Fisheries Observer Safety Measure is finally agreed at WCPFC13 / by Francisco Blaha

This has been (unfortunately) a long fight, after 5 fisheries observer deaths in the last 6 years, a very disputed CMM (like a law) on the safety of observers while on board was finally accepted today at WCPFC meeting

United they stand...  ©FFA

United they stand...  ©FFA

Fisheries Observers are the frontline of management and compliance evaluation in the pacific fishery, and their safety is paramount. Read for your self if anything is beyond the minimum anyone at sea will expect

Nevertheless, there was fierce opposition by Japan based on tenuous (allegedly unsubstantiated legal arguments), China (who wanted psychological and medical reports – something they don't ask from their own crew) and similar pathetic arguments by Taiwan and Korea… the usual DWFN suspects .

In an unprecedented move the Pacific nations took a stand for the 'invisible' frontline of human observers watching over fisheries practice in our oceanic fisheries. WCPFC Chair Rhea Moss-Christian confirmed a vote on a proposed Observer Safety CMM tabled by the US, after it stalled in plenary without reaching consensus, due to domestic legislation reasons given by Japan. 

However, Commission Observers WWF and the FFA bloc of all Pacific members at the Commission made it clear the time for waiting was over. "There is not another way forward," said FFA's Wez Norris before the Chair's decision to hold the vote starting 6.10pm Fiji-time. "The discussions have been had, the works been done, the drafting's been drafted." The strong condemnation from all Pacific members and call for a vote has put the Commission in no doubt that when it comes to the safety of nearly 300 Pacific Observers watching over our tuna fishery, human life can't wait.

It would have been the 2nd time the commission would have gone to a vote in their history. But at the end Japan conceded and consensus prevailed.

Bubba takes a stand...  ©FFA

Bubba takes a stand...  ©FFA

My colleague Bubba Cook from WWF has been a big supporter of the observer’s measure (he already supported the distribution of a safety 2 way communication device for the e-observer app, so we get the reports on real-time, as well as any emergencies on board). "We've heard a lot about 'domestic restraints' this week.” He said… “Prove it, make evidence available. Provide facts, show us the laws. Don't make blind assertions, it wastes the time of everyone here”

"I am sorry for being angry -- but this is about people”, he said... and I agree totally… it is about people.

So may times I said, that I don't work with fish, I work with the people that work with fish. Nothing is going to change if don’t address the people factor first. 

A maori proverb says it clearly:
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)

Anyone that has spend time in the Pacific knows that.

I wrote about an observer lost at sea here, one of the hardest days in my life.