No room for complacency in protecting tuna stocks, Pacific ministers say

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More work is needed to ensure tuna stocks are protected. Photo: Greg Lecoeur.

There was “no room for complacency” in protecting stocks of tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, even though they are currently at sustainable levels, Ministers and state representatives said at the 16th annual Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers’ Meeting (FFCMIN16).

In a communiqué on the outcomes of the meeting, the ministers noted that all stocks were continuing to decline and that there were gaps in tuna management, particularly on the high seas and in the longline fishery.

This was despite progress on meeting targets of the regional roadmap for sustainable fisheries. Progress had been driven largely by the purse-seine fishery, they said.

The ministers also “welcomed the priority that the FFA is placing on work to respond to the threat of climate change, which they say “is the single greatest threat to the security of Pacific Island countries”. They called for greater investment in research into the impact on tuna of climate change.

The ministers welcomed the lead of the Republic of Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia to eradicate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Pacific by 2023. They acknowledged the global recognition that FFA received for its collaborative approach to combatting IUU fishing.

The ministers discussed improvements in minimum working conditions for crews working on foreign vessels that are licensed to fish in FFA members’ waters. They would extend these conditions to cover domestic fleets.

They welcomed the leadership of the Federated States of Micronesia in electronic monitoring, saying that it had the potential “to be a game changer for improving the management of longline fisheries”. 

They agreed to take part in international negotiations to prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies.

The ministers adopted a new strategic plan for 2020–2025. It includes processes to strengthen the capacity of member nations to manage and control tuna fishing effectively. 

They agreed that, over the next year, FFA members would make advances on:

  • Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) measures to recognise zone-based arrangements that FFA members have established for fishing inside exclusive economic zones (EEZs)
  • WCPFC’s agreement on high-seas limits to recognise the interests of FFA members
  • FFA’s position on target reference points for tropical tuna is met
  • transhipment management measures to improve the transparency of longline fishing and tackle IUU fishing
  • improving the Compliance Monitoring Scheme through the identification of audit points and with standards for electronic monitoring
  • implementing the small island developing states (SIDS) strategic investment plan
  • guidelines for voluntarily giving economic data to the WCPFC.

FFCMIN16 was held in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.


NZ Deputy Prime Minister impressed with FFA

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New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Honourable Winston Peters and delegation. Photo: FFA.

HONIARA, 6 June, 2019 – The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) welcomed a high level delegation led by the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Honourable Winston Peters, on Wednesday 5 June as part of their visit to Solomon Islands.  Minister for Pacific Peoples, Hon Aupito William Sio; Member of Parliament (and former Minister of Trade) Todd McClay; NZ High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands Don Higgins; and senior government officials from the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs including CEO Chris Seed, were also in the delegation.

The delegation met with FFA Director General, Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen and Deputy Director General, Matt Hooper to discuss priority work areas for FFA including initiatives to improve the economic returns to FFA member countries from their tuna resources and the use of new technology in the ongoing battle against illegal fishing.  The new rules governing labour conditions for crew on fishing vessels were also highlighted alongside measures to improve the safety of Pacific Island observers working on foreign fishing vessels.

The New Zealand delegation also visited the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC). They were briefed on the critical role of the Centre in monitoring, control and surveillance by FFA Director of Fisheries Operations Allan Rahari and Lieutenant Commander Phil Rowe seconded to the RFSC from the Royal New Zealand Navy.

New Zealand contributes around 40% of total donor funds to FFA, and its annual support amounts to around USD $7.5 million.

In acknowledging the commitment from New Zealand, Dr. Tupou-Roosen said “This visit was an opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Government of New Zealand for their continued significant support as a FFA member and key donor.  It was also an opportunity to showcase FFA’s work and its importance for the region in terms of securing long-term social and economic benefits for our people.” 

She added “We look forward to our continued work together with the Government of New Zealand.  As our FFA Members have always maintained, it is cooperation that underpins our success.”

##ENDS##

For more information and photos contact Donna Hoerder, FFA Media, ph: +677 773 3097 donna.hoerder@ffa.int

About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA assists its 17-member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. www.ffa.int

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Pacific fishing nations strengthen rules to protect their tuna and economies

Categories @WCPFC15, Features, NewsPosted on

The WCFPC has toughened its stance on tuna fishing. It has extended fishing limits, expanded the official observer program, and made tougher rules against bycatch, including the compulsory use of non-entangling FADs.

