PIMLA granted observer status by Tuna Commission
Friday, 26 February 2010
In September 2009, PIMLA was granted an observer status by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), commonly known as the Tuna Commission, after its application was processed under the rules of the commission. And it is a privilege for the relatively young entity to associate with the commission and more importantly, to render its professional legal services where required. The PIMLA membership also has experience and expertise in the fisheries area through the members’ involvement in fisheries  issues in their respective countries. In areas where maritime law and practices overlap with the enforcement of fisheries laws, PIMLA would be in an ideal situation to give advice on matters such as flag state obligations, flags of convenience, port state control, prevention and elimination of ports of convenience and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

A meeting of the Tuna Commission’s Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC) was held in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia from 1 – 6 October 2009. PIMLA was represented by Mr Timoci Romanu who is currently based in Pohnpei, FSM. Another PIMLA member, Mr Viliame Moale from Tonga also attended the same meeting but representing his country. The matters resolved at the TCC meeting are summarised below.  

A major decision of TCC was the recommendation that the commission adopt new rules and procedures for the use, protection and dissemination of data for the purposes of surveillance and enforcement on the high seas and the use of scientific data for scientific purposes. These rules had been developed over a period of 20 months by the commission’s Ad Hoc Task Group for Data chaired by Holly Koehler of the United States of America.

The main issues on the agenda for TCC were the activities of observers placed on purse seine fishing vessels operating in the western and central Pacific ocean (WCPO) area in August and September to monitor the prohibition of fishing on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). Observers were recruited from the Pacific Islands region to monitor the implementation of this measure. Two hundred and fourteen vessels qualified for inclusion in the Regional Observer Programme (ROP). Of these, 49 decided not to fish and instead scheduled normal maintenance in ports. This resulted in165 vessels fishing through the closure on the basis that they were required to confine their fishing operations to free swimming schools. Reports presented to TCC indicated that while most vessels had followed this rule, several cases of violations were observed. TCC recommended that, using the information acquired as part of the de-briefing process for observers, supplementary information be prepared for further consideration of these incidents at the annual session in Papeete in December 2009.

One of the important issues considered by TCC was the arrangements that needed to be put in place to process the data and information generated by ROP activities. In 2010, purse seiners will be subjected to 100% observer coverage. This will require sufficient observers to cover approximately 2,200 individual trips which will generate a large volume of observer information. In addition, by June 2012, flag states will be required to achieve 5% coverage on their longline vessels operating beyond the national jurisdiction in the Convention Area.

The TCC also reviewed the implementation of the commission’s vessel monitoring system (VMS). All fishing vessels that operate on the high seas in the WCPO area are required to carry a satellite transponder that allows the commission in Pohnpei to track these vessels. The system became operational in April this year. When it started the commission expected the system to monitor at least 600 vessels by the end of 2009. However, in October, the Commission reported that it had more than 2,200 vessels on its system. TCC reviewed the status of vessels carrying VMS against the commission’s record of fishing vessels, which currently has more than 9,000 vessels. TCC reviewed the scope and quality of information for vessels on the record and recommended that an online system for entering vessel details be developed as a means of improving the ability of flag states to maintain their record of fishing vessels on the commission’s database.

TCC also reviewed the information that had been submitted alleging 17 fishing vessels of undertaking IUU fishing activities in the region in 2008 and early 2009. After reviewing the information submitted in relation to these vessels, TCC decided to place 15 vessels on its draft IUU list  which will be considered by the commission when it meets in French Polynesia in December 2009.
Next >