Tuna IUU report recognises progress, challenges for countries

 16 Mar, FFA HQ SOLOMON ISLANDS The newly announced US 616m value to annual losses from Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated activity in the Pacific tuna fishery should provide “renewed impetus for Pacific countries to step up what they are already doing well, and embrace solutions to help in areas where action is required,” says the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General James Movick. (pictured)

DG Movick encouraged Pacific Fisheries officials and all reading the report to unpack the comprehensive analysis and recommended actions from its findings.  The two-year independent study led by MRAG Asia-Pacific was launched this Tuesday after being presented to Pacific Monitoring, Control and Surveillance officials leading their national responses to IUU in the world’s tuna-rich fishery. 

“The findings of the MRAG report confirm much of what we know about the impacts of work at the national and regional level to deter IUU fishing, and its good, through the numbers provided, to get a more detailed, comprehensive, and objective breakdown of the numbers to help officials make the decisions on next steps to build on the great work being done, and to pitch resources into areas requiring more attention,” he says.

Amongst the many findings, DG Movick called attention to four key areas:

Pacific IUU value: The US616m value derives from the ex-vessel or landed value in mainly distant water markets, where value adding takes place. For Pacific countries who derive the bulk of current earnings in the tuna sector from access fees comprising a relatively small portion of the overall catch value, the actual IUU loss would be closer to US152m.

UU dominates IUU: Misreporting and underreporting are the largest contributors to illegal fishing, with Illegal vessels (poachers fishing without a license) estimated to be taking 4% of the IUU catch, which demonstrates the impacts of licensing, vessel monitoring, and surveillance work by Pacific FFA members.

Real time, quality data is critical: The first report of its kind specific to tuna and the Pacific fishery sets the baseline and framework for tracking and updating the IUU report over time. Importantly, it highlights the issues confronting the front line of data collection—Pacific observers, and the need for reliable and real time catch and effort reporting by vessel captains, especially for the Long Line tuna fisheries, which only have 5% Observer coverage compared to 100% Observer coverage for Purse Seine vessels. For FFA, the sequential process of identifying where the key illegal fishing risks lie, and how important each one is compared to others, will allow the agency to review its Monitoring, Control and Surveillance support to members, and the regional MCS framework.

Surveillance makes sense: DG Movick highlighted the important role of regional surveillance and enforcement capability to regional fisheries, and warned against any erosion of this capability. Future operations can be enhanced by active take up of the resource sharing and cooperation options offered by platforms such as the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement for enhanced regional cooperation in MCS.

“The overall tone is positive, affirming that regional cooperation is working. National engagement across sectors to provide effective maritime surveillance is working. Multi-lateral agreements between neighbouring EEZs, support from larger nations with defence assets, and partners committed to sustainable, economic fisheries is working. So much has been and is being done, but there is more to be achieved-- and the report reflects that.”

DG Movick commended Duncan Souter and MRAG for the report and the European Union, who provided funding through the EU DEVFish 2 for FFA to project enabled this significant first for the region to happen, and the highly valued input of the quadrilateral defence forces of Australia, France, New Zealand and the US to surveillance activity and coordination.

“I also commend the FFA member countries for their firm commitment to coastal states fisheries management rights and to collective and cooperative regional solidarity and arrangements which are the cornerstones to the successes that have been realized to date in the fight against IUU fishing on the region’s tuna resources and which will continue to underpin further efforts and successes in this fight.”—ENDS

Link- MRAG IUU Report, statements/talking points by FFA/FFC/MRAG