Fish don’t have passports

Kerry chairing a recent WCPFC meeting By Kerry Smith, Senior Manager, Foreign Compliance, Australian Fisheries Management Authority

While fresh and enticing seafood may spring to mind when thinking about the Pacific, what many people may not realise is the extensive efforts that are being undertaken to help ensure the sustainability of fish stocks.

As we all know, fish don’t have passports (passports are not waterproof…yet!) and aren’t really good at respecting national boundaries. So we work closely with our regional neighbours, particularly Pacific nations, to combat illegal fishing and build strong in-country fisheries management frameworks and systems.

Vietnamese fishing vessels in port in Vietnam

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, recently hosted a meeting of Fisheries Ministers from across the Pacific to discuss regional approaches to these challenges  and to identify key actions for the region. An important part of our regional toolkit is the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA). The NTSA provides for cooperation in monitoring, control and surveillance between Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency members. It includes provisions for the exchange of fisheries data and information between nations, as well as procedures for cooperation in monitoring, investigating, prosecuting and penalising operators of illegal fishing vessels.

Capacity building is an important part of fisheries management. AFMA officers have been conducting in-country visits and training with Vietnam to help reduce illegal foreign fishing in Australian waters. 

A great deal of this work is already happening. We are helping of our Pacific partners to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. DFAT, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Attorney General’s Department and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources work together to monitor Australian waters, and provide in-country training and promote information sharing with our regional neighbours.

In many countries within the South-East Asian and Pacific regions, fish are a vital source of food and income. Helping these countries to ensure that the resource is managed on a sustainable basis in the long term assists regional stability and economic prosperity.

A woman selling fresh fish at the market in Honiara, Solomon Isl

Kerry Smith has worked at the Australian Fisheries Management Authority since 2003, providing advice to Australian Government on a range of fisheries management issues. She has worked on a number of international treaties, providing technical advice on the development and implementation. Kerry’s primary role is to oversee a team that implements strategies to detect and deter illegal fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone and adjacent waters. In 2014, she was seconded to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission based in the Federated States of Micronesia working on electronic monitoring and electronic reporting initiatives in the Pacific. She has chaired a number of international meetings and is currently chair of the Western and Central Pacific Electronic Reporting and Electronic Monitoring working group.

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