FFA members support Tonga’s bid to list vessel for illegal fishing
POHNPEI, FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA, SATURDAY 04 OCTOBER 2008: At the Fourth Regular Session of the Technical and Compliance Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), in Pohnpei this week, Tonga pursued its bid to get Taiwanese fishing vessel F/V Chu Huai No.638 prosecuted for illegal fishing in Tongan waters.
It was generally agreed by the Technical and Compliance Committee that the vessel would be listed on the provisional Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Vessel list (pending further development of this decision). This technical committee makes recommendations but not decisions about which vessels should be added to the WCPFC Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Vessel List. Decisions will be made about whether or not to accept these recommendations at the 5th session of WCPFC in December this year in Busan, Korea.
The Taiwanese fishing vessel was detected to be fishing in Tonga by a New Zealand P3 Orion aircraft on 28 January 2008. Reports indicate it had been fishing without a licence from 15 to 28 January for a period of 13 days. Chinese Taipei suspended the fishing licence of the vessel for 3 months, the fishing licence of the captain for 6 months and required him to return to Chinese Taipei for training. However, Tonga does not consider this adequate severity for this violation of sovereign rights. Tonga said, as stipulated by article 73 of the UN Law of the Sea Convention, the right to enforce the national law of Tonga should be taken into account, that according to the national law of Tonga, 3 offences were committed and amounted to a fine of 2.5 million Tongan paanga and that total catch for the 13 days had still not been disclosed or provided to Tonga.
At the technical committee meeting, FFA members voiced their strong support for Tonga to achieve listing of the vessel on the WCPFC’s provisional IUU list. It was noted by the Chair of the technical committee that 6 countries (including 1 speaking on behalf of the 17 FFA members) also supported the listing of this vessel. WCPFC membership consists of the 17 members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency plus 9 other fishing nations. Decisions at WCPFC so far have been made by consensus although there is also provisions for voting that have not yet been used (under WCPF Convention Article 11  which includes decision making of subsidiary bodies of the Commission).
Speaking at the technical meeting Head of Delegation from Tonga, Viliami Moále said:
“Under Tonga’s fisheries legislation, illegal fishing is treated seriously. Tonga believes that the measures taken by Chinese Taipei towards this fishing vessel are not severe enough for the offences committed. Our rights to enforce our law, with adequate severity, as stipulated under article 73 of the UN Law of the Sea Convention, must be respected in this case.”
FFA Deputy Director Transform Aquorau said:
“FFA supports efforts of its members to use the WCPFC process to pursue its national and regional interests. We are pleased to see the regional solidarity of FFA members in backing Tonga’s efforts at this meeting and the practical assistance that has been provided by New Zealand as Tonga seeks to list this vessel on the IUU vessel list at the 5th session of the WCPFC in December.”
1) Under Tongan law, the master, owner and charter are separately liable for a penalty for fishing without a licence.
2) Members of WCPFC are FFA members (Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu) and distant water fishing nations (China, Canada, European Community, France, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Chinese Taipei, United States of America).