Tonga hosted 12th Regional Observer Coordinators Workshop

The 12th Regional Observer Coordinators Workshop (ROCW 12) was hosted by the Tongan Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forests and Fisheries and coordinated and funded by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

The workshop was opened by the Hon. Minister for Agriculture and Food, Forests and Fisheries, Lord Vaea, at the Loumaile Lodge Conference Centre on Monday 13th February and blessings by Rev. Lomu and the Evangelist Choir of the Free Wesleyan Church.

Lord Vaea, in his opening address emphasized the regional significance of this workshop. Observer work contributes to the proper and sustainable conservation and management of our fisheries resources, which is fundamental to the livelihoods of our people, he stressed.

He also recognized the growing importance of observer work over the years and the employment opportunities it offers to our Pacific Island people.

The workshop continues FFA work on improving controls and measures to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and further enhancing reporting mechanisms.

This, part of ongoing efforts towards realizing the vision and goals set out in the FFA Regional Tuna Management and Development Strategy 2009-2014 and the FFA Regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Strategy 2010-2015.

In essence, fisheries observers collect scientific data for stock assessment and monitor the compliance of fishing vessels with national and regional fishing regulations.

At present, there are over 600 fisheries observers employed through national and regional fisheries agencies across the Western Pacific Ocean, most monitoring the tuna fisheries of the region.

So in addition to providing valuable stock assessment and compliance information, the programmes are a large aggregate employer in the region hiring young men and women from many local communities.

The theme of this year’s workshop was “Debriefing – Maintaining Momentum and Improving Process”.

Debriefers are senior observers accredited to check the information collected by other observers to ensure it is accurate and that any reported incidents are dealt with appropriately.

Building the numbers of debriefers and observer trainers in the region is a focus of the regional agencies to improve the observer programmes’ infrastructure and provide a career pathway for skilled fisheries observers.

The Workshop went ahead despite Cyclone Jasmine causing initial attendance delays and a change of venue and is being attended by representatives from Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Tuvalu, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Secreteriat (WCPFC), the US, SPC and FFA.

The workshop was held from 13 – 17 February 2012.

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