By RONALD TOITO’ONA, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13
The Pacific Ocean and those who depend on its fish face a growing crisis, according to Greenpeace.
So the environmental organisation has decided to take a new approach in its efforts to persuade the body tasked with setting fishing rules – the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) – to live up to its mandate.
Delegates from global fishing powers and Pacific nations are meeting in Suva this week at the 13th annual session of the WCPFC but there is little optimism they will take the decisions needed to protect critically low stocks of some tuna species from overfishing.
Greenpeace Political and Policy advisor for WCPFC Lagi Toribau has been a close advocate for the WCPFC since its inception during the preparatory negotiations from the early 2000 until the ratification of the commission in 2004.
“Greenpeace has a keen interest in the sustainable development of tuna and tuna species in the WCPFC and we’ve been quite vocal since the first meeting in 2004 in the work of the commission.
“We are taking a very different approach to the normal level of participation and intervention that we’ve made in previous tuna commission meetings.
“This is ..on the basis that we feel the WCPFC is failing on its very basic objective to ensure the sustainable management of the tuna fisheries in the western, central Pacific Ocean, and ensuring there’s enough tuna for our future generation,” he said.
In the last 5 commission meetings Greenpeace has pushed hard for conservation proposals by Pacific Island countries and has used its offices key distant fishing water countries like Korea, China, Japan, Philippines and Indonesia to lobby for better management of fishing but these efforts have not led to a better outcome at WCPFC.
Mr Toribau told journalists covering the Nadi meeting that one of the most successful WCPFC meeting that the Greenpeace witnessed was way back in 2008.
That was when they agreed to the original tropical tuna measure that included an agreement to gradually reduce overfishing occurring on the bigeye fishery.
“There was the original decision on the reduction on the use of FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices), that was when the decision was reached on the closure of certain high sea pockets, an initiative that was led by PNA, and we haven’t really seen any form of that level of leadership, particularly pertaining to the overall mandate of what the commission is supposed to be serving,” he added.
Mr Toribau said, since then the commission has produced little action.
“So everything based on what the convention was written to deliver, they have failed to.
“There are 2 clauses in the convention that basically drives the engine of the commission, and this is the message Greenpeace is going to give to the commission this week, and that is to remind them of the basic foundation, on why they were built, why they were put in place,” the Greenpeace representative said.
“That’s our approach ..to remind the commission that since your inception in 2004, the biggest move it had done for the long term sustainability of fishery was in 2008, and 8 years later you are still stuck with the bigeye measure, we are still stuck at tropical tuna measure, and one of the things that we are also trying to highlight more this week is the attention on long line,” he added.
The lack of action in the past 8 years has led key species have been fished down to critically low levels – just 2.6% of the Pacific bluefin tuna remain, 16% of bigeye tuna, and 12% of North Pacific striped marlin through a combination of purse seine and longline fishing.
Other key issues for Greenpeace at the year’s WCPFC in terms of going back to the basics are;
1. A reminder to the commission that it has rules in place that it is not complying with.
2. Problems of fishing capacity:
3. Lack of compliance