Last job of the year / by Francisco Blaha

Last Saturday I had my planning meeting for 2015 with my colleagues (and friends at this stage!) form the EU funded DevFish II  project based in FFA, in the Solomon Islands.  

I mentioned this project before, as a lot of the work I do in the Pacific is under its auspices, and have I been involved in its operations for the last 3 years… I really love working with them.

The aim of the project is already clear in the logo “A fairer slice for Pacific People”, and that is what delivers… Pacific Island countries catch just $200 million worth of tuna from its fisheries while foreign nations fishing in the same waters catch over $2 billion. Meanwhile, estimates of lost potential earnings from illegal fishing range from the millions to over a billion. By focusing its efforts on increasing control of illegal fishing and maximising local opportunities for business and employment, DEVFISH is making a significant impact on Pacific Island economies.

The scope of the work I’m involved with them, includes 

  • Transparency and stakeholder Involvement. We are working to find newer ways to strengthen industry associations and artisanal fishers' representation in decision making, and provide training and advice on fishing access agreements and licenses to national government staff.
  • Strengthening the competency of the authorities. To export fish to the EU, countries need an EU-approved 'Competent Authority' to certify fish exports meet EU export standards. Support is been provided for meeting requirements associated with sanitary inspection and EU catch certification (which contain requirements to certify fish is not caught illegally).       
  • Industry Strengthening. Training and expertise to expand exports within sustainable limits will be provided - such as training fishing companies to improve vessels and fish handling practices. The emphasis is on small and medium enterprises, where we provide training and technical assistance with a focus on strengthening management and filling skill shortages constraining growth and profitability, within sustainable limits.
  • Standardisation of capacity building and training. Under Devfish, training for rhe Authorities officers has been standardized under the same curriculums for the personel of all FFA countries in terms of Seafood inspectors, Fisheries inspectors, Vessels inspectors IUU certification staff, as well as training on Leadership and conflict management
  • New Technologies. Projects include from of cleaner technologies, replacement of 2-stroke with 4-stroke engines for artisanal fisheries to the development of fisheries management and control Software.

I reported before on examples of the most visible work I have done with them: here, here, here and here, among otheres

And while I can be quite critical of some aspects of the EU in terms of the disproportioned burden they put on pacific island countries, I always recognised that they do put a lot of money in terms of assistance… and in the case of DevFish II they do that in a flexible format, that allows for FFA (in response to the Pacific Islands needs) to organise the contracts and assistance independently, without being micromanaged from Brussels.

This approach allows for fast response to immediate problems, this flexibility was crucial in terms of assisting countries with the IUU “yellow cards”

Furthermore, from the "human side" is great too. I’m working with friends, meetings are smooth, egos contained… the Team Leader is “Uncle” Hugh Walton (NZ), a former Fisherman/guerrilla gardner/educator, etc... (and a real south Seas vagabond) that is well know and respected all trough the Pacific, and among my colleagues I love having two friends; Jope Tamani (from Fiji) and Timothy Numilengi (PNG) whom I met first time many years ago as their trainer. Beside being top professionals, they are just really nice people to work with, and with many values more aligned to my ones than my European colleages.

Working with your friends... awesome.

Working with your friends... awesome.

In fact, I wish all international assistance programmes were like Devfish.