Governance and Tuna related Institutions in the pacific (part 2) / by Francisco Blaha

Continuing from my last post on "who does what" in the governance and management of tuna in the Pacific, I focus in this post on the 2 technical bodies of the region, FFA and SPC, two organisations close to my souI, as I do a lot of work for them. 

FFA - Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency

Since 1979, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) is based in Honiara, Solomon Islands, FFA's 17 Pacific Island members are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The founding document of the Agency is the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency Convention. The Forum Fisheries Committee meets annually to consider regional policies and the budget and work programme of FFA.

FFA was established to help countries sustainably manage their fishery resources that fall within their 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA is an advisory body providing expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management through agencies such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

FFA purpose is to maximise economic and social benefits of fisheries, i it supports its countries and territories in three broad tasks:

  • Manage the fishery to ensure use is sustainable and will provide tuna now and in the future
  • Develop the fishery to harvest, process and market tuna to create jobs, income and a thriving industry
  • Monitor, control and survey the fishery to stop illegal fishing and make sure fishing benefits goes towards fishers who follow the rules of development and management set by governments.

FFA assists members to carry out these three broad tasks by providing advice, information, policy recommendations, regional strategies, technical support and development opportunities. It provides support at the national and regional level.

At the national level, FFA provides support direct to countries and territories who are members of FFA. At the regional level, FFA solicits the views of leaders, identifies consensus areas and emerging areas for debate and briefs leaders on technical and policy issues in preparation for their participation in the decision-making body on tuna management in the region (WCPFC) and for negotiations about binding legal agreements (the various treaties, agreements and arrangements pertaining to fishing in Pacific). Pacific Island leaders are active in setting the agenda and priorities of FFA through their involvement in the various FFA projects and meetings and formally through the Forum Fisheries Committee.

Approximately 80 staff at the regional FFA headquarters in Honiara support their national contact points in departments of foreign affairs and fisheries in each member jurisdiction. FFA focuses its work on:

Fisheries management – providing policy and legal frameworks for the sustainable management of tuna. It does so in 4 areas:

  • Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management assists FFA member countries to use a process of management for their fisheries. EAFM reports have been done for Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu. The process is similar to risk management and involves four overall stages:
  1. determining the scope of the assessment – develop a clear description of what is to be managed/assessed;
  2. given the scope, identifying all the issues that need to be assessed; preferably across the five key areas of EAFM and agreeing on the values wanted to be achieved for each of these;
  3. determining, using risk analysis, which of these issues needs to be managed directly; and
  4. establishing the levels of performance that are acceptable, the management arrangements that will be used to achieve these levels, and the review processes needed to assess performance for those issues requiring management.

Treaties & Agreements - FFA administers and provides support for negotiations and meetings regarding several fishing treaties and agreements. These are the:

  • FSM Arrangement: The FSM Arrangement was developed as a mechanism for domestic vessels of the PNA to access the fishing resources of other parties. It was signed on the 30 Nov 1994 and came into force on the 23 Sep 1995. Signatories are Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau,  Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
  • Nauru Agreement: The subregional agreement on terms and conditions for tuna purse seine fishing licences in the region (see PNA) 
  • Palau Arrangement: The Palau Arrangement for the Management of the Purse Seine Fishery in the Western and CentralPacific was developed by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement and entered into force in November 1995
  • Niue Treaty: The Niue Treaty is an agreement on cooperation between FFA members about monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing - it includes provisions on exchange of information (about where the position and speed of vessels at sea, which vessels are without licences) plus procedures for cooperation in monitoring, prosecuting and penalising illegal fishing vessels. 
  • US Multilateral Treaty: The Multilateral Treaty on Fisheries Between Certain Governments of the Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America (commonly known as the “US Treaty”) began in 1987. It entered into force in 1988 and has since been renewed twice, with the last renewal in 2003 allowing the US Treaty to continue for an additional 10 years until 2013. The treaty enables a maximum of 40 US purse seine vessels to fish in the waters of the 16 Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member states. From the 16 countries, Australia and New Zealand do not receive any development aid from the treaty. In exchange for fishing access the US contributes an agreed annual amount, regardless of how much fish they take out. Under this arrangement the USA has, in the first 16 years of operation, paid the FFA a total of US$276 million. Once the administration fee is put aside, the FFA then divides these funds in two parts. First, each Pacific Island party receives a fixed minimum payment and the other, a major component, is based on the amount of tuna caught in national waters of each member states. In effect 79 % of the money has been diverted to five countries (Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu) suggesting the uneven distribution of tuna stock in the region. Negotiations are stall at the moment since PNA want them to either pay 90 million or bid under the VDS system

