Pacific nations agree on EEZ catch limits for South Pacific albacore: Tokelau takes the lead, full focus on WCPFC Samoa

FFA HQ, Honiara, SOLOMON ISLANDS, Thursday 6 November 2014 -- Members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) have come away from a special session of their governing council with a fisheries management proposal for South Pacific Albacore. The proposed conservation and management measure will be tabled at the 11th WCPFC in Samoa.  

The proposal for a comprehensive Conservation and Management Measure is part of a package, along with the “Tokelau Arrangement”, aimed at setting catch limits for South Pacific albacore across the whole fishery and has been gathering momentum towards its current form for several years now.     

Welcoming the progress of the package, FFA’s Director General James Movick says the Tokelau Arrangement “goes a long way towards establishing the rights of Pacific nations to assert controls and sustainable management practice over a situation where the rules of fishing are not working in their interest. Currently, the WCPFC southern albacore measure only limits the number of vessels that can fish south of 20 degrees south but that vessel limit is becoming increasingly meaningless as the number of hooks set by each vessel increases.”

The Director General also welcomed the first signatory to the Tokelau Arrangement on Tuesday 4 November, when Tokelau’s Minister of Fisheries and leader, the Ulu o Tokelau Faipule Kuresa Nasau, confirmed Tokelau as the first signatory to the agreement that bears its name. FFA Director General James Movick offers congratulations as FFC Chair Te Ulu o Tokelau Kuresa Nasau (left) becomes the inaugural signatory to the Tokelau Arrangement  The Ulu o Tokelau was in   Honiara with Tokelau’s Director of Economic Development, Natural Resource and Environment Mika Perez for a two-day round of divisional briefings. The signing of the Tokelau Arrangement was noted by FFA Director-General Movick as a “significant commitment by Tokelau in supporting a regional arrangement that takes its cue from what works well as providing a pathway to address fisheries measures that are simply not working in our best interests.”

The proposed albacore measure was one of the outcomes of more than a fortnight of training, briefing and plenary meetings rounding off key regional positions for Pacific Fisheries, which FFA’s 17 members will table and defend as proposed conservation and management measures, at the annual WCPFC meeting this December. 

Says Movick, “The 2014 meeting in Apia, from 1-5 December, is seen by Pacific WCPFC members as a watershed moment for fisheries negotiations and regionalism, and we are under no illusion when it comes to the challenges we will face in ensuring the WCPFC delivers on its own process and commitments to ensure best management for the Pacific fishery. By leading with the proposed measures in the Commission including for southern albacore, sharks, data rules, port state measures and tropical tuna species, our members  have learned from harsh experience the need to assert Pacific interests as the owner-stakeholders above the interests of distant-water industrial fishing fleets. We intend to make the Samoa WCPFC an unforgettable event, for all the right reasons,” he says.

 The 91st Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) followed four days of the 10th Management Options Consultation. These discussions help FFA members prepare management proposals for the December meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Chaired by Feleti Tulafono of Tokelau, the 91st FFC on October 31 formally reviewed and agreed on draft tuna management proposals and a range of comments and views for consideration at the forthcoming WCPFC. These positions include

Sharks — a proposal for a more comprehensive shark Conservation and Management Measure to reduce shark fishing mortality rates without affecting target catches too severely.

Port State Measures – A proposal for a new Conservation and Management Measure to enable ports in the region to combat Illegal, Underreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing without imposing an unnecessary and disproportionate burden of conservation on developing State ports.

Operational Data— A proposal for a Conservation and Management Measure aimed at removing a loophole in the WCPFC data rules that allows certain fishing states to avoid submitting the detailed information on the fishing activities of their vessels necessary for stock assessment and promotion of good science and best practice

 Tropical Tuna – The full FFA membership is lending its support to PNA proposal for strengthening the current WCPFC Tropical Tuna Conservation and management measure, and for setting a Target Reference Point for the skipjack stock.

Harvest Strategy— Australia is leading an FFA proposal for WCPFC to more objectively and proactively manage WCPFC highly migratory fish stocks. The proposal seeks support on principles, a process, and a timeframe for the development of Harvest strategies, including reference points, and formal harvest control rules. 

Compliance Monitoring Scheme –Continuing the momentum from WCPFC 10, FFA members are proposing improvements to the still-evolving WCPFC process for monitoring compliance with WCPFC rules by Commission Members, and for dealing with serial offenders.–ENDS

Photocaption: Kuresa Nasau, Te Ulu o Tokelau and current Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee, takes the first step forward for the Tokelau Arrangement with FFA Director General James Movick and FFA officials. Also with his Minister for Fisheries at the signing this week at FFA HQ in Honiara was Tokelau’s Director of Economic Development, Natural Resource and Environment Mika Perez. The high-level delegation from FFA’s smallest member nation departed Solomon Islands Tuesday afternoon after a two-day visit to the agency. (Photocredit: FFAmedia)