Move to end 'slavery at sea' for fishing crews
A regional fisheries meeting in Pohnpei has produced an initiative to put responsibility for the conditions under which fishing crews work directly on fishing vessel operators. This is to be accomplished by putting crew conditions within the minimum requirements to obtain fishing licenses.
The new requirement was put forth at the annual Forum Fisheries Committee meeting in Pohnpei.
The outcome was hailed as “ground-breaking” by the 17 members of the organization as well as by international non-governmental-organizations present at the meeting.
Speaking at the meeting the Director-General of the FFA, Dr Manu-Tupou-Roosen, noted that the decision of members would now require embedding in national procedures.
“The fishing vessel operator will now become formally responsible for the health, welfare and safety of the crew while he or she is on board the vessel, and will be required to meet decent standards in respect of salary and conditions for all crew,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.
“This is a giant step forward in helping to ensure that the ‘slavery at sea’ identified in other global fisheries does not blight the Pacific region. It will help ensure that basic human rights are protected for those working in our offshore tuna fishery.”
The Chairman of the meeting, Executive Director of Federated States of Micronesia’s National Oceanic Resource Management Authority, Eugene Pangelinan, observed that “while the region’s regional offshore tuna fisheries are already the most sustainably managed in the world, we now expect all operators in the fishery to treat crew members in a way that reflects the values and expectations of our combined membership.”
Executive Director Pangelinan also noted that by setting these standards more Pacific Island nationals will be motivated to become crew on fishing vessels thus meeting an objective to enhance local employment in the Industry. “This is a goal our Leaders have set us and we are proud to be taking this work forward.”
Participants at the meeting have noted heightened concerns over conditions in high seas fisheries, especially on foreign longline vessels which often require crew to stay at sea for up to a year with poor pay and conditions and harsh penalties for dissent.
The 17 member countries of the FFA also agreed on:
A final draft FFA Strategic Plan 2020-2025 for forwarding to Ministers for their endorsement when they meet next month.
Strengthened work on assessing the impacts of climate change on offshore fisheries;
A new Regional Longline Strategy to underpin stronger returns to island countries;
Enhanced measures to eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing; and
Priorities for FFA members to take forward in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
This week was also a time of reflection for NORMA and FFA which are both celebrating 40 years of operation.
“I cannot stress enough that although much has been achieved in 40 years, there is still much to do particularly with emerging issues and challenges such as climate change. We work to ensure our people enjoy social and economic benefits from a sustainably managed offshore tuna resource and this wouldn’t be possible without key partnerships,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.
Coincidently, the fisheries meeting concludes on the 40th anniversary of the FSM becoming a self-governing nation.