Is blockchain such a silver bullet? by Francisco Blaha

Lots and lots of talk in the media about the potential of blockchain to solve issues from IUU fishing to forced labour and so on. I personally think that such a hype, typical from media that does not fully grasp the complexities around IUU fishing and forced labour (or even blockchain!) is not really conductive and as any hype, could be detrimental to the cause in the long term.

the tool does not replace the MCS job, it just makes the results transparent and verifiable.

the tool does not replace the MCS job, it just makes the results transparent and verifiable.

I don't like the present hype because it puts too much pressure on one example of very good use of technology, but is not more than that.... IUU and forced labour issues are multifaceted and involve a lot of jurisdictions, socioeconomic and political aspects. Pining the solutions, on one data architecture tool is really unfair and risks hyper-inflating the expectations on what that technology can offer, and then people walking away because it does not deliver on the hype that was built around it. 

There plenty of explanations of what blockchain is, the way I see it is basically a digital ledger that is distributed, decentralised, verifiable and irreversible, so their records can’t be changed once in (but you still have to record it!) is a mechanism that can be used to record transactions of almost anything and where “ownership / responsibility” needs to be accounted for. 

I don't see limitations on the technology (blockchain) but rather on the political will to implement a system based on any technology available. Blockchain just offer some advances over other technologies to set up a Catch Documentation Scheme, which if implemented and set up the right way, involving the full set of MCS tools and catch accountancy requirements at flag, coastal, port, processing and end market states (read this book to know what you need how is to be done ☺) does has the chance to control IUU, but is a system that need to be adopted / imposed / sanctioned along the value chain by RFMOs, witch at the present are toothless tigers, in respect to compliance.

The willingness of any player in the seafood value chain to be part of any system that add transparency is based on the perceived economic benefits arising from its use and/or the fear of regulatory consequences of its "not use" (assuming the government agencies responsible have the mandate, willingness and capacity to enforce the rules)

Which  development tool (block chain, relational databases, etc) to use, is an interesting discussion, but the key point in my view, if "how" the tool is going to be imposed. 

Some players (like the system my friends set up in Fiji) can see the use of such a system as way to make better earnings and position themselves as the ethical operators they are, and see benefits along their customer base. But the company down the road (literally) has a very profitable and established market somewhere else that does not require any form of ethical assurances... so where is their incentive to use the system? (Which as I said is independent of the tool)

Now, if Fiji or any other country was to legislate that such as system is required by law for any trade and exports, that in principle is great... but no doubt will increase costs to the Fijian operators whom in turn would may not be able to recover it from the clients. Since your have other countries that produce the same fish and have not even thought about institutionalising such a transparency tool and they will be more competitive than Fijian producers are.

And here, is for me the key issue, we have not formalised the incentives system by which the ethical and legal operators are rewarded and the non ethical are punished by consumers* and regulators... and that is not going to be changed by any App or traceability tool (Independent of type of programming tool its used) implemented voluntarily by some operators or institutionalised only by some countries, while the competitor operators or countries (or the DWFN fishing on them) do not take part. 

Any flow takes the path of less resistance, fisheries is no different. Until there is no global commitment to value chain transparency tools like Catch Documentation Schemes (based on any technologies) we are just tinkering along the sides, by providing transparency to the value chain of responsible operators (who in reality did not needed them in the first place - otherwise they would have not volunteered to be part of the pilot project) we are showing it is possible, but we are not solving the issue.

Don't get me wrong, is great that systems like the one form my friends in Fiji works along the established value chain they have, because it shows that the system are able to produce results, and I’m sure it would work in another value chains like canned and loined tuna in the Solomons Islands, since they are also well regulated and run by very ethical operators. Yet these operators have never been the problem, is the rest of the sector that needs transparency... and that as any other transnational crime setup needs a combined and global effort, otherwise there would be always backdoors that can be used.

As my friend Gilles Hosch said: “With CDS we have developed a market-based tool to effectively tackle a range of severe forms of IUU fishing. Whether the collective will to adopt and expand these systems exists, is a different matter.”

*The whole argument that the ethical consumer will reward the good practices and transparency with a price plus, maybe real for part of the 29% of the world population the earns more than 10 USD a day, unfortunately my life experience has shown me that "ethics" is a very shifty ground... but then, I have grown up and spent a significant part of my life being part of the 71% that lived below that threshold.

Training on Science and Media by Francisco Blaha

A almost constant in my life is that I have started working or getting involved in area and then later on did some studies on it. I got into blogging because the template in which I developed my website had a blog page and a picture gallery so I just started to add content, but there is more to that.

Media training in for science in action

Media training in for science in action

A couple of times I have run into trouble for the contents of my blog posts, because I’m quite honest (candid?) about my limitations, issues and problems and I instinctively pass this attitude to of some of the issues we face in fishing. I fell like if I put them “on the table”, it means that I recognise them and I’m in control of what I need to do.

Other people see this as portraying your failures, and those who run a different agenda can use this info against you.… and I understand those sensitivities, yet I still think that total honesty and transparency about my failures is the best road to take, since you take the power “off” your critics and place it under what you are doing to change.

Yet being “out there” and having opinions (like the ones in this blog)  exposes you to the media… and as anything you do, it has advantages and disadvantages. Hence how to deal with media requires some training, and that is an opportunity I never had… until today, here at the University of Auckland.

A month ago I applied for one of the 12 places at the Science Media SAVVY workshop of the New Zealand Science Media Centre*, and luckily I was chosen to participate.

This is a two-day workshop designed to encourage effective media engagement, build skills and confidence, and enable scientists to navigate a range of media encounters with success.

More than basic media training, this course has been built from the ground up to meet the needs of scientists and researchers. It offer practical exercises to help researchers explain complex ideas clearly, introduce tools and strategies for connecting with new audiences, all while providing feedback and support from fellow researchers.

The workshop also offers a unique chance to make valuable media contacts and gain first -hand insight into news media practices during an invited journalists’ panel and newsroom tour. New skills are then put to the test with the chance to pitch research stories directly to interested reporters.

Their programme says that:
Researchers on the SAVVY course will:
  • gain insight into what works for media
  • work out compelling ways to explain tough concepts
  • learn to be enthusiastic without losing credibility
  • improve their on-camera presence with simulated TV interviews
  • get advice on handling risk and controversy
  • practice saying what they really mean to under pressure
  • learn how scientists can use social media to their advantage

And so far so good! I’m leaning a lot and interacting with people that are way clever than me. Issues around how to structure the message and how to deal with media, body language, editorial keywords not only from the perspective of my opinion being sought, but also from the content I’m creating.

is a delicate balance, and one I'm sure I don't always get right. But then, if would not have takes risk over my life, I will still piling hake boxes in the hold of a rusty trawler in Argentina. I hope i can use this training to improve on this blog. Watch the space


*The  Science Media Centre is an independent, publicly - funded resource for New Zealand  scientists and journalists covering science -related issues. their aim is to promote accurate, evidence - based reporting on science and research by helping the media work more closely with the scientific community.


On being a Mentor for Fishackathon 2018. by Francisco Blaha

Back in the days when I was on boats, I was seen kind a "big" nerd (almost 2 m tall ex rower and swimmer), because I was always tinkering with tech gear (very basic on those days) on board, then later on the research vessels got the chance to meet the fisheries science and oceanographic nerds (normally much smaller than me). We thinker around statistical modelling, echo sounder setups - calibration and also using and adapting existing gear to get most data we needed. Only many years later (and a massive tech step forward), I got to be involved with people developing Apps for fisheries data collection. I always enjoyed expanding the range of people being interested in Fisheries.

not your usual fisheries meeting 

not your usual fisheries meeting 

Well this weekend my fisher/nerd interphase take a step further, since I been asked to mentor in the Fishackathon 2018.

The Fishackathon is a global hackathon dedicated to developing tools and apps to help make our planet’s waters, aquaculture, and fisheries more sustainable and equitable. On February 10-11, thousands of world-class technologists will work (usually through the night!) within an extremely short time frame to produce innovative prototypes that address real-world problems sourced by partners and governments. HackerNest is the volunteer-run nonprofit that the U.S. Department of State has partnered with to produce the 2018 series.

This is an even happening in quite a lot of cities, read more here about the Fishackathon host cities.

What does mentor do in this event?
Mentors help to guide and advise participants leading up to (sporadically, via**) and at the hackathon (6+ hours spread over two days). As a subject-matter experts (most developers aren’t familiar with the fishing) we may have scientists, academics, designers, technologists, business mentors, and others to provide  support to teams by sharing their insights, experience, and feedback. This helps to ensure that teams are building projects that are both relevant and useful.

What is my take about it?
Well... some of the challenges presented are a bit wishi washi in my opinion… I'm always a bit afraid to sound to cynical or arrogant in my criticism of initiatives. Is not based on any form of malice, is only that I been a log time in this game and I’ve seen very good intended initiatives being ripped apart (by those not interested in having transparency and new tools in the fishery) based on their inapplicability or lack of technical consistency, instead of being evaluated for the potential outcomes.

I see a lot of big words and really “open ended” outcomes on the presented challenges.

