Pamela Maru, fisheries management adviser

by TunaPacific Republishing | 6 December 2018 | Moana Voices

Pamela Maru Credit: InfoFish

Republished from INFOFISH ( in INFOFISH International, Issue 6, 2018. In January, Pamela will take up a new position as Secretary for the Ministry of Marine Resources, Cook Islands.

“We have the ability to shape our fisheries in a way that suits our long term needs, feeding and providing for our Pacific Islands. We need to invest in our people, and management of these resources – to give back, as we take out – if we really want to move ahead. We need to speak up more, and stop shying away from things that matter but which might be uncomfortable to raise. (Pamela Maru: quote from the ‘70 Inspiring Pacific Women campaign’.)

INFOFISH: Let’s begin with the FFA proposal which was adopted last year by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) for a new Port State management measure to combat illegal fishing by boosting Pacific Island capacity to conduct port inspections. It must have been a moment to remember, particularly for you as the team leader of the project. Could you give readers an insight as to the preceding dialogue with Island nations to gather support for the initiative? We understand that the consultation processes between South Pacific countries often reflect certain cultural and traditional values.

Pamela Maru: Firstly, this really was an FFA member driven process. FFA members are made up of 17 nations from across the Pacific – north and south. It was FFA members that had been calling for proper consideration of their specific needs and special requirements, particularly as 15 are Small Island Developing States. Addressing these needs in a meaningful way is important to ensure that they are able to meet their aspirations of continuing to enhance their ability and contributions in the fight against IUU fishing. Fisheries make a significant contribution to the economies of Pacific Island nations, so the development of any programme must be adapted to suit specific objectives, their business needs, and the nature in which fisheries are managed in Pacific Islands.

The Forum Fisheries Agency is a unique entity. In 1977, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders had the foresight to establish an agency that could provide the necessary technical and legal support to Pacific Island nations to establish and manage their tuna fisheries resources. Over time, FFA members have cooperated in developing several regional initiatives, such as the Regional FFA Vessel Register, the FFA Vessel Monitoring System, Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions for Access by Fishing Vessels to EEZs, the Niue Treaty on Cooperation in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement, the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre, and regional standards for fisheries data collection and monitoring. What this has resulted in is a comprehensive framework and solid foundation for fisheries management and monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), in supplementing national capacity, on which to incorporate and further enhance measures such as port inspection regimes.

Of utmost importance is the protection of sovereignty. As coastal States and port States, ensuring their ability to manage their tuna resources and ports in a manner that does not undermine their authority, but that also enables these island nations to determine what the most effective and efficient means to achieve an objective is important. Far too often people presume to know what it is like working in small fisheries administrations, and that things could be easily put in place. When you are competing for resources against other national priorities such as health, education and infrastructure, fisheries will always rank lower.

In 2016, FFA undertook a study to quantify IUU fishing in the Pacific. What it demonstrated was that the former perception of high risk, unauthorised or unlicensed fishing vessels, has in fact diminished and now accounts for only 4% of the total estimated volume of catch associated with IUU fishing activities. This is an outcome largely driven by the suite of regional and national controls and monitoring tools established by both FFA members, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The nature of IUU fishing in the Pacific has shifted where misreporting now makes up 54% of the estimated volume of catch associated with IUU fishing activities, and 29% for non-compliance with other licensing conditions. What this means is a need to refocus compliance efforts and resources in response to these risk areas, on both flagged and foreign fishing vessels, which is exactly the approach FFA members are now taking through the development of a new Regional MCS Strategy (2018-2023).

Incorporating smart business design and risk assessment frameworks will enable smaller fisheries administrations to provide for the necessary information sharing and compliance responses needed to better implement port inspection regimes. This will help to avoid overburdening fisheries administrations that are already stretched for resources, and ensuring that systems are developed that are fit for purpose. The strengthening of port inspections is one part of the MCS toolbox that FFA members are operationalising, and working with development partners who also share this vision for a coordinated and integrated approach to MCS.

INFOFISH: You were reported to have said “It is the first time a measure really looks at the implications and impacts on small island developing states (SIDS), what those obligations might mean in terms of addressing their needs and their capacitydevelopment requirements and developing, or having, some sort of agreement to develop mechanisms that will support their ability to improve their technical capacity”. Almost a year has gone by since the adoption of the proposal. How far have the Island nations progressed in equipping designated ports and addressing fisheries compliance gaps in the relevant areas?

