Observers help fishers to comply with regional rules

Observers help fishers to comply with fishing rules and regulations in the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). Monitoring systems and surveillance also contribute.

Observers’ work covers the tuna catch, which includes the accidental catch of species that aren’t targeted for fishing, the transhipment of catches, and ship operators’ use of FADs. The work of official observers is covered by the Regional Observer Programme. They receive specialist training using standards set in the Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observer (PIRFO) training framework.

Compliance covers all aspects of fishing, including vessel identification; fishing activity, including in specific areas such as the Eastern High Seas Pocket of the WCPO; transhipping at sea or in port; marine pollution; illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and expected conduct between vessel operators and crew and official observers, including safety.

The rules are described in conservation and management measures (CMMs), which are binding decisions on how the tuna fisheries of the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) are managed. CMMs are agreed on by the members and cooperating non-members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) at its annual meeting. These two groups and a third, participating territories, are known collectively as CCMs. Among the members are the 14 small island developing states (SIDS) of the WCPO.

WCPFC maintains updates to the CMMs.

Rights and responsibilities of organisations and individuals

2018-05, Establish a list of vessels presumed to have carried out illegal, unreported and unregulated sihgin activities in the WCPO
  • To meet requirements of the International Plan of Action to prevent and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, WCPFC will keep a record of vessels that have engaged in IUU fishing (the IUU Vessel List)
  • CCMs are to contribute by providing specific information in the format required
  • CCMs and other countries with vessels on the list will be given the list. The countries must monitor those vessels and their fishing activities, and report back. If IUU fishing is substantiated, countries must tell the owner of the vessel and act to eliminate it.

Read the CMM

2019-06, Compliance Monitoring Scheme
  • The WCPFC will work collaboratively to encourage CCMs to comply with the Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS). It will ensure that no country bears a disproportionate burden of conservation and management actions.
  • The CMS will be used to assess CCM action on violations of its vessels (and not to assess individual vessels)
  • The WCPFC may use prevention or remediation to help CCMs comply, and monitor and resolve non-compliance
  • The CMS will be used to identify CMMs that need to be amended
  • The WCPFC will maintain a secure online system of compliance cases
  • The WCPFC will evaluate compliance regarding fishing capacity, effort and catch, and that countries have adopted binding measures in line with their own national policies and procedures
  • Countries will provide information on compliance, and in the case of alleged violations, updates on the progress of investigations until they are resolved
  • Where SIDS, participating territories, Indonesia or the Philippines do not have the capacity to meet a compliance obligation, the WCPFC will work with the country to build their capacity to do so

Read the CMM

2019-01, Cooperating non-members
  • Countries that are not members of the WCPFC should still implement WCPFC CMMs
  • A country may ask the WCPFC to give it cooperating non-member (CNM) status
  • CNMs may come to meetings as observers.
  • CNMs must comply with CMMs and report on how they have complied, and provide to the WCPFC all data that members are required to give. They are to accept observer boardings.
  • The WCPFC will decide on any limits to CNM fishing rights, so as to protect the sovereign rights of coastal states in the WCPO
  • The WCPFC will review the status of CNMs each year

Read the CMM

2018-06, Record of fishing vessels and authorisation to fish
  • CCMs will authorise their vessels to fish in the Convention Area. Authorisation is needed for all motorised inboard fishing vessels of ≤100 GRT down to a size of 12 m overall length.
  • CCMs will keep an up-to-date record of fishing vessels, and provide it to the WCPFC for its Record of Fishing Vessels, the master record for the Convention Area.
  • CCMs will ensure authorised vessels and charter and lease vessels comply with CMMs
  • Make sure only authorised vessels fish where allowed
  • Manage authorisations for fish stocks
  • Make sure no vessel with a history of IUU fishing can fish, and withdraw fishing rights if necessary
  • Make sure vessel owners can be prosecuted for wrongdoing
  • Ensure legal transhipment
  • Report on vessels and their fishing activities to the Commission
  • Submit a list of non-member carrier/bunker vessels for registration