I personally see Apps as very practical tools to do a well-delimited job, and some of these challenges are in my opinion, way too ambitious for one tool to be developed in two days… but there have been proposed by some “BIG” names (EJF, MSC, Global Fishing Watch, Stockholm Resilience Centre, and so on)

I also presented as an individual (without the backing of any institution) a challenge for tool, a Boarding and Inspection Officers Support App. My request is a very straight tool that help inspectors in the Pacific to their job: a Android based App for a tablet, that using 3G or 4G network could be able to tap into a IAS based platform for the WCPFC authorised vessels, and support the following functions:

  1. Via a simple interface, allow the boarding officer to input the vessel’s ID elements and a limited range of dates (i.e max 60 days) for the App to provide track of that vessel during those days plotted over a google map (or earth) platform.
  2. Once the vessel data is graphically plotted; have a function that allow the boarding officer to manually enter a position he sees in the logsheet or log book and the App "mounts" the position entered manually "over" the AIS track of the vessel to see if there is coincidence
  3. If the App could then identify any vessels that were in close contact (0.5 nautical miles or 1 km) with the inspected vessels over the period plotted and provide estimated positions and dates, that would be an amazing source of information to investigate potential unauthorised transhipments, or at sea bunkering.

Such an App would allow the boarding officer to note substantial differences in between the information provided to him and an independent source of information. If notable differences are noted, it could temporally deny port use (along the tenants of PSMA) and refer back to the fisheries office to initiate for solid investigations and evidence gathering. The result of a deeper investigation, could either authorise port use, or lead to a prosecution

As your see,my one is practical tool, presented by just one guy, hence it has no much "glamour" or "fancy words" around it, so I guess I understand why wasn't selected. (Get in touch with me, if you want the full proposal, tho)

Anyway, lets see, how the next couple of days go, is always good to know new people that can bring new perspectives (that hopefully work) into fisheries


The impact of the EU IUU Regulation on seafood trade flows. by Francisco Blaha

There is no secret that I am a constructive critic of the EU IUU Catch Certification Scheme, while at the same time I have specialised in helping countries to deal with it and get off Yellow cards (particularly in the pacific). Yet I have repeated many times that my criticism was not a the principle (which is great!) but at the poor design of the implementing tool, the catch certification itself.

where every catch cert should start.

where every catch cert should start.

Since its implementation there are many things that I have criticised, but the key one was the lack of centralised electronic database, working on the same principles than TRACES, the one the EU already have for heath certification. Some of the higher masters in MARE did not took well my criticism to the point of complaining to FAO for my inclusion on the CDS expert consultation (thankfully FAO backed me up)

The carding system (yellow, red) was never part of the regulation itself, but rather a football analogy (in rugby with a yellow card you leave the field for 10 minutes), yet has been the most visible outcome of the IUU Reg, and no doubts the "name and shame approach" has pushed many countries into action, and that has been a good thing.

Only recently some NGOs have started digging into the “effectiveness” of the CCS and come up with some reports that in many ways support with their own data the criticisms that some of us were vocal about.

Here is the latest: The impact of the EU IUU Regulation on seafood trade flows: Identification of intra-EU shifts in import trends related to the catch certification scheme and third country carding process.

I leave it up to you to read, but it confirms things some of us have said for years: with no centralized database the system will always be ineffective, and if you one border gets to “tough” send it to the country next door… and so on.

Or in the report own words:

The future EU-wide database of CC information, currently being developed by the European Commission, presents further opportunities for strategic trade monitoring. Once complete, this would allow additional information (e.g. on flag States of origin and processing countries) to be cross-referenced against data in Eurostat, to aid interpretation of trends. Together, these datasets could present a powerful tool to identify trade anomalies or discrepancies indicative of IUU fishing activities.
Trade analysis can also confirm suspected shifts in the origin and destination of imports resulting from border controls and the carding process. This was seen for the reflagging of Sri Lankan vessels to the Maldives following the Sri Lankan import ban, and the diversion of swordfish imports to Portugal following increased verifications in Spain.

Friends, tunas and Blockchain in Fiji by Francisco Blaha

Plenty of info in the news lately on the combined efforts of 3 friends from different times in my life that got together in one project and created a blockchain based traceability structure for tuna  caught, process and exported by one company in Fiji.

Unloading in Fiji

Unloading in Fiji

This is good news since is sui generis system developed by good people that have their skin in the game. The boat/company owner is Brett ‘Blu” Haywood from SeaQuest, whom I have know for over 10 years now. Then is the fish techy, Ken Katafono from TraseAble, who until very recently was the IT boss at FFA, he is a really nice guy and is in this game for the long term, and the is Bubba Cook also a friend that is behind a lot of good work in the tuna world from his job at WWF.

Here is a good explanation of the operational side of the system

The pilot they got involved got things right by testing it in well-managed scenario. Fiji has a efficiently controlled fishery with good regulatory oversight, run by mostly domestic operators (I say mostly because there are substantial Chinese interests behind some key operators), mostly local crew, dockside processors, short value chains and responsible importers in defined markets and all keen to do the right thing. Fiji is here at the same time Flag, Coastal, Port and Processing State, hence would be difficult to find a better scenario to test the system.

For me the key aspect of key interest is that it is based on Blockchain, a technology that is rapidly advancing into many areas of our world. Basically, a blockchain is a digital ledger that is distributed, decentralised, verifiable and irreversible. It can be used to record transactions of almost anything and where “ownership/responsibility” needs to be accounted for.

It is a shared database that everyone along the value chain can see and update, hence giving it a lot of transparency, all players along the value chain can see and verify the ledger, but no one can alter or delete the history of transactions with out everyone else noticing.

Ideally, an interested consumer could scan a code on a fish (hopefully before buying it) and know its “self -verified” history back to the vessel… (I say "self verified", since if all the players are inserting ‘suitable arranged data’ the system will still work), but in principle if it includes official guarantees it could provide bona fide guarantees of its legality…

Some people has been calling it a solution for fisheries “sustainability” and human right abuses…

I don't like that because it puts too much pressure on one example of very good use of technology.... those issues are multifaceted and involve a lot of jurisdictions, pining the solutions on one system is really unfair to that system and risk hyper-inflating the expectations on the tool and then people walking away because it does not deliver on the hype that was built around it.   

Furthermore, for me “Sustainability is a process” not a line drawn somewhere. Everything has advantages and disadvantages, and we have to navigate ethical choices since there is no one perfect way to achieve a complex goal. What is ethical and sustainable depends deeply from where one is standing in any system.

In any case I love to see that is working, as it is a solution for short value chains with a few players on a "decentralised" system (meaning each player is voluntary a "central" of sorts), hence the system works.

Now on a non voluntary system, where there are no incentives for the "player to do its bit", and we have processing over multiple jurisdictions, the system may need to be centralised or gatekeept either at one or connecting levels... and involve official verifications, otherwise "mass balance" would be complicated.

And there lies the challenge for anyone playing this game, as my friend Gilles said, “With CDS, we have the means to effectively tackle IUU, but whether the collective will to do so exists is a different matter.”

In our recent FAO book "Seafood traceability for fisheries compliance" we tackled the issue of Blockchain for eCDS, and I quote:

“The so-called “blockchain” technology is set to revolutionize the way in which data that were centrally recorded and managed are recorded at the decentralized level in future. Our statement does not challenge this. Blockchain technology may eventually eliminate the need for central registries, and is therefore likely to reduce the complexity and cost of transnational traceability systems. Current compliance functions enforced through a CDS central registry will remain in place to identify fraudulent transactions in blockchain systems and environments. The difference between a central registry and a blockchain approach to CDS data is a matter of form, not function.”

I’m truly exited to see where this is going, and have already involved Ken in the idea of an e-Port initiative (paperless, interconnected and uploading directly into regional databases and a eCDS) I’m working on... so watch their space.

The potential use of ‘automatic identification systems – AIS’ as a fisheries monitoring tool. by Francisco Blaha

The good people of Fish-i-Africa has produced another very good document: The potential use of ‘automatic identification systems – AIS’ as a fisheries monitoring tool. The report offers an understanding of the potential and challenges of using automatic identification system (AIS) as part of MCS operations and provides recommendations for the potential national and regional utilisation of AIS. I wrote about AIS in the past, and this document is very complete so it get into my ever expanding resources library.

One of 60,638 Chinese fishing vessels... (yes that number is correct)

One of 60,638 Chinese fishing vessels... (yes that number is correct)

 Of course is best to refer to the original, but I just would like to highlights some of the things that impacted me the most.

From the Executive Summary

Like any other fisheries monitoring tool, AIS has advantages and disadvantages, and is most effective when used in combination with other approaches. AIS is the least expensive vessel monitoring system capable of both near shore and high seas monitoring, and has the benefit of transparency, as data is unencrypted and can be received by anyone with the appropriate equipment. However, software and analytical capacity is required to translate raw AIS data into usable intelligence and is an integral cost of using AIS.
AIS units are more susceptible to tampering than some other types of vessel tracking technology. AIS data is also subject to prosecutorial limitations – it generally cannot be used as the sole piece of evidence to prosecute acts of illegal fishing, although it has successfully been used in proceedings with less strict evidentiary requirements, such as out of court settlements. However, AIS can be used very effectively in combination with other approaches – for example, to target the deployment of enforcement assets such as coastguard vessels and planes, and to provide intelligence to target and inform dockside inspections.
The strengths and weaknesses of AIS make it a suitable tool to complement the use of VMS (vessel monitoring systems). VMS are mandated by several flag states, coastal states and several regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). Whilst VMS units are more difficult to tamper with compared to AIS, they also have limitations, including lack of transparency and less continuous reporting (data is often reported every 1-4 hours). Use of both AIS and VMS transponders can therefore increase transparency and reliability and greatly reduce the likelihood of a vessel going dark due to actual or claimed system malfunction.
Key recommendations
To maximise the impact of AIS as a tool to reduce illicit fishing activities, coastal, flag and port States are recommended to:
  • Maximise AIS use by fishing vessels – increase the number of fishing vessels transmitting AIS signals, by requiring AIS use through, where possible, regionally harmonised, coastal, flag and port State measures (including as a licensing and registration requirement) and RFMO conservation and management measures.
  • Ensure access to AIS data – develop capacity and support to analyse AIS data, combining data from shore-based and satellite receivers supported by expert analysis of the data.
  • Utilise AIS analysis for MCS – wherever possible support MCS operations and infraction investigations and prosecutions with AIS data and analysis.

