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Flick The Switch! – Tuna Vessels Are Told Pacific Ocean, December 5, 12

All vessels passing through Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission member nations will have to switch on their vessel monitoring systems when passing through EEZ of member nations from high sea areas.

The decision was made by members of the commission attending their regular meeting in Manila yesterday (Dec 4).

WCFPC director Dr. Glenn Hurry says the decision was important because for a number of years vessels moving on the high seas to waters of member countries of the Pacific that were on their registers went blank in the process because once they moved into the EEZs the WCFPC could not track them and advise the member countries where they were.

“They are not registered on the Forum Fisheries Agency register so there was a potential for these vessels to be involved in illegal fishing or being in the waters of member countries and the member countries not knowing they were there,” Dr Hurry said.

“Some of it is genuine transiting at sea but others may or may not have been contributing to illegal fishing.

“What this measure approves today is it allows the commission to provide, to those member countries, those details to member countries when vessels do pass through their EEZs.

“It gives a lot better tracking and takes way potential for any illegal fishing.”

Dr Hurry said the commission agreed by consensus that all fleets will be involved.

“All boats listed on commission registry we can then provide details to the member countries on what is happening to them,” he said.

“I think it is a really important measure in that sense.

Forum Fisheries Agency Director General James Movick hailed the decision as a major accomplishment.

Mr. Movick said the decision would allow the FFA to track vessels licensed to the commission when they are passing through the high seas even if they are not licensed to fish in the FFA member zones.

“It is a great decision and as the decision suggests (flick the switch) the technology available will allow us to achieve it.

“It gives us better coverage of all boats between the tuna commission area including within the EEZs of FFA member countries.

“So it is a major accomplishment.”

Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority Executive Manager Ludwig Kumoro, and Parties to Nauru Agreement executive, said this was one of the best outcomes of this meeting.

“It will cut down illegal activities and suspicions that coastal states have on transparency now they will know what they are doing and it will also make fishermen more responsible,” Kumoro said.

“Now they know they are being watched everywhere.”

Marshall Islands and PNA member Glenn Joseph made interventions on this issue and distributed t-shirts encouraging WCPFC to “flick the switch” to make data on these vessels viewable to Pacific countries.