Read the CMM

2018-05, Regional Observer Programme
  • The Regional Observer Programme (ROP):
    – uses independent and impartial observers
    – coordinates with other regional, sub-regional and national observer programs where possible
    – is flexible to account for the nature of fisheries
  • The ROP applies to vessels that fish:
    – exclusively on the high seas in the convention area
    – on the high seas and in waters under the jurisdiction of one or more coastal states
    – in waters under the national jurisdiction of two or more coastal states
  • Each CMM will nominate a WCPFC National Observer Coordinator (who has a specified role)
  • SIDS must source observers, make sure there is enough data gathered, explain the duties of observers to captains, cooperate in exchanging information collected by observers, and meet any other observer data obligations (such as measures of catch retention, FADs or transhipment)
  • Vessels that operate mostly in coastal waters can carry observers of their own nationality if those observers have been authorised
  • When observers are in waters under the national jurisdiction of a state, they will not collect data about a state without permission

Read the CMM

2018-05, Regional Observer Programme: rights and responsibilities of observers
  • Observers shall collect catch and scientific data, monitor the implementation of CMMs and other rules
  • CCMs shall ensure that fishing vessels are prepared to take on board an official observer, and shall cooperate in the sharing of information gathered
  • Observers have the right to carry out their work safely
  • Observers have the right to access:
    – specified facilities, equipment and areas of the vessel
    – communication and other equipment needed data
    – the working deck
    – vessel records and logs, and hauling and setting times
    – space to complete clerical work
    – food, accommodation, and medical and sanitary facilities
  • Observers will:
    – be independent and impartial, and maintain confidentiality
    – comply with ROP rules, country and vessel laws and rules
    – in waters under the national jurisdiction of two or more coastal states
  • The ROP:
    – uses independent and impartial observers
    – coordinates with other regional, sub-regional and national observer programs where possible
    – work in a way that does not interfere with vessel operations
    – communicate with the captain and WCPFC
  • Observers will not interfere with the lawful operation of vessels and will minimise disruption to operations

Read the CMM

2018-05, Regional Observer Programme: rights and responsibilities of vessel operators, captains and crew
  • Vessel operators, captains and crew have the right to:
    – prior notice of an observer being placed on board
    – notification of an observer’s comments
  • The captain has the right to review and comment on the observer’s reports, and assign a crew member to accompany the observer
  • Vessel operators, captains and crew must:
    – accept observers
    – allow and help the observer to board to complete their work, access facilities and equipment, and leave
    – give the observer free food, accommodation, and medical and sanitary facilities
    – provide insurance for the observer while they are on board
    – ensure the observer has the freedom and safety to carry out their duties
  • Vessel crew must comply with the captain’s directions about observers and their duties

Read the CMM

2017-03, Protection of WCPFC Regional Observer Programme observers
  • Observers need freedom and safety to carry out their duties without undue interference
  • If an observer is missing or presumed fallen overboard, the vessel must immediately stop all fishing, start a search and rescue, notify appropriate people, alert other vessels nearby, cooperate with search and rescue and official authorities, report the incident and take part in investigations, preserve any potential evidence and the observers’ quarters and belongings
  • If an observer is or may have been assaulted, intimidated, threatened or harassed, the vessel must ensure their safety, resolve the situation on board, and get them off at an agreed time and place if they wish to leave
  • If an observer is seriously ill or injured, the vessel must provide care and medical treatment on board, and get them to an appropriate medical facility as soon as possible
  • If an observer dies, the vessel must preserve the body for an autopsy and investigation into the death
  • SIDS must facilitate entry for vessels so that observers can get medical treatment or get off the vessel. They must help with any investigations if requested, cooperate in searches and rescues, and report to appropriate authorities and observer providers.
  • If an observer provider identifies possible violations, the provider must notify the SIDS and WCPFC Secretariat. The SIDS will investigate the incident, take appropriate action, cooperate in investigations, and notify people of the results.

Read the CMM

2014-03, Record of fishing vessels
  • The WCPFC Record of Fishing Vessels is an electronic database that:
    – complies with a specified format
    – is publicly searchable
    – stores previous data
    – includes photos of the vessels
  • Countries must submit vessel data to the WCPFC Secretariat, which will maintain the record

Read the CMM

2014-02, WCPFC Vessel Monitoring System
  • The Vessel Monitoring System is important in creating and upholding sustainable fisheries
  • It applies to all fishing vessels on the high seas in the Convention Area. Vessels will use an automatic location communicator (ALC), a near-real-time satellite position fixing transmitter.
  • The system operates south of 20°N, and east of 175°E in the area of the Convention Area north of 20°N, and north of 20°N and west of 175°E
  • Countries are responsible for vessels using ALCs and submitting data to the WCPFC

Read the CMM

2006-08, Boarding and inspection procedures
  • Members of the WCPFC or authorised inspectors may board vessels in the high seas to ensure vessels are complying with CMMs
  • Each member country will ensure that vessels flagged to it allow authorised inspectors on board
  • Inspection vessels will fly a WCPFC inspection flag and carry approved identification
  • Inspectors are to be fully trained in fisheries enforcement
  • Lists the kinds of vessels that inspectors will give priority to
  • Lists the information that inspectors are authorised to collect
  • Lists the procedures that inspectors and masters of vessels shall follow
  • CMM lists violations that inspectors will notify the WCPFC about. They include fishing without a licence, failure to maintain proper fishing records, falsifying records, fishing in closed areas or during a closed season, and intimidating or harassing an inspector.

Read the CMM

2006-07, Establishment of a regional observer programme
  • Sets out the procedures to develop the Regional Observer Programme

Read the CMM

The work and safety of observers

2021-01, Bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the WCPO
  • Each purse-seine vessel is to carry an observer from the ROP. Observers shall collect data, including on stock assessments and FAD closures, for use in WCPFC analysis.
  • Traditional fresh and ice-chilled fishing vessels from the Philippines operating in High Seas Pocket 1 will employ an observer on board during the duration of the fishing operation

Read the CMM

2019-05, Mobulid rays
  • Observers will be allowed to collect biological samples of mobulid rays that are caught and dead when hauled in

 

Read the CMM

2019-04, Sharks
  • Observers will collect data on sharks caught
  • Observers will identify the species of all sharks caught, whether they are released or retained, and will include this information in annual reports to the WCPFC

Read the CMM

2018-05, Regional Observer Programme
  • The Regional Observer Programme (ROP) uses observers to:
    – collect catch data and other scientific data
    – monitor how CMMs are implemented
    – collect information about Convention Area fisheries
  • Observers will not interfere with the lawful operations of vessels and will minimise disruption to operations
  • Observers need freedom and safety to carry out their duties without undue interference
  • SIDS must source observers, make sure there is enough data gathered, explain the duties of observers to captains, cooperate in exchanging information collected by observers, and meet any other observer data obligations (such as measures on catch retention, FADs or transhipment)
  • Vessels that operate mostly in coastal waters may carry observers of their own nationality if those observers have been authorised
  • Observers will not collect data about states without permission when they are in waters under national jurisdiction of that state

Read the CMM

2018-04, Sea turtles
  • Observers will collect information on turtle interactions, and report on these as agreed by the WCPFC

Read the CMM

2018-03, Seabirds
  • Observers will monitor seabird interactions and record these in observer reports

Read the CMM

2012-03, Implementation of the ROP by vessels fishing north of 20°N
  • CCMs shall conduct observer programs for fishing vessels used to fish for fresh fish beyond national jurisdictions north of 20°N
  • Countries must make sure that official WCPFC observers cover 5% of this fishing effort

Read the CMM

2011-03, Cetaceans
  • Observers will monitor cetacean interactions and record these in their reports

Read the CMM

2009-06, Regulation of transhipment
  • Observers will monitor transhipment activities and have access to both the unloading and receiving vessels so they can verify the catch
  • They will confirm, where possible, that transhipped quantities of fish are consistent with other measures
  • Observers should not transfer between vessels

