NFMRA Director of Operations Monte Depaune discusses pole and line
skipjack fishing prospects with colleagues from Niue, Kiribati and Fiji
The conference room at the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Noumea is the venue for the regional Heads of Fisheries Meeting - a wide-ranging consultative process that covers coastal fisheries and aquaculture as well as oceanic fisheries science.
Day one of the meeting provided an opportunity for most of the SPC membership to convene as a steering committee covering three major regional fisheries projects funded by the European Union's Economic Development Fund under the Cotonou Agreement.
The EU currently funds more Pacific Island regional fisheries projects than any other single donor - a reflection of the importance that Pacific Islands place upon the fisheries sector, and the importance that the EU places upon sponsoring sustainable development.
Monte Depaune, the head of the Nauru delegation, was thanked by the Chairman for constructive and helpful suggestions during a discussion on how the EU projects could help in improving the monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) of tuna fisheries.
Tuna fisheries law enforcement - the control of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing - is a major issue on the regional agenda at the moment. Purse-seine fishing vessels are now required to have a Pacific Island observer aboard at all times when in Pacific Island waters, but cases of observer maltreatment by foreign fishing vessels appear to be on the increase.
NFMRA is considering making a proposal at the next MCS Working Group meeting in Honiara, at the end of March, to seek support for a new addition to the regional "Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions for Foreign Fishing Vessel Access". A new condition that would lead to a vessel being struck off the Regional Register of fishing vessels if it is judged to have mistreated a Pacific Island observer. If this is agreed it would prevent that vessel from obtaining a licence to fish within any Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency member country's fisheries waters, until it regains "good standing".
Loss of good standing on the Pacific Islands Regional Register would be grounds for IUU-listing with the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which would then effectively prevent the vessel legally fishing anywhere in the world.