Tuna Commission meeting makes significant progress says Pacific Islands

BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA, FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER 2008: Member countries and territories of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) made progress at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) this week to manage Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna.

Based on scientific advice that Bigeye Tuna was overfished and Yellowfin Tuna fully exploited, the WCPFC Chair set out to reduce the catches of Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna by the larger longline fleets that target this tuna (including China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States) by 30% over 3 years when the meeting opened on Monday this week. As the meeting closed today, many of the proposals supported by the Pacific Islands (that make up 17 of 32 participating members and territories in the WCPFC) were taken on board.

Actions supported by the FFA members to reduce overfishing of Bigeye Tuna and Yellowfin Tuna that have been adopted include:
1) a cut of 10% in longline fishing, in 2009
2) closure of the high seas and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ  to fishing using Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) for 2 months in 2009 and 3 months in 2010 (July-September)
3) prohibition of purse seine fishing vessels from throwing juvenile fish back to sea
4) agreement to close 2 high seas pockets from January 2010 (details of which will be  finalized, including consideration of closing all high seas pockets, by the WCPFC next year)
5) future 100% coverage of purse seine fishing vessels with observers.

Speaking on behalf of the FFA member countries and territories, Theofanes Isamu (Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee) said: “The Pacific Islands set the agenda for this year’s WCPFC meeting with the EU, US and Asian countries responding to proposals manage fishing which are already being undertaken by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) on a subregional basis.” PNA countries are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

“More will need to be done to truly reduce overfishing,” said Isamu. “As owners of the world’s biggest tuna fishery, FFA members will continue to participate in the WCPFC to strengthen control and management of tuna fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.”

Other key WCPFC outcomes include:
• ILLEGAL FISHING: Tonga’s bid to seek WCPFC support for listing a Taiwanese vessel on the WCPFC Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Vessel list was abandoned after Taiwan paid the Tongan fine which was previously disputed.
• NON-TARGET SPECIES: WCPFC adopted a measure on sharks to identify five key shark species of thresher shark, oceanic whitetip shark, mako shark and blue shark and strengthen data collection and research on the situation of sharks.
• NEW CHAIR: Ambassador Satya Nandan from Fiji is the new Chair of the WCPFC.
• SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES:  A resolution was passed that members will make effort to reduce and restructure their fleet to accommodate aspirations of small island developing states and territories and that members shall not obstruct investments of small islands in new fishing development initiatives.
• VESSEL MONITORING SYSTEM: WCPFC approved plans to work with FFA to have a WCPFC Vessel Monitoring System, to track and monitor licensed vessels on the high seas, by 1 April 2009.

More information: Anouk Ride anouk.ride@ffa.int Tel (in Korea): +82 11 9679 0732

FFA supports its members to participate in the WCPFC by providing information and advice on technical, legal, fisheries management and monitoring, control and surveillance issues. This work is in part funded by the GEF-funded Oceanic Fisheries Management Project.