the possibility of using drones or helicopters. Australian Department of Defence sources said the FFA would gradually assume operational control of the programme and manage all information on behalf of member countries. “We envisage that commercial aircraft operators across the region will be able to bid to provide contracted services to Australia,” the source said.

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The big Blue threat

Poachers pose new regional risk

VIETNAMESE poachers will come under the spotlight when a new Pacific aerial and surface surveillance programme begins in July 2017. Using decrepit vessels and low-paid crew, the Vietnamese-flagged craft known as Blue Boats rape and pillage abalone, clams, beche de mer and other sea creatures which fetch millions of dollars on the Asian market.

The boats typically cross into the Pacific from the east, passing Indonesia and entering Papua New Guinea territorial waters before moving towards Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. Forum Fisheries Agency Deputy Director General, Wez Norris, said Australian support for a fresh surveillance programme was exciting in terms of stopping the Blue Boats.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity that aerial surveillance will provide in terms of monitoring poachers,” Norris said at the 13th Forum Fisheries Ministerial Meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Poachers – when they are caught – are refused recognition by Vietnam and become the responsibility of the arresting state.

Palau has been forced to accommodate and feed Vietnamese poachers before flying them home. Vietnam has provided no support nor has it attempted to stop poachers from leaving its ports. While PNG and Palau are the main targets of illegal Vietnamese poachers, they have ventured towards Australia’s east coast which is well guarded but vast enough to allow some success for the Blue Boats.

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