Scientists discuss tuna stocks at WCPFC subcommittee meeting in Vanuatu

PORT VILA, VANUATU, 10-21 AUGUST 2009:  At the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Scientific Committee, scientists are discussing the state of tuna and other migratory fish stocks and associated fisheries issues.

Central to the discussions in the meeting of scientists will be a scientific evaluation of the effects of the new WCPFC Conservation and Management Measure on bigeye and yellowfin tuna, which was agreed to in December.  This measure includes a phased-in reduction of long line fishing, a phased in ban on fish aggregating devices (FADs) for 3 months of the year and the closure of two high seas pockets to stop overfishing of bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna. Many of these measures were previously adopted by a group of FFA Members that are Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).

In Vanuatu this week, Vanuatu Director of Fisheries, Robert Jimmy said: “This scientific meeting is important to provide advice to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission about the evidence of effects of fishing and effects of their recent management measures. FFA Secretariat and members have been participating fully in this process and we hope that the scientific discussions we have over these two weeks will help us in our aim of sustainable management and development of tuna in the Pacific.”

Opening the meeting, Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Fisheries, the Honourable Ham Lini Vanuaroroa said: “I wish to acknowledge the Commission, the regional partners particularly the FFA, the SPC, FAO and our donor partners for their on-going assistance to Vanuatu and other Pacific Island Nations in meeting their national management obligations required by the Commission. On a similar note, I urge all Cooperating Members and Cooperating Non-Members of the Commission to take serious consideration on status of tuna stocks in this region and to recommend appropriate management measures to be in place to safe guard the tuna stocks of the Western and Central Pacific region.”

Other important considerations being discussed during the two week meeting are:
•    Better ways for fishing operators to identify the types of fish around Fish Aggregating Devices (FADS) to avoid catching high numbers of juvenile fish
•    Updated management advice about the sustainability of bigeye, yellowfin and south pacific albacore tuna fisheries
•    Providing advice to the WCPFC on managing the task of introducing 100% observer coverage on purse seine vessels next year
•    Research programs to assess the status of shark stocks in the region;
•    Mitigation measures to prevent the incidental take of seabirds and sea turtles.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is a decision making body for management of tuna fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Conservation and management measures (CMMs) of the Commission are legally binding and apply to all WCPFC members and the Convention area. All of FFA’s members are also members of the WCPFC. The last meeting agreed to a new Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna that will require significant updates to legislation and regulations in the member countries (for more information about the measure see

Out of a total of 32 participating territories and members of WCPFC, over half (17) are FFA members, (although so far in the WCPFC's history decisions have been made by consensus). 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.