Tougher rules to protect tuna stocks as well as boost struggling Pacific Island economies were the focus of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) decisions at its recent annual policy-setting meeting.

The most important measures agreed to at the WCPFC15 meeting in Honolulu in December 2018 are:

  • setting a target reference point (TRP) for South Pacific albacore tuna, to balance the preservation of fish populations and economic needs 
  • extending to 2021 current limits on the catch of bigeye, yellowfin, and skipjack tuna, despite some pressure to ease restrictions
  • strengthening protection of Pacific bluefin tuna by tightening the rules for catches 
  • increasing the length of time fish-aggregating devices (FADs) are prohibited from use, and extending the area of ocean over which the ban applies
  • constraining FAD design and construction to prevent animals becoming entangled and to reduce plastic rubbish in the ocean
  • expanding the acceptable measures to reduce seabird bycatch, while also expanding the area in which the measures must be used
  • expanding the number of observers, human and electronic, and implementing online compliance reporting.

All current rules, known as conservation and management measures (CMMs), are summarised on SustainPacFish. They are listed on policy and rule pages for fish stocks, compliance, catch and harvestobservers and bycatch. WCFPC also lists all CMMs in full.

All FADS to prevent entanglement from 2020

It will be compulsory from the beginning of 2020 for FADs to be designed and built to prevent sharks, turtles, juvenile tuna and other animals from accidentally being caught during fishing operations. They currently die in their tens of thousands each year. 

The rule applies to FADs to be deployed in or that will drift into the western and central Pacific Ocean. During discussion at WCPFC15, the European Union reported that it already used non-entangling FADs in other oceans, and that they had no impact on the amount of tuna caught. The WCPFC agreed that, to prevent animals becoming tangled up in FADs, fishing fleets should avoid using mesh if possible. However, if mesh is to be used:

  • the netting must be less than 7 cm when stretched, whether used on the raft or in the hanging “tail”
  • if the raft is covered, the mesh is to be wrapped securely so that animals cannot become enmeshed
  • any mesh used in a tail is to be tightly bundled and secured into “sausages” that are weighted so that the tail hangs straight down in the water column and remains taut.

It recommended a solid canvas sheet as a better option for the tail.

Biodegradable FADs recommended

The WCPFC flagged the introduction of biodegradable FADs, to reduce the amount of plastic rubbish in the ocean and that washes up on reefs and coastlines. The Scientific Committee (SC) and the Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC) are to present suitable designs by 2020. 

Parts of a FAD that has broken up have washed up on a beach in New Caledonia. Credit: A. Durbano, Association Hô-üt’, New Caledonia.
Parts of a FAD that has broken apart and washed up on a beach in New Caledonia. Credit: A. Durbano, Association Hô-üt’, New Caledonia.

FAD closure extended

The Commission also increased by two months a year the period in which FADs are banned from use in some areas. They were previously prohibited from 1 July to 30 September by purse seiners operating on the high seas and in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) between 20°N and 20°S. The ban is now extended for an extra two months on the high seas. 

The CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, Mr Ludwig Kumoru, said: “FAD closures are an important conservation action that reduces catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna.”

Protection zone extended to reduce seabird bycatch

Longline fishing vessels must use several approved measures to reduce the number of seabirds accidentally caught while fishing. 

The measures were already in place for the Pacific Ocean south of 30°S. From 1 January 2020, that area will be extended, with vessels fishing between 25°S and 30°S to also use approved measures, although the EEZs of Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Tonga are exempt. The measures allowed are detailed in CMM 2018-03 and summarised in policies and rules on Sustainpacfish.

Seabird bycatch mitigation measures

North of 23oN:

  • large longline vessels of 24m or longer to use at least 2 mitigation measures, including at least one from Column A
  • small longline vessels of less than 24m to use at least one measure from Column A.

Between 25oS and 23oN:

  • longline vessels are encouraged to use at least one of these measures, and preferably more.
Column AColumn B
Side setting with a bird curtain
and weighted branch lines
Tori line
Night setting with minimum deck
lighting
Blue-dyed bait
Tori lineDeep-setting line shooter
Weighted branch linesManagement of offal discharge
Hook-shielding devices

The commission also amended the rules to conserve and manage turtles, but failed to agree on new measures for sharks.

Interim target set for catch of South Pacific albacore tuna 

Pacific small island developing states cautiously hailed the adoption of limits to the catch of south Pacific albacore tuna. The limit, called a target reference point (TRP), tells fishing nations how many fish can be taken, based on the combined weight of all breeding-age individuals (called “spawning biomass”) of that species. 

While recent assessments have reported that albacore was not overfished, some Pacific Island nations said that catch rates were down, leaving island livelihoods in a “perilous” state

The WCPFC agreed on a limit of 56 per cent of spawning biomass. Although FFA argued for a limit of 60 per cent to support local economies, member states agreed the decision was workable. 

In light of negotiations for the TRP, which have been going on for years, FFA director general Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said of the decision: “This is a milestone for the management of the south Pacific albacore fishery.”

Catch rules clarified for Pacific bluefin tuna, and limits maintained for tropical tuna

The WCPFC clarified the catch rules for bluefin tuna so that, when a country exceeds its effort and catch limits in one year, the amount extra it has taken is deducted from the catch it is allowed the following year.

The Northern Committee of the WCPFC had argued for a catch-documentation scheme (CDS) to be applied to Pacific bluefin tuna to help bring populations of this depleted species back to sustainable levels. This will be developed as part of the conservation and management measure (CMM) on bluefin tuna. The goal of the CDS is to create a paper trail (physical or electronic) in fisheries to make it much more difficult to sell illegal, unreported or unregulated fish, since they wouldn’t have required documentation. 

Despite some pressure to relax catch limits for the main commercial tropical tuna species—bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack—the WCPFC extended current limits for another two years. These three species are worth more than US$4.4 billion a year

Reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Several decisions are intended to improve surveillance and compliance. By making reporting more transparent and thorough, the WCPFC expects to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which, worldwide, makes up almost a quarter of the value of the seafood industry.

PNA members and the FFA want illegal fishing to be eliminated by 2023. FFA director general Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said that the strategy to monitor and control fishing in the western and central Pacific was “to develop and deploy game-changing applications”.

Last year, the president of the Marshall Islands, Dr Hilda Heine, said: “A five-year target to eliminate IUU fishing by 2023 is bold, but the stakes are too high not to be audacious in the goals we set. If we are serious about combating IUU, we need a tougher mindset.” 

Strengthen the observer network and compliance

WCPFC members agreed on several measures to strengthen compliance.

More than 60 per cent of the tuna caught in the western and central Pacific comes from the eight nations that make up the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). The CEO of the PNA, Mr Ludwig Kumoru, said: “Our requirement of 100 per cent fisheries observer coverage on purse seiners and other measures is a big deterrent to illegal fishing.” 

Another measure is to expand the requirements for unique identification numbers for ships, and authorisation to fish expanded to include all fishing vessels with inboard motors and 12 metres or longer.

All purse-seine fleets are to carry an official observer, who will collect data on catches, and composition of catch (species, size and age of fish, and bycatch), transhipment, and FAD closures. Small island developing states (SIDS) are now required to cooperate by sharing information collected by the observers.

The Commission also expanded the compliance monitoring scheme (CMS), with some reporting information to be made publicly available online, and searchable. Flagging of alleged violations has also been formalised, with deadlines given for countries to address violation notices.

Calls to make work safe for fishing crews and observers

The expanded role of observers came as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) demanded better conditions for observers on ships, following ongoing disappearances of observers at sea.

WCPFC members adopted resolutions to improve working conditions and safety for fishing crews.

At the meeting, the Commission agreed to:

Diplomatic dance around Japanese delicacy

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IN the Japanese port of Ishigaki, the longline fleet has braced for the impact of the decision of a tiny Pacific state to ban fishing in its waters from January 1, 2020.

The fate of 20 small fishing vessels is hooked to this conservation move which Palau – once occupied by Japan – has deemed necessary to protect its coastal waters.