Fisheries development developing the capacity of members to sustainably harvest, process and market tuna to create livelihoods.

  • Trade & Industry: FFA advises members about relevant developments in international trade policy and economic co-operation frameworks and how to advance their individual and collective fisheries interests in trade policy and economic partnership negotiations. Regular trade and industry reports include Fisheries Trade Briefing, Tuna Market News & Fisheries Economic Indicators. Many of these activities are part of the DEVFISH II project (where I work :-) 
  • Economic Indicators: two reports are annually prepared; the WCPFC Area Catch Value Estimates and the Tuna Economic Indicators        

Fisheries operations – supporting monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries as well as treaty administration, information technology and vessel registration and monitoring.

  • Monitoring, Control & Surveillance: FFA provides policy and services, to its members to build national capacity and regional solidarity to control fishing in the Pacific, including illegal, unreported and unknown fishing. This includes technical expertise, information sharing and projects around monitoring activities, regional surveillance operations, the FFA Observer Program, FFA Vessel Monitoring System, FFA licence information list, and staff training and support regarding relevant regional decision making bodies, notably the Technical Compliance Committee of the WCPFC.
  • FFA Vessel Monitoring System: this service allows FFA members to track and monitor fishing activities across the region. Based at the FFA's regional headquarters, but accessible to all FFA member countries, this a satellite-based system monitors the position, speed and direction of registered fishing vessels. 
  • Information & Communications Technology: FFA's Information and Communications (ICT) Team provides a range of ICT and Library services to the Secretariat and to its members.

Corporate services - supporting the organisation's work through administration, human resources, budgeting and other corporate functions.

The Executive Team of FFA provides high-level policy advice to FFC and members, and manages the work of the Secretariat and member support services in support of the five key output areas for the FFA Executive:
    1    Policy Advice
    2    FFA Governance
    3    Strategic management
    4    Relationship management
    5    Legal Advice, Media, and Training

Specific MCS Role
The FFA Regional Surveillance Centre and coordinated Joint Deployment Plans
Annual regional multilateral fisheries surveillance operations support the MCS tools and communications of Pacific Island countries.  Four of the surveillance operations conducted annually in region are planned and coordinated by the RFSC.  These are Operation KURU KURU, BIGEYE/ISLAND CHIEF, TUI MOANA and RAI BALANG.  The QUAD OWG is made up of military personnel from Australia, France, New Zealand and the U.S.  The role of this group is to share and coordinate operational plans for the FFA member region.  FFA attends these meetings and covers regional fisheries surveillance operations, particularly the allocation of aerial surveillance assets and surface unit support.  

The FFA Surveillance Operations Officer (SOO) has the responsibility for facilitating the coordination of the surveillance assets provided by the QUAD nations in support of national and multilateral fishing surveillance and response activities. The SOO, and thus the RFSC, is in many cases the conduit between the QUAD nations and FFA members.  

All FFA members have access to the FFA RSP covering both their respective EEZ’s and the high seas. The three information sources (FFA VMS, WCPFC VMS and AIS) are used to correlate additional sighting reports from QUAD and FFA member assets, potentially highlighting ‘dark’ vessel contacts not polling on VMS or AIS. These are referred to individual nations for further management.  The RSP is linked to the extensive FFA secure databases containing a range of fisheries information that are designed to assist national MCS officers to assess the relative level of compliance of all vessels on the FFA VMS.  In the RSP, all vessels are ‘traffic-light’ colour coded to indicate the level of compliance risk (Compliance Index (CI)), which can then be used by member countries to plan MCS activities and operations for their PPB’s, with red indicating the possibility of a high-risk/non-compliant vessel, green indicating a greater probability of a low-risk/compliant vessel.

