Pacific Islands proposals on sharks and swordfish adopted at WCPFC
PAPEETE, TAHITI, FRENCH POLYNESIA, 10 DECEMBER 2009: Proposals from Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members on sharks and
swordfish were adopted at the 6th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting today.
Pacific Island countries are the custodians of the last remaining healthy tuna stocks in the world and manage a marine area of 30 million square kilometres, supported with technical advice and services from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). FFA members participate at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission along with other fishing nations (such as Asian nations, EU and US) to set rules for fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
FFA members finalised a process first begun in 2006 to put in place limits to the catch on swordfish. The WCPFC adopted key amendments proposed by FFA members to the Conservation and Management Measure on Swordfish including:
• Cementing the catch limits, which could only be agreed to in a provisional sense for 2009. The amendment sets catch limits at 2000-2005 levels.
• Amending the WCPFC Conservation and Management Measure on Swordfish including making more effective the so-called ‘penalty clause’ which
stipulates that a country that catches over its limit one year must make up for it a following year by taking a cut in their allowable catch.
Swordfish, like tuna, is a highly migratory fish stock, important to domestic fishing industries in Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand.
Speaking about the amendment on swordfish, Cook Islands Offshore Fisheries Data Manager, Pamela Maru said: “Cook Islands has been involved in the swordfish fishery for around a decade and so we are concerned about the health of these stocks and the impact of fishing in the South Central Pacific. We are pleased to see this amendment addresses catch limits and the introduction of the penalty clause. With the assistance of Australia and United States, Cook Islands recently established a swordfish tagging project (using archival tags), with the intention of getting data for on the swordfish stocks.
This research by the three countries will enable a better understanding of swordfish distribution and behaviour for fisheries management.”
The Conservation and Management Measure on Sharks was amended to include silky shark as a key shark species list and there was agreement to review the shark measure at the Commission’s 2010 annual meeting. Key shark species are prioritised by scientists for stock status research and conservation advice. While there is a lack of data on shark catch, silky sharks are thought to make up a significant proportion of shark catch.
Over the next year, the WCPFC will examine placing other key species on the list of key shark species in the Conservation and Management
Speaking about the amendment on sharks, Palau Head of Delegation Nanette Malsol said: “Palau already has measures in place to end all
commercial shark fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zone of 237,000 square miles and complements the ban on shark finning. As a small
island developing state, we are proud to take the lead in ensuring that these species, which are critical to the marine ecosystem at large. Palau applauds the commission for this amendment on sharks, which is a strengthening of the management measures in place. We will continue to work within the Commission and the Scientific Committee to advocate for sound stock assessments and robust management responses as this is the only way forward for many of these species.”