COVID-19 Operating Protocols for the Fishing Sector in the Pacific (V5.2 updated on December 2021)
These protocols were developed by the Fisheries COVID-19 Protocols Steering Committee, led by Australia’s Office of the Pacific (OTP), DFAT, and including the Office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNAO), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, and MRAG Asia Pacific. These protocols represent a collaborative effort informed by technical experts from regional agencies, FFA Members and the Pacific fishing industry. The Fisheries COVID-19 Protocols Steering Committee acknowledges the close cooperation and commitment by all involved amidst these challenging times to ensure minimise the risk of infection and the resilience of the Pacific fishing sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Revised COVID-19 Protocols (v.5.2) results from a review carried out by the Steering Committee in response to the following interrelated developments in the COVID environment:
a. Changing and varied vaccination rates: WHO data indicates that full vaccination levels varied throughout the region from just over 2% - 90% of total populations. Industry feedback suggests very high levels of vaccination of crew on domestic fishing vessels, however, there remains a priority to ensure all seafarers on all vessels in our region are fully vaccinated. A related development is the work on developing regional vaccination certificates which will greatly assist in the movement and monitoring of crew (including observers).
b. Opening up borders: with the increased vaccination rates, several countries are considering opening of borders or further easing of border restrictions. The related ‘sense of security’ emerging, increases the risk of the virus entering and circulating in the community. With existing and emerging variants it is anticipated this could result in higher infection rates, and overwhelming load on health services with those unvaccinated being the most seriously impacted. It is therefore imperative that vaccines need to be used alongside maintaining mask wearing, social distancing and hygiene to minimise the risk of transmission and protect our seafarers and island communities.
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