A ban will mean the Ishigaki fleet from Okinawa Island will no longer have access to the katsuo (bonito, also known as Skipjack) which is the ingredient for tataki – tuna seared very briefly over a hot flame or in a pan, and can be briefly marinated in vinegar, sliced thinly and seasoned with ginger.

And so, on the periphery of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries (Tuna) Commission in Hawaii this week, Japanese delegates approached the subject of research in Palau waters post 2019.

It’s a thinly veiled move to allow Ishigaki fishermen to cross into Palauan waters and fish for Skipjack under the guise of research while actually catering to the tataki tables of metropolitan Japan.

Japan’s Head of Delegation at the Tuna Commission, Shingo Ota, said Palau was concerned about the closure because of its impact on the Okinawa fleet of what he described at 20 small-scale longliners.

“If Palau is going to close the area those vessels have nowhere to go, “ Ota said.

“They have been dependent on the same fishing ground for many years and it’s very difficult for them to find alternative fishing grounds because they are accustomed to the Palau EEZ and maybe (it’s) easy for them to find fish.”

There has been no mention of the 2000 tonnes of Big Eye which the Okinawa fleet also catches each year off Palau.

Palau’s fishing grounds are closest to Okinawa and Ota acknowledged that the ease of access to the EEZ by the Japanese fleet was also related to proximity and, by extension, economic reasons including fuel and supplies.

While Ota acknowledged that Japan had approached Palau to make exceptions for the Okinawa-based fleet after the fishery closure, he would not be drawn into details of the request.

By small-scale, Ota means vessels with the capacity to catch no more than 20 tonnes compared to the large scale which is usually 400 tonnes gross tonnage.

When Palau closes its Exclusive Economic Zone, the area will effectively become a sanctuary in which fishing and mining is prohibited.

A dedicated 20 per cent of the EEZ will be accessible to domestic fishing fleets which will off-load in Palau in an effort to boost local industry and create employment.

President Tommy Remenegsau pushed for this measure, citing the need to restore the health of Palau’s ocean for future generations.

Under this initiative Remengasau hopes to increase fish stocks in the EEZ and encourage more diving tourism which has proved to be attractive to Asian visitors and lucrative for local tour operators.

But even before the sanctuary has been established, the Distant Water Fishing Nations – in this case Japan – have started not-too subtle attempts to unpick a landmark decision by a Small Island Developing State.

And Japan can wield influence over its tiny eastern neighbour.

Japan is one of Palau’s largest foreign donors, providing aid which has enabled the building roads, water improvement and, possible future funding for the expansion of the airport.

The Roman Tmetuchl International Airport development will allow for 200,000 visitors a year to access Palau.

How much influence Japan is willing to exert will depend ultimately on whether Remengasau’s government pushes back on the attempt to secure the future of the Okinawa fleet.

But in an attempt to bring Pacific islands to the table, Japan has used the region’s often-touted appeal for consideration of traditional practice as a trump card.

“In addition to (the impact of) distant water fishing fleets, some of the species are migrating into Japanese waters, particularly skipjack,” Ota said.

“(But) we have seen very poor migration of skipjack in recent years and so our coastal fishermen are very much concerned about skipjack.”

So what impact has this had on Japan’s coastal fisheries?

“They cannot catch skipjack, they have been traditionally catching skipjack in their coastal waters and I am telling other members that skipjack is not only important for economic objectives but also cultural objectives,” Ota said.

“Many of the coastal villages have a traditional celebration of the migration of the skipjack but recently because there is no skipjack coming to the Japanese coastal waters they often have to cancel the traditional activities.”

At the Tuna Commission in Hawaii, a group of Okinawan fishing industry representatives wearing “No Katsuo (Skipjack), No Life” shirts mingled with delegates to draw attention to their plight.

In the past Japan has used the research excuse to continue whaling activities despite an international moratorium.

Depending on Palau’s decision, the world will soon know whether Japan has been able to flout another international convention under the guise of contributing to science.

 

Shark fins worse than their bite at tuna talks

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AS Pacific nations gathered at Waikiki to talk about fisheries conservation methods last week, Japanese fishermen were charged with trafficking shark fins in and out of Hawaii.

Sharks have in the past been targeted by long-line fishing fleets in the Western and Central Pacific due to their high value in the Asian market.

