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Vietnam Offers To Set Up Hotline To Address “Blue Boats” Fishing

Nadi, Fiji -Vietnam is offering to set up a hotline to tackle Vietnamese “blue boats” but affected small island nations said the offer is still a sign that illegal fishing will remain unchecked.

Since 2015, Palau has burned five blue boats caught illegally fishing within its waters. Photo by Richard W. Brooks

Eugene Pangelinan, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) said that it’s unacceptable that the only response for Vietnam to address the “big problem” of blue boats and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU) is to set up a hotline.

“We are adamantly demanding that Vietnam discharge its international obligation to combat IUU in all its forms by taking action against those perpetrators of these crimes against the people of the FSM and demand also that they report to FSM what they are doing to combat these IUU activities. UNCLOS (the UN convention on the Law of the Sea) doesn't say set up a hotline, it says to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU,” Pangelinan stated Tuesday.

The blue boats were sighted illegally fishing in Palau and four other Pacific States but Palau is on the frontline. Because the blue boats do not show in radar it is hard to stop the vessels from poaching in Palau waters.

Here at the annual meeting of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Nadi, Fiji, Vietnam has expressed interest into becoming a full member of the commission, but unless it takes reins on the blue boats, it should not be accepted as a full member.

The so-called blue boats, which are mostly painted a sea blue, carry no electronics and have proven to be almost impossible to detect as they operate within the economic zones of small island nations.

Vietnam denied it was a problem for Hanoi to resolve when confronted about the illegal fishing during the week-long meeting of the WCPFC, the body responsible for managing fish stocks in the region.

You have heard their response ... but it is something that we will continue to push on," James Movick, director general of the 17-nation Forum Fisheries Agency said in a media briefinf Wednesday.

"We are looking at a more coordinated approach amongst the country that have been or likely to be affected through a some meeting of those parties and the utilization of some new surveillance platform if we can."

Ludwig Kumoru, chief executive of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement -- the eight Pacific Island countries that control the world's largest sustainable tuna purse-seine fishery -- said blue boats have been sighted in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

"So if they have found them there, then they must be everywhere," he said. "I think they are doing a very big damage."

Between December of 2014 and September 2016, the FSM arrested nine Vietnamese vessels and approximately 169 Vietnamese crew.

Since 2015, Palau has burned five blue boats caught illegally fishing within its waters.

In FSM, its government is bearing costs to feed the detained crewmembers but despite sending the others back home, the blue boats keeps returning to its EEZ.

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