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By RONALD TOITO’ONA, PacificMedia@WCPFC13
A crack down on high-seas tuna fishing should be the number one priority for the region’s multi-national rule-setting body the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) when it meets in Nadi next week.
So said PNG’s Ludwig Kumoru, head of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) group of nations which includes Solomon Islands.
Pacific nations only receive income from tuna boats operating in their 200-mile exclusive economic zones. Weak management regimes on the high-seas undermines the revenue they receive and conservation efforts.
The PNA boss said the main concern of the island resource-owners is the current state of largely uncontrolled longline fishing on the high seas.
“The Tuna Commission (WCPFC) needs to be concerned with non-compliance with fishing rules on the high seas.
“We need the WCPFC to focus on its core mandate, which is regulating fishing on the high seas,” he said.
“Currently there is virtually no control on longline fishing, most of which takes place on the high seas,” Mr Kumoru added.
He said a ban on transshipment of tuna at sea and requiring fishing boats to offload in port — a proposed requirement for longline vessels — has been discussed repeatedly at the WCPFC without action.
“This would go a long way to controlling fishing on the high seas.”
He added that this would help establish data on the number of longliners active in the region, and improve the availability of catch data needed by scientists to assess the condition of tuna stocks.
Mr Kumoru said PNA is now implementing a vessel day scheme for longliners similar to that successfully used to manage the purse seine fishery.
“Enforcing rules on the high seas is critical to the long-term health of the fishery,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Wez Norris told reporters in Nadi yesterday that, the high seas are pretty much unregulated particularly when it comes to the longline fishery.
Mr Norris said the standards for reporting of catch and effort are much weaker than they are for fishing fishing in EEZs, the rules about transshipment are much weaker and vessel monitoring is weaker.
“So what that does is it creates some sort of regulatory incentives for the boats to fish more on high seas, because they know that they are not being watched.
“When we look at things like the regional surveillance picture, we see huge concentrations of vessels fishing right on the border of the EEZs that are empty,” he said.
According to Mr Norris, there is a real need to push the WCPFC to continually strengthen the management of high seas fisheries and there are a couple of specific proposals on the table to have it discussed in the WCPFC.
Membership of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission includes all the fishing nations active in the region as well as the Pacific nations and territories that own the resource.