#WCPFC15 POSTCARDS: BACK TO THE BREAD AND BUTTER ISSUES – Eugene Pangelinan, Executive Director, National Oceanic Resources Management Authority, FSM

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This is WCPFC 15, and it’s number 15 for me. That’s the nature of my job, like any other Fisheries manager here. It’s to make sure the decisions of the Commission are balanced and take into account our interests, not only as custodians of the resources but as development partners to this fishery so it’s important the measures here are effective and achieve long term goals. They should also create jobs and livelihoods and food security for our people.

Key highlights over those 15 years from where I sit? The biggest is the in-zone management regime, the Vessel Day Scheme. It’s transformed the fishery and our economic benefits to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement. The regional observer program is another of the key highlights. Those who are in these jobs are the unseen eyes and ears of our fishery in terms of compliance. We have a lot of young, dedicated people who make a lot of sacrifices to go out there and work under often difficult conditions and challenging reporting requirements.

And my third highlight is electronic monitoring. It’s the next stage for improving compliance and transparency, using tech to become more cost-effective, while doing a better job of managing the resources we have. That trend is only to improve as technology adapts and evolves with us.

At these commission meetings, negotiation is a key skill but it actually sits on a base of compromise, understanding and respect. Nothing annoys me more than people listening to us, saying they understand our situation, and then still going on to compare us to other Oceans. This is a totally different Ocean. We are the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, just look at the map. There are 17 member countries and territories. When you look at other Ocean areas, there is nothing there like us. So when people who participate in other Ocean forums come here and anticipate the same setting, it’s not. We are people. We are small Islands. We are affected, and our livelihoods, our futures depend on the health of these resources and the ocean they come from. So yes, at this 15th Commission, an ongoing message to all is that there is a need for mutual respect in this forum.

The measure that most needs to get across the line this week is obviously the Tropical Tuna Measure. It’s the bread and butter of this Commission and is a key objective of what we were established to do.  –ENDS

#WCPFC15 Postcards: BETWEEN OCEAN AND LAND- TUNA’s SEABIRD CONNECTION- Karen Baird, Oceania Regional Coordinator, Birdlife International

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What’s my Tuna Commission why? My passion for maritime advocacy comes from a love for albatrosses and seabirds. I grew up in a country where we have more seabirds than land birds! New Zealand is the seabird capital of the world. Even where I live in the Hauraki Gulf, we’ve got 25 species of seabirds, so spending time at sea, seeing these birds on the water, is just a wonderful experience. They basically live at sea, but of course have to come back to land to breed, so are vulnerable in both realms. We know that seabird populations are still being driven down by fisheries bycatch and one in particular — our Antipodean Albatross, will be extinct in 20 years if we can’t get better protection in this Commission. It’s why Seabirds are on the agenda this year.

This Commission meeting is  my seventh in this role for BirdLife. For somebody coming here for the first time, it might be confusing. There’s a lot happening, there’s all sorts of discussions and lots of side meetings. But it’s actually all about making connections with people.  Although people are here to represent their countries or their NGOs, at the end of the day, they are all just people, and they have the same sorts of ideas, passions, and concerns as everyone else. It’s just about trying to get everyone to agree on how to manage that.

Of all these commission meetings I have attended so far my favourite memory was attending a Commission meeting in the Marshall Islands. We went to a little island with a whole lot of the members, and enjoyed a picnic for the day. It just was a chance to talk to people on a normal, human level, and get to know them personally, to see these fisheries delegates as people first. To be out of a conference room, on the water in the very environment being talked about in the meeting, was just beautiful.//ENDS

#WCPFC15 Postcards: SWIMMING WITH THE FISH- Charleston (Charlie) Deiye, CEO Fisheries, Nauru

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This Tuna T-shirt? It started as a doodle, and it’s not a tuna.It’s something created while I listened to everyone during a meeting. I doodle away while I’m thinking about what’s being said. Sometimes it looks good, and sometimes it looks terrible.  In this case, someone walking past saw my doodling and asked to use it– and here’s how it worked out.

I can’t remember how many times I have come to the Tuna Commission. All I know is I’ve been in fisheries a long time. I started out with the Nauru department of Island Development. They had Fisheries under them. Then we developed it to become a department, and eventually it became an Authority. I’ve been through all these phases in senior positions, and now I’m the CEO.

It’s exciting in this field. You can see around the table or at the meetings you go to, that the same old people and faces are around, but that’s because for many of us, fisheries is all we do. And it must be because we like it. For me, I enjoy all the interaction between people who work across the industry, the fisheries managers, the decisions to be made in a place like this. It’s just quite exciting.

