FFA monitoring, control and surveillance experts meet about illegal fishing

HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS, FRIDAY 3 APRIL 2009: Experts in monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries from the 17 member countries and territories of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) will meet today and next week to discuss how they can better respond on a regional level to illegal fishing.

Illegal fishing is difficult to estimate - but if just 10% of the skipjack catch of 1.2 million tons is taken by illegal fishing, a possible US$276 million dollars worth of fish is being stolen each year. This is a great loss for Pacific Island economies, government revenues and for the many islanders that rely on fisheries for jobs and food.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing) is of great concern to Pacific Island leaders which agreed in 2007, at the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee meeting, to develop “with the assistance of the FFA, a comprehensive regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) strategy”.

The research and writing of this MCS Regional Strategy, being coordinated by FFA, has so far included national consultations with all the FFA members to identify national issues. Currently further research is being undertaken at the regional level to do a risk assessment (of the risks of illegal and uncontrolled fishing), a review of countries’ compliance with fisheries law and rules and assessments of coordination between countries for control of fishing and capabilities of countries to do MCS work. This research will then inform the writing of the MCS Strategy so it can respond to these issues at a regional level.

This meeting is made possible through the GEF-funded Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (www.ffa.int/gef/).

FFA Director General Su’a N.F. Tanielu said:
“FFA supports its members in a number of activities and programs aimed at monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing. All FFA countries have resources such as the FFA Vessel Monitoring System, fishing observers plus port and at-sea inspections. We also have the support of others such as through the Pacific Patrol Boats through the Australian Defence Cooperation Project.”

“However, the capability of these assets, staff and funds to control a region of 30 million square kilometres is limited. We know that through cooperative efforts, such as regional surveillance operations and the Niue Treaty, we can more effectively control what happens at sea. So, the Regional MCS Strategy is an important next step to identify and agree on ways Pacific Islands can better communicate and coordinate to target their efforts to the most effective monitoring, control and surveillance regime possible.”

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