IUU tuna blacklist from six to two after FSM settles with Philippines

28thNov 2015, WCPFC12, INDONESIA – Pacific nations pushing for a record number of six tuna boats to be banned from fishing in their waters are taking that number down to two.  The 17-member Forum Fisheries Agency are in Bali at the upcoming 12th session of their regional tuna fisheries management body, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Up until this morning the FFA members were lobbying for a total of six tuna fishing boats flagged to China, France/Wallis and Futuna, and the Philippines to be formally blacklisted from fishing in the Pacific.

Today the Federated States of Micronesia, FSM, announced it had reached a confidential settlement with the Philippines as flag state for four vessels it had successfully added to the Tuna Commission’s provisional blacklist. The four vessels were cited for transhipment and fishing without a license in FSM’s waters.  The two carriers and two purse seiners formed the bulk of the provisional list of IUU vessels set for blacklisting by the WCPFC12 meeting in Bali next week.  The vessels had been reported by the Federated States of Micronesia, FSM for illegal fishing and transhipment activity in the FSM EEZ between May 2014 and Feb 2015 after earlier efforts to resolve the violations were unsuccessful.

IUU blacklisting, part of a busy agenda for the Pacific Tuna Commissions annual meeting, strips blacklisted vessels of the right to fish the world’s tuna-rich Pacific 200 mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

Speaking in Bali where he is leading the FSM delegation, Fisheries head Eugene Pangelinan welcomed the settlement.

“Any encroachment into our waters without a valid fishing license or authorization is tantamount to illegal fishing and we take it very seriously as tuna is our only renewable resource. The case with the Philippines boats is about their opportunity to fish in the high seas pockets but in doing so, they have a commitment to ensure their operations do not result in IUU activities and this case, sends a strong signal to the Philippine fleets to ensure their operations don’t violate our laws,” he says. “We respect their right to be where they are as permitted by the RFMO but in doing so, Philippines Government and the fleets must take additional measures to prevent breaking our laws.”

Pangelinan says the settlement is a “clear indication of the strength of the WCPFC’s IUU listing procedures to bring flag states and fishing vessels to account for their violations, and seek to resolve them with coastal states if they want to continue to enjoy the rights and benefits of fishing in the WCPO.”

Congratulating the Philippines and FSM for reaching settlement, and commending Fiji and Tonga for their reporting of the remaining vessels on the list, FFA Director General James Movick says the blacklisting process within the tuna commission provides ample opportunity for out of court resolution “but recognises that Pacific coastal states are well appraised of their rights when it comes to penalising illegal fishing activity in their waters. Fishers need to get the message that breaking the law on the oceans means paying the penalties on land. Settling out of court can lessen the cost of formal prosecution, where maximum penalties are more likely to be imposed.”

DG Movick says the current blacklist provides a recognition and warning from the WCPFC that those who flout the rules stand to lose their opportunity to fish.

“As is their right, FFA nations as members of the Commission are able to provide cases for blacklisting, and flag states for these vessels are able to respond. Most cases do get resolved and that may yet happen for the other vessels on the provisional list,” he says.

“However, as the process and the WCPFC agenda shows, IUU blacklisting is a conclusive end to unacceptable behaviour. The FFA membership are strong and unified on this issue because breaking the law and then trying to duck out of paying the penalties after being caught is a serious matter not just for our Pacific resource owners—but for the majority of licensed boats that are fishing in compliance.”

China and Wallis/Futuna (France) are the remaining two flag states with vessels on the Provisional IUU blacklist this year. In June, Fiji reported a Wallis/Futuna (France) – flagged vessel for failing to notify authorities of entry into Fiji waters, having a broken antenna which may indicate non-polling of its location, and having shark fins on board. Also in June, Tonga reported a long liner, flagged to China, after it was photographed illegally fishing in Tongan waters by an aircraft undertaking maritime surveillance. ENDS