Countries meet to explore options for international tuna meeting

HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS, MONDAY 15 JUNE 2009: Fisheries officers from Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Indonesia and Philippines are in Honiara today to discuss options, positions and negotiation strategies for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in December 2009.

FFA is coordinating subregional workshops so that all its 17 members have information and informal discussions to prepare for their participation in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and at its next meeting in December in French Polynesia.

WCPFC's current members include Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Community, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America and Vanuatu. Out of a total of 32 participating territories and members of WCPFC, over half (17) are FFA members, forming a significant voting bloc (although so far in the WCPFC's history decisions have been made by consensus).

Last year, 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 were adopted at the last WCPFC meeting 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.

The Western and Central Pacific Ocean accounted for 54% of the world's tuna catch in 2007 making tuna a key economic resource. Increasingly industry, environmental organisations and the international community are closely monitoring the outcomes from WCPFC annual meetings.
Workshops, like the subregional workshop this week, are an important part of FFA’s ongoing efforts to increase national capacity and strengthen regional solidarity so that member countries can manage their fisheries for the benefit of people today and for future generations.

The second subregional workshop will bring together fisheries officers from Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu and will be held in Nadi, Fiji.