Pacific Islanders achievements in driving international tuna commission highlighted at UNDP-GEF conference

CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA, MONDAY 26 OCTOBER 2009: As the 5th Biennial GEF International Waters Conference hosted in Cairns opened today, participants heard about the remarkable achievements of Pacific Island countries in fisheries management.

Even though Pacific Island countries have limited resources spread over a marine area 30 million square kilometers, they have been at the forefront of developing innovative measures to manage fishing including the establishment of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

The WCPFC, an international commission to set rules for fishing tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, has taken several measures to manage the tuna stocks such as cuts to bigeye tuna fishing, fishing observers, vessel monitoring system, closing some high seas pockets and introducing measures on sharks, seabirds and turtles.

This has been done in part due to the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project which provides resources from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), to governments in the Pacific Islands to strengthen management of their oceanic fisheries. Pacific Islands receive assistance such as training, technical support, fisheries management, legal, compliance and scientific advice and assistance,  coordinated by regional organisations Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in conjunction with the Pacific Community Oceanic Fisheries Programme (SPC) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Presenting to the conference, Deputy Director, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, Dr Transform Aqorau said: “The Pacific Islands region, despite having limited resources, has introduced innovative fisheries management measures – the first regional fishing Vessel Monitoring System, Fisheries Observer Programme, closing of high seas pockets, limiting the use of Fish Aggregating Devices and many others. They have got cooperation for these measures from foreign fishing nations (Asia, EU and US) through the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, a tuna decision-making body which they were active in creating and which now sets rules for an area of 40 million square kilometres of ocean, including Australia, Japan, Pacific Islands and the US.”

“The work of the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project has contributed to these extraordinary achievements on the international level and to implementing these decisions on the national level in Pacific Island countries.”