Pamela Maru: When international agreements are developed, dictating ‘how’ something must be implemented as opposed to focussing on ‘what’ is needed, can be the fine line between enabling a developing country to fully comply with a requirement or, creating an undue burden on available resources. In the context of the WCPFC, CMM 2017-02 is the only conservation and management measure that specifically articulates areas of assistance that SIDS themselves have identified as being important in ensuring their participation and contribution in the development and enhancement of port State measures in the Pacific. Not dictated to or driven by third party interests, but communicated by SIDS in the interests of SIDS. Pacific SIDS are not always well represented or able to effectively participate in the negotiation of international agreements, and this measure provides the opportunity for a considered approach to implementing port State measures in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

Compliance assessments on countries through RFMO or market-driven processes can create the political will for developing States to invest in, for example, port State measures. But in small economies this creates an issue where limited resources are diverted from higher priority areas, to an area that could be implemented if time and appropriate capacity building is provided in a way that suits the context and nature of their operations.

The measure was specifically designed to take a phased approach in implementing port inspection regimes, and ensuring that SIDS are able to fully comprehend what their obligations are – legally, technically, operationally – and what resources and arrangements are needed to maintain sustainable port inspection programmes, before progressing to a more comprehensive arrangement.

There has been great progress in working towards enhancing port inspection capacity. Understanding how port State measures fit into the regional Pacific fisheries picture and the role each country has to play, as a flag State, port State or coastal State, and sharing the necessary information and resources to inform targeted inspections. Improvements to regulatory frameworks are well underway, and regional workshops and engagement with MCS experts are contributing to the development of a broader FFA regional policy framework and related standards. This will help to develop effective training courses specifically for port State measures that will sit within the training framework that FFA has developed for MCS officers to attain formal qualifications.

Taking advantage of emerging technologies and transitioning away from manual and paper based processes, through the implementation of electronic reporting and electronic monitoring as well as further development of information management systems, is a significant body of work that continues. This will reshape the way fisheries administrations manage and analyse MCS information and enable the retargeting of resources to respond to risk assessment outcomes and help to improve compliance responses.

INFOFISH: What assistance mechanisms and associated timeframe, including training and financial support, are included in the proposal to avoid a disproportionate burden on SIDS? What is the FFA’s specific role in the process?

Pamela Maru: WCPFC is expected to discuss this issue at its annual meeting in December this year. One innovative approach that WCPFC is advancing is the development of a strategic investment plan to better coordinate the delivery of support to developing States where capacity assistance needs are identified, as well as ensuring more effective participation of developing States in the work of WCPFC. A comprehensive analyses of assistance needs, and available resources is being collated to inform the development of the strategic investment plan. This will hopefully provide the means for SIDS to access the needed resources to progress the development of their port inspection regimes.

FFA members will continue to drive and advise WCPFC and its members where SIDS require targeted assistance, and to highlight where a disproportionate burden of conservation effort is identified in the implementation of port inspection regimes. The implementation of any conservation and management measure must take into account the costs and benefits associated with implementation efforts, and that these be mitigated or removed. Port State measures are a prime example where the displacement of flag State responsibilities has resulted in the need for port States to actively address IUU fishing and compliance risks associated with deficient flag State controls. A collaborative and integrated MCS approach is needed to close the gaps and ensure that effective information sharing and compliance responses drive any port inspection regimes.

More specifically, FFA has a five year project that aims to support its members with implementing port State measures. Through this project, collaboration with donors, NGOs and the FAO will ensure that practical solutions and coordinated efforts provide timely delivery of technical support to Pacific SIDS.

INFOFISH: As the bulk of the tuna in Pacific waters is caught by foreignowned vessels, what measures are being taken to ensure their compliance with the new Port State Measure requirements? We know that in many instances, foreign interests do not share a common vision with the governments of the Pacific Islands nations with regard to the management of tuna resources.

Pamela Maru: The bulk of tuna in the Pacific is caught in the waters of Pacific Island nations. Therefore the focus of any port State measures is not only on foreign flagged, or foreign owned, but all fishing vessels. IUU fishing must be addressed holistically, it does not make sense to focus on a specific portion of the fishing fleet. It is important to use a balanced approach that also caters for flag State responsibilities, as informed by compliance assessments.

