Pacific IUU Report and Launch statement of the FFA Director General James T. Movick

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Statement of the FFA Director General Mr James T. Movick

Mercure Hotel, Auckland

March 15, 2016


Ladies and Gentlemen, as you have heard from Minister Pita, FFA is very encouraged by the results of this study.  The presence of Minister Pita here today for this launch, as Chairman of the FFA Ministerial Committee, underscores the high level policy focus on the IUU issue in the Pacific Islands region. I thank him for being here.

I also want to thank the authors of the report for the sterling work, and the European Union for the funding that made it possible.  This is an independent report put together by experienced experts. We can be confident in their work, and within the FFA secretariat we agree with most of the findings and recommendations.

Illegal fishing is, by its very nature, a cryptic activity.  Not only is the activity likely to be hidden but the very definition of the problem is subject to some degree of uncertainty. It takes a huge effort to review and integrate multiple data types to even identify what the IUU risks are, let alone to derive estimates of their magnitude, and that is what this study allows us to do.

The results seem confronting when you hear them up front. The thought of USD$616 million dollars’ worth of illegal fish is staggering.  But this must be placed in context, and for us, the dollar figure is not the most important part of the study.  Rather it is the sequential process of identifying where the key illegal fishing risks lie, and how important each one is compared to others.  This allows us to then review our Monitoring, Control and Surveillance framework to make sure that we continue to address high risk areas. The systematic methodology developed in this study will also allow us to improve our measurement of IUU activity over time so that we can better track progress as we combat IUU fishing.

As Duncan has said, issues of misreporting and underreporting are the largest contributors to illegal fishing.  This is important because it means we should step up our existing plans to roll out more reliable and real time catch and effort reporting by vessel captains and observers. 

The study has also found that unlicensed vessels simply poaching our fish is a relatively smaller risk than previously considered, in the order of 4%.  Any illegal fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zones is an affront to our sovereignty but we can take some comfort that is a big change from years gone by, where patrol vessels and aerial surveillance would routinely detect vessels fishing in areas that they were not licensed to be in.

Our challenge is to take this report and use it in a comprehensive review of the state of Monitoring, Control and Surveillance in the region and to adjust and improve our national and regional MCS systems. It will be recalled that such a review was called for by Pacific Leaders when they met in their Forum in Papua New Guinea last year. That directive from Leaders was in turn influenced by what was understood to be a far larger scale and nefarious impact of IUU fishing on the region’s tuna resources.

While I have mentioned that the dollars are not the most important part of the report for us, I know there will be a profound interest in them. Previous estimates suggested that as much as 20% of the total regional catch, with value of up to $1.5 billion in 2007 US dollar values, was being stolen. This report shows that, in the regional tuna fishery that catches in the order of five billion dollars’ worth of fish, an estimated $616 million is now associated with illegal practices, representing around 12%.  This is a dramatic improvement from previous studies, although I would add that this is the first time that such a study has focussed only on Pacific tuna. 

Moreover, we need to realize that the real financial loss to PICs at this time is actually less that this this ex-vessel value. PICs typically derive their revenues from the access fees that they charge based on the economic rent available from the fishing activity, which comprises a relatively small portion of the overall catch value. In addition, when a licensed vessel catches fish legally and then tranships it illegally, while that fish is classed as technically being “illegal” it does not necessarily represent the same loss to the Pacific because the vessel has paid its licence fee, reported the catch and effort information and so on. 

I don’t say that to imply that such a risk is not important. It is.  I simply want to highlight that the overall figures do not represent the actual value stolen from PICs. Using economic rent calculations this report estimates that the actual loss to PICs from lost fishing access revenues is around $152 million. This is much lower than figures that have often been bandied about in the past, synonymous with the global stolen billions perception, and Pacific countries. It would probably be higher if all of that catch were to be processed in the region and that is a future aspiration. Pacific Island countries can be proud that although we remain outraged that revenues due to us are not being realized, the scale of the loss is far less than previously thought and we now have a better understanding of where and how to control and retrieve this “stolen“ amount.

In closing, it would be remiss of me not to express my gratitude to a large number of organisations that have contributed to this report, and to its findings:

  • To Duncan and his team – thank you for this high quality work; it will serve the region well;
  • To the European Union – thank you for the funding through the EU DevFish 2 project that has allowed this significant analysis to be undertaken;
  • To our quadrilateral defence partners, Australia, New Zealand, France and the US who unfailingly support regional fisheries with the provision of military assets and assistance to supplement the Pacific capability, without your participation, the suite of risks we face today would be far greater.
    I would highlight to these partners and to regional policy makers that the continuation of regional surveillance and enforcement capability is very important to regional fisheries and the improvements highlighted in this report would be eroded if this capability is withdrawn or substantially reduced.  But this outcome also highlights that future benefits from these operations and platforms can be enhanced by extension of this coverage to support to other border control functions that are important to PICs, as envisaged in the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement for enhanced regional cooperation in MCS;

And lastly, to the FFA member countries – thank you for your tireless effort and investment in defence of the region’s most valuable shared resource, the tuna resources.Fisheries management, development, science and enforcement is hard work and it’s heartening when we have independent verification that it pays off.

I am not unmindful that while this focus on tuna, as the principal regional economic resource,shows an improved and improving picture, our members states still have a clear need to get a better understanding of, and control over, IUU fishing on reef and coastal resources, especially by foreign reef poachers on our western margin. One of our challenges will be to see how the resources, systems and arrangements that we have in the oceanic sector can be applied to that sector as well.

I commend this report to the FFA member states and to all of our partners who are committed to work with us in our common fight against IUU fishing.

Thank You.