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By ILIESA TORA 

Da Nang, VIETNAM – December 3, 2022: 9.20am (Nuku’alofa Times): The importance of being united on tuna fisheries issues is critical for members of the Forum Fisheries Agency, Director Genera; Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen told the Pacific media team covering the Tuna Commission here in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Speaking to the media on Friday, December 2, Dr Manu said it was critical to present a united front and work in unison together, especially in discussing critical issues affecting Pacific tuna fisheries.

“Presenting a united front on all of the issues is just so critical,” she said.

“As a first step is presenting a united front from the FFA membership side. And I think our members have done that really well.

“I think they clarified exactly what their priorities, are their expected outcomes coming into this meeting. And then through these negotiations and the Tuna Commission, it’s working with the other important partners, all of them to make sure that we can get these priorities over the line, and having that united front as a collective of the Commission.”

 

Progress

She said she was happy about the progress being made here at the 19th Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

“Really happy and I think it’s down to the hard work the membership, and it’s not just the meetings in plenary under the excellent leadership of chair Riley, it’s also the really important work outside of the meeting room in smaller working groups, most of which are led by a number of our members,” Dr Manu said.

“So I’m really proud of the way that our members are conducting themselves and articulating our positions and priorities at this meeting.”

One of the biggest outcomes that many are excited about is the Management Procedure for Skipjack Tuna.

That has been on the table here in the last week as all stakeholders worked on having something that is legally binding and which can be used to meet the challenges in the years ahead.

“The proposed interim Management Procedure is designed to improve decision-making on management and conservation for skipjack tuna fisheries by having pre-agreed rules for how fishing will be adjusted as status of stocks change, and better taking account of uncertainty,” she stated.

“The adoption of an interim Management Procedure for this stock is an important step for establishing harvest strategies for key fisheries and stocks in the WCPO and more effectively managing and sustainably using this stock.”

She said the MP for skipjack tuna was a focus coming to Da Nang.

“One of our priorities coming into this Commission is the establishment of a skipjack management procedure for the skipjack fishery. We are determined that this is an important first step in a harvest strategy approach.

“We’re committed to the harvest strategy approach. It sets up predetermined rules for any fishery, so that if the fishery is not performing at the objective that it’s meant to, there are steps that have already been put in place by all membership on how to respond rather than be reactionary. So putting in place this management procedure is important. And we see this as a fundamental first step. And we remain positive and committed that we see this through in this commission meeting.”

Dr Manu said there is a lot of optimism that a lot can be achieved here.

“We’re really optimistic that we can still achieve a number of our priorities. Obviously, there’s still work in progress. And those important steps need to be undertaken by all members of the Commission,” she said.

“We’re optimistic that we can achieve a skipjack management procedure, we’re optimistic that we can achieve what we need for the e-reporting, and also setting in place focused processes for the review of the tropical tuna measure for next year, and also making great progress on South Pacific albacore.

“Those are some of the items that we see that we can still be really optimistic about. And the reason I say that is because there’s been such great engagement across the board from our partners and asking great clarifying questions just to get a better understanding of the FFA proposals. So we feel positive about that.”

 

Compliance

On the compliance monitoring she said it is work in progress and a lot of effort has been put into that.

“The position from FFA members is that the compliance monitoring scheme is a fundamental tool for ensuring that there is indeed compliance with the decisions and measures that are adopted by the Commission,” Dr Manu said.

“In that space, we do want to ensure that the scheme that is set up is efficient, that it’s fair, and that it’s set up and fit for purpose for what it’s meant to deliver. What we find in that space is that there’s still an imbalance and unfairness in terms of a lot of data coming in from the purse-seine fishery because that’s where you have 100% observer coverage and a lot of data comes from observers.

“Whereas in the longline space, where there’s a lot of gaps in terms of monitoring and verifying compliance, there’s not as many tools in the longline fishery. And what you find in the compliance monitoring review, is that there’s a lot of light shining on the purse seine fishery, yet, it’s the fishery that has the more compliant tools and so until we address more compliance tools in place, so until we addressed that unfairness, that imbalance, it would be right to not have observers in the room that may not read the full context properly and understand that imbalance well.

“FFA members remain committed, let me be clear, FFA members drove the establishment of the compliance monitoring scheme, and we’re determined to see it set up really well. And so it’s part of this process of ensuring its fairness that we are committed to.”

 

Observers

She said Fisheries Observers will be redeployed next year. The observers were put on a hold because of COVID-19 in 2020.

The Commission has agreed to that but the important work of safety for the Observers is something that the Commission is looking at.

“That is the human side of our work making sure that people on board vessels, or even people on land and fisheries facilities, that they’re safe. So specifically on the redeployment of observers from first of January,’ Dr Manu said.

“What safely redeployed looks like is ensuring that all observers in the first instance are fully vaccinated and COVID safe. All the types of steps that we’ve all become really familiar with to ensure that we keep ourselves safe from the virus.

“And another point on that is the whole world’s living with this. We anticipate that observers that go on board vessels, that they are fully vaccinated, that their national observer programs have also run them through sea safety refresher courses. It is not just about being COVID safe, we recognize that safety in all respects and that they can undertake their duties, knowing that.”

The FFA is aware that observer numbers might decrease because some would have gone to Australia or New Zealand on different work schemes offered by the two countries for Pacific Islanders.

She said that while it is true that there have been some observers who have moved on during this COVID period but the work must go on.

“I know everyone has a family and we all need to have sustainable livelihoods. So we recognize the impact on the livelihoods of observers. What our members did during this COVID period is undertake a study to understand those impacts, and more importantly, to identify responses,’ she revealed.

“So for example, some of our observer program’s repurpose their observers deliberately for coastal fisheries work, or repurpose them to do analyses of electronic monitoring video footage, which they are so well suited to do because of their great experience on fishing vessels. So there’s been a lot of attention of observers during this time. But it does require with this revival of the program, that there be training such as the sea safety, those refresher courses.”

She added FFA members remain committed to redeploying observers from first of January.

Dr Manu, one of the women leaders leading fisheries organisations in the FFA, said it was humbling to be in this position and entrusted as Director General.

“And I look forward to many more women coming into this role, alongside other male leaders. It is so encouraging to see that the Chair Riley continues excellent leadership of the Commission,” she said.

“As she moves on, there’ll be another great person coming in. So I’m just so proud of all of our women and all of our people. And then also the incoming Executive Director, just so so proud of her and looking forward to her leadership and stewardship of the Commission secretariat.”

  • Coverage of the 19th WCPFC meeting has been made possible with funding from the Forum Fisheries Agency and its partners.

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