SPRFMO Adopts New Monitoring Standards

Image: South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation.

Members of the New Zealand-based South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO), while meeting in Manta, Ecuador from Jan. 29-Feb. 2, adopted U.S. proposals to boost observer coverage and combat labor abuse in South Pacific fisheries.

NOAA Fisheries said that the U.S. delegation, including members of the State Department, offered proposals to continue strengthening management and monitoring of the squid fishery in the South Pacific.

According to NOAA Fisheries, the fishery has been the focus of claims of rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in recent years. U.S. efforts led to adoption of a comprehensive high seas boarding and inspection program last year, a program that has increased opportunities for monitoring the fleet.

NOAA Fisheries on Feb. 7 said that many SPRFMO members have been concerned about the lack of monitoring for at-sea transshipment in the convention area, particularly in the squid fleet. A new conservation measure brokered by the U.S. and co-sponsored by New Zealand is expected to boost observer coverage for transshipment to 100%.

Alexa Cole, who serves as the U.S. representative on SPRFMO, said the new transshipment measure is an important achievement that helps the organization improve monitoring and ensure compliance of vessels fishing in the South Pacific. Cole is also the director of the Office of International Affairs, Trade and Commerce for NOAA Fisheries.

The U.S. has also led a charge to adopt an increase in observer monitoring in the jumbo-flying squid fishery. Concerns had been raised regarding current levels of observer covering being below the acceptable scientific standards for purposes of data collection and monitoring compliance.

Last year, the commission put limits on the number of vessels engaged in the squid fishery for the first time. The fishery had seen exponential growth in past years, but that growth is now capped.

Also during its meeting, SPRFMO members adopted a proposal from Ecuador to create a new working group to establish electronic monitoring standards. The proposal is to be considered for adoption at next year’s commission meeting.

The commission also adopted a decision introduced by the United States, New Zealand and Australia to establish labor standards on fishing vessels operating in the South Pacific. Recent reports have highlighted cases of labor abuses in fisheries, including the jumbo flying squid fishery.

NOAA officials said this decision supports actions to protect human rights and paves the way for improved working conditions in South Pacific fisheries.