FFA, SPC Pacific workshop sharpens focus on Vietnamese Blue Boats

Friday 5th May, FFA HQ, Honiara Solomon Islands --  Monitoring, Control and Surveillance for Pacific tuna fisheries provides a useful existing framework to help Pacific countries to address the newest threat for Pacific reef systems, Vietnamese Blue Boats. However,  FFA Director General James Movick urges that an effective strategic response from the Pacific needs to address the broad consequences of this violation of national borders and resources as well as include collective diplomatic action toward tackling the source of the problem.
“It’s more than just the lost value of the resources being ripped from reef ecosystems. There are very serious implications for the costs impacting national development and security, not just the obvious conservation and biosecurity risks,” says DG Movick.
 Reflecting on the outcomes of a two-day workshop this week in Brisbane involving Pacific nations where the ‘reef robbers’ have been found, DG Movick noted the overall positive response from countries keen to share their experiences and ideas on the how to deal with Vietnamese boat crews targeting beche de mer from remote Pacific reef systems.
“This issue is already a huge expense in terms of surveillance and apprehension at sea, where notifications from FFA are our point of support,” says DG Movick, but the workshop also discussed the problems and costs imposed in the legal prosecution process and the repatriation of crews and recovery of fines levied.
“The country case studies and direct sharing with the QUADs network were a highlight of the workshop, bringing home to all the need for smarter sharing of experiences and information across all the judicial, diplomatic and other areas of engagement on this threat,” says DG Movick.
The workshop outcomes will go through more inputs and consultation before being tabled to Pacific Fisheries Ministers in July.
“There’s a clear agreement for collective action, and definitely the workshop supported that.  FFA is only one part of a regional response to these illegal Vietnamese boats targeting our reef species. Ultimately, the enforcement and prosecution authority lies at the national level, and dealing with Vietnam at the diplomatic level opens up questions of just how seriously that nation takes its engagement with this part of the world.”   
While surveillance of remote reef systems within Pacific EEZs is now a possible add-on for oceanic fisheries and national maritime patrols, DG Movick says it’s a question of resources and support.
 “Pacific nations have shared what they know, but also realised there’s still a lot more we need to find out. We have to work through those questions before a more comprehensive solution is found.”
Funding support for the VBB workshop came from the Government of Sweden --ENDS.