What makes WCPFC 15 stand out from the previous meetings? The Tropical Tuna Measure is very important. Some aspects of it are expiring, we need to maintain those and keep working on it, while some members want to change it and bring in amendments. I think we need to maintain and take care of it. It’s a delicate balance we’ve achieved with where it’s at and you don’t want to do anything to cause it to break up and fall apart.

At every meeting, the vibe depends on the people around you and where it’s being hosted. Depending on the agenda, it feels different every time, and it’s a new challenge every time.

I think if there’s one aspect of Tuna Commission I would love for our people to understand, it’s the amount of work involved in being here. There are different kinds of work you need to be up to date with, and so many levels. It’s not just about fishing, it’s about how you manage IUU, and all aspects of the fishery. It’s not just one thing, it’s many things. And when I see the amount of work people put in, it’s phenomenal. From the outside, people may think it’s a holiday destination so the work of fisheries management and the Tuna Commission must feel the same. But all I see is the work to be done, and the four walls around me from morning until night. It’s an exotic location from the outside, but all I see are four walls.

The future of fisheries will be in good hands the more we as Pacific nations are able to exercise control our tuna resources, because once we have that, the more economically viable the future gets. And where will I be in that future?

Right there- swimming with the fish. –ENDS

 

#WCPFC15 Postcards: CONSENSUS THROUGH COMPROMISE- Feleti Tulafono, Fisheries Director, Tokelau

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I’ve been working in Fisheries for seven years, and I think it’s mainly because of my interest in this work that I’m still here, at my fourth Tuna Commission. Don’t ask me what my big memories are of attending these meetings.
Every meeting is a recurring schedule, and the best part of it all for me every time is getting to know how deeply other Pacific Islands and distant water nations at the commission with us feel about the fishery we share, what they want from it, and how far they are prepared to go to get it.
From these Commission meetings, I learn just how much we are prepared to stand by our aspirations and priorities for our people. The hardest part of consensus is compromise. For me compromise at the Tuna Commission often means giving up and sacrificing benefits to your people, in the hope you can come to that common understanding. That’s where a negotiation has hope, on common ground between the different mindsets at the table. 
I started in Fisheries as a VMS Officer, then Licensing…and now I’m the Director for Fisheries. It’s a year of change for Fisheries as well. It’s been established as a stand alone entity with its own budget. I’m in my first year, and I hope it works out (laughs). 
Of all the Conservation and Management Measures here, the most important one for me is the Tropical Tuna Measure. It covers the species that are most important to us all. It’s our livelihood measure, it feeds the catches of our local fishermen, and it feeds our economic revenues for Tokelau. That’s why these small working groups are so important. It doesn’t matter how late it is at night. We have to be there and try to support each other. It’s about protecting our resources. ENDS

Labour standards push hopes for thumbs up from Tuna Commission

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Building on the success of their support for Observer safety at the 2016 Pacific Tuna Commission session in Nadi, Forum Fisheries countries are gunning for the 15th session in Honolulu this week to pass a resolution aimed at ending any cruel and unfair treatment of crew members on fishing vessels.

The non-binding resolution on Labour standards for crew comes as an increasing number of reported incidents are being heard, some of them involving Pacific nationals working on vessels in Pacific waters.

Vanuatu’s head of Fisheries Kalo Pakoa says its a national priority from where he sits, because government is keen to encourage more ni-Vanuatu to take up jobs in the sector– which has seen spikes and dips in recruitment.

“The crewing sector’s had a long history in Vanuatu since the 60’s and has employed more than a thousand workers at its heights….but seen declines as well,” he says. “We are working to rebuild the sector and develop our human resource capacity through training, and pushing for good registration and crew records of our crew on our fleets as well as other fleets in our waters”

The resolution builds on commitments in global workers rights conventions of the ILO, and the WCPFC’s founding convention. Another attraction for getting it passed is the credibility for those championing it, but Vanuatu’s government are already planning to walk the talk on the issue.

“It’s important — we have issues within our fleet with regards to human rights, welfare issues and capacity, so government has actually tasked us to come up with standards and legislation, and in future the Fisheries Department will be shouldering this responsibility, away from the current Labour Department jurisdiction,” says Pakoa.

