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Palau hosts subregional meeting on the FAO Port State Measures Agreement to fight illicit fishing

Participants at the first Pacific meeting in Palau on the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures.
29/08/2017 Palau, FSM

The Palau capital plays host this week to the first subregional meeting in the pacific on the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.  The workshop has been jointly organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The world’s first treaty designed to combat illegal fishing went into effect almost one year ago – on 5 June 2016. It now has 48 parties to the Agreement – with Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu comprising the three Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that have become parties to the Agreement which is designed to help fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The week-long meeting is the first on the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) in the Pacific and brings together concerned states, various ministries and agencies of Palau to learn about the Agreement and the responsibilities of a party to the Agreement. Also participating in the meeting are representatives of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC) and the neighboring Micronesian countries of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati and Nauru. The meeting is divided into classroom and hands on practical sessions to brief government officers and the private sector on the implementation of the Agreement, a gap analysis session to identify strengths and weaknesses of administrations capacities to implement the Agreement and a field visit to fishing vessels to see how the Agreement works in operation.

Speaking at Monday’s opening ceremony, the Minister for Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism Mr Umiich Sengebau noted the importance of the Port State Measures Agreement to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing not only to Palau, but to all countries around the world to ensure the sustainability of fisheries. “For small island like Palau, we have come to realize that the rich Pacific Ocean fish stocks that sustain our people are under threat from climate change, pollution and over fishing – including vast illegal, pirate fishing – the illegal unreported and unregulated fishing that is estimated to cost the Pacific tuna fishery between USD 500 and USD 750 million every year” he said.

FAO Senior Fisheries and Aquaculture Officer, Francis Chopin said, “The Agreement signals a real sea change in the international community’s commitment to combat IUU fishing in a concerted and joint manner.”  The meeting also “provides the opportunity for FAO, within the framework of it’s Blue Economy and Blue Growth initiative, to collaborate with regional partners - the FFA and the SPC - to assist the Pacific SIDS in delivering technical assistance by combining the legal and monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) experts of FFA and SPC with FAOs Legal and policy officers and international experts in MCS”, he stated.

In his opening address, Minister Sengebau emphasized the importance of issues related to illegal fishing and the need for countries to work together to combat it. “As a small island developing state with a huge ocean area surrounding it, Palau is particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing. Minister Sengebau stressed the importance of collaboration and partnerships between countries in the fight against IUU fishing. “This is not only crucial to achieving sustainable fisheries management for the future, but also of critical importance on an economic level for affected fishing nations” he said. Minister Sengebau informed workshop participants that “the workshop is an opportunity for Palau to reaffirm its commitment to taking the necessary initiatives, at the national, regional and global levels, to promote the conservation and management of the marine resources in a sustainable manner.

“This meeting is the start of a processes to develop the baseline for Palau through a facilitated self-assessment of the legal, policy and institutional frameworks currently in place”, said Mr. Camileri, fisheries policy officer of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.  “This will be complemented by sessions on the required operational procedures such as inspection operations, investigations and evidence collection, communications, decision making and information systems to combat IUU fishing” he said.

Mr Blaise Kuemlangan Chief of FAOs Development Law Service said that the Agreement on Port State Measures, developed under FAO auspices, aims to prevent fish caught through illegal fishing from entering national and international markets by prohibiting the entry into and use of ports by foreign vessels engaged, or believed to be engaged, in IUU fishing and noted that on 30 November 2015, Palau became the first Pacific Island Country to accede to the Agreement, followed by Tonga and Vanuatu. “The Agreement requires that port state measures are applied to foreign vessels entering ports to prevent, deter and eliminate illicit fishing.  However, the Agreement does not prevent a port State like Palau to apply the same measures to its own vessels if it so wishes” he said.

The FFA Legal Counsel, Manu Tupou-Roosen informed the 40 meeting participants that cooperation would be key to implementing the PSMA, including in the sharing of information. She highlighted that port States measures play a key role in the comprehensive MCS framework in the region. In particular, she also highlighted the tools available or under current development under the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA) framework that could assist in meeting the resource demands required to implement port State measures. 

In the coming days, workshop participants are expected to identify policy, legal, institutional and operational gaps and to develop a strategy for Palau to address these gaps in order to implement procedures consistent with the Agreement to combat IUU fishing, together with a strategy for a wider uptake and implementation of the Agreement in the Micronesian sub-region.

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