Observers identify needs to implement WCPFC decisions

NOUMEA, NEW CALEDONIA & POHNPEI, FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA, SEPTEMBER 2008: Recent meetings of Fisheries Observers indicate that observers need more support to meet the increasing challenges set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) which is this week hosting the Technical and Compliance Committee in Pohnpei to discuss increasing observer coverage among other issues.

FFA and SPC coordinated two key observer meetings last month – the Observer Coordinator Workshop (a meeting of national observer
coordinators from 16-18 September 2009) and the Observer Data Management Workshop (a meeting regarding observer reports from 21-24
September 2009) – in Noumea, New Caledonia. A total of 18 people from FFA member countries and 3 people from Hawaii participated in these
key meetings to discuss issues relevant to observer work. Participating organisations included FFA, SPC and NOAA.

The FFA Observer Program was started in 1986. It has put observers on US fishing vessels since 1988 under the US Treaty Observer Program(which covers the multilateral treaty between many Pacific Islands and the US over fishing in the region) and another regional
fishing agreement the Federated States of Micronesia Arrangement since 1995.

Observers report on tuna fishing catches and methods. Often they travel with the fishing vessels, being away at sea for weeks or months
at a time, to gather independent information about what is happening on fishing vessels at sea. Their data becomes important independent
assessment of fishing practices at sea and the implementation of conservation and management measures.

Issues discussed at the September meetings included:
2009 FISH AGGREGATING DEVICE (FAD) CLOSURE AND HIGH SEAS POCKETS CLOSURE AND MONITORING BY OBSERVERS: At the last annual meeting of the WCPFC, a conservation and management measure was adopted which included a ban on FADs during August and September 2009 to be followed by a high seas pockets closure beginning 1 January 2010 and then a 3-month FAD ban in 2010. Observers discussed the logistical challenges of this work including the difficulty and higher costs of arranging travel for observers over the ‘holiday’ period to be ready for 1 January 2010.

COST AND LOGISTICAL CHALLENGES OF OBSERVER PROGRAMMES TO MEET 100% COVERAGE: The increase in the number of observers needed and the nature of intensive observation during the high seas pockets and FAD closures meant that resources for observer coordination are strained.

Observer coordinators identified ways in which they can work together to ease some of these logistic challenges such as cooperating to make
payments to observers in other countries. Recommendations to the WCPFC to ease logistical challenges included requiring vessels to come to
port to pick up observers, for vessel operators to cover insurance and make sure a bunk is provided to observers at sea and for vessel
operators to give notice when their vessel is coming to port so observers can be prepared to go aboard.

The increased costs needed for 100% observer coverage on Purse Seine vessels starting from 2010  will be paid for by the vessel operators.
FFA has been looking at how to provide a placement service at the FFA to facilitate observer placements.for the FSM Arrangement and US
Treaty and will be raising the issue of costs with the US in coming months.

Some countries had already incorporated a requirement for licenced vessels to bear the costs of observers onboard and observers
identified the need to develop methods for foreign fishing nations to pick up the costs of observer programmes as part of their conditions
to fish in Pacific Island waters.