British charity Human Rights at Sea published its latest report on the disappearances and deaths of fisheries observers and related crew in the Pacific region. The study highlights troubling trends and a lack of support at sea, as well as insufficient protections for fisheries observers undertaking their monitoring role onboard various flagged commercial fishing vessels.
As explained, fisheries observers play a crucial role in protecting the culture, environment and economies of the 22 Pacific Island Country and Territories. However, their ability to perform their role is increasingly hampered by inadequate legal protection and mounting physical danger. Due to the profitability of this sector, unsustainable and illegal practices are increasingly threatening this situation.
“The complex international law picture has made it impossible to set legally enforceable minimum standards, putting Fishing Observers and crew members alike at the mercy of potentially unscrupulous corporations,” HRAS noted.
In addition, the Fishing Observer’s dual role as scientist and regulatory enforcer frequently makes their position on-board fishing vessels difficult, or at worst dangerous. Against this backdrop, it is perhaps unsurprising that accusations of abuse against crew members are becoming concerningly regular.
The resulting regulatory abuses has put fishing observers and crew members alike at risk. Six observers have disappeared in recent years, with at least two disappearances occurring in circumstances still suspicious.
“A combination of the individual nature of the fisheries observers’ roles, the logistical challenges facing investigations in this region, and the procedural failures in their indivudual cases, make sit highly unlikely that justice will be served,” HRAS concludes.
This report documents both of these issues, as well as explaining the economic, cultural and legal backdrop to the abuses and deaths that have occurred.
Explore more by reading the full report: