FFA members make gains at WCPFC committee

POHNPEI, FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA, TUESDAY 6 OCTOBER 2009: At
the Fifth Regular Session of the Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC5) of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Pohnpei this week, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members advanced recommendations to increase effectiveness of fisheries management in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

The Technical and Compliance Committee of WCPFC makes recommendations to the annual meeting of the Commission, to be held in this year in December in French Polynesia. WCPFC membership consists of the 17 members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency plus 9 other fishing nations. Decisions at WCPFC so far have been made by consensus although there are also provisions for voting.

Outcomes from the meeting include:

ACCESS TO HIGH SEAS DATA
After two years of negotiation, the meeting finally agreed on rules for accessing data on high seas fisheries held by the Commission for monitoring, control or surveillance purposes. FFA members achieved their objective of being able to view, on the Vessel Monitoring System, up to 100 nautical miles of high seas waters adjacent to their Exclusive Economic Zones and for all Members to be able monitor the high seas pockets to prevent illegal fishing.

TRANSHIPMENT
Currently, purse seine vessels are banned from transhipping at sea and must come into ports. This allows Pacific Island states to verify the volume, size of fish caught and their species. High seas longline
fishing vessels, on the other hand, have been freely transhipping without regulation. At the meeting, delegates came close to concluding a conservation and management measure proposed by the Marshall Islands to regulate transhipment on the high seas. The proposal focuses on improving the monitoring and reporting of transhipment as well as introducing new restrictions to encourage further transhipment in
port. Pacific Islands will be advocating the WCPFC meeting in French Polynesia this December adopt the proposed conservation and management measure on transhipment.

SEVERITY OF PUNISHMENT FOR ILLEGAL FISHING:
Tonga received strong support for its proposal to review the severity of punishment of illegal fishing vessels. Specifically, Tonga’s proposal was that a fishing vessel that breaches national laws could
not be taken off the WCPFC illegal fishing black list until the country where the offence occurred was satisfied with the resolution of the case. Pacific Islands are hoping that Tonga’s proposal gains
the full support of WCPFC member countries at its December meeting. This follows successful resolution of Tonga's bid to seek adequate prosecution for illegal fishing by a vessel found fishing in its waters last year (see http://www.ffa.int/node/106)

OBSERVERS:
The meeting discussed the need to create hundreds of trained observers to meet the WCPFC conservation and management measure requiring 100% observer coverage on all purse seine fishing vessels from 1 January 2010. The meeting heard that about 200 observers had been trained by Pacific island countries for the Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) closure period in 2009. Most of the deployed observers were from the FFA observer programme.