Tuna thieves and Pacific countries: an update on illegal tuna fishing

IUUIllegal tuna fishing, distant and invisible, can seem to have little real impact. Yet Pacific people, whether leaders or ordinary citizens, are aware that a lot of tuna is quite simply stolen from their territorial waters by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).

 

Essential issues for Pacific nations

Tuna fisheries are managed under strict regulations: the national fisheries agencies issue limited numbers of licences to vessels, permitting them to fish in their territorial waters in compliance with the relevant regulations.

 

These licences generate major revenue for Pacific Island nations and for some countries represent their biggest national income source. Illegal fishing is, therefore, a short-term loss for their economies, but it also poses a longer-term threat to fish stocks, as the quantities stolen cannot be accurately measured.

 

Extensive surveillance: efficient but needing intensification

Licensed vessels are under an obligation to provide fisheries authorities with a fishing log stating where they fished, fishing dates and times, quantities involved etc. They are also fitted with a transmitter, to allow fisheries officers to monitor their position accurately. Also, more and more national observers are being assigned to shipboard duties in order to collect data on both fishing operations and fish. 

The DevFish2 project, funded by the European Union, consolidates the technical resources and skills of Pacific Island countries so that they can more effectively and quickly detect illegal activities, reduce their scope and discourage them.

The project specialist, Bryan Scott, comments: ‘The most effective and cheapest way of preventing illegal fishing is to improve in-country information systems and data bases. Each country can then compare licensed vessel logsheet data with the data collected by the on-board observers. Where there are discrepancies, an enquiry is carried out to check whether a licensed vessel is trying to camouflage an illegal activity.’

 

The DevFish2 project helps in the fight again illegal fishing

Early in February, Bryan installed the server for the fishery monitoring and surveillance programme in Solomon Islands. DevFish2 has also funded staff training and the installation of computer hardware in Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Cook Islands and Fiji.

The presence of unlicensed vessels is, however, harder to detect; in general, they are reported to the authorities by other boats and a check is made through the vessel monitoring system, but their interception depends on the availability of surveillance vessels in the country concerned.

The DevFish2 project supports the surveillance operations that are regularly conducted on a cooperative basis among some ten Pacific countries in their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

 

Photo: one of the Solomon Islands patrol boats approaching a vessel for control during last international surveillance operation in November 2011 (FFA photo)

 

 

For more information, contact Bryan Scott, IUU fishing liaison officer.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 09:44
 

 


blank