An agreement that is expected to boost tuna fishery management was signed last week in Thailand between the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority and Thailand’s Department of Fisheries.
Thailand is a major global hub for tuna processing and Majuro has the world’s busiest tuna transshipment port.
Tuna transshipments from fishing vessels to refrigerated carrier vessels is a daily occurrence in Majuro port and represent a vital element of the Pacific tuna fishery and the ongoing monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) efforts undertaken by Pacific island countries.
MIMRA officials, along with their New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Offshore Fisheries Advisor Francisco Blaha, were in Bangkok, Thailand last week to attend the sixth Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop from 18–22 February.
Along the margins, the team took the opportunity to hold bilateral discussions with the Thailand Department of Fisheries to prepare for signing a fisheries cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The MoU, signed 22 February, is the result of a year-long engagement between the two countries during which both sides agreed that reciprocal exchange of fisheries data was an area of critical importance that would require mutual collaboration between key players — the Marshall Islands, since Majuro is the busiest transshipment port in the world and Thailand is the largest tuna receiving and processing port globally. MIMRA Deputy Director Samuel Lanwil, Jr. signed the MoU for MIMRA.
With the signing of the MoU, the RMI, through MIMRA, will now be able to receive from Thai fisheries inspection officers verified weights of tuna catches that are transshipped in Majuro and offloaded in Bangkok.
This will enable officers on both sides to trace the catch to ensure it was legally caught and handled throughout the entire chain of custody. This will help prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices and supports President Hilda Heine’s call for a IUU-free Pacific. This verified tuna information is also vital to further understand the magnitude of the catch underreporting problem in the region.
MIMRA will provide transshipment data to Thailand’s Department of Fisheries including estimation of volumes transshipped in Majuro port along with departure clearance of carrier vessels with full traceability of catch on board and hatch plan totals — information that Thailand has otherwise been unable to collect from coastal states in whose exclusive economic zones the catch is taken and in this case the port of Majuro where a large volume of the tuna that ends up in Bangkok is transshipped from purse seine fishing vessels onto carrier vessels.
Read more about this in the March 1, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands.