Pacific fishing nations strengthen rules to protect their tuna and economies

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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:

Successful outcomes at Tuna Summit

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Tonga and other Pacific nations have succeeded in their push to persuade the Tuna Commission to start the process of rebuilding stocks of South Pacific albacore tuna – the most important tuna for Tonga.

The Pacific tuna industry has been hit hard in recent years as more foreign fishing vessels started fishing for albacore.

“It is really pleasing to me because we ended up agreeing on the Target Reference Point for albacore,” Tonga’s Minister of Fisheries Semisi Fakahau said of the outcome of the meeting.

Stocks of albacore are down to 52 per cent of their pre-fishing levels. The Tuna Commission agreed to aim to rebuild them to an interim target reference point of 56 per cent of original stocks.

This was not the full 60 per cent sought by Tonga and other Pacific countries but Forum Fisheries Agency Director General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen described it a milestone achievement for all of the Commission.

“The challenge going forward is for FFA members to ensure they do their own work to adopt catch limits within their own waters,” she added.

With the target reference point as a guide Dr Tupou-Roosen said it would now be possible to seriously start to manage the fishery not just as the FFA membership but as a Commission.

Pacific countries were also pleased that the Commission extended measures to protect tropical tunas for another two years.

The adoption of another FFA proposal – a ‘Resolution on Labour Standards for crew on Fishing Vessels’ was welcomed as a world first.

The FFA Director General said it is a really important moment for the Commission but, she added, “countries have a lot of work ahead to put in place National legislation and minimum regional terms and conditions for the operation of fishing vessels and crew that they allow to access FFA waters”.

The Tuna Commission agreed to more money for Small Island Developing States to attend meetings and participate in decision making. They also agreed to adopt a new measure governing the Compliance Monitoring Scheme.

“It is now fundamental to ensure that FFA members continue to effectively monitor and assess compliance of all states in the Pacific,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.

There was also a decision on trans-shipment of fish at sea.  The decision made by this Commission to review this measure next year. The FFA Director General believes that it is a critical issue because there is a need to better regulate these interactions which take place out of sight in international waters.

She said there were short falls of information in that area particularly for the longline fleet and that is one thing they will seek to address next year.

Dr Tupou-Roosen said FFA members will continue to find ways to improve fisheries management, to combat IUU fishing and the look at ways to allocate catch and effort.

Next year’s Tuna Commission meeting will be held in Papua New Guinea.

 

…..ENDS

Tuna Commission ended with positive measures in place

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The Western Central and Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) ended on a positive note with several measures that will ensure that tuna stocks continue to be in a healthy state, earning praise from the Pacific nations and environmental groups.

On Friday night’s conclusion of the meeting, the 26-member WCPFC under the tutelage of outgoing chair Rhea Moss–Christian agreed to the adoption of the South Pacific albacore Interim Target Reference Point (TRP).

South Pacific albacore is the main commercial species for many small island countries in temperate waters. Currently stocks sit at 52 per cent of original spawning biomass. The target reference point has been set at 56 per cent of original spawning biomass. This is not the 60 per cent sought by the Forum Fisheries Agency countries to facilitate a return to profitability for their local fishing industry but is seen by them as a very welcome step forward.

The Commission also agreed to the extension of elements of the tropical tuna measure due to expire at the end of this year, for two years.

The tropical tuna measure regulates fishing on bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna, which make up the vast majority of the Western and Central Pacific catch.

The Commission rejected the proposal of United States to increase its bigeye catch limits for its Hawaii-based longline fleet and to increase its days for purse seine fishing on the high seas.

As part of extending the tropical tuna measure the commission agreed to proposals to increase provisions for a three-month prohibition on use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by purse seiners in exclusive economic zones and high seas areas between 20°N and 20°S from July 1-September 30, and an additional two-month prohibition on FAD use on the high seas. By consensus, these FAD closures were extended through until the end of 2020.

The commission also adopted:

  •   A resolution on ‘Labour Standards for Crew on Fishing Vessels’
  • A plan to review the WCPFC transshipment measure originally adopted in 2009 next year. “This review is critical to addressing the challenge of shortfalls in information from high seas transshipment activities, particularly on longline vessels,”
  • A measure to provide additional funds to the Special Requirements Fund, which will help boost participation of Small Island Development State representatives in the decision-making processes of the Commission.
  • A new measure for the Compliance Monitoring Scheme. This will allow for continued monitoring and assessment of compliance by all Commission Members
  •  Measures to better protect seabirds from accidental catch by the longline fleet

No consensus or agreement has been made on shark management.

“It is really pleasing to me because we ended up agreeing on the Target Reference Point for albacore,” Tonga’s Minister of Fisheries Semisi Fakahau said of the outcome of the meeting.

The adoption of a TRP for south Pacific albacore was hailed as a success by Pacific nations.

“This is milestone for the management of the South Pacific albacore fishery,” Dr. Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency said.

”The setting of a Target Reference Point is something we had been advocating for a number of years now so to have been able to have the Commission agree on that was particularly significant,” said Tepaeru Herrmann, chair of the FFA’s governing body the Forum Fisheries Committee on behalf of all FFA members.

ON the tropical tuna measure Tupou-Roosensaid: “We came into this week’s meeting with the position to maintain the strength of the existing tropical tuna measure — and this is what we accomplished.