Read the CMM

2009-05, Prohibiting fishing on buoys
  • The vessel operator must not:
    – 
    fish within 1 nautical mile of, or interact with, a data buoy in the WCPO high seas
    – retrieve and taking on board a data buoy unless specifically authorised or requested to do so by the owner of the buoy
    – remove entangled fishing gear from a data buoy
  • Observers should monitor vessel operators’ compliance with these rules

Read the CMM

2009-02, Application of high seas FAD closures and catch retention
  • Estimate the species composition of fish to be discarded
  • Collect a copy of a purse seine fishing vessel discards report from the vessel operator

Read the CMM

Compliance

2019-08, Charter notification scheme
  • Chartered vessels are important for sustainable fisheries development in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, and must not promote illegal activities
  • The catch and effort of charter vessels will be attributed to the chartering country
  • Countries must notify the WCPFC in advance of vessels chartered for fishing, giving specified identification information, including vessel name, WIN, and flag state
  • Only vessels listed on the WCPFC Record of Fishing Vessels or the WCPFC Interim Register of Non-CCM Carriers and Bunkers are eligible for charter
  • Vessels previously flagged as operating illegally (i.e. on the IUU list of the WCPFC or another RFMO) are not eligible for charter

Read the CMM

2017-04, Marine pollution
  • CCMs shall prevent their fishing vessels operating in the WCPFC Convention Area from discharging any plastics, excluding fishing gear
  • They are also encouraged to prohibit their fishing vessels from discharging petrochemical products and residues, garbage, waste, fishing gear, incinerator ashes, cooking oil, and sewage
  • CCMs are encouraged to develop frameworks to handle the reporting and sharing of information on the loss of fishing gear, to encourage their fishing vessels to retrieve gear and, where this is not possible, to accurately record what is lost and where
  • CCMs are requested to provide facilities in port to accept waste, with SIDS being supported to do this by wealthy fishing nations
  • WCPFC encourages all CCMs to ratify the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and the London Protocol on prevention of marine pollution

Read the CMM

2017-02, Minimum standards for port state measures
  • CCMs will apply port state measures consistently with international law and standards
  • CCMs will establish processes and procedures to undertake port inspections on fishing vessels suspected of engaging in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing or activities that support IUU fishing
  • Immediate investigation will be carried out on any vessels suspected of IUU fishing in accordance with Article 25 of the convention
  • Notify the WCPFC Executive Director which ports are designated for inspections. The WCPFC will publish a record of designated ports.
  • Government-authorised inspectors will undertake fisheries inspections
  • Inspectors will inspect all foreign longline, purse-seine and carrier vessels that enter a designated port but are not on the WCPFC RFV, and all IUU fishing vessels
  • If the port does not have the resources and capacity, and an inspection does not go ahead, a request can be made to the next designated port the vessel will enter.
  • Inspection reports will be provided to the requesting country, the flag country, the WCPFC Executive Director, and the vessel master
  • CCMs must cooperate and exchange information to relevant countries and organisations
  • CCMs shall assist SIDS financially, and with technical assistance, training and monitoring
  • The WCPFC shall review this measure regularly, and may add more requirements, e.g. port entry, authorisation, denial, and use of ports

Read the CMM

    2016-02, Eastern High Seas Pocket Special Management Area
    • Vessels operating in the Eastern High Seas Pocket (EHSP) should report sightings of any fishing vessel
    • Nearby coastal states and territories will receive continuous near real-time VMS data of all fishing vessels so they can conduct monitoring, control and surveillance
    • The WCPFC will maintain a list of all fishing vessels in the EHSP
    • No transhipment is allowed

    Read the CMM

     