FFA members have a long history and well established relationships with their fishing partners; as such it is common knowledge between parties on the standard suite of regional requirements for foreign fishing vessels operating in the fishery waters of FFA members. These include operational data provision and reporting, fisheries observer coverage, VMS, and regional vessel registration. Most importantly is the compliance by fishing companies with the national laws of each FFA member in which their fishing vessels operate. What this means is that there are few, if any, fishing vessels and operators in FFA waters that are unknown or do not have historical information that FFA does not have access to.

The FFA MCS network provides for comprehensive access to information and resources that allows Pacific Island nations to implement their national laws, and any applicable port State measures.

With robust monitoring and surveillance systems in place, countries are able to target inspections at high risk or areas of particular interest. FFA incorporates regional vessel registrations, national licensing, VMS, surveillance information and other available MCS data to assign a compliance index to fishing vessels. This is provided to FFA members through a shared regional surveillance picture to monitor fishing vessels and their compliance history.

The delivery of dockside boarding and inspection training, investigation and prosecution courses, review of the vessel compliance index, and recent developments on persons of interest profiles all contribute to enabling Pacific SIDS, in particular FFA members, to enhance their ability to effectively implement port State measures.

INFOFISH: Thus far, only Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu have signed up to the FAO-led Port State Measure Agreement (PSMA) which entered into force in June 2016. How does the FFA-led Port State Measure complement the PSMA, and do you see more island nations acceding to the FAO-PSMA?

Pamela Maru: It is interesting that the only Pacific nations to have acceded to the PSMA are those with very little port activity. Interesting because the burden of implementation is not as great as busier ports, yet they are struggling to implement the PSMA. The core issue is the provision of real and meaningful assistance to support national implementation, which is precisely what the WCPFC measure does. The objectives of both the PSMA and the WCPFC CMM 2017-02 are the same, but how they are implemented differs, because the nature of WCPFC tuna fisheries is unique in that the waters of the SIDS lie across the entire Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Area. The WCPFC measure attempts to provide assistance to developing States to fully understand what their obligations are, and to work through implementation issues before having to commit to a binding or more comprehensive arrangement.

FFA members Australia and New Zealand have also ratified the PSMA, but recognise that SIDS have special requirements to consider. Particularly important is the contribution by New Zealand to the FFA Pacific Islands Port State Measures Project, a comprehensive five year project to target assistance where FFA Island nations require support to enhance their port State measures. This project not only aims to support the implementation of the WCPFC measure and the PSMA, but broader support to develop systems and processes that will strengthen MCS capacity in ports.

The WCPFC measure balances the responsibility to address IUU fishing by enabling any WCPFC member, cooperating nonmember or participating territory to request that a port State undertake an inspection on a vessel that is believed to have engaged in IUU fishing.

Under the PSMA, countries are provided assistance once they become Parties, but with the WCPFC measure it was important to SIDS that assistance be provided whilst they consider implementing more prescriptive requirements, or whether an alternative approach may be needed, yet achieve the same outcome. The most important element of both is the access to, and sharing of, MCS information.

There is significant political pressure on Pacific Islands to accede to the PSMA. Some have signed and/or ratified, while others are considering doing so. However, each nation must be allowed to make that sovereign decision as to whether or not they sign up to any international arrangement, and not be pressured into doing something that might not be suitable in meeting their needs to combat IUU fishing.

INFOFISH: The Tuna Fisheries Report Card 2018 published by the FFA makes for interesting reading, providing as it does, an update of the current status of Pacific tuna fisheries in relation to four major goals (sustainability, value, employment, food security) adopted by Forum Leaders in 2015 in the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries.

  • While the share of total catches in FFA Members’ waters taken by FFA fleets has risen in value from 31% in 2013 to 45% in 2017 mainly due to increased participation in the purse seine fishery, the same progress is not evident in the processing sector. Furthermore, employment in processing tends to be concentrated in certain areas. What are some initiatives that are in the FFA pipeline which might help to boost the processing sector and to ensure more equitable distribution of activities?
  • With regard to the export value of tuna from FFA Member countries, the Report Card notes that there was an increase of 25% in 2017 from 2015 levels. However the Card states that this was mainly as a result of continued growth in the value of catches by the fleets of FFA Members which made up for the global fall in prices. To reduce this over-reliance on global prices, does the FFA have proposals to enhance export diversification?

Pamela Maru: Increased participation in the purse seine fishery will not necessarily result in increases in investment or employment opportunities in the processing sector. Processing has been centralised in certain areas due to the availability of support infrastructure such as harbours, roads, electricity and water. However small ventures are being pursued in some of the other islands, and FFA is supporting investment facilitation in FFA countries, including joint venture initiatives. Identifying where cooperative arrangements might be established for product supply and processing through the potential use of regional hubs is an area of work that is ongoing.

