NGO recommends WCPFC consider fishery observer safety measures

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) should consider a model measure dedicated to fisheries observers that ensures it complies with accepted international core human and labor rights standards, the U.K. NGO Human Rights at Sea recommended in its latest report.

The proposed model measure was submitted to WCPFC Secretariat for consideration in the upcoming virtual meeting of members, taking place early next month.

The model measure was part of the NGO’s latest of a series of independent international reports and reviews concerning the safety, security, and well-being of fisheries observers in the Western and Central Pacific.

In an 18 November press release by the NGO, it said that the model CMM “specifically targeted towards the increased protection of fisheries observers working at sea.”

“It is aimed at assisting WCPFC members with individual and collective development of supporting policies and legislation for observer safety, security, and well-being, thereby building on the important development work already undertaken by members in this area,” Human Rights at Sea said.

The measure, if adopted, would address issues that include a lack of transparency in reporting of fisheries observer-related safety incidents, lack of availability of comprehensive employment contracts, and the need for the fisheries observers to access professional insurance provisions. The report also said the measure can also help increase coastal state engagement in investigations and enforcement follow-up in case of incidents.

The measure raised the need to better engage with, and support, registered dependents of fisheries observers who have died, gone missing, or have been incapacitated in the course of their duties.

Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA), in its key priorities paper submitted to WCPFC in November – ahead of the virtual meeting of the members – stressed the importance of fisheries observers and fishing vessel crew safety and well-being.

Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) Chair Eugene Pangelinan said the Pacific countries are committed to addressing these issues and vowed to take measures to improve standards to protect observers and crew.

“It is simply unacceptable that observers continue to suffer serious injuries and even death in the course of their work, and that human rights abuses are suffered by crew working on fishing vessels operating in our region,” he said.

Pangelinan said the FFA is committed to forming a “safety culture” around the role of observers.

“It is imperative that the commission collectively commits to implement such standards on the high seas,” Pangelinan said. “We look forward to working with CCMs and with committed partner organizations to advance this work in the Commission as a matter of priority over the coming year.”

Meanwhile, in its position statement submitted to the WCPFC Secretariat, WWF said while measures were taken by the WCPFC to ensure the safety and security of fisheries observers began in 2015, there still have been multiple observer casualties since.

WWF raised the issue of the death of fisheries observer Eritara Aati of Kiribati in March of this year.

“The deaths of fisheries observers, regardless of the circumstances, must stop,” WWF said.

WWF also recommended that WCPFC review and acknowledge the recommendations contained in the reports from Human Rights at Sea to address the alleged human rights abuses and deaths of fisheries observers at sea.  

Photo courtesy of Human Rights At Sea 


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