But a crackdown by regional governments through implementation of Commission Management Measures of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (CMMs)  in the last 10 years have seen a reduction in shark finning.

In Honolulu Harbour the Kyoshin Maru No 20 was seized with 96 shark fins on board and its Captain, Hiroyuki Kasagami, Fishing Master, Toshiyuki Komatsu and Chief Engineer, Hiroshi Chiba, were charged with 11 counts related to trafficking shark fin.

The fishing boat is owned by Hamada Sulsan and operated by JF Zengyoren, a Japanese cooperative.

Each of the officers faces personal fines of up to $USD2.7million and jail terms of five to 20 years.

As the men headed on pre-trial release, another push was being made at the Tuna Commission (WCPFC) for an agreement on a comprehensive shark management measure. There are already a number of CMMs relating to sharks and the intention is to consolidate these in to a single measure.

Sharks are usually an incidental catch in the tuna industry but there are specific rules against targeting the species which can happen by deliberately setting hooks from longliners at certain depths.

But finning sharks is controlled and restricted under the licence agreements of fishing boats operating the WCPFC waters.

Around 100 million sharks died in 2000 as a result of fishing, according to a 2013 study by Social Development Direct, a UK based research group.

A 2015 study showed that deep-sea longline fishing vessels and coastal trawlers had the largest total of shark and ray by-catch.

There are no exact figures for shark deaths in the Pacific, but outgoing WCPFC Chairperson, Rhea Moss-Christian, told reporters Saturday that a shark management measure would be a priority this year.

Any shark management measure will need WCPFC members, cooperating non-Members and participating territories to prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea.

Associated with the measure will be a ban on trans-shipment, on-board retention of sharks and the landing of shark fins.

Longline boats deploy miles of baited hooks that accidentally snare sharks, among other unintended targets.

Within the FFA, strict Port State Measures offer a raft of compliance checks local authorities can make on fishing vessels according to the perceived threat posed by the boat.

This is another tool available within the Pacific to ensure the reduction of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fisheries, including catching and finning of sharks.

There is a fear, however, that some fleets are fishing for sharks on the high seas and transshipping fins to huge carrier ships which are involved in other illegal activities.

The presence of these large ocean-going carriers has caused Pacific countries to call for on-board observers on the vessels to report illegal activities.

Federated States of Micronesia National Oceanic resource Management Authority Executive Director, Eugene Pangelinan, said electronic monitoring was critical to conservation and management on the high seas.

“Electronic monitoring is more about supplementing and improving the compliance of longliners that are operating in the Exclusive Economic Zone or High Seas where current commission coverage is five per cent observer coverage,” Pangelinan said.

“We think the electronic monitoring offers an alternative – not to human observers – but more to increase the validation and compliance mechanism.

“It also offers an opportunity to improve our data collection and improvement in statistics gathering for other species of special interest such as sea turtles, non-target species sharks and so forth.

“I think electronic monitoring offers much more better eyes whereas observers are not capable of being physically accommodated on long-liners.”

Many of the fisheries with the largest by-catch of cartilaginous species like sharks and rays operate over vast areas of ocean and often in international waters, where fishing rules are weaker.

The measure before WCPFC15 would encourage research to identify ways to make fishing gear more selective and provide relevant information to the WCPFC Scientific Committee.

The WCPFC has the mandate to conserve and manage nearly 60 per cent of the global tuna catch, equivalent to 2.9 million tons of tuna, valued at over $5 billion.

It is also responsible for managing and conserving other migratory fish such as sharks and manta rays.

Conservation groups at the WCPFC have called for be a firm commitment, to conduct assessments on shark stocks.

Dave Gershman of PEW Charitable Trust said sharks were important to the ecosystem and as the top predators they kept the balance in the oceans.

“PEW is keen to see action for sharks before their numbers crash,” Gershman said.

“Negotiations for new rules on sharks have to take into account the widely differing interests of fishing nations and more conservation-minded resource-owning nations.”

While the Pacific negotiates the complexities of shark conservation measures behind closed doors, the US authorities have signalled that they will take no nonsense from fleets which target shark fins.

And in Honolulu Harbour there is one crew which has found out to its cost that with supportive laws, a dead shark can have a terrible bite.