“It’s necessary and important for us to not only focus on the other groups of people working on the value chain of the fishery, but to also look at the standard of workers, the people who are the first in line to see the fish that comes out of the ocean– so we think their welfare is also very important in this process. From the side of the FFA members, its an economic and employment opportunity aiming to improve capacity and standards of workers.”

Pakoa is chairing working-groups on the proposed resolution text which is already undergoing changes, and is likely to face more tweaking before it goes to a final plenary of the Commission late Friday in Honolulu. 

Is the resolution still ‘live’ in terms of getting all the WCPFC members on board with the Pacific call? Pakoa is positive. 

“So far it’s not a no, it’s a yes in principle –but there is work to be done to improve the text of the resolution, so there’s progress here tonight, and there’s progress in getting input of all the Commission country members into a document we will get to the Chair between now and Friday.”

He says the tweaking of the text of the resolution will ensure it aligns with national level legislation or conventions of members in their own jurisdictions, and is all part of the process. //ENDS

Livelihoods on the line as Pacific nations unite to fight for albacore tuna industry

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WCPFC15, Honolulu, Hawaii, 12 December 2018— Albacore tuna is a vital resource for many Pacific nations but many domestic longline interests are being scuttled out of business by a growing foreign fleet and the failure of the rule-setting body –the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to act.

This week, a few words in a one-year old document will aim to claw back faith and test the credibility of the WCPFC, the world’s most successful tuna fisheries management organisation.

Last year at their closing plenary, the WCPFC, made progress on several years of discussion with an interim harvest strategy for South Pacific albacore putting the onus on an outcomes text saying the Hawaii meeting taking place this week “shall adopt a Target Reference Point for South Pacific albacore.”

The target reference point (TRP) – a notional ideal stock level – is the essential first step on which all other harvest rules rely.

The promise to set a TRP at WCPFC15 for one of the most negotiated tuna stocks in the Western Central Pacific Ocean, is set to roll out in earnest today, as the clock ticks towards the final plenary on Friday evening.

To ensure the momentum from last year’s meeting in Manila wouldn’t be lost, the WCPFC14 setup a working group with New Zealand at the helm to steer interested countries towards effective engagement on that agenda item.   

Outgoing Chair of the WCPFC Rhea Moss-Christian is keen to ensure the promise of Manila is met, but her challenge is to extract consensus from a diverse group of nations with widely differing interests – a group that includes powerful distant water fishing nations as well as coastal states.

The determination and commitment of Forum Fisheries Committee members around the table, including Ministers from Samoa, Tonga, and Niue, was clear in their opening round of country statements.

Samoa’s Minister for Fisheries Afioga Lopao’o Natanielu Mua reiterated a call he made 12 months before in Manila, to the same stakeholders.

“It’s the target species for our domestic Longline fishery, that has been one of the main foreign revenue earners for our economy as well as supporting food security and livelihoods for our people,” the Minister said. He also made pointed mention of  “the uneven playing field due to the subsidy support received by some fleets and therefore [the need for] an appropriate management strategy …to ensure that domestic, unsubsidised fleets remain economically viable.”

Alongside Mua are other high-level Pacific leaders in the countries most affected by the current approaches which are threatening incomes, food sources, and the long-term future of domestic longline fleets.  The voices from Pacific nations most connected to Albacore are pitching the message at every opportunity that the Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore is a major part of the reasons bringing them to the Tuna Commission meeting.

Niue’s Fisheries Minister Dalton Tagalagi echoed the sentiments of his neighbourhood—South Pacific Albacore needs that target reference point to get moving on its harvest strategy.

He reminded the plenary of the shared responsibility from members to ensure fisheries are managed sustainably. 

“We believe that we can all share and successfully manage this vital fishery if we honestly negotiate in good faith and transparently” he said.

Acknowledging the ongoing talks since 2015 to get traction on a strengthened conservation and management measure for South Pacific albacore, Tonga’s Minister for Fisheries Semisi Fakahau told the Commission that Tonga is committed to working with all members and fishing partners to support adoption of the target reference point for South Pacific Albacore. 

 “In order to maintain the long-term sustainability and economic viability of the tuna fisheries in the WCPO, and to secure livelihoods for local fishermen, it is important that stronger and more effective fisheries management arrangements for migratory tuna stocks and other species are agreed at this meeting.”

Kiribati Fisheries Minister Tetabo Nakara hinted that the conversations towards locking down the reference point won’t be easy.  He noted during his country statement that: “there are agenda items that may polarise our collective approach, and when those agenda items are considered I would mutually call on us all to put aside our differences and to humbly approach those issues as one group in one voice with one amicable solution agreeable to us all.”

Presenting the position of the 17-member FFA bloc to the commission, FFC Chair Tepaeru Herrmann of the Cook Islands opened with the reminder that the Target Reference Point talks holds no surprises; it’s the fourth year in a row the FFA have proposed this move.

“As we’ve stated previously, it is critical to adopt a Target Reference Point so that we can start to manage this fishery…. we have come prepared to work in the spirit of good faith upon which that decision was taken to ensure that we adopt a meaningful Target Reference Point here.” 

When it comes to the time needed to reach a meaningful number, the devil will be working through the detail. The WCPFC Secretariat and SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Program have provided an Information paper on trends in the Southern Albacore Fishery, revealing a 2017 peak in annual catch estimates for albacore in the south Pacific (south of the equator) of 92,989 metric tonnes, 98% of that by long liners and the remainder by trolling. With both fishing gears, the 2017 catch is upon the previous year – 29% higher for long liners, and 12% higher for trollers.

By comparison, the 2017 total albacore catch in the South Pacific was 72,272 mt and the longline catch within the southern part of the Western and Central Pacific Commission area — excluding archipelago waters — 69,688 mt, one of the highest in the last 10 years. High seas longline catch estimates represent 51% of the total and have ranged from 27-51% of the total over the last 10 years. By flag (or attributed nationality based on charter agreements), China and Chinese Taipei had the highest catch estimates of South Pacific albacore in 2017 (29,125 mt and 12,086 mt respectively), and together represent 59% of the total catch. 70% of their catch was taken on the high seas.

Science updates on effort warn there is ‘considerable uncertainty in 2017 effort estimates, mostly due to gaps in information and data.’ The number of deployed hooks in 2017 within the commission area south of 10 degrees south was 30% higher than in 2016, and 13% lower than the high seen in 2012. The estimated longline effort in this region was estimated at 277 million hooks in 2017.

Representatives of the Pacific tuna industry are pushing hard for action on albacore at this year’s WCPFC15 in the margins of the meeting and from the floor.

“Nobody can deny the perilous state of this fishery,”John Maefiti, Executive Officer of the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association said in an intervention in the WCPFC plenary yesterday.

“Catch rates simply cannot support current costs (for Pacific operators), leaving many companies on the brink of financial failure.

“We are fortunate that the Southern Pacific Albacore is biologically healthy, but the key to economic viability of a fishery is the catch per unit effort, or CPUE.  We have observed a continually declining CPUE over several years, diminishing what was once a robust and attractive fishery to a shadow of itself. The inability of the WCPFC to control a massive increase in High Seas fishing effort is a sad indictment about this commission’s ability to manage the fisheries under its charge,” Maefiti said.

The Pacific fishing industry has joined the Forum Fisheries Agency and its member governments in calling on WCPFC to take heed of advice from its Science Committee and to ensure the long-term commercial viability and sustainability of the Pacific’s southern longline fishery.

Given the scale of detail and information on the Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore and other inter-related issues such as the domination of the southern albacore fishery by China and Taiwan, there are real concerns that discussions will get bogged down once again. This would mean seeing the time window for a decision close for another year.

FFA’s new Director General and her team will be as keen as the high-level heads of Pacific delegations and the outgoing WCPFC Chair to ensure that doesn’t happen and South Pacific Albacore gets the Target Reference Point the commission has promised. But with only a few days to go and other high priority issues including the Tropical Tuna Measure for Skipjack, Yellowfin and Bigeye; Compliance Surveillance, and Monitoring; and Transhipment, another late night/early morning finish may well be on the cards for WCPFC15.    —Lisa W-Lahari / TUNApacific

Targeting illegal fishing: Port state measure adopted at WCPFC14

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The 14th Regular Session of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission adopts Port State Measures.

Published 7 Dec 2017

Talking #TUNAnomics: 3 tips for following the Pacific tuna story.

