Analytical Studies to Support a Regional MCS Strategy for the Pacific Islands Region

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Analytical Studies to Support the Development of a Regional Monitoring Control and Surveillance Strategy for the Pacific Islands Region

Client: The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

This report set out the results of five analytical projects undertaken to support the development of a Regional MCS Strategy for Pacific oceanic fish stocks (principally tuna and tuna-like species). The overarching purpose of the Strategy was to support a management regime and associated measures that will ensure the long term sustainability of oceanic fish stocks and associated economic benefits flowing from them to Pacific Island Countries. Extensive consultation was undertaken in support of the projects including visits by the project team to 16 of the 17 FFA members, direct consultation with staff from key regional institutions (e.g. WCPFC, SPC, USP), as well as discussions with each of the four quadrilateral defence force providers.

The first project undertook an assessment of risks to oceanic fish stocks arising from fishing that undermines fisheries management frameworks and objectives. Over 42 separate risks were identified and assessed, three of which were rated as ‘severe’ risks, and a further 20 were rated as ‘high’ risks. The assessment identified risks across the geographical range of stocks and throughout the supply chain. Unlike other parts of the world, there was a strong case to be made that the majority of IUU activity in the FFA region is associated with licensed vessels. Inadequate reporting – particularly of target species – was identified as a high risk area and there is a need to strengthen catch monitoring and validation throughout the supply chain. Notwithstanding that, unlicensed fishing remains a risk amongst some fleets and areas and may increase as fisheries become increasingly regulated. An important strategic risk was the displacement of IUU activity into the adjacent high seas as in zone MCS arrangements are strengthened. As a result there is a need to promote complementary and supportive high seas MCS arrangements through the WCPFC. A range of additional MCS measures were suggested to mitigate residual risks.

The second project reviewed the implementation of relevant compliance measures by each of the Pacific Island FFA members. Implementation performance for 10 key MCS components was assessed against a total of 49 indicators. The Review identified national examples of strong implementation where some members were setting global benchmarks in MCS implementation. However, the review also identified some members that struggled with MCS implementation across a number of components due to significant institutional and capacity weaknesses. Similarly, the review identified four MCS components that required significant improvement across the region: Data Management and MCS Coordination; Legislation and Management Plans; Port Controls and Inspections; and Observer Schemes. In response, the Review provided six recommendations that addressed these weaknesses and directly, or indirectly, improve implementation across all ten MCS components.

The third project developed a framework and policy for the collection, processing, storage and exchange of fisheries data in support of national, sub-regional and regional MCS initiatives undertaken by FFA Members. In coordination with Projects 1 and 2, the project defined current and likely future information needs and identified types of data required by MCS component. In order to address gaps and maximize the value of information in supporting MCS activities, a strategy for improving information management across the region was proposed, consisting of three main components: (a) strengthening national capacity in MCS Information Systems, including the establishment of ‘Compliance Analysis Engines’; (b) establishing a ‘Regional Information Management Facility’ to allow for the sharing of timely and accurate MCS information and support planning and targeting of MCS activities; and (c) establishing a regional ‘Information Exchange Model’ to guide information sharing within the region.

The fourth project examined the benefits associated with MCS cooperation amongst the FFA membership and the conditions and mechanisms required to support enhanced levels of cooperation. The study identified benefits of cooperation at both the strategic and operational levels and across virtually all aspects of MCS. The study also noted that benefits existed at all levels within the FFA membership – regional, sub-regional, intranational – and between FFA members and external States and agencies (e.g. WCPFC). Six ‘basic building blocks’ for effective cooperation were identified – effective legal frameworks, strong national MCS frameworks, standards and systems for cooperation, effective information exchange, standard operating procedures (SOPs) with integrated training and a dedicated mechanism to facilitate cooperation. The current status of these measures within the region was assessed and suggestions to strengthen their implementation made.

The fifth project examined the existing application of surveillance aircraft and patrol vessels for MCS purposes within the WCPO, and projected levels of surveillance support in the short to medium term. In doing so it identified a number of limitations to the optimal employment of these assets, and opportunities to partially address these shortfalls within existing frameworks for cooperation such as the Niue Treaty and Ship-Rider Agreements. The project then reviewed a range of contemporary management options and surveillance technologies that might integrate with existing national programs to provide planned broad-area surveillance to inform MCS programs and short-notice intelligence-driven response for enforcement and deterrence. This analysis included a range of options for attaining a “bluewater” surface capability, commercial aerial surveillance supplementation and the integration of satellite surveillance technologies for MCS purposes.