FFA takes a ground-breaking step in the issue of fishers labour rights / by Francisco Blaha

I reported last week that I was in the Brussels Seafood Global Show presenting the work I’ve been doing for FAO, The event we had was called the Brussels Dialogue and provided a great opportunity for FAO to present our first draft guidance on socially responsible fisheries value chains and for participants to provide feedback, comments, suggestions and inputs.

Fishing and fishers are now formally linked

Fishing and fishers are now formally linked

I was really presently surprised by the very favourable reaction to our work… in a nutshell our message was: We are people, this a story about all of us not just them, is about upholding the existing rights not more rules, and about due diligence that everyone in the value chain should be working towards. 

Katrina knows her stuff!

Katrina knows her stuff!

And while I was talking about this there with my colleague Katrina Nakamura, part of my head was in Ponphei (FSM) where the FFA Committee (FFA’s governing body), was discussing an issue if was involved in the drafting of the a month ago at the MSC working group (MCSWG).

Part of the problem in terms crew abuses, is that even if they where proven we did not have the tools to stop the vessel access to fishing, since labour and fishing are under different regulatory framework. This has been a big problem.

And in a total show of leadership my friends and colleagues in the pacific based on the awesome work done by Len Rodwell and Tion Nabau (legal adviser) of the FFA secretariat, with some inputs of my self and others during the MCSWG, they passed the first ever licensing conditions designed specifically to address human rights and labour abuses in the Pacific tuna fisheries

The measure, passed in the form of “harmonised minimum terms and conditions” or “HMTCs” for how all 17 member states may issue licenses, sets clear terms for the welfare and treatment of crew members working on board fishing vessels based directly form ILO Working in Fishing C188.  

The offices of the 17 Members expressed overwhelming support for the proposal, some concerns were expressed with respect to the consistent application of the standards and the legal framework underpinning the proposal, but those concerns were not significant enough to override the view of the moral and ethical necessity to address human rights and labour abuses.  

The reason this is momentous is because from the 1/1/2020, if a vessel does not uphold those conditions (I’ll blog about them when the final draft is approved by the FFC Ministerial) then they right to fish can be removed in the biggest fishery in the world. And this is the 1sttime in the world that there is direct link substantiated by a coalition of coastal states.

This is ground-breaking for fisheries worldwide, in this part of the world, fishers labour rights and fishing access are for first time formally linked.

I’m totally proud that the people I work the most with have taken such step, and the little input they allowed me to have on it. 

This will impact positively peoples life, and is (or should be) what we work for!