PALIKIR, Pohnpei—The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia’s (FSM) National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA) is pushing forward with the Nation’s bid to be the first Pacific Island country to fully establish the capacity to monitor longline vessels fishing in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) using Electronic Monitoring by 2023.
Electronic Monitoring of fishing activities is the setting-up of cameras, GPS, sensors, and hard-
disk drives onboard fishing vessels. This method of data collection has been successfully implemented in over twenty (20) fisheries worldwide over the past two decades. In the Pacific, Electronic Monitoring is emerging with trials ongoing since 2016 in the FSM, the Republic of Fiji, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Solomon Islands.
In the FSM, trials have been carried out on eight vessels (8) fishing within and outside of the FSM EEZ. A current trial, in partnership with Japanese vessels, is testing a four-camera system. At the end of fishing trips, video files are viewed by fisheries observers to collect relevant data.
Electronic Monitoring is a significant step towards collecting information from the longline fishery that, historically and currently, has had extremely low levels of independent monitoring. For example, whereas the tuna purse seine fishery possesses 100% observer coverage (i.e. all vessels have a real human being onboard whose job is to see what’s happening), the longline fishery possesses only 5% observer coverage. The primary reason for this low level of observer coverage is that longline vessels are typically much smaller, and governments’ frequently have concerns for the living conditions and/or safety of human observers; however, the lack of observer coverage compromises the ability of national fishery management organizations to effectively regulate fishing in their jurisdiction.
While the FSM and other Pacific Island countries carry a reputation for leading in the adoption of new strategies and tools to manage tuna fisheries, the implementation of Electronic Monitoring presents it own set of challenges, primarily in the cost and development of its technology. However, the returns on improving the management of the Nation’s fisheries, so as to maintain sustainability whilst maximizing economic benefits, are—in the Government’s
view—worth it, as achieving greater monitoring in the Nation’s longline fishery will reduce the occurrence of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, increase revenue from fishing, and provide the Nation’s leadership critical information to support their decision-making.
Crucially, the FSM’s progress in Electronic Monitoring at the national level also contributes to the advancement of Electronic Monitoring at the subregional and regional fisheries circles, as the FSM is a member of both the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
Since Electronic Monitoring trials began in 2016, NORMA has successfully setup a data review center in Pohnpei State, and trained fifteen (15) observers to analyze video files. Further, NORMA has developed a Strategic Plan for the implementation of the FSM’s Electronic Monitoring program, including the development of data standards and protocols, engagement with the fishing industry, staff training, infrastructure improvements, and the harmonization of national efforts with thematically similar developments in the region. Financial and technical support for the FSM’s Electronic Monitoring initiatives derive from numerous sources, of which the FSM Congress, the WCPFC Special Requirements Fund, and The Nature Conservancy play an outsized—and deeply appreciated—role.
“I applaud the efforts of our dedicated public servants at NORMA for their diligence in ensuring our Nation’s ocean resources are sustained so that they can support our citizens for generations to come,” His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the FSM, said in a statement. “Electronic Monitoring offers a spectacular pathway towards ensuring that our Nation’s invaluable ocean resources are used in a manner that both enhances our national prosperity whilst ensuring environmental sustainability. The use of Electronic Monitoring is consistent with our Nation’s efforts to protect our oceans and oceanic resources, and is complementary with the FSM’s partnerships, such as those with the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the Nature Conservancy, Blue Prosperity Micronesia, Micronesia Conservation Trust, and our IUU-prevention efforts with Australia, Japan, and the United States of America, among others. For Fiscal Year 2022, I have submitted, for Congress’ review, an additional proposed $150,000 to support Electronic Monitoring across our Nation.”