Some very interesting data on usage by the DWFN

Taiwan: No flag State mandates, however a search of a free AIS viewer showed over 2,500 Taiwan-flagged vessels equipped with AIS, 1,427 of which reported being fishing vessels
European Union: All EU member-country-flagged fishing vessels greater than 15 meters are required to operate AIS
Japan: No flag State mandates, however a search of a free AIS viewer showed over 4,102 Japan-flagged vessels equipped with AIS, 426 of which reported being fishing vessels.
Korea: AIS is required for vessels flagged by South Korea. A search of a free AIS viewer showed over 4,825 Korean Republic-flagged vessels equipped with AIS, 810 of which reported being fishing vessels8
China: AIS reported to be required for China-flagged vessels, legal mandate is unclear; a search of a free AIS viewer showed over 60,638 (!) China flagged vessels that reported being fishing vessels are equipped with AIS

Analysis of AIS tracks can be used to identify indications of high-risk activity, including:

  • Vessels turning off tracking systems such as AIS for significant periods while in national EEZs;
  • Reefers stopping and/or moving very slowly at sea for significant periods in a pattern possibly indicative of transhipment activity;
  • Vessels being uncooperative when inspections are required;
  • and, reports from several sources of reefers and fishing vessels coming together at sea.

The role of private data platforms in addressing IUU fishing and overfishing by Francisco Blaha

I have written in the past about the use of new tech to complement the more traditional technologies we use in MCS. In fact I have done some work with OceanMind (and I’m open to do more with them and others). I see this new technologies as further tools in a growing toolbox.

Image copyright by OceanMind

Image copyright by OceanMind

Solutions for complex issues like IUU come in many different ways and shapes, I don't think one unique system would ever be able to do all the tricks. The people on the food safety side for years have applied what they call "Hurdle Technology" that usually works by combining more than one approach aimed to a simple outcome, and I always liked that idea.

Now, how this groups and organization would maintain themselves beyond wealthy and committed donors, is something I still have to figure out, but unlike other colleagues… I totally welcome the presence of new tech providers and I’m more than happy to work constructively with them

A new briefing by Overseas Development Institute (ODI), an independent think thank based in London has been just published: Fishing for data: The role of private data platforms in addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overfishing by Miren Gutierrez, Alfonso Daniels and Guy Jobbins

They analyse the work of some of the mostly European based “providers” and daw some conclusions about them. Is not big read (9 pages) so go to the original, in the meantime I quote the briefing presentation, key messages and conclusions.

New technologies offer unique opportunities to support fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, particularly for countries in Africa and other regions without the means to patrol their waters or enforce legislation against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and overfishing.
This is the first comprehensive analysis of fisheries data platforms available. The briefing note highlights how developed countries and multilateral organisations have been slow to exploit these opportunities, and have failed to produce a single, effective, public global fisheries information tool. Although private initiatives tackling overfishing and IUU fishing using satellite and data technologies have emerged in recent years to bridge this gap, their potential is undermined by the limited size and insufficient quality of their datasets. Better data management and closer collaboration between these initiatives are needed, alongside improved fisheries governance and greater efforts to tackle corruption and curtail practices including the use of flags of convenience and secret fisheries agreements.
Key messages
  • New technologies offer unique opportunities to support fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, particularly for countries without the means to patrol their waters or enforce legislation against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and overfishing.
  • Developed countries and multilateral organisations have been slow to exploit these opportunities, and have failed to produce a single, effective, public global fisheries information tool.
  • Private initiatives tackling overfishing and IUU fishing using satellite and data technologies have emerged in recent years to bridge this gap, but their potential is undermined by the limited size and insufficient quality of their datasets.
  • Better data management and closer collaboration between these initiatives is needed, alongside improved fisheries governance and greater efforts to tackle corruption and curtail practices including the use of flags of convenience and secret fisheries agreements.
New technologies such as remote sensing and big data approaches are now common in several areas of environmental and natural resource governance., for example, uses satellite imagery to investigate, monitor and expose oil spills, mine failures and major pollution events. Initiatives using these technologies can expose malpractice to enforcement agencies, insurers, investors and the public, and generate pressure to hold someone accountable.
The fight against IUU fishing and the unsustainable exploitation of fisheries resources could benefit greatly from data activism and support to fisheries MCS and enforcement. Increasing datafication and the expansion of data infrastructure offer new resources for fisheries management.
While governments and multilateral organisations have been slow to capitalise on these opportunities, private initiatives such as the ones described in this briefing note are filling the gap. These initiatives have different strengths and abilities. FishSpektrum’s capacity to analyse and identify individual vessels, OceanMind’s real-time analytic focus, GFW’s computational capacities, Navama’s supply-chain mapping and TMT’s focus on the organisational aspects of international fisheries crimes all address different, critical parts of the challenge. In principle, collaboration and coordination between these initiatives could create a powerful data platform much more useful than any one individual component. How such collaboration can be incentivised between private organisations who are in effect competitors, and under what framework it might be conducted, remains an open question.
Whatever route private operators take, NGOs should demand action from governments and international agencies to improve transparency. A global, centralised database of vessels known or suspected of involvement in IUU fishing would be a good first step. The creation of a worldwide unique vessel identification scheme for and database of fishing vessels has been on the international agenda for too long and with too little progress. In the absence of such resources, the ability of enforcement agencies to address these international environmental crimes is seriously curtailed.
Ultimately, big data solutions alone will not tackle over fishing or end IUU fishing. Greater political will, improved governance and policy action, anti-corruption efforts, enhanced port measures and improved international coordination are all necessary to tackle these crimes. However, these new technologies can be an important tool in the fight against over fishing and IUU fishing, if they can be effectively harnessed. 




MSC changes its posture on compartmentalisation by Francisco Blaha

For a while now there have been criticisms to the MSC’s Standard for sustainable fishing by allowing “compartmentalisation” where a vessel can have catches that are certified and catches that are not, based on gear deployment modalities (on FADs or Free-school). I wrote about this (and other issues I have with the MSC process) in the past (here is my latest, but here are all my mentions). Hence I’m really happy to see that MSC has come back to the highest standards it see itself fostering, and has changed its posture on this issue.

right hand is MSC and left non MSC? or was it the other way?

right hand is MSC and left non MSC? or was it the other way?

It will require that all fishing activities on a target stock on a single trip to be certified against the MSC’s Standard for sustainable fishing, for tuna this means that instead of allowing vessels to catch FAD (non MSC) and free school (MSC) in the same trip, it would be up to the vessels to decide if the whole trip would be FAD free (other than the catches during FAD closure here in the pacific).

The decision was reached at the very recently at the MSC Board meeting in London this week. It followed an extensive, public consultation and a review in December 2017 by the MSC’s Technical Advisory Board.

As explained, in early 2017, the MSC initiated a review of its UoA requirements in response to concerns that the current rule allows a vessel to catch fish from the same stock using both certified and uncertified fishing gear or catch methods on a single trip. Under the new requirements this will not be possible; certified seafood will only enter MSC certified supply chains if it comes from fishing trips on which all activities on the target stock are certified.

This is all good news to me, and surely to the many observers and unloading operators I work in the Pacific whose work would be simplified from the present logistical (sometimes nightmarish) scenarios where different wells and lockers are (or not) MSC. Furthermore, many times due to storage availability or vessels stability, people on board was faced with the option of either loosing the MSC status by storing FAD fish on “MSC” wells or trying to lie about it. This way is much easier.

Is to be seen the operational and economic impact that this would have in the fleet, is my personal opinion (and I’m not an fisheries economist, so I could be wrong) that FAD fish is the “bread and butter” of the tuna fishery, while MSC is nice desert… but I don't know if the 3 month of FAD closure (ergo MSC by default) would be enough to maintain the cost of certification.

In any case, I’m a bit disappointed that the timing for the changes is quite substantial. The new UoA (Unit of Assessment) requirements, will be released in August 2018, fisheries entering assessment for the first time after February 2019 will need to comply with the new UoA requirements, and fisheries which are already under assessment or certified will have three years from August 2018 to make the transition to the new requirements.

I’m sure there are legal or strong commercial reasons for that 3 years lapse… I would have gone for immediate and negotiated for 1/1/2019… but then, I’m not making any money out of the ecolabeling business.

below the net is non MSC above is MSC... are your sure? (in carrier the compartmentalisation will continue)

below the net is non MSC above is MSC... are your sure? (in carrier the compartmentalisation will continue)

Ecosystem-based fisheries management in tuna RFMOs by Francisco Blaha

While working in FAO Rome, I trained on Ecosystems Based Fisheries Management (EBFM) and it was quite detailed and made sense… yet reality has a different take on good concepts. EBFM is a widely accepted concept and various international instruments require its application. However, its application at national level almost always brings about confrontations and resistance among managers, proponents, and stakeholders, which unless they all understand and accept the specific goals, the ecosystem approach will not succeed. So what chances are at RFMO level, which are hardly an example of common goals? 

Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 3.24.15 PM.png

Interestingly, this is a question that Maria José Juan-Jordá, Hilario Murua, Haritz Arrizabalaga, Nicholas K Dulvy, and Victor Restrepo have tried to answer in a recent article for Fish and Fisheries: Report card on ecosystem-based fisheries management in tuna regional fisheries management organisations

The Abstract reads:
International instruments of fisheries governance have set the core principles for the management of highly migratory fishes. We evaluated the progress of tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (tRFMOs) in implementing the ecological component of ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM). We first developed a best case tRFMO for EBFM implementation. Second, we developed criteria to evaluate progress in applying EBFM against this best case tRFMO. We assessed progress of the following four ecological components: target species, bycatch species, ecosystem properties and trophic relationships, and habitats. We found that many of the elements necessary for an operational EBFM are already present, yet they have been implemented in an ad hoc way, without a long-term vision and a formalized plan.
Overall, tRFMOs have made considerable progress monitoring the impacts of fisheries on target species, moderate progress for bycatch species, and little progress for ecosystem properties and trophic relationships and habitats. The tRFMOs appear to be halfway towards implementing the ecological component of EBFM, yet it is clear that the “low-hanging fruit” has been plucked and the more difficult, but surmountable, issues remain, notably the sustainable management of bycatch. All tRFMOs share the same challenge of developing a formal mechanism to better integrate ecosystem science and advice into management decisions. We hope to further discussion across the tRFMOs to inform the development of operational EBFM plans.

The conclusions are clear:
All the tRFMOs, at best, stand half way towards delivering the ecological elements of EBFM. We find progress has been implemented in an ad hoc manner, in the absence of a long-term vision and a formalized implementation plan. While overall performance varied across the ecological components, tRFMOs have made considerable progress within the ecological component of target species, moderate progress in the ecological component of bycatch species, but little progress in both the components of ecosystem properties and trophic relationships, and habitats.

All tRFMOs have adopted a myriad of management measures to manage target species and minimize the effects of fishing on bycatch species, yet no measures have been adopted to account for and minimize the impacts of fishing on the trophic relationships and food web structure of marine ecosystems, and protection of habitats of special concern.

Furthermore, none of the management measures adopted for target or bycatch species have been linked to pre-established operational objectives, associated indicators and reference points, precluding them to be activated when pre-defined reference points are exceeded, with the exception of Southern bluefin tuna in CCSBT and for dolphin species in IATTC. These findings revealed that the hard but important tasks of actually managing both target and bycatch species with pre-established management responses linked to clear operational objectives, indicators and reference points needs to be urgently addressed.

All the tRFMOs face similar challenges of coordinating all ecosystem research activities, developing an effective mechanism to better integrate ecosystem research and advice into management decisions, and communicating them to their respective Commissions. If tRFMOs were ambitious about operationalizing EBFM, we envisage a practical next step would be to develop EBFM plans to set up a roadmap to guide and advance towards its full implementation.

Furthermore, we believe its implementation should be seen as a step-wise adaptive process which should be supported by the best ecosystem science. With this comparative review of progress, we hope to encourage dialogue between tRFMOs to solve many of the current challenges facing them to fully implement and operationalize EBFM. Next, we present a set of grand challenges accompanied with primary recommendations that in our judgement, if addressed, could accelerate the implementation of EBFM across the tRFMOs. We also try to highlight ongoing initiatives and opportunities that potentially could help overcome these challenges.

  • Grand challenge 1—Break with misconceptions of what EBFM is and who should be the main drivers of change
  • Grand challenge 2—Commit to operationalize EBFM
  • Grand challenge 3—Develop operational EBFM plans
  • Grand challenge 4—Conduct a prioritization assessment to guide research to advance towards becoming a best case tRFMO
  • Grand challenge 5—Establish mechanisms to coordinate and integrate ecosystem research and to communicate ecosystem advice to the Commissions
  • Grand challenge 6—Establish mechanisms to facilitate collaboration across tRFMOs
  • Grand challenge 7—Increase external collaboration to increase capacity and bring new expertise within tRFMOs
  • Grand challenge 8—Strength decision-making and dispute settlement processes for more effective implementation of EBFM and adoption of conservation and management measures

The 2018 International Fisheries Observer and Monitoring Conference (IFOMC) by Francisco Blaha

There is a lot of talk about observers at the moment, people making interviews, discussion in the media, etc. And this is a good thing! Observers are the key player in the fisheries world, yet one that faces a lot of challenges, some (like safety) are known and push trough media others are less discussed (like work progression – what career development options are there for an observer, or issues about contracting, unions, insurances, among other hundred topics.)

Guys on the job 

Guys on the job 

Yet by its nature observers don't get the set up that scientist or even less fisheries bureaucrats in terms forums and congresses to get together and exchange experiences and information… in fact I only know one: The International Fisheries Observer and Monitoring Conference (IFOMC) that this year will take place in Vigo, Spain.

Since 1998, this conference series has been the only one of its kind to specifically address the many issues surrounding fisheries monitoring programs. This conference is the premier international forum for working on the critical issues of fisheries observer programs, emerging monitoring technologies, and other approaches to fishery-dependent data collection and analyses.

Its vision is to improve fishery monitoring programs worldwide through sharing of practices and development of new methods of data collection and analysis, and to provide a forum for dialog between those responsible for monitoring fisheries and those who rely upon the data they collect.

To be considered successful, the 2018 IFOMC will:

  • Improve the quality of fishery monitoring data through sharing of best practices for collection and analysis of information.
  • Improve the use of fishery monitoring data to support sustainable resource management.
  • Improve accessibility to fishery monitoring data.
  • Support the development of new innovative data collection methods.
  • Support the development of international safety standards for at-sea fisheries observers.
  • Improve the training and safety of at-sea fisheries observers.
  • Support the development of fisheries observer professionalism practices on an international basis.

The conference call for presentations and posters from everyone that has something to say under the following theme sessions for this year:

1. Why monitor fisheries and what to monitor
2. Industry engagement with monitoring
3. Monitoring artisanal fisheries
4. New approaches to analysing monitoring data

5. Assessing bias from monitoring programs
6. Harmonizing and standardizing monitoring programs

7. Briefing and debriefing observers
8. Observer training, safety and mental health

9. Technology used by observers
10. Operationalizing technology-based monitoring: learning from programs around the world

11. The future of monitoring programs

I only work laterally with observers (and I’m not part of any organization) so I have never presented anything there, but no doubt is the top forums for those that work on observer and eM issues !

I had long and interesting discussions about the compliance elements in the role of an observer (dong read enforcement! I’m saying compliance), and I always take the opportunity to have chat with the observers when I do boarding… they know more about that vessels that any other “official” in the world, and definitively more than most officers in the flag state of those vessels.

Observers, in my opinion, deserve a more way more prominent role at any of the fisheries decision making bodies we have, and I would love to see Pacific Islands Fisheries Observers meeting / conference.

I get sometime a lot of negative comments about the observers performance and conduct, yet is important to understand that as any other group of people in the world have inherent variability in their work, attitude and ethics… from the young observer that presented to us in the Marshalls the four 100 dollars bills (a week of wages for him) given to him by a skipper to keep quiet on a FAD set, to the guy that was so drunk on board that he could not even stand, even less do the job he was getting paid to do, while breaking the rule of no drinking alcohol while on board.

And the same goes for officials, consultants, captains, crew, etc… and that variability is just part of the reality we need to deal with, pretending we are all ideal or all evil will never work…. And talking about it is the way to go

In any case this post was about IFOMC, and I wish them the biggest success, and looking forward to read about the outcomes 

2018 here we go! by Francisco Blaha

Suddenly we are we already in 2018. I’m slowly back into working mood after some great little holiday with my wife and kids. We went down to "the Catlins" in the South Island of NZ, escaping “the invasion” of the island where we live (Waiheke) during the Xmas and new years period, and besides awesome speafishing and surfing, we also did a 150 km cycling trip trough the Otago Central Rail Trial. In syntesis, I had almost 3 weeks doing things I love: cooking, being in the ocean, cycling and laughing with my crazy family.

one of my favourite activities: spearfishing. The ocean and me, no engines, nets, gears and just enough fish to feed my family

one of my favourite activities: spearfishing. The ocean and me, no engines, nets, gears and just enough fish to feed my family

Furthermore, I had a great Xmas present: Carlos Fernadez Arco from Trade Solutions surprised me by nominating me to the Seafood Champion Awards (Advocay) organised by the SeaWeb. This came as total surprise to me and is a really generous act by Carlos. Is a big event, PNA got the price a few years ago and my friend Mariah Boyle was a finalist.

He asked me for some references… normally one would expect to have only big names… But most of the people I really work with, are at the basis of the sector in boats and wharfs, the big names just contract me. Hence we contacted some of the big names in big organisations (including the winner and a finalist from previous editions) and some of my co-workers in ports, boats and offices all through the world.

It was very nice to see that all were really enthusiastic to support me, so thank you all! We shall see if I pass the initial selection and who they will contact.

Just show the big truth that is my favourite maori proverb (whakatuaki): 

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

So anyway, this post starts my 4th year of blogging, so thank you for allowing me to continue pestering your screens for another year.

End of 2017 by Francisco Blaha

After a very busy year, with over 220 days away from home, working  from Guatemala to Tonga and Myanmar to Kiribati, from publishing a FAO book to boarding over 60 vessels, I’m taking time off in NZ’s South Island and dedicating full attention to my family. 


Thank you very much for your readership during 2017. I really hope you all have a good festive season, and raise a glass  for those at sea during this time. 


