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  • By Bernadette H.Carreon, Pacific Note

FSM: Tuna poachers, we're watching

Honolulu-- The Federated States of Micronesia is tapping into the latest high-tech surveillance technology to be its eyes on the vessels fishing in its exclusive economic zone, reflecting its commitment to the Technology in Tuna Transparency Challenge.

Eugene Pangelinan, Executive Director of the FSM National Oceanic Resource Management Authority, said the FSM is making use of emerging technologies to further improve national fisheries administrations, “to ensure that fish can be verified for traceability and transparency.”

Tuna being processed in Palau before shipped off overseas.

(Photo: Richard W. Brooks)

Pangelinan, on the sidelines of the ongoing Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, said the goal is to use a variety of technologies so that detailed data on fishing efforts, target catch composition and the by-catch of non-target species that come in on the vessels in FSM can be collected.

Electronic monitoring systems in fisheries use video cameras, remote sensors, satellites and hard drives installed on fishing boats to provide a range of information, including information on retained and discarded catch.

The data is provided to shore-based teams of analysts. In tuna fisheries, gathering information in this way is particularly important in the longline fisheries in which the very large number of smaller vessels makes it impossible to achieve the 100 percent coverage by onboard fisheries observers achieved in the purse seine fishery.

Pangelinan said the data it will ensure that “tuna caught in FSM was harvested legally, sustainably and without slave labor.”

FSM President Peter Christian at the Our Oceans Conference in Bali, Indonesia in October vowed to have all fleets active in its waters comply with full transparency by 2023. Christian challenged other nations to do the same and commit to full tuna transparency by 2023 in what is known as the T-3 Challenge or Technology for Tuna Transparency Challenge.

“By taking this lead, the FSM is committed to full tuna transparency that we hope will promote a worldwide shift in fishing practices and set the stage for global seafood market transformation for the betterment of us, and our oceans” Pangelinan said.

To kickstart the initiative, Pangelinan said the Nature Conservancy organization has announced a $2.5M funding goal to support the T-3 Challenge. Pangelinan stressed the technology is not aimed at replacing human observers but rather enhancing the compliance monitoring system.

Observers provide a different kind of information and are important in ground-truthing information gained through electronic monitoring. Pangelinan said the shore-based analysis centers will provide jobs for Pacific Islanders with observer experience.

He said FSM doesn’t have 100 percent observer coverage and is falling behind WCPFC requirements of five percent coverage because of the logistical issues. Independent monitors are placed on long liners which cruise the Pacific for many months and often do not return to the port at which they started their trip.

The FSM is hoping that Parties of the Nauru Agreement and Forum Fisheries Agency and WCPFC partner with them to achieve the Tuna Transparency challenge by 2023.

“I think we will achieve it, it’s just that it would be very helpful and strengthen and support us for other to have the same commitment,” Pangelinan said.

PNA officials recently considered the development of a PNA E-Monitoring Program at a workshop in Honiara.

According to an earlier statement, PNA said the he workshop was a response to both the decision of PNA Ministers to put a priority on developing a PNA E-Monitoring Program, and President Christian’s call for 100 percent coverage of longline fishing vessels by electronic monitoring by 2023.

In the FSM, revenues from fisheries account for 70 percent of the Gross Domestic Product which translates to about $50 to $60 million a year.

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