Pressure grows for greater fisheries observer measures
The WWF has called for the Tuna Commission to adopt greater measures to ensure the safety of fisheries observers onboard fishing vessels after the disappearance of another observer working on Pacific seas.
The WWF has called for the Tuna Commission to adopt greater measures to ensure the safety of fisheries observers on board fishing vessels.
The call comes after a tuna trans-shipment observer with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, Keith Davis, disappeared in September working in the Eastern Pacific ocean.
The WWF says observers are the "eyes and ears" of enforcement agencies charged with protecting the Pacific region's ocean resources, and that the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission has a chance to take action to protect them at its annual meeting next week (Dec 3rd - 8th) in Bali.
The WWF's Western Central Pacific Ocean Tuna Programme Manager Bubba Cook told Johnny Blades that Keith Davis' disappearance is not a lone instance.
BUBBA COOK: And it was during calm seas in broad daylight while two vessels were alongside each other that he went missing. So it really highlighted the danger for observers at sea. Given the conditions that he went missing in, there's a high level of suspicion among particularly the observer community that foul play was involved.
JOHNNY BLADES: When you say he went missing, the boat or fleet that he was attached with has said that they can't find him or they've gone out of contact?
BC: He's gone missing. He disappeared from a vessel that was 500 miles offshore. They conducted a search on the vessel, in the water, man overboard scenario, and Keith is nowhere to be found.
JB: Which country was the boat from? Are they accountable on this?
BC: A Japanese vessel but it was flagged to Panama, and that's one of the complications. So ultimately Panama is responsible for conducting the investigation and figuring out what happened out at sea. As a result of Keith being an American citizen though there was an additional obligation from the US government to investigate his disappearance as well. So there's been a very strong response from the American authorities, including the FBI, the US coastguard investigative service and Department of Justice, to find out what happened and try and remedy the situation. So we have seen a very strong response from the US government as well. The really heartbreaking part is had he not been an American citizen there probably wouldn't have been the level of profile, and that's exemplified by the fact that within the last five years there's been at least three observers from Papua New Guinea who have gone missing. They try to keep those stories, you know, in-house because they know that no one will want to buy tuna that people die to produce.
JB: Do you think it will be long before we see some of these new technologies hovering over the fishery?
BC: It's an inevitability. We will see these technologies put in place. We will see the implementation of things like drones and satellite tracking technologies. We've already seen the implementation of vessel monitoring system which is satellite tracking but we'll see additional evolutions to that including synthetic aperture radar which actually is bat echo locations, so even if it's cloudy or foggy you can still see a vessel on the water. It's just an inevitability, it's a matter of time before these start to be incorporated into the overall fisheries management process.
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