See you all in 2018

The Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery: 2016 overview and status of stocks by Francisco Blaha

As usual, SPC publishes excellent material. Their latest overview and status of stocks is no exemption. Authored by Stephen Brouwer, Graham Pilling, John Hampton, Peter Williams, Sam McKechnie and Laura Tremblay-Boyer is compulsory reading is you have an interest in the WCP tuna fishery, hence download from here.

nah bro... this ones don't count

nah bro... this ones don't count

I just quote the introduction for easy reference (but nothing ever beats the original!)

The tuna fisheries in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), encompassed by the Convention Area of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCP-CA), are diverse, ranging from small-scale, artisanal operations in the coastal waters of Pacific states, to large-scale, industrial purse-seine, pole-and-line and longline operations in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific states and in international waters (high seas). The main species targeted by these fisheries are skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), bigeye tuna (T. obesus) and albacore tuna (T. alalunga).

The current fishery characterisation includes updates to historical data, which show that the highest catch year was 2014. We expect revisions to the 2016 catch estimates in next year's report, as catch estimates in the most recent year are preliminary.

Annual total catch of the four main tuna species (skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore) in the WCP-CA increased steadily during the 1980s as the purse-seine fleet expanded, and remained relatively stable during most of the 1990s until the sharp increase in catch in 1998. Since then there has been an upward trend in total tuna catch, primarily due to increases in purse-seine catch with some stabilisation since 2009.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 9.40.05 PM.png

The provisional total WCP-CA tuna catch for 2016 was estimated at 2,686,203 tonnes (t) - a small drop from the record high of, 2,883,196t experienced in 2014. In 2016 the purse-seine fishery accounted for an estimated 1,832,761t (68% of the total catch), a drop from the record high of, 2,059,007t experienced in 2014 for this fishery. The pole-and-line fishery landed an estimated 199,081t (7% of the catch - a drop from the highest value (415,016t), recorded in 1984).

The longline fishery in 2016 accounted for an estimated 235,500t (9% of the catch) - a decrease from the highest value (284,782t) recorded in 2004. Troll gear accounted for 5% of the total catch (141,046t), a record catch, this was mainly due to a separation of the Indonesian troll catch from their combined artisanal gear catch.

The remaining 10% was taken by a variety of artisanal gear, mostly in eastern Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, which is a drop from the highest value (311,123t), recorded in 2015.

The WCP-CA tuna catch for 2016 represented 79% of the total Pacific Ocean catch (3,384,604t) and 55% of the global tuna catch (the provisional estimate for 2016 is 4,860,736t).

The 2016 WCP-CA catch of skipjack (1,786,463t - 67% of the total catch) was a drop from the highest value (2,002,512t), recorded in 2014; a decrease of 1% from 2015. The WCP-CA yellowfin catch for 2016 (649,446t - 24%) is a record catch. The WCP-CA bigeye catch for 2016 (150,884t - 6%) was a drop from the highest value (192,564t), recorded in 2004, and a 10% increase over the 2015 catch. The 2016 WCP-CA albacore catch (65,959 - 2%) was a drop from the highest value (84,949t), recorded in 2010.

The 2016 purse-seine catch of 1,832,761t was lower than the previous year.

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 10.05.10 PM.png

The 2016 purse-seine skipjack catch (1,372,923t - 77% of the total skipjack catch) was 2% lower than the 2015 catch. The 2016 purse-seine catch of yellowfin tuna (394,262t) was a 30% increase from 2015. The purse-seine catch estimate for bigeye tuna for 2016 (62,066t) was 14% lower than in 2015, and represented 41% of the total 2016 bigeye catch. Catches of all three species have declined due to a 10% decline in purse seine effort in 2015. However, it is important to note that the purse-seine species composition for 2016 will be revised once all observer data for 2016 have been received and processed, and the current estimate should, therefore, be considered preliminary.

The 2016 longline catch of 235,500t represents a decrease from the highest value (284,782t) recorded in 2004. The recent longline catch estimates are often uncertain and subject to revision due to delays in reporting. Nevertheless, the bigeye (63,197t) catch was low relative to the previous 15 years, while the yellowfin (89,028t) catch for 2016 was the highest since 2004.

The 2016 pole-and-line catch of 199,081t was low, and represented an 8% decrease from the 2015 catch. Skipjack accounts for the majority of the catch (85%). Yellowfin tuna (13%) make up the bulk of the remaining pole-and-line catch. The Japanese distant-water and offshore fleet and the Indonesian fleet account for most of the WCP-CA pole-and-line catch.

The 2016 troll catch in the WCPO of 141,046t was 34% higher than the 2015 catch - most of the catch being skipjack tuna. South Pacific albacore are also taken by troll gear. Since 2007 New Zealand (averaging about 2,338t catch per year) has had the most consistent effort in the south Pacific albacore troll fishery, with the United States landing a small catch (average 266t per year) in the south Pacific.

Inquiries regarding this report or other aspects of the work program of the OFP should be directed to:

Chief Scientist and Deputy Director FAME (Oceanic Fisheries)
Pacific Community
98848 Noumea Cedex
New Caledonia

ILO Work in Fishing Convention No.188 enter into force by Francisco Blaha

I wrote about ILO Convention 118 before, in the context of the Pacific. Now it came into force on November 16, consolidating the efforts to improve working conditions for millions of workers in the fishing sector. The Work in Fishing Convention sets the basic standards of decent work in the fishing industry... But from what I see on daily basis on my work in many ports, we still have a long way to go.

Brother... I wish your boat's Flag State labour rules were as cool and hardworking as your are

Brother... I wish your boat's Flag State labour rules were as cool and hardworking as your are

Over 38 million people work in capture fisheries, which is considered to be one of the world’s most hazardous occupations. Hundreds of millions of dependents and others depend on the sector for their livelihoods.

Though many fishing vessel owners treat their crews well, there are two dimensions to the challenge faced by fishers:

Firstly is the job itself, as it is with no doubt, the most dangerous job in the world, due to weather, seasonality and the generally hazardous nature of working in the marine environment. Add to that informal work practices and lack of a culture of safety and the results are to be bad. And while this culture of safety is changing, the change is mostly in the rich countries. Tor the rest, well… when you earn very little, you have very little to lose, hence to take massive risks and don't complain.

And secondly are the cases of forced labour, human trafficking and the exploitation of migrant labour in fishing worldwide. Laws and regulation protecting fishers are often non-existent or unclear. Or fall in the traps that at the end of the day, a vessel is an extension of the Flag state, hence they are to be responsible. But we know they are not, furthermore as a fisheries office you have no mandate to get into labor issues but then, the labor bodies (if existent) in many port or coastal states, don't see as their responsibility (or have no powers) to act on anything that does not affect their local mandate… so from any angle, is a quite complex and unfortunately difficult area.

I said before many times, that for me the real race to the bottom in fisheries is on the crew side… and I see it EVERY day on ports worldwide, the DWFN and many flag states fleets to maximize their profits (since they are fishing at loss) employ crew from more and more desperate background and nationalities, paying then very little money while sucking on their own countries subsidies. Is quite pathetic really.

Welcome to your private space for the next year. This is the standard sleeping area shared by the 10 crew (and sometimes a Pacific Islands observer) in a Taiwanese or Chinese longliner fishing in the Pacific. Of course, the crew sleeping here are not from the flag state nationality... in most cases they are Indonesians, Vietnamese and sometimes Nepalese. 

Welcome to your private space for the next year. This is the standard sleeping area shared by the 10 crew (and sometimes a Pacific Islands observer) in a Taiwanese or Chinese longliner fishing in the Pacific. Of course, the crew sleeping here are not from the flag state nationality... in most cases they are Indonesians, Vietnamese and sometimes Nepalese. 

In any case Convention No. 188 sets out binding requirements to address the main issues concerning work on board fishing vessels, including occupational safety and health and medical care at sea and ashore, rest periods, written work agreements, and social security protection at the same level as other workers. It aims to ensure that fishing vessels are constructed and maintained so that fishers have decent living conditions on board.

The Convention helps prevent unacceptable forms of work for all fishers, especially migrant fishers. It provides for regulation of the recruitment process and investigation of complaints by fishers, and hopefully in this way prevent forced labour, trafficking and other abuses.

States ratifying Convention No. 188 commit to exercising control over fishing vessels, through inspection, reporting, monitoring, complaint procedures, penalties and corrective measures, and may then also inspect foreign fishing vessels visiting their ports and take appropriate action.

And that last issue is important, because as in the case of PSMA, give us some tools to act over foreign vessels in the ports of a signatory party to the agreement.

And while all this is good news… the unfortunate reality is that only 10 (out of 187!!) members of the ILO have ratified C188 to date. The countries are Lithuania, Estonia, France, Angola, Argentina (strong union), Bosnia and Herzegovina (almost no commercial fishing there!), Congo, Morocco, Norway and South Africa… so none of the ones that fish in Asia and the Pacific has done and I doubt will do.

Ratification of an ILO Convention is an important commitment. Once ratified, a State must periodically report to the ILO how that convention is being implemented through laws, regulations or other measures. The ILO’s system for the supervision of standards reviews these reports and will guide the State towards full compliance. It is therefore essential that all States involved in the fishing sector ratify Convention No. 188 and make this commitment.

The Convention is supplemented by the accompanying Work in Fishing Recommendation (No. 199)  as well as two sets of Guidelines for flag States and port States carrying out inspections under the Convention.


These were all developed through discussions among representatives of governments and fishing vessel owner and fishers representative organizations. Recognizing the great differences among States and fishing vessel operations, the Convention provides for some flexibility in its implementation – but only after tripartite consultation at the national level.

So yes… good news, but with only 10 countries playing on it, what real impacts can it provide? Yet... I think we could come up with a "Work in Fishing CMM" proposal, based in C188 and pushed by some responsible members in the different RFMOS, then work the "name and shame" game with ones opposing it so they could slowly come into it.

Such strategy worked this year for PSM in the recent WCPFC… so there is a precedent.  

What does the Offshore Fisheries Advisor (OFA) do in Majuro? by Francisco Blaha

I’m always struggling to find time to 1) publish posts, but 2) choosing what to post about, since there quite a lot in my backburner. But I’m finishing my 2nd input of 4 weeks as a OFA here in Majuro, so I decided to write about what I do in this job since it touches many areas of what I normally write, and more importantly I’m working with people that are at forefront of sustainability, the fight against IUU, fisheries data capture, observers safety, while at the same time being victims of sea level rise, the constant remnants of the nuclear past and being catalogued as a tax heaven. And for them is not just discussions in social media… for them is real every day life.

Part of the daily routine... boarding and clearance

Part of the daily routine... boarding and clearance

Let's start by saying that I been to a couple of tax heavens… and I can tell you that Majuro does not look like one of them, but let us focus on fisheries…

I wrote in the past about Majuro being the front of Pacific tuna fisheries since is the busiest transhipment port in the region, forty tuna transshipments in Port Majuro during November increased the overall number for the year to 434. This is, however, down from 2016, when 561  transshipments were recorded. Last year, Majuro averaged over 46 transshipments per month.

The highest number of purse seiners in Majuro during November were Taiwanese, with 12 visits. RMI and Chinese flagged vessels were second with seven each. FSM, US, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands flagged purse seine vessels contributed to the total.

. Once the fish leaves here is gone for good… so we need to do quite a lot of work with a small team. 

As I explained here, I’m here paid by my taxes to the NZ government with the aim to be a trainer the officers and an advisor to MIMRA in general and to my friend (and boss) Sam in particular, and also to Glen that is the big boss here.

I have a work plan with some agreed activities that I follow, so I explain my work based on parts of the plan and the people I’m working with.

One of the big thematic areas is Technical Inputs and capacity building and it does follow with some activities, here are some of the ones I work this time:

Review and provide technical input into technical documentation
As most countries this days, RMI has a IUU NPOA, yet the feeling I always have with this documents is that they are “made to be read by others”, and not applied by the beneficiaries and it should be the opposite.  Furthermore, I look at these big documents with 2 frames in mind, one says: “separate what is nice from what is necessary” and the other says: “don't let the perfect get on the way of the good”. So I’m slow progressing a review from a “bottom up” approach, taking in consideration the capacities to deliver, and not only the expected results.

from a small boat, to the medium then lifted to the bigone

from a small boat, to the medium then lifted to the bigone

Design and Implement an agreed Oceanic Division training plan
This is the part I like the most. We divide this one, on formal and informal training settings and mentoring by going on boards the vessels and working on finding inconsistencies, explaining the potential tricks to be played, looking at the vessel tracks during fishing operations, so the officers can better recognice them when on VMS and pointing out best practices by the vessels in full compliance.

Prepare and support a vessels’ inspection plan
While we had all the legal powers and the rest sorted, and the was a routine… a formalised “plan” setting out the processes to follow during the inspection framework, wasn't available.  So we got on and did one.

The plan is an operational document consistent with the national, sub regional, regional obligations, but we also included some of the latest information on the “real” issues quantified in the region. The sources for the framework are:

  • RMI Fisheries Licensing conditions
  • FFA Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions (HMTC)
  • VDS/VMS monitoring requirements.
  • WCPFC CMMs and Port State Measures
  • 2014 National Plan of Action (NPOA)
  • 2016 FFA Evaluation of the Regional FFA MCS Framework
  • 2017 FAO PSMA Strategy documents
  • 2016 FFA. Towards the Quantification of IUU Fishing in the Pacific Islands Region.
  • EU Catch Certification Scheme

Not coming strictly from an enforcement background, but more from practical perspective, I’m happy to take a “fresher” approach by using a lot of visual elements like the decision trees to follow when doing intelligence analysis of arriving vessels (see above) and tabulated SOPs, but as well focus not only on the legal side of fish but on the real numbers getting off the vessels.

Some of the activities finish overlapping, for example: Facilitate the integrated use of new Apps and technologies and Support MIMRA to implement effective regional anti IUU initiatives such PSM and CDS.

I love planning tools, mechanisms and incorporating the opportunities of technology into the challenges of work and at the same time, I’m very involved in PSMA and CDS via FAO and FFA. And my “vision” in these areas are totally complementary so it does not make any sense to work them separately.

So I been working with Ron (a truly gifted IT and programming specialist here in MIMRA) in the development of “Port Entry App” which is loaded at the vessels agents’ computers that communicates directly with the MIMRA’s IMS.

So from January 2018 all actions for port entry clearance are to be made via a “Port Entry App”, ideally I would love to have the “port entry request” triggered exclusively from the PNA FIMS eForms as the way to assure that is being used, but we are not there yet…

I any case, the request gets loaded into the system under a unique identification in order to be processed by Compliances Officer. Then procedural intelligence analysis (following the decision tree) are used for the determination of port entry authorization based on assessing the vessels trip information based on information available to the Compliance officers through FFA RIMF and iFIMS. This info check includes among others: FFA VoI, risk index and VMS track, FIMS Licensing for the areas fished, eForms information (when available) and eObs (when available). These information sources provide the required intelligence, which along the compliance risk identification related to the type of vessel will determine the scope and depth of the inspection when the vessel arrives.

was all good, so everyone is happy

was all good, so everyone is happy

The arrival is then approved in the port arrival system, which communicates the approval back to the agent and the boarding is scheduled and the boarding logistics set up. In the case of various arriving on the same day, the order of boarding is established in accordance with the FFA Compliance Index (1st green vessels, then yellow, then red).

The boarding party will bring on with them the details of any investigation they want to pursue on the vessels and follow the SOP. Only after clearance by the boarding and inspection team the “Port Use” is authorised and coded.

Anyway... long story short… the ultimate vision for Majuro is to a fishing port that is paperless, interconnected and uploading directly into national and regional databases, ready for an eCDS.

A further big thematic area to keep me busy is Institutional Support. Under this, I been working on this trip on facilitating the “development of a Competent Authority (CA)” in terms of Seafood Safety as a precondition to gain access to the EU Market has been long term but never really tackled ambition of RMI. And this is no small task, the EU obliges compliance to its own requirements, and thus requires the 3rd country to prove that it operates a control structure applicable to its seafood exports that are equivalent to those existing in an EU member country, meaning than RMI has to prove that has seafood safety systems and controls equivalent to those of Germany for example.


Of course we cannot tackle this alone, and in an interesting synergy, FFA is moving ahead with Regional Support Unit for CA, which is a concept I developed for them back in 2014, and they are keen to test here.

At the same time, and as part of another activity where I "provide advice to MIMRA staff attending WCPFC", we been measuring the potential impact of the FFA – Japan PSM proposal that has just been incorporated as a CMM. Operationally we are already doing more than the PSM CMM will request us to do, but we also see regionally beneficial outcomes, as it standardised the minimal requirements for all transhipment countries, hence cutting off the chance for the fleets to cherry pick ports.

Finally I been working with my wantok Bernard on the "Development of a Standardised SOP for the operations of the Observer program" here in RMI, furthermore, I was asked to come to the graduation ceremony of the latest course provided with the CMI, and say something “motivational”… I just repeated something I wrote many times before.

Most of the colleagues I respect and value in this job, either have been observers themselves or have spent time at sea doing observer type work. Observers are the unsung cornerstones of our industry. Below you see Bernard, the EM section, and the debriefing "room" at the back of the office for the obserbers that just came back. Total respect for this guys.

And there is plenty of other stuff beyond the work plan itself, things like a MoU to deal with the transhipment authorisation under section 7 of the EU CCS that I’m developing, or some work with ER and EM tools, because basically I'm here to help, end of story

So yes…  this is part of what I do for work here… and as I don't really need a car here, the rest of the little time left I’m cycling everywhere, checking the tides to go for long swims and running in the morning… and of course enjoying some of the cheapest and nicest sashimi in the world.

best way to go around in majuro (if you not afraid of dogs)

best way to go around in majuro (if you not afraid of dogs)

Less than a month for the US Government Seafood Import Monitoring Programme (SIMP) by Francisco Blaha

As I wrote before, the US SIMP is kicking in on the 1/1/18, but the fish being caught now has to start complying. Reality is that does not seems to be too hard to comply (or cheat), particularly because it does not involve any form of verification by any authority in the flag, coastal or port states where that fish went through... which in my opinion is a pity. 

We don't really need your government (shouldn't be surprising, heard that one before)

We don't really need your government (shouldn't be surprising, heard that one before)

NOAA will "audit" the records of the Importers in the US to verify the system. Yet imagine the pile of records back to perhaps 20-50 landings for the import of a dozen containers of tuna cans... furthemore what does prove that the records are real (I see a bussines opportunity here) when there is no state verification? How this may stop laundering (any reference to yields monitoring)?. It seems to me like a total lost opportunity!. 

In any case here is a reminder of what it is and what you need.

The United States Government Seafood Import Monitoring Programme (SIMP) establishes, for imports of certain seafood products, the reporting and recordkeeping requirements to prevent illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing and/ or misrepresented seafood from entering the United States commerce.

SIMP is administered by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

SIMP requires harvest data to be reported at the point of entry into the United States commerce, or retained by the importer of record for imported fish or fish products identified as priority species due to the risk of IUU fishing and seafood fraud activities.

