In Micronesia, illegal Vietnamese fishing has terrible impact

In Micronesia, illegal Vietnamese fishing has terrible impact

Last year New Zealand gave $50 million to help Pacific nations keep an eye on illegal fishing in their waters.

But the tiny Federated States of Micronesia say they're going to need a lot more help to patrol the 2.6 million square kilometres in their exclusive economic zone.

Vietnamese boats have been caught illegally fishing in Micronesian waters, and head of security at Pohnpei Airport Bederigo Jacob has assumed responsibility for making sure they don't sink.

"These ships been here more than five years, and if you look at it we don't have means or technology or equipment to clean up, so what is going to happen? Sit here until probably the end of time."

The head of Marine Resources says the Vietnamese government won't share details about the prosecutions.

"I couldn't get a straight answer," says Eugene Paugelinan. "They said they did prosecute but I asked for more info and they said, 'That's not info we can share.'"

The prospect of deportation doesn't appear to deter them.

"Some of the boats we've sent back have come back," says Mr Paugelinan.

"Why are they coming back here?" asks Mr Jacob. "Maybe the punishment isn't harsh enough or maybe they like it here. I don't know."

Illegal fishermen in Pohnpei jail cells are a burden.

"We can barely feed the students in our schools, and here we are having to feed all these illegal fishermen," says Mr Paugelinan.

Targeting unlicensed fishing and under-reporting of tuna catch is a priority for Pacific leaders. It's an industry worth $3.2 billion.

But boats are illegally catching fish native to the waters, which means local people suffer.

"These are species that local people depend on for their livelihood," says Mr Paugelinan.

Prime Minister John Key says conditions like these are the reason the rules were changed in New Zealand.

"We've had longstanding concerns about human rights abuses," says Mr Key. "They have to adhere to New Zealand labour laws."

Around $30 million from New Zealand has been spent on monitoring fisheries, but more is needed.

"With 2.9 million square kilometres and just three patrol boats, we don't have the resources," says Mr Paugelinan.

While FSM want to stop foreign countries illegal fishing, they don't want to chase them off entirely because selling fishing rights is a major injection for the nation's economy. So they'll be looking for support from their island neighbours at the Pacific Islands Forum to stand up to foreign law breakers.


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