New labour standards to have positive impact on fisheries workers
Samoa’s Ministry of Fisheries says new regulations promising minimum labour standards aboard fishing vessels in the Pacific will have a positive impact on workers' rights at sea.
The new regulations, an initiative of the Forum Fisheries Agency (F.F.A.), will bring standardised employment conditions for Pacific Islanders working on fishing vessels
The new rules come into effect on January 1 next year, following the passage of the Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions for Access by Fishing Vessels (M.T.Cs) at a Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers Meeting in June.
This means all vessels fishing in F.F.A. members’ waters have to meet certain criteria which are equivalent measures on human rights and labour conditions for crew.
Vessels failing to meet F.F.A’s crewing (and other) M.T.Cs will not be deemed to be in "good standing" on the F.F.A. Vessel Register, and as such, cannot be licensed to fish in F.F.A. member waters.
The Ministry’s Assistant C.E.O (Fisheries Division), Magele Etuati Ropeti, said there are not many Samoans employed as crew members, but this is a good initiative to ensure the safety of locals.
“There are some stories of the poor living conditions on the boats and that’s why it’s not that attractive to have Samoans on board the vessels as crew members," Magele said.
“If you look at the long line boats that are fishing, these are Chinese built boats and so the rooms and cabins they live in on board are small. These are the issues that some of our own people experienced on board.
“But the food on fishing boats is always good because they are well rationed.”
Magele said the Ministry will look into implementing the F.F.A. policy accordingly for domestic vessels.
He added the labour market for fishing vessels is available but the conditions are not always lucrative for locals.
“This fishing boat will be out at sea for six-12 weeks, sometimes more than that depending on where the fishing ground is, so sometimes people don’t want to be away from their families for that long.”
“These fishing boats are not sorely licensed to fish in Samoa; they are also licensed to fish in nearby waters. So the F.F.A. and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission assist us in monitoring these vessels in terms of their condition and whether they are free of I.U.U. (illegal, unreported and unregulated) activities.”
The Apia Deep Sea Fishing Company in Matautu is the only company in Samoa that is licensed under the Fisheries Access Agreement with the Government to operate foreign fishing vessels.
According to the fishing company’s Financial Controller, Juliane Bung, they have 16 fishing vessels and six Samoan crew members.
She said they haven’t had any complaints from local crews on the living condition of the vessel as they ensure the welfare of the workers is maintained.
Ms. Bung said they are also searching for more locals who are keen to be employed as crew members.
The F.F.A. crewing M.T.C. is underpinned by the I.L.O. Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188) and covers the following requirements:
i) A written contract in a language each crew member can understand;
ii) Protection of the basic human rights of the crew in accordance with accepted international human right standards; this includes provisions to ensure that crew are not assaulted or subject to torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, ensuring the treatment of all crew with fairness and dignity;
iii) Procedures covering the death of crew and for advising next of kin in the event of an emergency;
iv) Full travel costs from the point of hire to and from the vessel at no cost to the crew;
v) Decent and fair remuneration;
vi) Full insurance coverage to and from, and on, the vessel;
vii) Provision of medical care;
viii) Rest periods;
ix) Provision for health and safety including a safe vessel while the crew is on board throughout the duration of the contract;
x) Safety equipment and tools; and
xi) Proper accommodation, sanitary facilities and suitable meals and water.
These M.T.Cs are legally binding, strengthening W.C.P.F.C’s non-binding Resolution for Labour Standards for Crew on Fishing Vessels which was developed from a proposal from F.F.A. members and adopted in 2018.