The report card indicates that the target for a 25% increase in export values by 2020 from 2015 levels was likely achieved in 2017. This is attributed to the recovery in fish prices since 2015, after values fell each year between 2012 and 2015. FFA continuously monitors market trends and has investigated the potential diversification of market opportunities. Traditional markets like the EU, Japan and the US are likely to be the main markets for Pacific Island exporters in the short to medium term. In the long term, and as major global suppliers in raw materials, FFA will continue to monitor and investigate where alternative markets and opportunities might present themselves.

INFOFISH: You are understandably a proponent of increasing the presence and authority of women, currently mainly to be found in the Pacific Islands’ artisanal sector and as labour in processing plants, except in instances where women benefit from genderspecific support. Nothing surprising here, as we see women in many regions of the world are similarly held back by cultural value systems and family responsibilities. In your opinion, what are the top three key strategies that should be employed to hasten the inclusion of women in decision-making processes in Pacific Islands’ fisheries?

Pamela Maru: Education is the greatest tool we can employ in addressing gender inequality issues. Demonstrating the value of women and their contributions to fisheries, and more broadly the communities they inhabit is needed to change attitudes and culture, and foster greater participation by women in key fisheries roles. Awareness and outreach programmes on gender equality will only strengthen this resolve, such as the recent work by Pacific regional organisations promoting the stories and experiences of female role models across all fisheries sectors. Empowering women by offering opportunities to further their education, employment opportunities and career progression, has flow-on benefits not only for the institutions they work for, but also on the dynamics and improved wellbeing of their families and communities.

Regional agencies and national administrations must invest in developing meaningful policy frameworks that review management processes and procedures, and make the necessary changes to understand and address gender inequalities that may restrict women from taking up opportunities to contribute and participate in decision making. Comprehensive and considered frameworks will ensure that workplace diversification and inclusivity are achieved, and ensuring that gender equality is incorporated in all work areas.

An example of this is the establishment of the FFA gender equity framework that seeks to address gender inequality, and promote the full participation of women in all aspects of its work, including supporting FFA national administrations and industries in developing and implementing gender equity policies, and committing resources to supporting work programmes and initiatives to institute changes that create an enabling environment. Whilst implementation is still in its infancy, it is a useful platform to drive and influence change in a way that should see continued improvements in the increasing trend of women involved in Pacific fisheries.

We do not have to wait for major changes to make an impact. Small changes count. Listen and take into account the perspectives of female colleagues, allow them to take the lead in driving outcomes, support their ability to be working mums and partners and reap the benefits of improved morale and productivity, establish support networks to strengthen their voices and respond to issues like domestic and family violence. There are lots of little things that can promote inclusivity and pulling down barriers that hinder women’s participation in fisheries, and everyone should actively seek to identify what they can add in support of this goal.

INFOFISH: On a final note (and this is in reference to you as one of the ‘70 Inspiring Pacific women’), do you have any personal goals that you wish to achieve so that you can similarly inspire other women?

Pamela Maru: A goal I have always wanted to achieve, and has recently come to fruition, is to return home to the Cook Islands and head the Ministry of Marine Resources. I have had the great fortune of being mentored and taught by some great individuals, and want to be able to do the same. Coming from a culture where caring for and sharing with your wider community is central, I too want to pay it forward, to teach and mentor not only Cook Islanders but other young Pacific Islanders making their way in fisheries, and ensuring that they take full advantage of the career development opportunities available to them, and how to manoeuvre in this dynamic industry.

Having worked for a Pacific regional fisheries agency, I have been exposed to many more prospects available to Pacific Islanders, to advance both my education and career in fisheries regionally and internationally. This has challenged me to set my sights a little higher, to continue with higher learning, and then eventually see how far up the regional ladder I can climb. Possibly internationally, but the Pacific is home and where I want to contribute my efforts to for now.

More women are taking on key roles in Pacific fisheries, managers and chairs in RFMOs and heading regional fisheries organisations. They have established the path ahead of me, and for those that follow. I’m just hoping I can add to that.

Editor’s Note: INFOFISH, in collaboration with the National Fisheries Authority, Papua New Guinea, is organising the 7th Pacific Tuna Forum on 12-13 September 2019.