Niue Treaty parties meet in Apia, Samoa

APIA, SAMOA, WEDNESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2008: At the second meeting of Parties to the Niue Treaty on Cooperation in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement in the South Pacific Region, held yesterday, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members agreed to cooperate further to combat illegal fishing.

The Niue Treaty is an agreement on cooperation between FFA members about monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing - it includes provisions on exchange of information (about where the position and speed of vessels at sea, which vessels are without licences) plus procedures for cooperation in monitoring, prosecuting and penalising illegal fishing vessels. The efforts by the Niue Treaty Parties to work together and with regional organisations were supported by the Pacific Forum Leaders in their 2007 Vava'u Declaration on Pacific Fisheries Resources and in the 2008 Niue Declaration.

Niue Treaty signatories are FFA members and they cooperate to share information and cooperate in regional surveillance operations - such as Operation Kurukuru, Operation Bigeye, Operation Island Chief, Operation Rai Balang and Operation Tui Moana - for the period of the operation. They also use bilateral and trilateral subsidiary agreements, but there are advantages in having a multilateral agreement to combat illegal fishing. By having just one regional level agreement on this issue, it spares small island developing States the administration and cost of having to negotiate many bilateral agreements. This agreement means that monitoring, control and surveillance officers from different countries can then act, with increased speed and efficiency, to combat illegal fishing.

This year's meeting agreed to progress work on a draft multilateral subsidiary agreement patterned on the Niue Treaty subsidiary agreements, which would spell out the details of how countries will cooperate in their efforts to detect and prosecute illegal fishing.

The Niue Treaty is a complementary initiative to FFA efforts, endorsed by Fisheries Ministers, to develop a regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Strategy.

FFA Director General Su'a N.F. Tanielu said: "We are pleased to see progress by the Niue Treaty Parties towards implementing their agreement to cooperate on a regional basis for better control of fishing in the region. The subsidiary agreement currently in development will be an important tool to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for the countries involved."

"This regional effort is consistent with calls by Forum Leaders who said in the Vava'u Declaration they ‘supported and endorsed efforts by FFA to take forward as a matter of urgency work to examine the potential for new multilateral Pacific regional arrangements patterned on the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement model for exchange of fisheries law enforcement data, cross-vesting of enforcement powers, and use of fisheries data for other law enforcement activities'."