Our new fisheries building in Majuro / by Francisco Blaha

I have been in Majuro for over a week now, as part of my work as “offshore fisheries advisor” for MIMRA (the fisheries authority). Yesterday was a big day for us here as we officially opened the new headquarters, with the presence of everyone from the country’s president to the kids of the staff.

Pic by my mate Garry Venus that was in the water at the time

Pic by my mate Garry Venus that was in the water at the time

Why the opening of a building would be such an event? Because I think (my personal opinion) that it means more than just a building, I see it as a statement of independence and institutional maturity from from one of the most progressive and assertive fisheries administration in the Pacific.

The revenues from fisheries in particularly since the set up the Vessel Day Scheme by PNA, have become the main income earner for the PNA countries, since they are rightfully the owners of the fish, while the DWFN are the “renters”. Yet the power was totally in the hands of the renters, and a lot of aid support was tied up to concessions in terms of fisheries access. The PNA secretariat changed that for good, and that shift is being further strengthened year to year.

Yet all the money coming in was absorbed by the many needs that Pacific Islands countries have, and very little was invested in making sure the fisheries administrators (as the custodians of the resource) had the space and tools needed to manage and control their fisheries.

made and paid by MIMRA

made and paid by MIMRA

Traditionally fisheries building in the Pacific were (and are) being donated or built with the support of developing agencies from the DWFN (that are not shy to then use their support to then get cheap access - with the honourable exemption of Australia -no vessels in the region- and NZ - only one)

MIMRA’s management decided to change that and stood firm in making sure that they have the place they deserve (literally) and invested in building their new headquarters, who was totally designed and built out of RMI’s own resources.

And this is (in my view) the statement I was talking above, no one has done this before in the region, and that is what is to be commended.

I said before that I enjoy working here because they have a progressive and independent attitude, they are not afraid to innovate and try different approaches. And that permeates from the leadership down. Glen Joseph (himself a marine scientist and former observer) has been at the helm of MIMRA for quite a few years and has been a champion on this “new” way to see fisheries in the Pacific.

I do appreciate the man both professionally and personally, he has been a total supporter of my works and presence here, (even if I wasn’t the obvious choice for this type of work: dyslexic, ex-fisherman, non-native English speaker) yet since I started working here I believe we have achieved a lot, and he asked NZMFAT to extend my contract for at least another year, which I really appreciated, as I don't take anyone's support of my work for granted at all.

And this appreciation goes to all the people I work with on daily basis, such as Berry (ladies 1st), Sam, Beau Bigler, Melvin, Helmar, Bernard, just to name a few… I’m not made feel as the foreign consultant but as one of the team… and that means a lot to me.

Anyway, enough of that banter! The new building is by far the best of its kind in the whole of the Pacific and I’m particularly happy with the Operations room that is state of the art, we have a direct feed from FFA’s regional picture over 4 massive screens and dedicates VMS and FIMS screens as well as direct link with the sea patrol. (All the technology you see in the pic below was bought under a World Bank Programme)

Glen (the boss) explaining the country’s President (in the yellow dress) the key elements of the control room

Glen (the boss) explaining the country’s President (in the yellow dress) the key elements of the control room

From the MCS and in particular PSM perspective is a bit a wet dream room. Being the busiest transhipment port in the Pacific this helps lot… and we have some big PSM developments for the pipeline that will be announced soon

But the best thing we have space and is amazing what this does to morale you can feel people being amped about their work and their workspace.

So yes, I’m loving the new place and the work I’ve been trusted by my colleagues to do, and if you are by chance in Majuro, come and check it out.

Here are some pictures from it and the inauguration.

From top left to bottom right: the oceanic division, Glenn in his office (he has to coffee machine!), the port operations whiteboard, welcoming flowers and the last two have a story, the minister in his opening speech challenge MIMRA staff to live after the expectation of the job, and we (I was invited to join) all went behind Glen to accept the challenge.