Tuna Meeting Introduces New Safety Measures For Fisheries Observers

Five observers have died over the past six years

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 12, 2016) – For the first time, observers can go to work knowing there is help, if ever they fall sick or are harassed or intimated by crew members while out at sea, there is a safety net onshore to help them.

The urgency for action had been heightened by the deaths of five observers in the last six years.

They are Wesley Talia, Larry Gavin, Charlie Lasisi of Papua New Guinea, Usaia Masibalavu from Fiji and Keith David from the United States of America who died in their line of duty, reportedly under fishy circumstances.

The historic decision giving this effect, was made by the Pacific Tuna Commission, also known as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, at the closure of its annual meeting which ended in Nadi, Fiji last Friday.

The adoption of this measure by the commission now means, the nation’s providing the observers, the flag state of the boat on which they serve and the coastal state in which they are fishing are obliged to assist.

It came down to the wire and the measure would have been lost with the distant water fishing nations (DWFN) refusing to budge on the matter.

However, the united front put up by the Pacific Islands and their decision to ask for a vote on the issue prompted a last-minute announcement by Japan agreeing to this resolution.

The role of observers has become extremely important for not just scientists in ascertaining the stock levels of the fishery but for compliance.

That makes it also very dangerous, with more of the information they collect being used by authorities for investigations and prosecution of non-compliance

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Western and Central Pacific Tuna program manager, Alfed Bubba Cook, who has been a staunch advocate on issues of observer safety, said getting the measure across the line was a huge accomplishment.

Mr Cook credited all those who had been involved, particularly the Pacific Island Forum Fishing Agency (FFA) who had demanded the vote on that issue, adding it was symbolic in that it sent a strong message to the DWFN, that they won’t be pushed around on matters that are important to them.

However, he said it regrettable that people had to die for this measure to gain traction.

"You would think that issues of human health and safety would not require negotiations or require coercion to get people to agree to the protection of people serving them," Mr Cook said.

He had urged in his remarks soon after the adoption of the measure by the commission had said this be applied across all tuna regional fisheries management organisations as well.

Japan has a two-year exemption from the measure.

FFA’s director general James Movick said while it was a tough process and he had commended the commission, Japan and the Pacific Islands who had been unwavering in standing for the rights of those who are in the front of the region’s oceanic fishery.

Chief executive officer of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Ludwig Kumorualso lauded this achievement stating it was a huge step forward for the industry.

PNG Post-Courier
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