Quantifying IUU in the Pacific Tuna Fishery

Read the MRAG Asia Pacific report 'Towards the Quantification of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing in the Pacific Islands'

Also, here's the statement of Tuvalus Fisheries Minister Elisala Pita,as the current Chair of the Forum FIsheries Committee Ministers, at the Media Launch of the report in Auckland NZ, on March 15:

BEGINS- Salutations.

Please allow me first to thank the Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) for making it possible for me, as the current Chair of the FFC Ministers, to come to Auckland and to join you all in this historical event - the launching of this landmark quantification report on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.  Thank you all for your attendance at this important event.

We are here to talk about tuna fisheries in the Pacific.  Let me start off with a brief mention of the importance of the tuna fishery.  For many Pacific islands, including my country Tuvalu, tuna is the only renewable commercial resource.  The revenues my own country of Tuvalu receives from tuna fishing taking place in our waters represents about 45% of the Government 2016 budget. It does however require our joint efforts to protect and to sustain this revenue source.

Tuna do not recognise our borders or our baseline maritime boundaries.  Managing and enforcing a fishery where fish move freely in an area of water over 960,000 million square kilometres, with occasional tiny low-lying coral atolls in between, can only be achieved through regional collaboration.  The Pacific Islands have been collaborating through the Forum Fisheries Agency for nearly 40 years now.

Nowhere has that collaboration been more productive than in the fight IUU fishing.  Illegal fishing depletes fish stocks, undermines science and robs us of vital income and development opportunities.  Over the years, the FFA members have marked an astonishing number of achievements in the area of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance. (MCS)   This has ranged from the first centralised regional satellite based Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), innovative agreements and systems to share data and intelligence and cooperative mechanisms that allow us to share our limited surveillance assets.  These are coupled with robust systems for data collections, including well developed yet growing programs for the placement of independent observers on fishing vessels and excellent support and coordination from our regional agencies like FFA.

I am therefore extremely proud to note that the results of this study demonstrate that these programs have been effective.  As you will hear, there is of course still more that can be done, but there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that without that historical and ongoing effort, we would be looking at a much different report today.  We would be looking at a report that says rogue vessels come and go as they please, a report that says that industry knows it can fish illegally with impunity, and a report that says that the Pacific is losing more than its gaining.  I am pleased to say that this report says none of those things.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me close by saying that the fight against illegal fishing is one that we cannot afford to lose as it is bound to our future prosperity and wellbeing.  It is a hard fight; it is hard to even tell how bad the problem is, but it is a fight that we have made significant ground on, and one that we will continue to challenge.

Thank You.--ENDS