Albacore meet opens on sombre note for Observer safety
Mooloolaba, Q’land, AUSTRALIA-- A pivotal meeting on South Pacific Albacore opened in Australia today with Pacific officials taking a moment of silence to reflect on another issue close to their hearts: Observer safety. This follows recent confirmation that another Pacific fisheries observer has gone missing at sea.
Papua New Guinea’s James Junior Numbaru, a certified Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observer in his 20's with six years of observer experience, was reported missing by the Chinese flagged, PNG-chartered purse seiner FENG XIANG 818 on Monday 26 June. The vessel was reportedly drifting at the time in relatively calm conditions in the Nauru EEZ. Following an intensive, but unsuccessful search, the vessel visited Nauru port to submit to a police investigation. The purse seiner has since been cleared to leave Nauru and is returning to its base in Papua New Guinea.
FFA did not have a formal role to play in the issue, other than to offer assistance to the search and rescue efforts by notifying nearby vessels of the incident and requesting their support.
"The loss of an observer is a tragedy for the Pacific fisheries community and our thoughts and prayers are with James Numbaru’s child and his partner, their families and friends and colleagues at the PNG National Fisheries Authority, at this difficult time," says FFA Director General James Movick.
The news comes as Pacific heads of Fisheries and Ministers make their way to Mooloolaba, in Australia, where Fisheries officials in pre-ministerial mode this morning were invited to pause and reflect on the “perilous conditions” faced by human observers leading the data compliance work covering all vessels fishing in Pacific EEZs.
"Last year, and in the first few months of this year the Pacific countries have placed a strong focus on observer safety, but this incident highlights the dangers and challenges faced by all seafarers," says DG Movick. With Observer Safety part of the Fisheries Ministerial agenda which gets underway this week in Australia, "we will continue to push for improvements in this regard to safeguard the people who are our eyes and ears at sea, including enhancing arrangements for insurance coverage in the event that tragedy does strike."
Papua New Guinea provides several hundred Fisheries observers to fleets in the Western and Central Pacific, where 100% of all purse seiners and 5% of Longliners must have on-board observers who watch, record, and report tuna fishing activity. -- ENDS
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) strengthens national capacity and regional solidarity so its 17 members can manage, control and develop their tuna fisheries now and in the future. Based in Honiara, Solomon Islands, FFA's 17 Pacific Island members are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Since 1979, FFA has facilitated regional cooperation so that all Pacific countries benefit from the sustainable use of tuna – a multi-billion dollar resource important for many people’s livelihoods in the Pacific.
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