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    Sunday, September 22, 2019-10:13:31A.M.






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Regional News

Ending slavery at sea headlines key regional fisheries meeting

POHNPEI (Press Release) — The annual Forum Fisheries Committee officials meeting concluded with a headline decision to strengthen the regional harmonized minimum requirements for fishing licenses with the addition of crew employment conditions.

The outcome has already been hailed as “ground-breaking” by the 17 members as well as by international NGOs present at the meeting.

Speaking from the meeting the director-general of the Forum Fisheries Agency or FFA, Dr. Manu-Tupou-Roosen noted that the decision of members would now require embedding in national procedures.

“The fishing vessel operator will now become formally responsible for the health, welfare and safety of the crew while he or she is on board the vessel, and will be required to meet decent standards in respect of salary and conditions for all crew,” observed Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

“This is a giant step forward in helping to ensure that the ‘slavery at sea’ identified in other global fisheries does not blight the Pacific region. It will help ensure that basic human rights are protected for those working in our offshore tuna fishery.”

The chairman of the meeting, executive director of the Federated States of Micronesia’s National Oceanic Resource Management Authority or NORMA, Eugene Pangelinan, observed that “while the region’s regional offshore tuna fisheries are already the most sustainably managed in the world, we now expect all operators in the fishery to treat crew members in a way that reflects the values and expectations of our combined membership.”

Executive Director Pangelinan also noted that by setting these standards more Pacific Island nationals will be motivated to become crew on fishing vessels thus meeting an objective to enhance local employment in the Industry. “This is a goal our leaders have set us and we are proud to be taking this work forward.”

Participants at the meeting have noted heightened concerns over conditions in high seas fisheries, especially on foreign longlining vessels which often require crew to stay at sea for up to a year with poor pay and conditions and harsh penalties for dissent.

Meeting in Pohnpei, the 17 member countries of the FFA also agreed on the following:

  • • A final draft FFA Strategic Plan 2020-2025 for forwarding to ministers for their endorsement when they meet next month.
  • • Strengthened work on assessing the impacts of climate change on offshore fisheries;
  • • A new regional longline strategy to underpin stronger returns to island countries;
  • • Enhanced measures to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and
  • • Priorities for FFA members to take forward in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

This week was also a time of reflection for NORMA and FFA which both celebrate 40 years of operation.

“I cannot stress enough that although much has been achieved in 40 years, there is still much to do particularly with emerging issues and challenges such as climate change. We work to ensure our people enjoy social and economic benefits from a sustainably managed offshore tuna resource and this wouldn’t be possible without key partnerships,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

“I want to particularly thank NORMA for hosting us this year. But also I want to thank our members for their continued trust in us. Cooperation, is without a doubt what has brought us this far and it will be how we advance for the next 40 or more years.”

Coincidently, the fisheries meeting concludes on the 40th anniversary of the FSM becoming a self-governing nation.