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

Regionalism critical for strengthening fisheries solidarity in Pacific

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HONOLULU, 11 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)-— With claims and counter claims by global powers that the Pacific is their strategic‘ sphere’ of influence, sub regionalism has been touted as the best way of cooperation to address complex fisheries issues for members of WPFC.

Tuna has shaped regional politics and influenced the relationship between Pacific Islands States and major trading partners including China, Japan, United States, Taiwan and South Korea and the European Union.

Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) chairperson and Cook Islands secretary for foreign affairs Tepaeru Herrmaan, says Pacific nations are seeing fisheries increasingly being elevated within both regional framework priority setting and also within a dynamic geopolitical space.

Last year Forum leaders in their communique elevated fisheries as a standing agenda item at their annual Meeting.

“Fisheries Ministers this year decided that, in addition to the Forum Fisheries committee meeting, they would create a regional fisheries ministers meeting, which would better allow them to also take into consideration coastal fisheries, or inshore Fisheries, so that committee will now convene. And that decision was supported by leaders,” Tepaeru Herrmann said.

“I think one of the things we are increasingly becoming cognisant of in our region …and increasingly those from beyond our region, is how central Fisheries is to our development agenda, not just from an economic perspective but from a conservation and international partnerships perspective. And it is offering leverage if you will, in some of our broader relationships.

“We are increasingly realising the importance …of our regional collaboration cooperation, as a means of strengthening our leverage in the fisheries conversations. So from a simple bureaucratic public servant perspective, it is certainly a very exciting time to be in the region. But I think really emphasises how much more important our regional solidarity is,” Herrmaan stressed.

She said one of the things that has been a pleasure to observe in the last couple of months is the growing collaboration between our FFA Secretariat and the office of the PNA.

“I think this is an evolution which is happening beyond fisheries space in our region (too). It is the recognition, in my personal view, that sub-regionalism has a critical role to play in strengthening regional solidarity and fisheries is perhaps one of those areas where that really comes to the fore

“A strong PNA office makes for a strong FFA collaboration, and certainly ultimately delivers better for members of the region.

Herman was asked to reflect on her recent 12-month which has seen her play a more intensive role in fisheries diplomacy.

“I think what it has particularly emphasised for me is how important national cohesion and awareness is in terms of fisheries issues, in terms of the often delicate task government must play in terms of balancing between your very valid economic development objectives as well as your obligations for conservation management at the national level and then of course, translating that into that kind of balancing in the regional space where you’ve got, in the FFA space  a number of members trying to maintain regional solidarity within those competing national priorities, which is a very difficult balancing act.

“One of the things that has certainly helped me in this very important role Is just the capability and the expertise that is within our regional Organizations both FFA and PNA but also a number of CROP agencies and I can say with a little bit of exposure we have in our Foreign Affairs service, on the global stage there is just so much we can share with the rest of the world about how we can effectively manage fisheries not just in this region, but globally.

Herrmaan said Cook Islands is very proud of its nationals who are now in senior positions in regional organisations with expertise in fisheries and that there is inspiration to be had in what those in regional fisheries have worked very hard over many, many years to ensure for the people we serve.

“I think one of the strengths of our region is this ability to bring through into a regional organisation, nationals from our countries to share not just the national context and the national perspectives but to develop and cultivate regional priorities and ownership and values, if you will, of what is the strength of this region and then to take that back (home).

WWF Bubba Cook said there are a lot of countries that depend heavily on fisheries either as distant water fishing fleets or as countries that are dependent on the tuna resource as a food source and thatgeopolitics will inevitably enter the picture.

“I think that we saw at the recent APEC meetings in Papua New Guinea that in addition to the global trade disputes  that are currently underway,  there are these regional politics that are playing out very prominently  as represented in vice president Pence’s statement at APEC where he made very clear the US’s continued interest in the Pacific region, which or may not be in conflict with the goals and ambitions of particularly China and some other Asian States in the region.

