Observer program

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Koo's partnership Benefits the RMI

The Marshall Islands continued to benefit from its joint venture fishing arrangement with Koo’s Fishing Company of Taiwan. In 2017, revenue generated by the joint venture with Koo’s amounted to $910,234. This is an increase over the 2014-2016 three-year annual average of $718,000. Through the Marshall Islands Fishing Company, Koo’s and MIMRA operate the “Marshalls 201” purse seiner.

Observer Fees Up to $815K

The Marshall Islands Fisheries Observer Program carried out 153 purse seine and 39 longline trips during 2017. This is the most longline vessels monitored by Marshall Islands Fisheries Observers in one year.

Additionally, 44 longline fishing trips were electronically observed in an e-Monitoring trial with domesticallybased vessels.

Observers were also utilized to monitor transshipment activity in Majuro port since the initiative started in late 2015.

The Marshall Islands has yet to place observers on board pole-and-line vessels and as a result observer coverage for validation purposes on these vessels has not been achieved.

Observer fees increased to $815,987 in 2017 compared to $544,040 in 2016. This reflects the increasing number of fishing trips Fisheries Observers are engaged in annually.

Two observer trainings were conducted in both 2016 and in 2017. This added 32 newly trained observers to the MIMRA Fisheries Observer team. The Observer Program in collaboration with the College of the Marshall Islands, which manages observer training programs in partnership with MIMRA, took a new approach toward targeting unemployed youth and high school dropouts. The program is promoting Fisheries Observer opportunities to encourage the younger generation to see the fisheries sector as a career path they can achieve by going through the Observer Program.

In 2015 MIMRA and CMI entered an agreement to have a full time Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observer (PIRFO) Trainer. This resulted in bringing in a new PIRFO Trainer, helping to increase the number of training programs annually. The PIRFO Trainer is now tasked to deliver full time Fisheries Observer training programs aimed to build capacity in the MIMRA Observer Program.

A total of 55 Fisheries Observers were active in 2017, down from 65 the previous year. This reflects the ongoing “dropout” rate among observers, which saw 41 leave the program from 2014-2017.

In 2017, MIMRA Fisheries Observers and their debriefers were successful in completing and submitting 100 percent of their data collected to the Pacific Community (SPC), which coordinates catch data for fisheries stock assessments.

Essential to the Fisheries Observer process is the debriefing that takes place after every fishing trip. This includes review of fisheries data collected and reviewing any issues that developed during the fishing trip. To effectively accomplish this process, MIMRA had six certified observer debriefers and four debriefer trainees on its staff in 2017.

Fisheries Observers were also utilized to monitor transshipment activity in Port Majuro, an initiative started in late 2015. Coverage of this in-port transshipment activity was almost 100 percent during 2017.

In addition to providing observers for 192 fishing trips of purse seiners and longliners, MIMRA launched a trial for e-monitoring of locally-based longline fishing vessels in 2017. This involved placing video cameras on six longline vessels associated with the Marshall Islands Fishing Venture in Majuro. Because longliners have a five percent or lower rate of being monitored by Fisheries Observers, the use of video cameras for monitoring their fishing operations is being trialed the Marshall Islands and three other Pacific island member nations of the PNA. During 2017 44 longline fishing trips were electronically observed by nine Fisheries Observers trained in e-monitoring as part of an e-monitoring trial with domesticallybased vessels. MIMRA anticipates that e-monitoring of longline vessels will expand in the future. Training of Fisheries Observers in e-monitoring will encourage them to adapt and upgrade their skills by using new tools and technology for gathering data in an efficient and timely manner.

MIMRA’s Observer Program continues to expand and upgrade its collection and use of digital fisheries data. Data management and handling capacity is a vital tool for MIMRA. Work was ongoing in 2017 to improve direct importation of in-port tuna unloading data into the TUFMAN II database. The port samplers along with other staff collate the data and enter it into the TUFMAN II database. This continued to progress
with assistance from SPC. Developments and improvements to in-house data management systems is another area of focus to streamline MIMRA’s overall management and monitoring efforts.

The SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Program has been instrumental in expanding and improving data collection efforts. Joint assistance from SPC and FFA allowedfor considerable improvements in data collection and management during 2017.

The aim is an integrated fisheries information management system that will streamline MIMRA’s reporting obligations to regional and international fisheries organizations.

Going forward, MIMRA is shifting its focus toward the PNA Office’s fisheries information management system as the standard for managing its fisheries data. This will be complemented by existing databases such as the TUFMAN II currently in use.