The importer of record is identified to United States Customs and Border Protection on each entry filing.

The United States importer of record will be required to obtain an International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP) from NOAA to report certain harvest information at the time of entry filing, and to keep records regarding the chain of custody of the fish or fish product from harvest to point of entry into the United States.

The effective start date for implementation of the SIMP is 1 January 2018. However, the United States importer of record needs to provide the required information for all seafood products covered by the SIMP entering the United States market from 1 January 2018, even if it was caught before that date.

Species covered by the first phase of the SIMP

(1) Thirteen species will be covered by the first phase of the SIMP, which is intended to expand in the future to cover all seafood:

  1. Abalone (Paua)
  2. Atlantic Cod
  3. Blue Crab (Atlantic)
  4. Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi)
  5. e) Grouper
  6. King Crab (red)
  7. Pacific Cod
  8. Red Snapper
  9. Sea Cucumber/Beche de Mer
  10. Sharks
  11. Shrimp
  12. Swordfish
  13. Tunas: Albacore, Bigeye, Skipjack, Yellowfin, and Bluefin

Note: implementation of the SIMP requirements for abalone  and shrimp is delayed until further notice

 Information to be collected

  1. Harvesting or Producing Entity (company)
    1. Name and flag state of harvesting vessel(s)
    2. Evidence of authorisation to fish (permit or license number)
    3. Unique vessel identifier (e.g. IMO or international/national vessel registration number)
    4. Type(s) of fishing gear. Note: the fishing area and type of fishing gear should be specified per the reporting convention and codes used by the competent authority exercising jurisdiction over the wild capture operation. If no such reporting requirements exist, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) fishing area and gear codes should be used.
  2. Harvest Event –  what, when and where
    1. Species – FAO 3 - Alpha Species Codes Note the species and their FAO 3 - Alpha Species Code can be found here
    2. Harvest date(s)
    3. Product form(s) at time of landing – including quantity and weight of product
    4. Area(s) of wild - capture or aquaculture harvest. This should either be the EEZ of the country licensed or applicable FAO area where the product is not harvested within a EEZ
    5. Point(s) of first landing, whether that is the first port the product is landed into, or another vessel
    6. Name of entity(ies) to which the fish was landed or delivered.

Note: in cases where the imported shipment is comprised of more than one harvest event, each event that is relevant to the shipment must be reported. However, the importer does not need to link a particular fish or portion of the shipment to any one harvest event.

    3.Importer of record (in the US)

  1.  Name, affiliation and contact information
  2. NOAA issued IFTP number
  3. Importer of record is responsible for keeping records regarding the chain of custody detailed above
  4. Information on any transhipment of product (declarations by harvesting/ carrier vessels, bills of landing)
  5. Records on processing, reprocessing, and comingling of product.

Recommendations for exporters

It is recommended that exporters take the following action before the SIMP comes into force:

  1. Clarify who their importers of record are, confirm that importers have an IFTP, and proactively communicate with importers about the rule;
  2. Review the model certificates (available on the NOAA website – see links below) for traceability and ensure that they can provide all required information. Note that these model certificates are not required and that importers are free to develop whatever data collection format works best for their purposes, as long as they provide all required information;
  3. Work with the importer of record to determine a method for recording and submitting the required information;
  4. Where possible, encourage importers and brokers to test their import system prior to the start date of the rule to anticipate and correct any problems; and,
  5. To the extent possible, ensure you collect the required SIMP data as soon as possible, so that you are able to provide the information for exports that enter the United States on and from the 1st of January 2018. This rule applies regardless of when the product was caught.

More Information:

(1) A Compliance Guide for the SIMP can be found here

(2) Model forms can be found here: Simple and Aggregated


A big day for me, both profesionally and personally by Francisco Blaha

Not much of an emotional guy my self, or at least not in public. Boarding school, armed forces, commercial fishing aren’t very conducive to expressing (and exposing) your inner (softer) sides. But today is a truly special one since my professional and personal life comes together in the publication of an FAO "green book" that has my name on it. Hosch, G. & Blaha, F. 2017. Seafood traceability for fisheries compliance – Country level support for catch documentation schemes. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 619. Rome, Italy.

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I need to explain the personal part a bit… as you all painfully aware from reading this blogs, being dyslexic and writing are not good bedfellows.

Back in the days of my schooling if you didn’t write well, then you were “dumb”… even many of my marks were good enough, because I love reading, had a good memory and like science. Still… that “dumb” brand was (still?) a hard one to walk off from, and was in part why I turn to fishing and physical work (boat building, lifesaving, etc.)

And maybe because of that “fisherman thing”, where we push the limits and react to authority just because we are told that we can’t (or are not good enough) to do something. Is that only later on, I pursued my first university degree, then migrated to a part of the world I had no connections with, I did a 2nd MSc in a different language, became a consultant, and in some way... a writer via this blog.  I guess it is my nature to give things a go, just because I know I'm not good at them... 

In any case, it was quite early in my “career” that I discover those “green books” of FAO at the fisheries libraries of places I study and worked. There have always been excellent references on many areas of fisheries, and over the years got quite a collection that I treasure. On my first day as a Fisheries Officer in FAO Rome, I went straight to the fisheries library, and I could not believe that I was actually working at the place that contracted the authors and published those books!  It was a big thing for me!

So, to be contracted to write one of those FAO "green books" that I look up to, was quite humbling to say the least… and I have no shame to admit that my eyes were teary when I got today a mail saying that it has been published.

So enought of the personal stuff! 

I co-authored this book with my friend Gilles Hosch, someone whose name and CDS are getting hard to separate. Over a year ago while in a conference in India we were approached Dr Victoria Chomo from FAO with the idea of writing a complementary book to Gilles’ FAO Tuna CDS Study

From the start it was evident to us that while we all discuss the CDS details, we forget that the success of a CDS is at it roots, on a minimal set of support mechanisms that correlate MCS and traceability at each type of State (flag, coastal, port, processing and end market), along the fish product value chain. 

I’m a visual learner and always seen it as: “the CDS is the roof, that needs to on solid columns at each of the states along the value chain”. We are all working and talking about that roof, but neglecting the catalogue of what are the essential MCS and traceability elements to be taken care of each type of state for a CDS to work. And as we didn’t find a document that catalogued all those mechanisms we knew necessary... we wrote this book about them.

We both appealed to our complementary strengths and expriences in different parts of the world, our long-term (albeit frustrating sometimes) involvement with EU CCS and the various initiatives we been individually involved over the years.  Gilles is highly analytical and studied in "excruciating" detail the structures and limitation of all the CDS presently in operation, while I could complement that with practicality from experience at the operational and MCS level, as well as the understanding the traceability expectations associated to processing and the food-related regulatory framework of fisheries. 

He is an accomplished writer with quite a few FAO publications in his name, while I really struggle… so he not only had to do his parts but then also try to figure out what my ones mean! Hence it was totally logical that he would be the lead author, and I’ll be eternally grateful to him for encouraging and insisting I'll be the co-author, knowing from prior work we did together, how frustrating it can be. Gilles, you are a brother, thank you!

I’m totally proud of the FAO "green book" we wrote, it catalogues and explain all the MCS and traceability related mechanisms you need in place at each type of state before attempting a CDS. It has boxes with examples of best practices (many of them quite dear to me from the Pacific) and if that wasn’t enough, it has in the cover one of my photographs taken during work with my colleges in Noro, my favourite fishing port in the world.

I’ll be posting over the next while part of the book, but in any case please download it, share it, use it… that is what it is intended for.

The Abstract says:

This document explores ways in which individual countries in seafood supply chains can, in their capacities as coastal, flag, port, processing or end-market states, contribute to maximizing the effectiveness of catch documentation schemes.

The focus is on the traceability of seafood consignments, but the authors also explore other important compliance mechanisms that lie beyond traceability and that support the effective implementation of catch documentation schemes at the country level.

The document explains which traceability mechanisms are built into catch documentation schemes, and which additional support mechanisms must be provided by individual countries along seafood supply chains.

The study finds that traditional fisheries monitoring, inspection and sanctioning mechanisms are of primary importance with regard to flag, coastal and end-market states, whereas effective country-level traceability mechanisms are of particular importance in port and processing states.

The text is segmented into three parts:

  • The first part – Chapters 1 to 3 – introduces the study and the methodology used, and describes the functioning of catch documentation schemes.
  • The second part – Chapter 4 – provides findings with regard to country-level support mechanisms for catch documentation schemes for each state type participating in seafood supply chains.
  • The third part – Chapter 5 – provides conclusions, recommendations and policy guidance on the basis of the findings in the second part.