“So I think that that is unquestionably going to play in to the overall approach at meetings like this one, and other meetings related to resources in the region and I think that everyone needs to be cognisant of those additional factors, those political underpinnings that exist in the background that we have to take into account when these decisions are made. I mean, there may be things that may be said across the floor, not necessarily in concert with their particular beliefs behind closed doors and it’s, this whole process is a big chess game. It’s all about moving pieces on the board just a little at a time,” said Cook……PACNEWS

Pacific steps up its fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing with call to powerful fishing nations

Categories @WCPFC15, FeaturesPosted on

HONOLULU, 10 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—–The two largest fisheries organisations in the Pacific have joined forces to ramp up work to mitigate Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the region, ahead of this week’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) annual meeting.

A report on the impact of IUU fishing prepared for the FFA in 2016 estimated the value of catch associated with illegal fishing at over US$600 million annually, with the direct economic loss to members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) of around US$150million

 The FFA and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are calling for the support of Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs), to eliminate IUU fishing.

“We want them on board and to understand this is a collective effort of the FFA and PNA to implement a best practice strategy to effectively track and hold offenders accountable,” said Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the FFA.

 “FFA and PNA monitoring, control and surveillance strategy is to develop and deploy game-changing applications in support of IUU mitigation,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

 PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said the organisations are leading the charge against IUU.

“We have implemented a management system for the purse seiners through the vessel day scheme (VDS) that has greatly reduced opportunities for IUU activity in this fishery,” said Kumoru.

“Our requirement of 100 percent fisheries observer coverage on purse seiners and other measures is a big deterrent to illegal fishing.” Over 60 percent of the tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean comes from the eight nation members of PNA.

Kumoru said IUU fishing continues to be a front-burner issue for Pacific Islands.

“Eliminating IUU fishing is a core part of our fisheries management work and we look forward to support and participation from our partner nations and the fishing industry in this effort,” said Kumoru. “Working together to eliminate IUU will enhance sustainable and economically viable fisheries for the benefit of everyone,” he said.

Dr Tupou-Roosen stressed the economic impact of IUU fishing.

 “The value of the Pacific fishery to individual Pacific Islanders and the economies of our 17 island members is enormous,” she said. “This is motivating new initiatives in support of existing monitoring, control and surveillance programmes to eliminate IUU fishing.”

At the WCPFC meeting this week, the 17 FFA member countries, eight of whom are also members of the PNA, will be advocating strongly for the Commission to adopt an “IUU List” for 2019 to include three vessels that have previously been identified for IUU fishing in the region.

FFA members have called on all Commission members “to actively work together to locate these vessels so that their illegal activities can be stopped,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

The FFA is moving to crack down on the people behind IUU fishing through its “Persons of Interest Strategy”.

“The Persons of Interest Project will collect, analyse and share personal information on the people behind rogue vessels, such as the owners, the captains, and the fish masters in order to provide greater information to FFA member authorities that issue licenses and target monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) effort,” Dr Tupou-Roosensaid.

Through FFA and PNA regional MCS efforts,national-level activity, and coordination with Australia, New Zealand, the United States and France, the region now has a layered and expanding network focused on identifying and preventing IUU fishing.

FFA operates the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center based in the Solomon Islands, a unique monitoring and enforcement facility that coordinates MCS work through the 17-member network,including through deployment of two year-round dedicated surveillance aircraft.

Under PNA’s Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS), there are now 240 purse seine vessels in the FFA region using daily electronic reporting of catch logsheets. This real time reporting allows for daily monitoring of catch across the region. Similarly,Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observers are increasingly using electronic reporting for daily upload of data forms. When combined with each vessel’s electronic Vessel Monitoring System reporting of vessel location, this daily reporting from vessels and observers means fisheries administrations are increasingly able to undertake a more focused effort on data analysis as cumbersome and time-consuming paper-based data entry is being phased out, said Dr. Tupou-Roosen. “This allows for much improved analysis of possible IUU anomalies,” she added.

FFA through its Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center coordinates four large MCS operations annually, which provide coordinated regional surveillance. This integrates aerial and patrol ship support from the four FFA partners Australia, New Zealand, the United States and France, police and fisheries MCS personnel from all FFA member countries, a dedicated analytical hub and national patrol boat operations. These regional multilateral MCS operations resulted in the boarding of 743 fishing vessels from 2015-2018, resulting in 67 infringement actions issued by ship boarding personnel and 16 infringements issued by shore authorities, a joint statement from PNA and FFA said …..PACNEWS