The 2016 operational phase will include:
Over-flight Approvals:  Nations providing maritime surveillance aircraft must coordinate over-flight of territorial boundaries as part of routine diplomatic clearances. Participating nations request these over-flight clearances using their standard procedures and channels.  Blanket over-flight approvals are no longer authorised despite this allowing greater flexibility in the tasking of air assets.
Watchkeepers:  Participating nations who provide watchkeepers to the RFSC for the duration of the operation need to have nominated personnel well ahead of time to allow for travel and associated arrangements to have been made.
Information-Sharing:  If long-term agreements for sharing information are not in place, it is imperative that short-term data sharing arrangements for the duration of the operation have been agreed upon and are in place ahead of time.
WCPFC Non-Public Domain Data:  Those participants with EEZs adjacent to high seas areas should ensure they have requested access to WCPFC High Seas VMS data (100NM buffer) as well as their respective in-zone data.

SPC - Secretariat of the Pacific Community

The South Pacific Commission, as SPC was formerly called, was founded in Australia in 1947 under the Canberra Agreement by the six ‘participating governments’ that then administered territories in the Pacific: Australia, France, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. They established the organisation to restore stability to a region that had experienced the turbulence of the Second World War, to assist in administering their dependent territories and to benefit the people of the Pacific. The name, South Pacific Commission, was changed to the Pacific Community at the 50th anniversary conference in 1997 to reflect the organisation’s Pacific-wide membership. Now, in 2010, SPC’s 26-strong membership includes the 22 Pacific Island countries and territories along with four of the original founders (the Netherlands and United Kingdom withdrew in 1962 and 2004 respectively when they relinquished their Pacific interests).

FAME (SPC Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems) main's work is to provide the 22 SPC's member countries and territories with the information they need to make informed decisions on the management and development of their aquatic resources, and help to provide the tools and strengthen the capacity needed to implement these decisions. 

The Oceanic Fisheries Programme (OFP) is the Pacific Community’s regional centre for tuna fisheries research, fishery monitoring, stock assessment and data management. It was established by the 1980 South Pacific Conference (as the Tuna and Billfish Assessment Programme) to continue and expand the work initiated by its predecessor project, the Skipjack Survey and Assessment Programme.

The OFP provides scientific services relating to oceanic (primarily tuna) fisheries management to its membership. These services include fishery monitoring, data management, ecosystem and biological research relevant to the fisheries, and stock assessment and evaluation of species- and ecosystem-based management options.

The most important programme outputs are information (e.g., reports on the status of fisheries, stocks and ecosystems), infrastructure (e.g., databases, monitoring programmes), advice (e.g., regarding appropriate levels of fishing), and national capacity building in SPC members.

The OFP has three main objectives as outlined in the FAME Strategic Plan:

  • High-quality scientific information and advice for regional and national fisheries management authorities on the status of, and fishery impacts on, stocks targeted or otherwise impacted by regional oceanic fisheries;
  • Accurate and comprehensive scientific data for regional and national fisheries management authorities on fisheries targeting the region’s resources of tuna, billfish and other oceanic species; and
  • Improved understanding of pelagic ecosystems in the western and central Pacific Ocean.

Their “clients” are the fisheries administrations of SPC members, for whom they process and manage data from commercial tuna fishing fleets (both domestic and foreign licensed), assist in the development and implementation of effective fishery monitoring programmes, provide advice on the status of tuna and other affected pelagic fish stocks, conduct research on the biology and ecology of the pelagic ecosystem and provide training and other capacity building in these areas. 

The Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and its various sub-groups (particularly the Parties to the Nauru Arrangement (PNA) and the Te Vaka Moana Arrangement) are also key “clients”.
The OFP provides data products, scientific analyses and advice to assist these groups with the assessment and development of fisheries management measures. 

