Pacific islands place safety of fishing vessels under the spotlight

Rarotonga, Cook Islands, home of nearly two million square kilometres of the multi-use Marea Moana Marine Park is the fitting backdrop for a Pacific regional gathering on fishing vessel safety next week.

The Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Safety of Fishing Vessels is yet to be entered into force. A regional workshop starting next week will help the Pacific islands with the assistance they may need to ratify the international Agreement, which addresses a number of issues that relate to both human safety as well as ocean and marine species health.

"Fishing at sea remains a hazardous occupation with a large number of fatalities each year. Fishing vessels are also one of the largest violators of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) in the Pacific, with over 10,000 incidents over the last 12 years," said Mr Anthony Talouli, Pollution Adviser of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

"Abandoned lost discarded fishing gear is also one of the main contributors to migratory species. By ratifying and acceding to this Agreement, it will not only monitor these issues but also see countries legally obligated to undertake actions to strengthen holistically the management of fishing vessels including safety."

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Having a history that spans 40 years, this Agreement began with the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977 which was developed under the International Maritime Organization, yet never came into force. To help encourage governments to sign on, this was modified to the 1993 Protocol, this also never came into force.

In 2012, after further consultation the Cape Town Agreement was adopted as an addition to the Torremolinos Conventions, yet to be entered into force.

The Agreement requires 22 states to ratify the Agreement. Currently there are eight states who have ratified the Agreement, none of which are the 14 Pacific states.

"We're hopeful that from this workshop our Pacific islands will be able to understand more about this Agreement, in particular the steps needed to make it happen, and how we can support the Pacific islands to achieve this. If the 14 Pacific states were to ratify the Agreement, it would not only meet the requirement to bring the Agreement into force, the region would be making a serious contribution towards ensuring that a holistic management approach is applied to fishing vessels which are known to be a major marine polluter in our region," said Mr Talouli.

"This Convention once in force, will play a huge part to improving safety and environment standards and reduction of loss of life. There will be increased safety measures for the registered fleets of states that have ratified, as well as the different fishing vessels operating in the Exclusive Economic Zones of the signatories. When there is stronger ship safety, there is also stronger protection of our ocean health and marine species."

From 28 August to 1 September, 2017 the Pacific Regional Workshop on the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 will be held in Rarotonga. Coordinated by SPREP in partnership with the Government of the Cook Islands and IMO and the Pacific Community (SPC), the workshop will help countries as they work towards ratifying the Agreement.

Other partners for this workshop include the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and PEW Charitable Trusts.

Delegates attending this training will represented the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

For more information please contact Mr Anthony Talouli at anthonyt@sprep.org
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