Categories @WCPFC13, FFA Media Fellows Past EventsPosted on

Working in media and spreading the word on my favourite protein is a bit of a passion rather than a profession. I love everything about tuna, especially eating it. Joining the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency in Honiara in 2013 has continued the jouney of following the fisheries stories of our beautiful Pacific protein….and helped me to gain new ways of seeing management, policy and context to the multi-billion dollar Pacific tuna story. Four years in, as I look back on three years of the FFA’s #TUNAnomics media partnership, what would my key takeways be for those hooked on the tuna news angles? I’m still swimming my way through all the learning, but here are a few:

  1. FOLLOW YOUR GUT- Reporting #TUNAnomics is so big, so overwhelming, exciting, acronym-ridden and huge, it’s easy to give up and leave it to the superbrainy people who spend all day talking funny and sounding really…brainy. Bite off something that interests and captures your attention, and I guarantee its not something long, scientific, or riddled with jargon. Take hold of an angle, and follow it.
  2. TUNA TALKING HEADS ARE EVERYWHERE-they just need to be caught. Your mum on her favourite tuna dish. Your big bro on his filleting technique. Your neighbour who just got back from six months as an at-sea Observer. You get my point.  This is the tuna region. Everyone has an opinion on this fish– bear in mind that while there are 15 species of tuna worldwide, the big four in Pacific tuna circles are albacore, bigeye, skip-jack and yellowfin.
  3. ITS NEVER JUST A STORY ABOUT A FISH–Power. Intrigue. Money. Politics. Tuna is one of the sexiest stories there is. The trick is to wean those angles out from all the jargon, language, and mind-numbing blather hiding the gems that dream newsfeeds are made of.  It’s all a matter of applying your news nose to following the Pacific tuna story.– Lisa Williams Lahari, Media Officer, FFA.  Contact media@ffa.int for more info on the FFA TUNAnomics Media Partnerships or FFA Media Fellowships.

New report to build on Pacific strengths in Tuna fisheries

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30th November,  2016. FFA HQ, Honiara, SOLOMON ISLANDS – A new report into the strengths and challenges facing fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance in the Pacific has highlighted how targeted action to ensure Tuna catch reporting, data, and information can add to Pacific strengths in watching over tuna fisheries.

tagging-tuna-4

 

 

 

 

The Regional MCS Report, by an independent consultant, was commissioned by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, FFA, after the 2015 Leaders Forum tasked Fisheries, Economic and Foreign Ministers to undertake a joint comprehensive evaluation of the regional monitoring, control and surveillance, and compliance regime.

To address the Leaders’ directive, a three-pronged approach was undertaken that included: a Ministerial review, an evaluation by an independent consultant, and a peer review of the evaluation. The report highlights the strength of the current MCS regime within FFA, complementing the summary statement from the Ministerial grouping (which included law enforcement and defence Ministers in addition to the three portfolios identified by Leaders) that “the combination of tools, programs, assets and activities at the national and regional level represents a world class MCS Framework that has achieved positive results for FFA members.”

However, the report also identifies specific areas that require targeted development and improvement. The three main recommendations from the report for strengthening regional MCS framework are as follows:
1.       Mandate operators of vessels registered and licensed to fish in FFA waters to electronically report catch log sheet data prior to exiting an FFA member EEZ, undertaking transhipment or landing. Effective 1 October 2017;
2.       Mandate operators of vessels registered to fish in FFA waters to keep catch of a fishing trip separate from other catch until certified by a person authorised by the relevant Coastal State that the catch and effort data is accurate and caught in accordance with Coastal State laws. Effective 1 October 2017;
3.       Apply a risk based performance monitoring program that has quantitative metrics to monitor and evaluate the impact of MCS activities on their objective to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

Welcoming the response from Pacific leaders to the report, FFA Director General James Movick says the evaluation will help to shape regional MCS work and assist national efforts.

“The Regional MCS Evaluation Report is useful for both FFA Members and the FFA Secretariat as it not only highlights many of the strengths of the regional MCS framework which must be maintained, but most importantly, identifies key areas for improvement,” he says.

“Further actions to address the concerns highlighted would be best approached from both national efforts and regional coordination to further strengthen the MCS framework for Pacific nations supporting sustainable fisheries management in our Oceanic Fishery, and of course, minimise Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.”

A 2016 estimate of Pacific IUU identified that unreported or misreporting data either by the catching or post-harvest sector contributes 76% by volume of IUU fishing in the Pacific.

The public-domain version of the Regional MCS evaluation is attached ENDS

ABOUT FFA:
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) strengthens national capacity and regional solidarity so its 17 members can manage, control and develop their tuna fisheries now and in the future. Based in Honiara, Solomon Islands, FFA’s 17 Pacific Island members are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.  Since 1979, FFA has facilitated regional cooperation so that all Pacific countries benefit from the sustainable use of tuna – a multi-billion dollar resource important for many people’s livelihoods in the Pacific.

CONTACT FFA MEDIA:  Email: lisa.williams-lahari@ffa.int    Tel: + 677 7574230 (Mob.