Summary of WCPFC Technical and Compliance Committee meeting (TCC13) by Francisco Blaha

As usual, the FFA Trade and Industry News is full of goodies, you should subscribe if you are not already. I quote below the Summary of WCPFC TCC13 outcomes that took place in Pohnpei, FSM. The meeting was attended by around 170 delegates representing 29 Commission Members and Cooperating Non- Members ( CCMs) and 6 observers. The recommendations will be taken up at the WCPFC’s Fourteenth Annual Session to be held from 3-7 December in Manila.

the standard relationship in between the resource users (big boat) and resource owners (small boats)

the standard relationship in between the resource users (big boat) and resource owners (small boats)

Following is a summary of some key outcomes from this meeting: 

  • No new vessels were recommended by TCC13 for addition to WCPFC’s IUU Vessel List; three existing longline vessels will remain on the list.
  • Applications for Cooperating Non-Member (CNM) status for Ecuador, El Salvador, Liberia, Mexico, Panama, Thailand and Vietnam will be presented to WCPFC14 for consideration; Ecuador, El Salvador and Mexico have reiterated interest in becoming full Commission members; compliance status of CNMs will be taken into account when assessing CNM applications and associated participatory rights. 
  • The Compliance Monitoring Review (CMR), during which CCMs’ compliance with obligations in WCPFC’s conservation and management measures (CMM) is assessed, was conducted for the seventh year and in closed session. An independent review of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS) is currently underway, resulting in a TCC13 recommendation to extend the existing CMS measure for one additional year (CMM 2015-07), which is due to expire on 31 December 2017. 
  • An agreement was made to form an inter-sessional working group to address the need for CCMs to obtain copies of regional observer reports for their vessels in a timely manner for investigating possible violations; currently, considerable delays are experienced by some CCMs in receiving these reports. 
  • A recommendation was made to WCPFC14 to consider draft electronic reporting standards for observer data; TCC13 noted draft electronic reporting standards for high seas transhipment declarations and notifications. 
  • CCMs are recommended to comply with the existing data and reporting requirements for transhipment (CMM 2009-06), particularly those who have made a determination of impracticability regarding transhipment in port for large-scale longliners, who are required to submit to the Commission a plan detailing what steps are being taken to encourage transhipment to occur in port in future. 
  • TCC13 supported an SC13 recommendation that as a first step in FAD marking initiatives, the Commission considers introducing a buoy identification scheme, with field tests undertaken to determine the optimum configuration for future development of a full marking system; there is also a need for FAD data to be provided by observers for all vessels involved in FAD activities. 
  • TCC13 requested the Secretariat prepare draft terms of reference for the development of a comprehensive shark and ray CMM, which may consolidate and build-on multiple existing shark CMMs; TCC13 recommended a range of points that could be considered relating to full utilisation, data relating to non-retention policies, guidelines for safe release, mitigation measures, use of wire leaders and shark lines, submission of shark management plans and consolidation of reporting requirements. 
  • A US paper was noted on potential amendments to the existing sea turtles measure (CMM 2008-03) covering longline mitigation measures, development of specifications for non-entangling FADs and additional sea turtle-related observer data fields. 
  • New Zealand proposed amendments to the existing seabirds measure (CMM 2015-03) regarding seabird mitigation measures, recommending use of a hook-shielding device as an alternative stand-alone mitigation option, changes to specifications for tori lines on small vessels less than 35 metres and line weighting in line with best practices. 
  • TCC13 discussed technical and compliance issues relating to the new bridging tropical tunas CMM to replace CMM 2016-01. Discussions briefly covered issues including retention of MCS provisions, exemption clauses, frequency of VMS reporting requirements during the FAD closure, responses to non-compliance, stronger control of limits through robust monitoring, review of charter provisions and inclusion of non-ambiguous language. 
  • Marshalls Islands introduced a new draft CMM proposal on marine pollution urging CMMs to ratify MARPOL and the London Protocol. The proposal also prohibits vessel discharges of waste (oil/fuel, garbage, sewerage, fishing gear), includes annual reporting requirements to WCPFC on marine pollution, calls for research on fishing-related marine pollution, adequate port facilities to receive vessel waste and retrieval of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear. 
  • Korea introduced a new draft CMM on a standard of conduct for Regional Observer Program (ROP) observers which sets out requirements for observers while on duty and actions to be taken against observer misconduct. Unlike the existing Code of Conduct for observers, Korea’s intention is to have a binding CMM which is subject to review under the Compliance Monitoring Scheme. 

Let see what will happen next week in Manila.

The Tuna Longline Industry in the WCPO and its Market Dynamics by Francisco Blaha

FFA published many landmark publications done by very capable colleagues over the years. These are publications I keep referring back since they are wide in scope and thoroughly researched. My very well respected colleagues (and very nice people) Mike McCoy, Antony Lewis, and Liam Campling have just released a new jewel, and I'm sure is going to be one of those reports I keep coming back to. An excellent study that can be downloaded from here.

Successfully locally run longlining operations like this one in Tonga are the minority unfortunately 

Successfully locally run longlining operations like this one in Tonga are the minority unfortunately 

This report provides industry and market intelligence regarding the current status of the tuna longline industry in terms of distant water fleets (DWF) and other companies involved in the global value chains that these fleets supply. The study examines the DWFs of China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The primary focus is on industry dynamics, that is, key companies and organisations, industry organisation and corporate strategies; and the secondary focus are on markets and marketing strategies.

I quote below some of the key messages I found:

In 2015, the total global longline tuna catch was around 450,000 mt. WCPO accounted for around 56%, EPO 16%, AO 15% and IO 13%. Bigeye accounted for 38% of total global catch by species, yellowfin 30% and albacore 32%. With the exception of 2012 when global longline catch exceeded 500,000 mt, annual catches were fairly stable at around 450,000-460,000 mt during 2011-2015.

The most significant distant water longline fleets operating in WCPO (and EPO) are China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan in terms of fleet size, catch volumes and bigeye catch quota allocation (hence, these four countries were selected as case studies for this study).

Collectively, China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan’s longline vessels have accounted for 75-83% of the total number of longliners active in the WCPO from 2011-2015.

In the WCPO, there are two longline fisheries – the southern and tropical longline fisheries. The tropical longline fishery typically consists of large-scale distant water vessels fishing between 20ºN-20ºS, which target bigeye and yellowfin for sashimi markets, with smaller volumes of incidentally-caught albacore. Vessels operating in the southern longline fishery are typically smaller (<100GT) and target albacore for canning markets in sub-tropical waters below 10ºS and have small volumes of incidental bigeye and yellowfin by-catch.

With advancements in freezer technology, particularly for the smaller vessels, the distinction between the tropical and southern longline fleets has become less obvious, with some vessels now having the ability to switch targets depending on seasonality, fishing location, stock abundance etc., moving between both fisheries. The southern longline fishery has developed significantly over the last 10-15 years, largely in association with growth in the number of Pacific Islands’ domestic-flagged and chartered longline vessels.

The WCPO tropical longline fishery has had a long-term trend of below average economic conditions which has resulted in a declining number of vessels, particularly distant water vessels from Taiwan, Korea and Japan. It is projected that the fishery will continue to follow a declining trend from 2017 to 2026, resulting from a forecasted increase in fuel cost and a decline in catch rates, primarily bigeye, which will more than offset projected above-average fish prices.

Economic conditions for the WCPO southern longline fishery have also declined. Persistent low catches continue to impact negatively and if prolonged, will result in below average economic conditions for the fishery in the coming years.

High seas transhipment of catch is the norm for authorised vessels in the large-scale tropical longline fishery that spans both the eastern portions of the WCPO and EPO. The large Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Taiwanese vessels in this fishery spend up to a year or more at sea, obtaining fuel from tankers at sea, as well as bait and various supplies from refrigerated carriers. These practices are integral to the economic viability of the fishery, where fishing activities take place over a wide range of the WCPO and EPO, often in areas that are far removed from ports that might otherwise be used for transhipment. However, there are concerns that given challenges relating to monitoring, control and surveillance, high seas transhipment increases opportunities for illegal activities, such as IUU fishing, human trafficking and smuggling.

Regulatory mechanisms shaping industry operations are layered. They work at multiple scales – regional, sub-regional and national – and at multiple points in the global value chains for longline products. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has a number of conservation and management measures (CMMs) in force which apply to the WCPO tropical and southern longline fisheries. The Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye, Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna (CMM 2016-01) is the primary management measure for tropical tuna stocks in the WCPO, establishing flag-based longline bigeye catch limits and requiring WCPFC commission and cooperating non-members (CCMs) to take measures to not increase longline yellowfin catches. CMMs (other than small-island developing states and Indonesia) are also required to not increase the number of longline vessels targeting bigeye above 2010-2012 levels. The Conservation and Management Measure for South Pacific Albacore (CMM 2015-02)requires CCMs to not increase the number of their vessels actively fishing for South Pacific albacore south of 20°S above 2005 levels or average 2000-2004 levels.

At the sub-regional level, in 2014 eleven Pacific Island countries agreed on text to establish the Tokelau Arrangement (TKA). The TKA is a voluntary in-zone-based management arrangement for the South Pacific Albacore Fishery comprised of a Catch Management Agreement (CMA) for longline vessels fishing within their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) for South Pacific albacore, as either a target species or as by-catch. The CMA has been actively negotiated since 2014 and is nearing the stage where each member will need to make critical decisions whether to bring it into force or not. It provides for the setting of an overall Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and allocation of that TAC amongst parties.

In 2014, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement’s (PNA) Longline Vessel Day Scheme (LL VDS) also came into effect under the Palau Arrangement. As PNA waters largely fall within the WCPO’s tropical zone (20°N- 20°S), the LL VDS is a management scheme covering the tropical longline fishery, targeting bigeye and yellowfin. The LL VDS establishes a total allowable effort level (TAE) for fishing in all parties’ waters, which is then allocated amongst the parties as party allowable effort (PAE). Following a trial period for several years, the LL VDS was formally implemented on 1 January 2017. At this time, seven out of eight PNA members had signed on as participants, plus Tokelau.

In recent years, labour standards in the fishing and fish processing sectors have gained increasing attention, particularly with the uncovering of serious human trafficking and labour rights abuses in Thailand’s seafood fishing and processing sectors. This has prompted major players in the industry, including US and EU retailers, brand owners, processors and traders, as well as governments to respond. Labour issues will be particularly challenging to address for large-scale distant water longline fishing vessels which are away at sea for long periods (up to 18 months at a time), employing foreign crew who work very long hours under difficult conditions.