FFA push for Tropical Tuna measure to be maintained: WCPFC negotiations reach a critical stage

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HONOLULU, 13 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—– Members of the 17-nation Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) will push for the Tropical Tuna measure adopted at last year’s meeting to be maintained and will not take the fight lying down if any moves are made to weaken the measures.

That’s the blunt message from FFA Director General, Dr Manu Tupou Roosen, saying the region solidarity on the issue remains.

The Tropical Tuna Measure, which regulates a catch worth US$4.5 billion, is a three-year agreement.

It is designed to ensure skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks are maintained at recent average levels and capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.

It has come under challenge from a United States proposal to allow its Hawaii-based longline fleet to increase its catch limits in recognition of their better than average monitoring of their fleet’s activities.

The FFA and Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) have a joint position for the Tropical Tuna Measure that they will not allow for an increase in the catch.

In the opening session of the WCPFC Pacific ministers and Delegation Heads demonstrated that solidarity with one after another calling for support for FFA positions going into WCPFC and for no weakening of the tropical tuna measure.

Cook Islands Head of Delegation, Tepaeru Herrmann, speaking as Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee on behalf of all FFA nations, reminded members that at the very first meeting of the Commission in the same conference centre in Honolulu they had agreed to some important principles.

“At that first meeting, we reached a common understanding on the need for sustainable development of the tuna resources of ou rregion, the importance of fishing responsibly, the importance of effective enforcement, and the need for effective cooperation between us. 

“Those were our founding motivations as a collective and from which we must draw inspiration from this week in our deliberations,” she said.

On the tropical tuna measure Herrmann said: ”This is currently a well-balanced measure which we all worked very hard to develop and adopt.  Therefore, our position is to maintain the strength of this measure and not weaken the delicate balance in its existing provisions.” 

Over the past two years more sophisticated ways of assessing fish stocks has led to an easing of concerns that bigeye tuna, in particular, had reached critically low levels.

Despite the improved assessment advice from WCPFC’s Scientific Committee remains that as a precautionary approach fishing mortality on bigeye should not be increased from the recent average (2011-2014).

It is advice the FFA is determined the Commission will heed.

“That is why we say there is a delicate balance in the tropical tuna measure,” Dr Tupou-Roosen explained.

Tuvalu is one of the Pacific nations for which fisheries income makes up more than half of its annual gross domestic product.

Natural Resources Minister Puakena Boreham told the opening of WCPFC that Tuvalu believes science-based management is essential and it is looking to Commission to respect the science and ensure that there be no bigger catch of bigeye tuna.

……PACNEWS