WCPFC Agrees to Voluntary Labor Standards for Crew
Two members of FishWise’s tuna team, Elsie Tanadjaja and Kathleen Mullen-Ley, traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, in December 2018 to attend the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Elsie and Kathleen were excited to gain a better understanding of the players and processes involved in managing Pacific tuna stocks at the international level. Since FishWise does not have an observer status, they joined the delegation of our NGO friend – the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF).
Many interesting proposals were being considered by the Council, including measures to reduce seabird and sea turtle by-catch, to define and improve the management of FADs, to develop an action plan for improving the existing transshipment measure, and to improve labor conditions for crew on tuna vessels.
FishWise was most interested in the labor conditions proposal drafted by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). The WCPFC has only recently turned its attention to labor issues with the passage of a measure on observer safety in 2016. However, there is a debate among Commission member countries as to whether or not labor issues fall within the WCPFC’s mandate.
In order to help gain country delegation support for the crew labor standard, FishWise staged two “interventions”, in which Elsie spoke to the Commission about the importance of addressing labor issues at the WCPFC. Many of the NGOs observers attending the meeting, including the International Pole and Line Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, World Wildlife Fund, and Birdlife International, signed on to these statements to show a unified voice in support of this proposal.
The Commission passed the Resolution on Labour Standards for Crew on Fishing Vessels on the last day of the meeting. The WCPFC is the first tuna regional fisheries management organization to consider this issue. Because the resolution is voluntary, country compliance won’t be enforced. However, passing the resolution sent a strong signal that labor issues are important to countries in the WCPFC. Through refinement of and continued progress toward the provisions of this resolution, Pacific tuna fisheries will have stronger worker protections, and global buyers and consumers will have more confidence in the social responsibility of the supplies their tuna from this region.