NGOs slam fishing nation delay tactics: stalemate on albacore tuna

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MANILA, Philippines, December 7 – Environment NGOs have delivered a damning indictment of a group of Pacific Tuna Commission members, saying they have deliberately blocked conservation measures for the South Pacific Albacore tuna fishery.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is in the final hours of its week-long deliberation focused on new tropical tuna measures – the rules governing the fishery.

In the past 3 years moves to improve WCPFC rules for albacore have gone at a glacial pace.

“For years we have listened to impassioned pleas from every Pacific Island state with respect to their declining catch rates of South Pacific Albacore,” said Alfred (Bubba) Cook, Western and Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager on behalf of WWF, Greenpeace and the EDF (Environmental Defense Fund).

But few Distant Water Fishing Nation members have been willing to join Pacific nations to take action.

“It seems, despite these impassioned pleas, despite the voluminous scientific and economic evidence put before you, you…don’t…care.

“You don’t care about the domestic industry in the Pacific. You don’t care about the communities in the Pacific Islands that are almost wholly dependent on this resource.

Moreover, you don’t appear to care about the health of the resource.”

The NGOs said most parties around the table had “bent over backwards” to try and accommodate a few demands and these members still refused to budge.

“There does not seem to be even a spirit of compromise. What would you agree to, honestly? Because despite the enormous efforts of most of the parties around the table, you continue to postpone adoption of target reference points and now claim that we should just wait for the next stock assessment or the next meeting or the next something.

“This, to us, seems like a crass delay tactic designed to buy one more year until you can develop another strategy to delay further. And meanwhile the Pacific industry and the countries that depend on the resource wither and die,” said Bubba Cook for the NGOs.

“What additional proof is required to convince you to be a good global citizen and inspire you to recognize your responsibility to the other countries and cultures in this room?

“Lastly, this is a disaster of your own making for a few of you.”

The NGOs said despite repeated calls and measures to limit capacity, these members had put more vessels into the fishery.

“And now, stunningly, you are upset at even the suggestion that you might have to withdraw that capacity and effort in the future. If you are worried about the potential impact on your industry, well, it is by your own hand and the rest of the members in this room shouldn’t have to suffer for your poor judgment.”

The NGOs said agreeing to a non-binding workplan left little satisfaction as it only served as another delay. They called on them to start living up to their collective responsibility to conserve and manage the critically important resource.

Tuna commission adopts Pacific proposal to increase port inspections of suspect fishing boats

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The Forum Fisheries Agency is delighted that the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has adopted its proposal for a new Port State Measure to combat illegal fishing by boosting Pacific Island capacity to conduct port inspections.

Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA) James Movick said the adoption of the port state measure is a victory against illegal fishing.

“WCPFC has just right now adopted the Port State management measure. It has taken four years for us to get it to this point and it has required quite a lot of dedication by the members and on the part of the FFA secretariat,” Movick told reporters this morning.

“What this does is … puts into place within the WCPFC area a port state management measure that allows for the inspection of boats in ports but on a basis that is affordable and achievable by the member countries,” Movick stated.

“I am very, very happy that we have been able to get this out of this Commission meeting,” Movick said

Pamela Maru the FFA official who led the project was pleased that the initiative was one of the first to take by the WCPFC to cater to the special needs of Pacific nations – a responsibility that is part of the organisation’s founding convention.

“It is the first time a measure that really looks at the implications and impacts on small island developing states, what those obligations might mean in terms of addressing their needs and their capacity-development requirements and developing, or having, some sort of agreement to develop mechanisms that will support their ability to improve their technical capacity,” Mr Maru said

“With this measure now in place members can start working towards designating ports where they have the capacity to undertake port inspections, develop risk-based analysis to target where their inspection and compliance efforts are focused, at the same time, identify where those gaps are,” she said.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) oversees a more complex international agreement on Port-State measures.

While Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu have signed this agreement Pacific island nations believe it is beyond their current capacity to do so.

Angela Martini EU’s head of delegation for International Relations Officer, European Commission told Pacific reporters on Wednesday that while they consider the FFA proposal as “not as ambitious and strong,” as the FAO port state measure, it is still a step towards the fight against IUU,

“We are ready to support it because we can see it is a first step in the right direction to re-inforce controls in the region and so enhance the fight against IUU fishing,” Martini said.

FFA said there are already SIDS ports with has the capacity to undertake inspection. This measure will lead to more ports conducting inspections and more jobs for Pacific Islanders in fisheries compliance.

“It is definitely a great achievement for the FFA members but also for the partners that we have worked with,” Ms Maru said

“Japan came on board this year and worked collaboratively with and consulted with FFA members as we developed the proposal,” she added.