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Fisheries meet eyes better monitoring, control, surveillance for Pacific

by Media@FFA last modified Mar 25, 2014

FFA HQ, Honiara, SOLOMON ISLANDS – Fisheries officials from all 17 member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, FFA, are in Honiara this week turning the spotlight on the work they do to monitor, control and keep watch over offshore fishing.

The 17th meeting of the FFA Monitoring Control and Surveillance Working group, or MCS-WG for short, will look at the evolving challenges in the field, and the realities of applying elements of a regional strategy at national level.

Agenda items include the work of fisheries observers on fishing boats in the Pacific, standards and regulations guiding licenses and how FFA members issue them, and sensitivities around sharing sovereign data. Understanding the complexities of maritime boundaries and multi-lateral agreements such as the Niue Treaty on cooperation in surveillance and enforcement are also part of the technical sessions supported by FFA’s Management, Operations and Legal advisors.

Welcoming delegates during yesterday’s opening session, FFA’s Deputy Director-General Wez Norris noted the exciting opportunities ahead for MCS work in the Pacific, especially in the field of emerging and information technologies.

“We are continuing to see a change in monitoring, control and surveillance work in the region, where we continue to see less rogue fishing vessels doing their own thing, and focussing more on vessels that are “legitimate” but perhaps not acting as “legitimately” as they should and could be,” he said. While issues such as managing information are as critical now as they were when the work of fisheries surveillance began in the 80’s, Norris noted the emerging impacts of electronic reporting and surveillance technologies to the current regional MCS strategy, which also comes under the spotlight this week.

The strategy runs to 2015 and is under review at this meeting to ensure it remains relevant to the MCS realities for Pacific Fisheries. A key part of the self-examination will look at the ongoing process where FFA members can band together on solutions as a key way to overcome issues around capacity at the national level.

For the second time, the MCS meeting will run in parallel with the QUAD operational Working Group. The QUADS comprise the aerial and naval arms of Australia, France, New Zealand and the USA. They provide aerial and surface assets to assist regional surveillance and their parallel sessions this week will dovetail into the MCS program.

Observers at the MCS meeting include Timor Leste, the Pohnpei-based Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, InterPol and the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association, PITIA.The meeting, which voted in Vanuatu Fisheries’ Senior Compliance Officer Wesley Obed as Chair, ends this Friday [March 28].