Helping the Pacific make our ocean safer and healthier for all: Support provided for the Cape Town Agreement on the safety of fishing vessels, 2012

It's literally in the hands of countries including the Pacific islands that a combined effort can help make a global difference to the lives of fishermen at sea and the health of our oceans.
Studies by the International Labour Organization point to at least 24,000 deaths of fishermen at sea each year. A global review conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found a 49% increase in marine species being entangled in and ingesting marine debris between 1997 and 2015 – with a recent study in the Pacific region finding 97% of examined fish species having ingested plastic.

There is light at the end of this tunnel with what is known as the Cape Town Agreement adopted by the International Maritime Organization in 2012.

Officially named the "Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Implementation of the Provisions of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977", this Agreement aims to address these issues yet still requires 15 more States to ratify and bring it into force.

UpA5 Apia port  Palolo Deep Upolu Samoa  Chape small
Apia Port and Palolo Deep, Upolu, Samoa.  Photo - Stuart Chape

It not only covers the fishing vessels which countries provide licenses for, it also spans the fishing vessels which enter into its waters. Your own fishing fleet must meet the required safety standards and conditions as well as any fishing vessels that enter in your port, this is known as 'non favourable treatment'.

'If you ratify and implement this Agreement, then through your national legislation, you have the right to perform port State control on any fishing vessel calling your ports, allowing you to check that vessels are safe for your waters," said Ms Sandra Allnutt, Head of the Marine Technology and Goal Based Standards, Maritime Safety Division of the International Maritime Organization.

"If your vessel and those that fish in your waters are safe, it would help to ensure reduction on vessel incidents, oil spills or abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear in your waters. All your vessels will have to meet the standards required by the Agreement and you are able to request that any fishing vessels calling your port have the same standards that your vessels have."

There are now only seven states that have ratified this Agreement, and it's hoped that a seminar held in the Cook Islands last week, will help empower the Pacific islands to sign on. Yet it is a step that will require action on the ground in countries.

pic1 copy copy copy                                                                                  Capt Naziful Hossain, Acting Executive Manager of Marine Operations, PNG with
                                                              Ms Amelia Fukofuka-Murare, Acting Secr
etariat Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Cook Islands

"It will work well for Papua New Guinea to ratify the Agreement, and will be beneficial for the industry as a whole. Fishing vessels are often found with poor safety standard and to ensure a better standard in line with the convention guide lines strict safety measures may be imposed. However it all will depend on the stakeholder dialogue and their views on this," said Capt. Naziful Hossain the Acting Executive Manager of Marine Operations in Papua New Guinea.

Vanuatu is also yet to progress work on ratifying the Cape Town Agreement, it will require harmonising the current legislations in place that encompass fisheries and shipping.

"We have different legislations for fishing and shipping, one of the biggest challenges will be looking at how we can review these to see how the Agreement may already be covered in these, and where it isn't we'll then need to look at what has to be done for this," said Mr Markmon Batie, Manager of Maritime Affairs of Vanuatu.

"We'll also need to look into the capacity required, training needs and financial support for implementation, including the awareness work to be done so fishing vessels owners know what changes they may need to make."

Support for countries to ratify the Agreement is on offer from both the International Maritime Organization, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Community (SPC). For SPREP, a Pacific regional inter-governmental environment organisation, the Cape Town Agreement is one avenue to tackle marine debris.

Alarming statistics show that from 2001 – 2015, there were over 10,000 violations of waste discharges at sea primarily from purse seiners but also long liners. Plastic discharge, including abandoned discarded lost fishing gear made up 71% of these violations.

While there are several different international conventions in place to address marine debris, these do not apply to fishing vessels.

"We're on hand to help our Pacific Members when they are ready to hold national consultations on this Agreement, amongst other ways we can provide support," said Mr Anthony Talouli, Pollution Adviser of SPREP.

"That's just one way we can assist and it may be the most immediate next step in helping to ratify this Agreement, countries will need to share information on this with their own stakeholders as part of the consultation process. SPREP is here to help our Members achieve this and make a better difference for us all."

The one week seminar in the Cook Islands bringing together the Pacific islands was an opportunity to both highlight challenges they face in ratifying this Agreement and the help they may need to do so.

The IMO have adopted a resolution which requires they provide support when it comes to ratifying and implementing the Cape Town Agreement. While there is no general mechanism in place to do this, the support provided will be tailored specifically to the needs of the Government whether it be technical or legislative. All of which can also be provided on the ground.
"We know fishing is the most dangerous profession in the world, and we know that the rate of casualties is extremely high, higher than any other industry in the world, but unfortunately the Cape Town Agreement has not been ratified by the required number of Governments," said Ms Allnutt.

"There is a link between the safety of fisherman and fishing vessels, fighting against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and marine debris in your water which is caused by fishing gear. This Agreement can help to tackle these problems, it is now time for all countries to come together and ratify the Agreement."

The Cape Town Agreement follows the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977, adopted by the IMO, which was a major achievement as the first international instrument to address the safety of fishing vessels, yet it never entered into force. This was then modified by the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol, which also never came into force.

For over a decade, the IMO adopted several measures for the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol to help to enter it into force, but as the number of ratifications was not sufficient it led to the development of a new international instrument, the "Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Implementation of the Provisions of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977".

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

FAO is collaborating with IMO in holding regional seminars around the world. PEW Charitable Trusts attends these seminars as an observer.

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