Certification is First for FISH in the Western Central Pacific Region
On 22 February 2023, another milestone was achieved by the Fishing Industry Association of Papua New Guinea (FIA PNG), its members and associates regarding social accountability and human rights of crews onboard its fishing vessels. Independent and third-party recognition was granted to FIA under the FISH Standard certification for Crew welfare and safety onboard fishing vessel.
After extensive policy and procedure review, on-site vessel inspections, and face-to-face interviews of staff, captains, and crew members, SGS auditors (www.sgsgroup.com) awarded the FIA PNG tuna purse seiners FISH certification. The FIA PNG vessels are owned by member companies; Trans-Pacific Journey Fishing Corp, Bluecatch Corporation, TSP Marine Industries, Domingo Teng, Frabelle Fishing Corporation and Starcki Venture Corporation.
FISH stands for: Fairness, Integrity, Safety and Health for crews.
It was developed to assure seafood buyers that the fish they are buying and selling is harvested by crews that are:
- Recruited and hired ethically
- Treated with respect on the vessel
- Paid properly
- Have processes to address grievances, etc.
This is the result of a long due diligence process that started in 2018 with the development of FIA PNG Responsible Sourcing Policy (RSP) commitment. Later in 2019, Seafoodmatter carried out the first onboard assessment of Crew welfare and Social Responsibility (Seafoodmatter labor benchmark tool) on Frabelle Fishing Corporation purse seiners and carrier.
“We are proud to be the first to attain FISH certification in our region. The fourth pillar of FIA PNG’s Responsible Sourcing Policy is crew welfare, an area we have worked hard on for a number of years implementing policies and practices across our member companies while partnering with outside experts to identify best practices,” said Sylvester Pokajam, FIA PNG’s President & Chairman. “FISH certification, whose audits have worked to further improve our practices, was the next logical step in our journey. This independent process demonstrates we have achieved, and maintain, the highest levels of performance with respect to crew treatment, compensation and onboard conditions.”
According to Mr Pokajam, “Our RSP is an assurance model based on first, second, and third-party audits, verified by regional and national agencies inspecting different areas related to our crew’s decent working & living conditions; in addition to having a comprehensive traceability system that includes several social accountability Key Data Elements (KDEs) that support the FISH standard for Crew certification and increase our transparency. Our FIA PNG fishing and processing companies comply with the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) KDEs too.
By 2020, FIA PNG developed its Social Accountability and Crew Welfare procedure and audit tools with a holistic approach to preparing its fleet, crew awareness, and crew conditions onboard for this recognition. Mr Pokajam stated that, “It has been a journey of almost 4 years, it was not easy. FIA (PNG) is glad and proud to see our members cooperated with our office to have improved services. Our local PNG national crews and Filipino crews are now getting the benefits of awareness, decent working and living conditions onboard where their welfare and safety are being met. Even though, some issues of performances of recruitment agencies are needed to be reviewed but it is work in progress.”
He further added that, “Globally, retailers can share and verify our performances as the leader in the Pacific Region and the first tuna fleet globally to get this recognition of FISH certification. We at the FIA Office have three auditors that have already been doing trainee work, auditing our members’ fleet”.
Mr Pokajam acknowledged and appreciated the support of the National Fisheries Authority through financial and technical to help increase the awareness at the national level.
This is just the beginning, the hardest part just started, we must ensure that these conditions are maintained in every single tuna purse seiner of our FIA PNG members which are more than 45 tuna purse seiners. We are working and building capacity with internal auditors to deploy them soon.
Mr Pokajam appeals to relevant Government authorities to assist in ratifying some of the international obligations that PNG is a party to. In this case, the ILO Convention 188. The objectives of the Convention were to ensure that fishers have decent conditions of work on board, conditions of services rendered, accommodation and food, occupational safety and health protection, medical care and social security. It is applied to all fishers and fishing vessels engaged in commercial fishing operations. This ratification will no doubt give the necessary impetus and additional recognition to this initiative that FIA PNG has embarked on.