The outcome of the annual Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) Officials meeting has already been hailed as ground-breaking by the 17 members as well as by international NGOs present at the meeting. Image: FFA

The annual Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) Officials meeting concluded with a headline decision to strengthen the regional harmonised minimum requirements for fishing licences with the addition of Crew Employment Conditions.
Speaking from the meeting, Forum Fisheries Agency director-general 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.’
‘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,’ said the meeting’s chairman, executive director of Federated States of Micronesia’s National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA), Eugene Pangelinan.
He commented further 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,’ he said.
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 a final draft FFA Strategic Plan 2020-2025 for forwarding to Ministers for their endorsement when they meet next month.
Agreement was also reached on strengthening 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 IUU fishing, 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 who 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.’