Fiji's Parliament agrees to the FAO PSMA / by Francisco Blaha

It has been talked for a while but now is official, Fiji's parliament has agreed to sign the FAO Port State Measures Agreement. In a stark difference from the other Pacific Island States that signed, Fiji is a busy Port state for the Chinese, Taiwanese  (either own or using Vanuatu flag) longlining fleet, with a big chunk of them fishing in the high seas.

 She is going to be bussy!

She is going to be bussy!

Interestingly, as in the other cases, the drive to sign comes from the Foreign Affairs sector, more than from fisheries. 

In the case of Fiji, it would be interesting because it will take a big responsibility that is not reciprocated by the main DWFN that are using their ports: China (for lack of interest) and Taiwan (because by not being a member of the UN -  due to China’s opposition – it can’t sign, besides the fact that may not be interested in doing so anyway). 

Critics of this situation, may have point when they see it as (again) a developing Pacific Island Coastal and Port State taking an important responsibility (and costs) associated to PSMA, while the key Flag States (that subsidise their vessel way beyond the worst estimates of the value of IUU fishing in the region) keep not honouring their responsibilities over the action of their vessels.

In any case, Fiji has a solid MCS team I have worked over the years and is implementing many elements of PSM. And while I’m sure their work will be stretched by many of the additional components in the FAO PSMA, the signature also implies support to be provided by FAO in terms of capacity development and implementation. As usual, the more coordinated this work is with the existing work of FFA, the better for everyone. 

I have written in extent over PSMA over the years, and particularly under the principle that one size does not fit all... signing the Agreement is one thing, implementing it is a different game, and one that is exclusively lead by  the Fisheries Authorities (which in my opinion are vastly underresourced in the region), and not by Foreign Affairs, that sign and then go the next meeting..

And as I explained before, a lot of my PSM work in the region  is not explicitly aimed at implementing the FAO PSMA, instead, it seeks to achieve arrangements that are consistent with the purposes of the FAO PSMA so if a country decides to do so, a lot of the ground has been covered already. The decision to ratify the FAO PSMA or not, is the sole discretion of the governments, and that level of decision making is way above my pay level!