How much do Pacific countries lose through illegal fishing?

Seventeen Pacific island countries including New Zealand and its territory Tokelau will have the results of a Pacific-wide study revealing the real value of lost annual revenue in the Pacific’s $US6-7billion fishery through IUU fishing

The results of the two-year study: Towards the Quantification of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in the Pacific Islands Region coordinated by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) will be reported to countries in a closed session tomorrow as part of FFA’s 19th Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Working Group meeting held in Auckland, New Zealand.

The FFA sessions follow on from two other key MCS events hosted in Auckland this month.

Discussion by the MCS working group officials will be followed by the report’s public debut at a media launch with FFA’s Director General James Movick, Tuvalu’s Minister for Works and Natural Resources, Pita Elisala, and the report’s author MRAG’s Duncan Souter taking questions.

“This is the first time that the Pacific countries, through FFA have been in a position to determine the type and scope of such a review,” said FFA’s DG, Movick.

“…the study itself provides a clearer sense of what the main IUU risks are, what is working, and what needs additional priority when it comes to ensuring tuna vessels in Pacific waters are complying with the rules.”

At the core of the report is for the first time, being able to specifically quantify the nature and extent of IUU fishing in the Pacific region’s fishery.

What that means at the street-level is the information in the report will help Pacific countries plan with confidence against losses through more effective stock assessments and stronger MCS responses.

Importantly, says FFA, the report provides the most reliable and current estimate, which puts to rest previously touted guesses totalling up to 1.5billion.

The Federated States of Micronesia’s (FSM) has applauded FFA’s initiative in putting together the report.

Attending the meeting, Susan Lowe-Gallen, FSM’s Chief of Compliance says the report is a game changer and sees two main impacts the region needs to take note.

First it elevates the Pacific to be one of the leading forces in the fight against IUU tuna fishing globally, “I don’t think any other region in the world has that [study] at this point,” she said.

She admits the numbers would not be absolute but “it gives us a better sense, a better estimate for the Pacific overall. In that regard we are slightly ahead of the game.”

But that follows up with a warning and the second impact that might hit the region as a result of the study. 

“We don’t want decisions that end up going to the FAO [UN Food and Agricultural Organization] or IMCS [International MCS Network] or anyone else that could generate things such as frameworks or initiatives that would actually set the Pacific back a step from where we already are.