Safety first

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By GYNNIE KERO
SAFETY and insurance cover for fisheries observers are among topics being discussed at a regional forum in Port Moresby this week.
Hosted by Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and Secretariat of the Pacific Community, (SPC) the forum is aimed at discussing technical issues on the observer programme, its challenges and ways to overcome them — such as providing safety gear.
FFA observer programme manager Philip Lens told The National yesterday that the workshop was organised for the 17-member FFA nations of which PNG was part of.
“We will be discussing some of the minimum requirements that every programme (observer) must have before they deploy an observer on a fishing boat,” Lens said.
Speaking at the opening of the annual regional observers’ coordinators workshop, Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Patrick Basa stressed that fisheries observers were in the frontline in the region’s fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).
Basa noted that the safety of fisheries observers was one of the issues frequently raised in Parliament.
He also paid tribute to four young fisheries observers who had been declared missing while on duty since 2008.
Basa said: “Any observer who is deployed on a fishing vessel must have all the necessary support and backing.
“There are many issues and challenges faced by fisheries observers.
“Issues like observer training and readiness, observer safety and equipment, these areas need to be continually addressed and updated.
“The safety of fisheries observers is one of the key issues of concern for governments throughout the Pacific Islands region.
“I understand that you (observer coordinators) will also be discussing the issue of insurance coverage for fisheries observers. It is a long overdue matter. We as a region need to consider the wellbeing of our observers and ensure that necessary contractual arrangements are in place with fisheries observers which would form the basis to secure insurance coverage for our observers.”
Established in 1996, the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) observer programme has 272 fisheries observers, the biggest in the region.
The programme was a tool to collect corroborative catch and effort data and to monitor compliance with conservation and enforcement management measures.
Observers monitor and report on apparent infringements such as misreporting catches, fishing in restricted areas and interference with vessel monitoring systems.
Yesterday, NFA managing director John Kasu told participants at the week-long meeting that the authority fully implemented its observer programme functions through electronic reporting last month.
“This is a significant milestone as it now means that our observer data receiver will be near to real time and hence enabling efficiency in our monitoring, control and surveillance operations and activities,” Kasu said.

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