    2013-04, WCPFC implementation of a unique vessel identifier (UVI)
    • Each CCM shall ensure that all large fishing vessels flagged to it have an International Maritime Organization (IMO) identification number or a Lloyd’s Register (LR) number
    • A large vessel is 100 gross tonnes or 100 gross register tonnes or larger
    • Specific allowances may be made for extraordinary circumstances that prevent a vessel owner from obtaining an IMO or LR number
    • Small vessels are not yet required to have a unique vessel identifier (UVI)
    • The WCPFC is examining how all vessels on the Record of Fishing Vessels can be given UVIs
    2009-09, Vessels without nationality

     

    • A vessel without nationality is defined as one that does not fly the flag of any state or one that flies the flags of two or more states
    • A vessel without nationality that is fishing in the high seas of the Convention Area is presumed to be contravening WCPFC rules

    Read the CMM

    2009-06, Regulation of transhipment
    • The rules of this CMM continue to apply to all fish caught in the Convention Area, whether transhipping occurs inside the area or outside.
    • Transhipment in port is recommended, in accordance with national laws and accurate reporting standards
    • Purse-seine vessels are not allowed to tranship at sea outside the Convention Area. The WCPFC may grant specific exemptions to tranship at sea inside the Convention Area.
    • Longline, troll, and pole-and-line fishing vessels are not allowed to tranship on the high seas, except if authorised by the WCPFC
    • Countries must make sure vessels flying their flag comply with this measure. They must report on transhipment, and verify and correct the data.
    • Both offloading and receiving vessels have to complete a WCPFC Transhipment Declaration
    • Each country will ensure that vessels they are responsible for carry observers from the WCPFC Regional Observer Programme to observe transhipments and verify each transhipment
    • CCMs must make sure vessels do not tranship to or from a non-CCM vessel unless authorised by the WCPFC

    Read the CMM

    2009-05, Prohibiting fishing on data buoys
    • Fishing vessels are prohibited from:
      – fishing within one nautical mile of, or interacting with, a data buoy in the WCPO high seas
      – retrieving and taking on board a data buoy unless specifically authorised or requested to do so by the owner of the data buoy
      – removing entangled fishing gear from data buoy
    • Observers will monitor vessels to ensure they comply.
    • Vessels may operate within one nautical mile of a data buoy if authorised by the WCPFC as part of a scientific research program

    Read the CMM

    2004-03, Specifications for the marking and identification of fishing vessels
    • To fish in the Convention Area, operators must mark vessels with unobscured identification of their International Telecommunication Union radio call signs (IRCS) or WCPFC identification number (WIN) on the port and starboard hulls and deck
    • Smaller craft must also have these markings

    Read the CMM

    Observers play an essential monitring role during transhipping. Photo: Francisco Blaha.

    Extra rules on observers and compliance in PNA waters

    The member states of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement have an observer on board every one of their licenced purse-seine fishing vessels that operate in PNA waters. Article 2 of the agreement states the need for “the placement of observers on fishing vessels”.

    The second arrangement for implementing the agreement sets out additional conditions It states (in Article 1) that, at the request of the licensing party, observers will be placed on vessels at the full cost of the vessel operator or its government. The cost includes travel, salary and insurance.

    The third arrangement for implementing the agreement states that all foreign purse-seine vessels must carry an observer at all times to monitor compliance with rules on catch retention and FAD closure.

    Article 17 of the Federated States of Micronesia Arrangement for Regional Fisheries Access makes provision for all national fishing vessels fishing in each other’s waters to carry an observer. This scheme is administered by the Regional Observer Programme.

    When fishing on the high seas, vessels are also required to have an observer on board.

    Articles 2, 6 and 7 of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement emphasise the monitoring and compliance role of observers and member states. These are summarised below.

    The PNA member states have produced a number of arrangements for implementing the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.

    The second arrangement for implementing the agreement states (Article 2) that the operator of the vessel or the government of their state will ensure that the vessel has installed, and maintains in good working order, an electronic positioning monitoring and data transfer device.

    The third arrangement states, in Article 1.4, that licensed vessel operators must switch on and properly operate at all times the automatic location communicator (ALC, also known as a mobile transmitting unit).