5th annual session of the WCPFC’s Technical and Compliance Committee concludes in Micronesia
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) completed the 5th session of its Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC) at Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia on Tuesday 6th October. More than 140 representatives from 36 countries participated in the meeting which started on Monday 28 September. The Committee was chaired by Ambassador Wendell Sanford from Canada. This was the third and final session of the TCC chaired by Ambassador Sanford – at the conclusion of the session Mr Noan Pakop from Papua New Guinea was selected to replace him in 2010. Also attending the Committee session this year was Ambassador Satya Nandan from Fiji – the new Chairman of the WCPFC. Ambassador Nandan will chair the next annual meeting of the Commission when it meets in French Polynesia in December.
A major decision of the TCC was the recommendation that the Commission adopt new rules and procedures for the use, protection and dissemination of data for the purposes of surveillance and enforcement on the high seas and the use of scientific data for scientific purposes. These rules had been developed over a period of 20 months by the Commission’s Ad Hoc Task Group for Data chaired by Holly Koehler of the USA.
The main issues on the agenda for the TCC was the activities of observers who were placed on purse seine fishing vessels operating in the western and central Pacific ocean (WCPO) in August and September to monitor the prohibition of fishing on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). Observers were recruited from the Pacific Islands region to monitor implementation of this Measure. Two hundred and fourteen vessels qualified for inclusion in the Regional Observer Programme (ROP). Of these 49 decided not to fish and instead schedule normal maintenance in port. This resulted in165 vessels fishing through the closure on the basis that they were required to confine their fishing operations to free swimming schools. Reports presented to the TCC indicated that while most vessels had followed this rule there were several reports of violations. The TCC recommended supplementary information be prepared for further consideration of these incidents for the annual session in Papeete in December using information acquired as part of the de-briefing process for observers.
One of the important issues considered by the TCC was the arrangements that need to be put in place to process the data and information that will be generated by the ROP. In 2010 purse seiners are subject to 100% observer coverage. This will require sufficient observers to cover approximately 2,200 individual trips which will generate large volumes of observer information. In addition, by June 2012, flag States are required to achieve 5% coverage on their longline vessels operating beyond national jurisdiction in the Convention Area.
The TCC also reviewed implementation of the Commission’s VMS. All fishing vessels that operate on the high seas in the WCPO are required to carry a satellite transponder that allows the Commission in Pohnpei to track these vessels. The system became operational in April this year. When it started the Commission expected 600 vessels to be monitored by the system by the end of 2009. However, by October, the Commission is reporting that it has more than 2,200 vessels on its system. The TCC reviewed the status of vessels carrying VMS against the Commission’s Record of Fishing Vessels which currently has more than 9,000 vessels. The TCC reviewed the scope and quality of information for vessels on the Record and recommended that an on-line system for entering vessel details be developed as a means to improve the ability of flag States to maintain its record of fishing vessels on the Commission’s Record.
The Technical Committee also reviewed information that had been submitted alleging that 17 fishing vessels had undertaken illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing activities in the region in 2008 and early 2009. After reviewing the information submitted in relation to these vessels the Technical Committee decided to place 15 vessels on its Draft IUU List which will be considered by the Commission when it meets in French Polynesia in December.