Honolulu 7 December 2018 — Pacific Island fisheries leaders are calling on members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to adopt a resolution to ensure conditions for crew on fishing vessels meet international minimum standards.

   Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, with the support of members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), are proposing adoption of a resolution on fishing vessel crew labor standards to the WCPFC annual meeting next week in Honolulu.

   The draft resolution is in line with the goal of FFA members to enhance economic benefits to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from employment on board fishing vessels licensed to fish in the exclusive economic zones of FFA members. “We want to promote enhanced employment opportunities for our members, but we must ensure that the vessels operating in our region are safe working platforms for our people, with fair terms and conditions of employment,” said Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen, FFA Director General. “This why we have all agreed on this proposed crewing labor standard.”

   The WCPFC meeting 10-14 December in Honolulu addresses the wide range of issues related to the conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

   The “fisheries roadmap” adopted by Pacific Island Leaders sets a target for Pacific Islanders to attain 33,000 jobs in the fishing industry by 2023. There are currently approximately 23,000 Pacific Island employees across the fisheries sector, with 15,000 of these jobs in tuna processing, the vast majority being women. With the goal to increase Pacific Island employment in fisheries by an additional 10,000 jobs, a focus on vessel-based employment is a priority.

   “Vessels must be safe and have agreed standards for safe operations and on-board conditions including remuneration and accommodation,” said Ludwig Kumoru, CEO of the PNA, whose members control waters where 60 percent of the tuna is caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Mr. Kumoru added: “We have a number of very good training institutions and can offer well trained and disciplined crew, but it is important that our crew are safe and looked after in accordance with an agreed standard. That is why we are supporting this new resolution to the WCPFC.”

   There are currently more than 250 purse seine vessels operating in the region, each with 25 to 30 crew. “Just four or five crew jobs for Pacific Islanders on each of these vessels would create 1,000 new jobs,” said Mr. Kumoru.

   In addition to 250 purse seiners, over 1,500 longline vessels operate in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. “The largest crewing employment opportunity is in the longline fishery with more than 1,500 vessels operational in the WCPFC,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen. “However, on-board working conditions on some longline vessels can be very challenging.” Currently, the majority of longline vessels source crew from Asia, with few Pacific Islanders on these vessels.

   The FFA members’ draft resolution is not specific to Pacific Island crew but is aimed to cover crew from all Commission members. “We seek to ensure a number of key standards are adopted for all Commission members to ensure vessels in our region are safe and reflect international minimum standards for the responsible conduct of fishing operations,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

   “This includes a safe and secure working environment without risk to health and well being, fair terms of employment, decent working and living conditions on board vessels, fair and regular remuneration that complies with at least the minimum wage in the jurisdiction of the flag State of the vessels, and the provision of a port call at least once every six months,” she added.

   To implement this crew standards resolution, developed members, cooperating non-members and participating territories (known as “CCMs”) will need to make concerted efforts and consider innovative options to assist developing CCMs — both flag States and coastal States — to develop, strengthen and enforce domestic legislation, including working with fishing industry players to help them meet these minimum standards.  

   “This is in line with the important focus and efforts several CCMs are trying to make to improve the labor standards of crew as reflected in indications of support we have already received for the FFA-sponsored resolution,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

   Dr. Tupou-Roosen and Mr. Kumoru urged all CCMs to join FFA members in this important step in the WCPFC to ensuring labor and human rights protection of crews.