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

“Maintaining the FAD closures is contributing to sustainably managing our tuna stock,” he added.

The adoption of the resolution on Labor standards delighted Pacific delegates and human rights groups.

“FFA Members continue to lead by setting the standards for responsible fishing in all respects,” Dr. Tupou-Roosen said, adding that the WCPFC is the first Regional Fisheries Management Organisation to take this critical step for to improve conditions for crew and observers on board fishing vessels.

Outgoing WCPFC  Chair, Rhea Moss-Christian said: “Members agreed …on the measures that were adopted in Manila last year. We adopted measures in Manila anticipating a positive result on the additional bigeye stock assessment. We got that positive stock assessment result. We continued the measures as they are so essential, we maintained status quo.”

PEW Officer on Global Tuna, Dave Gershman said:  “PEW is pleased that the Commission took a positive step toward ensuring the health of bigeye tuna by agreeing not to weaken its conservation measures.

PEW encouraged the Commission to use the breathing space until 2020 to develop its long-term harvest strategy for bigeye.

The United States delegation was asked for comment but was unavailable.

“Regrettably, the USA HOD is not able to comment on the WCPFC15 outcomes this evening,”  a spokesperson wrote in an email.

Next year’s WCPFC will be in PNG and the new Chair Korean, Jun-re Riley Kim will lead the Commission.

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.

#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

Categories @WCPFC15, Photography, The tuna picturePosted on
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

Pacific fisheries leaders highlight Tuna Commission action

Categories @WCPFC15, News, Press ReleasesPosted on

Honolulu 14 December 2018 — Pacific Islands fisheries leaders expressed satisfaction with the actions taken this week by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to support sustainability of the fishery, minimum labor standards for fishing crews, and expanded participation of Small Island Developing States in the work of the Commission.

A compromise worked out late on Friday, the last day of the annual meeting, allowed for extension of important provisions of the Tropical Tuna Measure that is essential to sustainable management of the tuna fishery, said Forum Fisheries Agency Director General Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen and Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO Ludwig Kumoru.

This includes continuation of provisions for a three-month prohibition on use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by purse seiners in exclusive economic zones and high seas areas between 20°N and 20°S from July 1-September 30, and an additional two-month prohibition on FAD use on the high seas. By consensus, these FAD closures were extended for an additional two-year period, through the end of 2020.

As part of the compromise, PNA members agreed to compromise language regarding the definition of FAD sets in 2019 and agreed to work with others on this broader issue.

“We’re really pleased with the outcomes from this Commission meeting,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.

“We came into this week’s meeting with the position to maintain the strength of the existing tropical tuna measure — and this is what we accomplished.”

Mr. Kumoru agreed. “FAD closures are an important conservation action that reduces catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna,” Mr. Kumoru said. “Maintaining the FAD closures is contributing to sustainably managing our tuna stocks.”

Several other actions of significance were endorsed by the WCPFC this week, including:

  • The adoption of the South Pacific albacore Interim Target Reference Point. “This is a milestone for the management of the South Pacific albacore fishery,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.
  • The adoption of minimum labor standards for crew on fishing vessels. “FFA Members continue to lead by setting the standards for responsible fishing in all respects,” Dr. Tupou-Roosen said, adding that this is the first tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organization to take this critical step for addressing labor standards for crew on board fishing vessels.
  • The decision for a 2019 review of the WCPFC transshipment measure originally adopted in 2009. “This review is critical to addressing the challenge of shortfalls in information from high seas transshipment activities, particularly on longline vessels,” said Mr. Kumoru.
  • The decision to provide compulsory funds to the Special Requirements Fund, which will help boost participation of Small Island Development State representatives in the decision-making processes of the Commission.
  • The adoption of a measure for the Compliance Monitoring Scheme. This will allow for continued monitoring and assessment of compliance by all Commission Members with the Commission’s obligations. “Doing this in a manner where it is effective, efficient and fair improves implementation of measures,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen. “The measure adopted provides a solid basis to ensure this as part of our future work.”

Mr. Kumoru pointed out that in taking actions like adopting a resolution for minimum labor standards and agreeing to a review of high seas transshipments, the WCPFC is playing an important role in addressing a wide-range of issues affecting the fishery.

“We are promoting action in support of human rights for fishers working in our fishery and that go to addressing concerns about trafficking in people and other illicit activities,” said Mr. Kumoru.

Both credited the success of this week’s work to the tireless efforts of the Pacific Island delegates to the meeting.

“The solid outcomes are the result of the hard work, patience and tenacity of the FFA and PNA member delegations with valuable support from Ministers present, and the excellent cooperation they received from our key partners,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen and Mr. Kumoru.

They also specially recognised the very able leadership of outgoing Chair Ms. Rhea Moss-Christian. “Ms. Moss-Christian’s steady hand, passion and commitment in steering the work of the Commission in the past four years has contributed immensely to advancing the Commission’s work.”

For more information on the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, contact Mr. Ludwig Kumoru, CEO, PNA Office, on email: ludwig@pnatuna.com, or ring PNA media coordinator Giff Johnson at (808) 699-1690 to arrange interviews with the PNA CEO.

For more information on the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, contact Hugh Walton on email: hugh.walton@ffa.int.