The Pacific Way – Cooperation in MCS Technologies

Seafood and Fisheries Emerging Technologies Conference

Keynote Speech: The Pacific Way: Cooperation in MCS Technologies
Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, FFA Director- General


Thank you Mark, nice to ‘see you’ again, appreciate the kind introduction.

Malo e lelei everyone and trust that you are keeping safe and well during these challenging times. Thank you for this opportunity to address you about the Pacific’s lead role in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance for oceanic fisheries and how we are applying technology.

It is an honour for FFA to be invited to make this presentation. FFA has had a long and fruitful connection to this event, having hosted the inaugural Conference in 2014. We have been pleased to contribute ever since and it’s wonderful to witness its growth. I’d like to recognise the work by Bubba Cook, Mark Young, EDF’s Oceans Programme and the teams for bringing us all together to explore emerging technologies for the world’s fisheries.

FFA’s work is to empower its Members to take collective and national action so that our people can enjoy the greatest possible social and economic benefits from the sustainable use of offshore fisheries resources. We recognise that protecting the estimated US$1 billion that goes into Island economies from the oceanic fisheries sector is more important now than ever, given that other key sectors such as tourism and trade have been devastated by the current health crisis. The fisheries sector continues to support the incomes, jobs, livelihoods and food security for so many of our Pacific people by ensuring that we maintain the largest and best managed fishery in the world.

Our Members’ Exclusive Economic Zones cover over 30 million square kilometres which equates to over 20% of the world’s EEZs. It’s a vast area so we have to work smarter and use technology to its fullest capacity to protect our fisheries resources – given what’s at stake.

Consequently, seeking out and testing emerging MCS technologies has been an important part of our operation for the last forty plus years. This year we have sharpened our focus, not just around the investment in the technology, but crucially, continuing to invest in our people.

FFA is deeply committed to regional cooperation. This is the cornerstone of our success and it is reflected in the many cooperative regional tools in our integrated MCS framework that are used in Pacific fisheries, including the Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions for licensing of foreign fishing vessels and the FFA Vessel Register – no vessel may be authorised to fish in our Members’ waters unless it is in Good Standing on this Register.

Our Members were also early adopters of the cooperative application of technology. For example, the FFA regional Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) which was operationalised in 1998. This provided the impetus for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s adoption of the Scheme in 2007. This formed the basis for the development of FFA’s Regional Surveillance Picture (RSP).The Surveillance Picture integrates VMS data with multiple other data sets and analytics to provide real time vessel position and risk and compliance index information.

In 2009 we established our Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre to support national, sub-regional and regional MCS. It houses the Regional Surveillance Picture and integrates different data sources and applies targeted analysis to develop products that complement and enhance Members MCS capacity. It is through the Centre that FFA integrates new and emerging technologies to further enhance our MCS programs. It coordinates with surveillance partners and with Members and also directly supports the Regional Aerial Surveillance Program provided through the Pacific Maritime Security Program.

More recently we’ve trialled the Dark Vessel Detection (DVD) system with Canada and the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST). Through these trials FFA has learned a lot about some of the real benefits and also limitations of the use of different types of satellite data sources, including synthetic aperture radar, optical satellite and visible infrared imaging radiometer suite. Targeted use of different satellite data has been successfully incorporated into our coordinated regional surveillance operations. We have effectively used this data to target the work of our limited surveillance assets. We continue to trial and refine the use of these data sources into our regional surveillance picture.

Additionally, FFA is collaborating with technology providers using Automatic Identification System data to monitor and verify vessel movement and proximity, including Skylight and Global Fishing Watch.

We have successfully integrated AIS data into our regional surveillance picture for a number of years and we recognise the value of AIS data to complement and enhance our effective monitoring of regional VMS data.

But we always seek opportunities to improve our use of this data, and especially the integration of this data to identify vessel interactions and possible illegal transhipments. This type of vessel proximity monitoring has become especially important for FFA as we support our Members to assess the risk presented by vessels seeking to enter their ports. This is particularly crucial as countries seek to protect their citizens from the pandemic.

Recognising the value of continuing to develop our targeted analytical tools and the analytical capability in the region, we are also engaging with research and statistical analysis professionals, This includes Australia’s agency responsible for scientific research, CSIRO. I see Chris Wilcox from CSIRO will be speaking today so I’m sure we’ll hear more about the wonderful work that they are doing in this space.

The ongoing development of our analytical capacity and tools are important contributors towards intelligence leading and directing regional surveillance activities and operations.

We have organised and supported trials of tools like unmanned aerial vehicles, such as drones, and also hydrophones. These trials to date have been based around specific national requirements to monitor closed and protected areas. The sheer scale of the area of interest for FFA monitoring again presents some challenges in effectively deploying these technologies and evaluation of their benefits in our oceanic fisheries work is ongoing.We know that our integrated MCS tools are working.

We commissioned an IUU quantification study in 2016 which is currently being updated.

What it found was that many of our MCS tools have been highly effective in dealing with unlicensed fishing. It demonstrated that the IUU picture had evolved over the past four decades, from challenges in ensuring only authorised vessels fished in our waters, to a licensed fleet where reporting violations presented the largest IUU risk – over 95% of our IUU challenge.

However, we are not complacent. The same study estimated that fish harvested or transhipped illegally in our region amounted to over USD 600 million. And specifically the amount that is lost to our Members through access agreements is over USD 150 million – which is critical given our reliance on tuna fisheries.

So we remain vigilant in protecting and cementing the progress we have made in tackling IUU Fishing. We will continue to be responsive and adaptive in strengthening our integrated MCS framework, including through the use of technology to ensure we are targeting our largest IUU risk. We recognise that there is a massive opportunity for more effective use of technology to help our Members to combat IUU Fishing.

So what does the future look like ? How can we use technology to continue to effectively combat IUU Fishing?

I’d like to wrap up this talk with two questions for you related to the human elements of fishing.First, how can technology help us not just with protecting our revenue but also with protecting people – such as observers and crew?

We would like to see new ways of applying technology to solve this challenge. Our vision for success is not just a biologically sustainable fishery or an economically sustainable one (we know we are tracking well on those metrics). We want to meet the challenges of creating a socially sustainable fishery.

Second, how do we make a bigger impact in combatting IUU Fishing by targeting the actual perpetrators of IUU Fishing?Vhow do we make a bigger impact in combatting IUU Fishing by targeting the actual perpetrators of IUU Fishing? We all know that the vessel is just a platform for an IUU fisher. So how can we collaboratively track and hold to account the IUU operators (or Person of Interest) instead of primarily focusing on individual vessels?

FFA has done a lot of work in this area in progressing a Persons of Interest (POI) initiative. The objective is to go beyond vessels to track and share information on IUU operators. Our program currently focuses on creating clear guidelines and actions at regional and national level, and there is still much work to be done which will inevitably include technological solutions.

I’d like to see a global, collaborative solution to the questions posed as we recognise the power of cooperation to overcome any challenge. I think these are challenges we can all be more ambitious about solving. I welcome your expertise and ideas !

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