Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency Enacts New Crew Welfare Regulations
The 17 member State Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) has enacted new agreed minimum terms and conditions in relation to crew employment conditions in support of enhanced protections for Pacific fisheries seafarers.
The new terms are largely based on the ILO 188 Work in Fishing Convention. The “Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions for Access by Fishing Vessels” apply to foreign fishing vessels licensed to fish in the EEZs of FFA Members. FFA Members can also apply them to their domestic fleets. Legal application of the MTCs will occur through national legislation, regulations and/or licensing conditions.
Key paragraphs explicitly highly the requirement for respect and protection of international human rights standards, with the new standards to be enacted into national legislation in 2020.
Under the “Crew Employment Conditions” is it stated that:
(c) The Operator shall observe and respect any form of basic human rights of the Crew in accordance with accepted international human right standards.
(d) The Operator shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that Crew are not assaulted or subject to torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and shall treat all crew with fairness and dignity.
The Crew Agreement also explicitly highlights that Crew have the right to terminate their contract in the event of mistreatment and abuse.
The FFA aims to strengthen national capacity and regional solidarity so its 17 members can manage, control and develop their tuna fisheries now and in the future. Based in Honiara, Solomon Islands, FFA’s 17 Pacific Island members are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Since 1979, the FFA has facilitated regional cooperation so that all Pacific countries benefit from the sustainable use of tuna – worth over $3 billion a year and important for many people’s livelihoods in the Pacific.
The U.K.-based charity Human Rights at Sea commented: “After a concerted effort in the region by both Government agencies, ILO, union representatives and civil society groups of which Human Rights at Sea was one organization who has submitted four case studies highlighting terrible human rights abuses of Pacific fishers and their families, we are pleased to see the next steps taken by the FFA. The true test, however, will be the effective implementation of the Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions and transparent promulgation of effective remedies for dealing with all human rights abuses towards crew.”
In one of the case studies, Human Rights at Sea, in partnership with Fijian-based NGO, Pacific Dialogue, exposed the consequences for families of seafarers who have suffered and died as a result of human and labor rights abuses on board Fijian-crewed fishing vessels.
The first version of the inaugural Geneva Declaration on Human Rights at Sea was published earlier this year by Human Rights at Sea after an initial drafting session was held in Switzerland in March 2019.