Port State Measures Agreement is on... so what happens now? / by Francisco Blaha

During my brief time as an "almost senior" fishery officer at FAO, I got the opportunity to meet some very capable people that have a unique view on what are the overarching issues at world fisheries. And I'm very lucky that I maintained a good working and personal relationship with all of them, and they are patient and generous with their time and knowledge to my frequent questions. Can't thank them enough!

PSM in action... doing a boarding in PNG

PSM in action... doing a boarding in PNG

I been writing about PSMA for a while now (here, here and more ) in relationship to the general work in MCS and in regards "my baby" the UAC# (Unloading Authorization Code) that has PSM as part of its DNA. But really... what it means in practical terms for the countries that signed it and for those that not.

These were the questions I asked a good friend in FAO legal, whom actually I meet in 1998!

The "magic" 25 ratifications/accessions mean that the PSMA is in force for the countries (parties) that have ratified/acceded to the agreement. It practically means that the obligations in the agreement are binding on the parties (i.e. those which ratified/acceded to and lack of implementation can be a cause for dispute and litigation by another party).

It makes practical sense for the parties to PSMA to translate the obligation and requirements under PSMA into domestic law. If a party does not have a domestic law (whether a new law or existing -old- law), that party might not implement the PSMA effectively but it does not absolve that party from its obligation and may be taken to task by other parties for not doing so.

If a State is not a party, it can still comply with the requirements of the PSMA if it finds the requirements to be logical/useful.  If it does not comply with the PSMA requirements, it does not have any responsibility or cannot be challenged by a party for not complying with the PSMA.

How this plays in the context of the WCPFC, that last year decided not to adopt a PSM CMM (Control and Management Measure) proposed by FFA>

Is hard to say if the PSM CMM proposal will be taken up and the direction the WCPFC members will take it to. However, that certain important members of the WCPFC are also parties to the PSMA including USA and the EU, Korea and Indonesia. Among the PICs, Palau and Tonga are already parties. 

I am sure that the parties to the PSMA will not want to see that a CMM of the WCPFC on PSM departs from the PSMA.  The understanding is that PNA and PIC/FFA members of the WCPFC were not keen on the PSMA because they want to have in place first the disproportionate burden CMM.  (I wrote about this here)

However, a "disproportionate burden CMM", would be hard to be implemented as a "generic CMM", it must be linked to an actual activity.  A CMM on PSM, therefore could have provisions on disproportionate burden considerations for PNA and PIC/FFA members.

Japan seems also changing its stance on the PSMA (note that Japan was not in favour of PSMA in the past) and might accede to the agreement soon. In that case, Japan will join the club of PSMA parties in the WCPFC and will put the pressure on for the CMM on PSM to be consistent with the PSMA.

Hence after some wrangling, this all could be good news for us in the region. I believe that any advances in that field are good and as good pragmatic man, i think that the perfect should not get in the way of the good.

in case you wanna know why a left FAO, was a lifestyle decision, I wrote about it here back in 2009 on my original, non-fisheries blog "Life in Development".