NGO support as Pacific fisheries tech platforms gain legal edge

by Fatu Tauafiafi | 14 April 2017 | News

Keeping an eye out for IUU activity -- stronger cooperation relies on better information and resource sharing.

There have been impressive strides made by Pacific countries towards electronic platforms as a collective means to address regional issues faces challenges in succession planning in the legal-capacity of developing nations.  Addressing that potential  ‘succession weakness’, a number of international non-government organizations are offering assistance to strengthen the legal analyses and implementation behind the technologies.  Amongst them, an offer was formally tabled to 15 Pacific countries and territories at the March regional meet at FFA for the Niue Treaty Multilateral Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA) in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

“What we’ve seen is an evolution in the Pacific towards electronic platforms for data collection and data sharing arrangements and that is exactly what the NTSA depends on,” said Mr Bubba Cook, World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Tuna Programme Manager for Western and Central Pacific.

Electronic platforms, such as the NTSA’s Niue Treaty Information System (NTIS) make data sharing easier among Pacific member countries. The technologically-enabled platform allows Pacific members who are parties to the NTSA to use each others’ information to better combat the threat of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing more effectively.

“As NGOs, we’re interested to help support the policies underlying the technologies because in many cases the countries may have their legislation based back in the 1960s or 1970s as they probably never envisioned the computers we have available today to be able to capture and use that information,” said Mr Cook.

The offer resonated immediately with Tonga and the Federated States of Micronesia.

“We are in full support for sharing our data because we realize the importance of collaboration and sharing for the purpose of attaining common goals,” FSM’s Chief, Compliance and Technical Projects, Ms Suzanne Gallen told Pacific Guardians.

“But having said that, we do need to identify and probably put in place, policies for our data and information sharing – we don’t have that yet. We noted WWF’s offer at the end of the workshop and that is one area the FSM would like to tap into and maybe we could get a template in information security so we can further develop what we have now, which are very minor drafts we have just started putting together but needs further work to implement.”

She also added that “quite a bit of work needs to be done in terms of upgrading, amending, revising our domestic policies and legislation currently in place in order to effectively implement the NTSA.”

For the NGOs that is exactly the support they are offering to provide.

“What we would like to do is provide some resources and capacity building to help national authorities build their own internal capacities to be able to conduct the legal analyses and implementation as well as some of the technical capacities to help them fully implement things like the NTSA,” said Mr Cook.

“The NGO community can really help, we can come in, provide the resources and in some cases, provide the actual training to help build that national level capacity to support that succession planning.”

As an observation, Mr Cook said that in many Pacific cases, generally, there is a particular individual who is very well versed in their legal approach and legal context but who maybe moving to a different position or moving up the chain. And there is not enough training being put into someone who is going to fill that vacancy when the incumbent leaves.

“Most times they don’t have lawyers that are focused specifically on fisheries issues they’re responsible for everything from international agreements to domestic law and other issues so they have very little time they can dedicate specifically to fisheries issues. If they are well trained and well informed about those fisheries issues then it makes it much easier for them to be more effective.”

Behind the offer is also admiration for the work Pacific islanders are doing in areas such as fisheries management and the steps taken to face the nigh impossible IUU perpetrators with the meager resources and expertise at their disposal.

“There is such a tremendous amount of this really great work going on in the Pacific and sometimes, a lot of us in the room today are in the thick of it that we don’t take a moment to step out and realize just how far advanced the Pacific is in terms of a lot of these fisheries management issues.

“The fact there is a regional surveillance centre that is very sophisticated here [in Honiara] should be a point of pride for the Pacific.

“I think there is a very important role for the work we’re proposing because it would be coordinated specifically with the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the role they provide is creating that solidarity, that unity, that cohesiveness amongst Pacific island states.

“So when you’re working in partnership with a regional Pacific agency like FFA, you start to build that foundation so everyone is up to the same level in terms of their applications, their legal processes and legal standards,” concluded Mr Cook.–First published by Pacific Guardians


“As NGOs, we’re interested to help support the policies underlying the technologies because in many cases the countries may have their legislation based back in the 1960s or 1970s as they probably never envisioned the computers we have available today to be able to capture and use that information. ” — Mr Bubba Cook, WWF

WWF’s Bubba Cook with Tonga’s Losalini Loto’ahea discussing NGOs’ offer of support. Photo Pacific Guardians