Pew urges stronger port state measures be adopted at WCPFC meeting

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which manages highly migratory fish like tuna in the area, will hold its 16th annual meeting from 5 to 11 December in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The Pew Charitable Trusts is calling on the commission to use the opportunity to strengthen port state measures to fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ Port States Measures (PSM) Agreement entered into force in 2016. Under the agreement, countries carry out port control and inspection measures as a cost-effective way to prevent IUU seafood from entering the market.

Several WCPFC members are now party to the agreement. PSM proposals have been considered by the Commission for several years and were recommended as part of the WCPFC Performance Review in 2013. The WCPFC adopted voluntary port state minimum standards in 2017. The standards encourage commission members, cooperating members, and non-members (CCMs) to establish inspection and information-sharing procedures and designate ports for inspection of foreign vessels, but only five of the nearly 40 CCMs have done so.

This year, the WCPFC’s Technical and Compliance Committee reviewed a proposal by Canada to revise the measure. The Pew Charitable Trusts is urging its adoption.

The main proposed change is to add provisions such that, where a port CCM has chosen to designate ports for inspections, foreign vessels seeking to enter those ports will be required to provide advance notice of port entry using a specified form. The port CCM shall then decide whether or not to grant the vessel access to its port. A new requirement is also proposed that vessels that have been denied entry to or use of a port shall always be inspected. Another requirement is that port CCMs shall notify the WCPFC Executive Director and other parties when a vessel has been denied entry to or denied the use of its ports.

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), which is a grouping of 17 members, including many small Pacific island developing states along with Australia and New Zealand, already has a stricter Regional Port State Measures Framework and has been supportive of the measure.

However, Pew International Fisheries Officer Dawn Borg Costanzi said the measure may fail to pass this year, as some less-developed island nations want a more detailed breakdown of how implementation would affect them, such as in terms of enforcement costs. Canada’s proposal does not include such a detailed analysis because the CCM’s have the option of whether or not to designate ports.

Canada may not have felt a need to examine implementation costs in great detail, since the nations could simply choose not to designate ports. However, some countries want to know what would actually be involved if they choose to do so.

Still, Borg Costanzi said that even if the proposal is not adopted at this meeting, the discussion is likely to lead to progress down the line.

Photo courtesy of Ovchinnikova Irina/Shutterstock


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