Nadi, Fiji - Madam Chair, IUU is a matter of grave concern to the FSM. None of us should condone it nor should we turn our basic fundamental rights under international law to fight IUU in all forms.
My statement today is specifically on the increasingly challenging issue of illegal and in many cases unregulated vessels, otherwise known as “blue boats.” Chair, as you know, we have raised this issue in previous sessions and in other fora’s and we will continue to raise it as something that requires serious attention and action, particularly since it is not only a challenge for the FSM but for the wider WCPO.
In broad terms, IUU fishing in the Pacific undermines the authority and right of coastal states to regulate marine resources, resulting in the loss of national revenue and employment opportunities and steals from the tables of our people living in our remote islands who depend on the oceans to sustain their lives and provide a source of nutrition. As many members present today can attest, IUU fishing causes hazards to the natural marine environment, threatening our vital fish stocks, which are at the heart of our discussions here in the WCPFC and threatens our islands economic and social developments. In compliance terms, these types of IUU activities devalue our fisheries and provide an unfair disadvantage to those who strive to abide by WCPFC conservation and management measures, regional regulations and national laws while others plunder and take at their will without respecting national laws.
Putting this issue into perspective, in the past two years the FSM has arrested a total of 9 illegal blue fishing boats, with approximately 135 illegal fishermen. The various violations of FSM law include: illegal entry into the country, human smuggling, obstruction and illegal fishing among others. The issue in and of itself has transcended fisheries and prompted the FSM Administration to categorize the deterrence of IUU fishing as a matter of national priority. Unsurprisingly, the costs to the FSM in these instances are very high. On fuel alone, FSM spent just for this year, $200,000 US dollars. That does not include salaries of maritime wing officers, legal costs of prosecution and cost of detention of over 100 persons for several months. None of these vessels were registered to fish in our waters; none of them had transponders; none of them were detectable on VMS; none of them were meant for the open oceans and surely none of them intended to use gears nor seek authorizations.
It should be noted that illegal vessels in some of our areas were under the jurisdiction of their flag states. The Law of the Sea Convention imposes flag state responsibility. To demonstrate, article 94 of the UNCLOS states that every state shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag. Obviously, this responsibility is not being exercised here. Several times, the FSM has met with officials from the flag state of these blue boats but that state has not demonstrated concrete measures to address IUU issues caused by its fishing vessels.
Madam Chair, the FSM seeks the Commission’s assistance in responding to this enormous challenge. The impacts of IUU are not localized, but are felt across the region. And as such, collaboration is key towards combatting the detrimental effects of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, in particular these unacknowledged, uninvited and unwelcome blue boats. We further call on flag states to take swift action to demonstrate their basic fundamental responsibility under international law to combat IUU in all its forms. Anything less would tantamount to promoting IUU and a clear lack of will to effectively discharge their responsibility in this WCPO region.
Thank you, Madam Chair.