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Regional News

Pohnpei hosts symposium on technology for tuna transparency

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services) — In response to Peter M. Christian, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, calling for complete transparency in FSM’s commercial tuna fisheries by 2023, from April 10 to 12, the Technology for Tuna Transparency or T-3 Challenge Electronic Monitoring Symposium was held at PMA Studio in Pohnpei State.

Sponsored by the FSM National Government through the National Oceanic Management Resource Authority, and by The Nature Conservancy, the Forum Fisheries Agency, and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, the symposium explored how electronic monitoring or EM fits into control and surveillance to support sustainable fisheries, how EM is presently being used in the Western and Central Pacific, EM in the seafood supply chain, how to scale EM for increased use in the FSM and the Pacific, and moving forward with a regional vision for tuna transparency through EM.

Marcelo Peterson, governor of Pohnpei State, provided the welcoming remarks. “If over 50 percent of the global tuna supply comes from our part of the world, then we must do everything it takes to ensure its sustainable management through the use of new technologies such as EM. EM will help assure us the long-term sustainability of these resources.”

National Oceanic Management Resource Authority Executive Director Eugene Pangelinan provided the introductory remarks. He noted that in attendance were ambassadors and ministers of sovereign nations, such as George Fraser of Australia and Alexis Maino of Papua New Guinea, and Dennis Momotaro, minister of resources and development for the the Marshall Islands, representatives of key local and regional partners such as the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and regional stakeholders such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Fiji Fisheries, the Australia Fisheries Management Authority, and global partners such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Fishing Watch, and many more.

A Group photo of the T-3 Challenge Electronic Monitoring Symposium participants and attendees in Pohnpei.  FSMIS photoA Group photo of the T-3 Challenge Electronic Monitoring Symposium participants and attendees in Pohnpei. FSMIS photo

He said: “How often do we get all interested parties in the same room on the same platform with equal opportunity to speak freely?... Let us start the conversation of regionally aligning all the moving parts…to talk about EM…. My wish is that at the close of this symposium we’ll all be more informed and inspired to…implement EM programs.”

Marion Henry, secretary of the Department of Resources & Development, spoke on behalf of FSM President Christian to provide the keynote address. “You have traveled from afar to be here today, which is a solid testimony of your commitment to address this growing problem within our midst…. I urge full and frank discussions and sharing of information on the use of EM to assist in our continuing fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and transnational crimes being committed in our backyards…. I believe that our countries, as resource custodians, must follow the trend by also utilizing EM for our own purposes and our own advantages…. Past our recognized borders, we collectively carry the responsibility for effective stewardship of this important resource for the sake of posterity and humankind.”

Alexis Maino, roving ambassador of PNG to the FSM, provided additional remarks. “The challenges of monitoring and controlling our vast maritime territories are many.… Today, we embrace the move towards a far more advanced stage of electronic monitoring systems which we hope will result in promoting elements of transparency for sustainable fisheries management. PNG welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively with other Pacific Island countries, including members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement at all levels to develop and implement electronic monitoring capabilities across the entire region.”

Participants attending the EM symposium enjoyed a variety of frank and open conversations, with sessions primarily comprised of panel discussions.

EM, at its core, is about putting video cameras on fishing vessels — and, in conjunction with machine learning and artificial intelligence, with assistance from on-the-boat work from observers and data analysis, greatly improves transparency, data quality, and decision-making with regards to a given fishery’s operation. To emphasize the need for EM, it was advised during the symposium that 90 percent of global fisheries don’t have the basic data they need to become sustainable — either environmentally, or economically; EM helps to provide the data necessary to make these fisheries sustainable. EM has shown in Australia, for example, a 25 percent increase in retained catch relative to dependent and independent reporting.