The OFP provides data management and stock assessment services and advice to WCPFC under an annual service agreement. The overall budget of the OFP in 2014 was approximately USD 8 million, with funding contributions from the SPC core budget (made up of the assessed contributions of SPC members), programme funding (made up of additional multi-year commitments made by the Governments of Australia, France and New Zealand)

The key work areas or OFP are:

Tuna Fishery Monitoring. The Fisheries Monitoring Section works in collaboration with the Data Management Section to achieve "Accurate and comprehensive scientific data for regional and national fisheries management authorities on fisheries targeting the region’s resources of tuna, billfish and other oceanic species".

The Fisheries Monitoring Section is particularly concerned with"Enhanced national fishery monitoring and data management systems" and, "Enhanced capacity of PICTs to monitor fisheries, manage and use data". The OFP has provided support to SPC member countries and territories for tuna fisheries monitoring since port sampling and observer programmes were implemented by several members in the early 1990s. Since then, the scope of the support has expanded to cover all elements of national tuna fishery monitoring.

Over the years, support has been provided to 20 members and has included advice on the structure fishery monitoring systems, funding of national staff and the provision of sampling equipment, in additional to technical support for sampling programmes; the support that has been provided to SPC members is summarised here.
The OFP has also developed tuna fishery sampling protocols to ensure that sampling data are representative and unbiased. 

Capacity building is an important activity of the Fisheries Monitoring Section, and it has been closely involved in the development of Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observer (PIRFO) standards, in collaboration with SPC members, FFA and the Secretariat of the WCPFC.

Regional Tuna Fisheries Databases

OFP is responsible for the development and maintenance of the collective regional tuna fisheries database which provides both direct and in-direct benefits to their member countries.  
The collective regional tuna fisheries databases comprise nine types of fishery data
    •    Operational catch and effort logsheet data
    •    Aggregated catch and effort data
    •    Annual catch estimates
    •    Port Sampling data
    •    Unloadings data
    •    Observer-reported catch/effort data
    •    Aggregated size frequency data
    •    Tagging data
    •    Biological data (e.g. otolith and stomach contents data)

At the regional level, tuna fishery data collected by member countries are used extensively for research and monitoring purposes. OFP uses the data in the regional tuna fisheries database to assess the state of exploitation of the stocks [on behalf of member countries, the WCPFC, FFA and the PNA] and to study interactions between the different fleets operating in the region. Monitoring of the fisheries includes the biannual publication of statistics compiled from the catch and effort database in the WCPFC Tuna Bulletin and through publication of the WCPFC Tuna

Fishery Yearbook.  Tuna fishery data also provide important information for Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) activities and are used in economic and social science studies.

The OFP provide member countries with a sub-set of the regional tuna fisheries database with software query tools to facilitate the extraction of summary tables, graphs and maps to assist in the decision-making processes related to the management of their tuna fisheries and satisfy their reporting obligations to the WCPFC. Member countries also contact OFP on a regular basis with a variety of ad hoc requests for summarised data prepared from the regional tuna database. 

Stock Assessment. Within the section, they have five areas of work.

  1. Regional oceanic fisheries management policy and decision-making by WCPFC are informed by the best science-based stock assessments and advice. This is achieved primarily through the Regional WCPO stock assessments that they undertake as service provider to tWCPFC, but in addition they have active Research being undertaken into software for use with stock assessments and addressing many of the important issues in stock assessments. 
  2. FFA’s oceanic fisheries management initiatives are supported by the best science-based stock assessments and advice. They work closely to support FFA in providing analytical support for their Regional fisheries management initiatives. This are of work also involves support of PNA and Te Vaka Moana. 
  3. National tuna oceanic fisheries policy and decision-making are informed by the best science-based stock assessments and advice. They work closely with National fisheries agencies to provide scientific advice that assists them in the development of Tuna Management plans and other relevant fisheries management plans. A key part of this support is the development of National Tuna Fisheries Status Reports (NTFSRs). 
  4. Enhanced capacity of SPC members to interpret stock assessment information and advice. For 7 years they have been running Stock Assessments Training Workshops (SAWs), have attachments at SPC for national scientists, and provide in-meeting support, particularly for FFA and WCPFC meetings.