As world leaders gather at COP25 in Spain for the latest round of climate change negotiations, fisheries leaders in the Pacific are voicing their concern that higher global temperatures will deprive the region of its lucrative tuna income.
Up to US$6 billion worth of tuna was caught in the Western and Central Pacific in 2018 but scientists warn that rising global temperatures will see tuna out move of the waters belong to many Pacific countries by 2050.
Dr Graham Pilling from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community said scientific modelling shows tuna moving eastwards, as a result of warmer temperatures.
“With most EEZ (exclusive economic zones) clustered in the west, as fish move east under climate change, they’ll move out onto high seas,” Dr Pilling said.
Fisheries leaders and experts are meeting in Papua New Guinea at the Western and Central Pacific Commission, where climate change has taken centre stage.
Dr Pilling said countries like Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands would see a reduction of tuna stocks in their waters while Tuvalu would initially benefit.
“In the long term however as surface tuna moves to the east, the main fishing areas are expected to move out of our EEZ,” Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Minute Alapati Taupo said.
Tuvalu’s Fisheries Minister said leaders should also consider the impact of rising seas levels on national boundaries, with some countries losing land.
“We suggest that the current arrangements are changed to prevent this injustice…this would of course mean that the boundaries of our EEZ are locked in and not changed as a result of climate change,” said Mr Taupo.
The Director General of Forum Fisheries Agency, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said the concerns raised by Tuvalu are part of the work her organisation and regional agencies are working on.
This story was produced in collaboration with reporter Bernadette Carreon.
Fish migration due to climate change has impacted the supply of albacore tuna in Fiji, bringing the supply down and leading the Levuka factory of the Pacific Fishing Company (PAFCO) to reduce its operations to a four-day work week to maintain economically viability.
Fiji’s government-owned PAFCO is looking for alternatives to maintain financial stability in light of the albacore tuna shortage. PAFCO chair Ikbal Jannif told local news organisation FBC that the shortage of albacore has been an ongoing issue, and for the tuna cannery to operate fully again there needs to be around 23,000 metric tons of albacore tuna to process.
The crisis has brought the supply down to 16,500 metric tons, impacting the economy of Levuka. PAFCO is the biggest employer of the cannery in Levuka, with 600 full-time workers and around 400 part-time workers.
To supplement the shortage, PAFCO last week bought in around 220 metric tons of skipjack tuna in lieu of albacore.
Fiji Fisheries Minister Mr Semi Koroilavesau, who has been in Port Moresby attending the 16th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), highlighted climate change as impacting the supply and affecting the migratory pattern of the albacore tuna, which is more plentiful in other Pacific island countries.
Mr Koroilavesau said that discussions are being held with the neighbouring countries in the north to allow their fishers to access tuna resources in the high seas and in neighbouring exclusive economic zones (EEZs) at a lower fishing-day fee. This way, Fiji and PAFCO will have enough resources to keep the cannery in operation and avoid further cuts in working days, the minister added.
Fiji fisheries officials have taken opportunity to urge a concession and reduced price for fishing days to enable PAFCO to fish in the waters of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), specifically in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Kiribati. The PNA group controls waters in which more than 50% of the world’s biggest tuna canning species – skipjack – is caught.
“Possibly give us some preferential fee, because we have come back on Fiji. That is the angle we are taking, we are looking into friendly relations that we have with our northern neighbours, we ask them to give us leeway,” Mr Koroilavesau told SeafoodSource.
Under the PNA’s vessel day scheme (VDS), a benchmark of US$8,000 (AU$11,726, €7,233) up to US$25,000 (AU$36,182, €22,295) is charged per fishing day.
Mr Koroilavesau said Fiji wouldn’t want to be charged the high fee that PNA imposes on international fleets, given a shortage of fish in the EEZ.
He added that, due to warming ocean waters, the fish have migrated to the east, benefiting Tuvalu and Kiribati, while Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji “have very little”.
Mr Koroilavesau said the primary aim was to increase the tuna supply for processing, and an alternative was to negotiate arrangements with other nations in the Pacific.
Pacific fisheries officials are calling on the members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to band together and commit to a climate action plan during the commission’s 16th annual meeting.
Any plan needs to take into account the impact of climate change on fish stocks.
In a statement ahead of the week-long Tuna Commission meeting here in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, the 17-member Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) is “therefore calling on the WCPFC to collectively take stronger action on climate change”.
FFA introduced a resolution at the WCPFC urging the commission to:
Fully recognise the impacts of climate change, in particular on the fisheries, food security and livelihoods of small island developing states (SIDS) and territories.
Take into account in its deliberations, including in the development of conservation and management measures, the impacts of climate change on target stocks, non-target species, and species belonging to the same ecosystem or dependent on or associated with the target stocks.
Estimate the carbon footprint of fishing and related activities in the Convention Area for fish stocks managed by the Commission, and develop appropriate measures to reduce such footprint.
Develop options such as carbon offsets to decrease the collective carbon footprint of CCMs and the WCPFC Secretariat associated with meetings of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies.
Tuvalu Minister of Fisheries and Trade Mr Minute Alapati Taupo told Pacific journalists that although climate change was not a problem that his nation had caused, the impacts of climate change would fall on the Pacific, and would threaten the benefits of the region’s tuna fisheries.
“Climate change is not a problem that Tuvalu has caused – but we are going to suffer the effects,” Mr Taupo said.
Pacific Community (SPC) fisheries scientist Dr Graham Pilling said climate modelling shows that, as the climate warms, tuna will move to the east and while some Pacific island nations may benefit from the movement, the others will see a reduction in the fish.
He said it further indicates that fish “will move to the high seas and the overall amount of fish will reduce”.
Dr Pilling said that the major impacts of climate change “are predicted to occur after 2050, with some signs before that time”.
FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said climate change is an important issue that the Pacific islands face at the moment and into the future.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and the impact on Pacific Island countries is particularly threatening, given that tuna fisheries provide significant economic, social and cultural benefits,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said in a statement flagging FFA’s concerns before WCPFC16.
Tuna fishing brings in multiple billions of dollars in revenue for the Pacific island nations. According to the SPC policy brief, tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) averaged 2.7 million tonnes a year between 2014 and 2018, with harvests from the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the Pacific nations representing 58% of this catch.
According to FFA, in 2018 the value of the provisional total tuna catch was US$6.01 billion (AU$8.92 billion, €5.41 billion), which was marginally higher than for 2017 and the highest since 2013.
Inside the 16th Tuna Commission meeting in Port Moresby. Photo: F. Tauafialfi.
Midway state of play on eight Pacific priorities as provided by the FFA Secretariat
Climate change resolution: Niue and Tuvalu minister’ say
High-seas allocation a priority, and links to the tropical tuna measure
A strong stance on action on climate change remains at the top of FFA’s agenda half way through the 16th Tuna Commission meeting. The other top priority is on allocations of access to high-seas tuna.
At the midway point of the meeting in Papua New Guinea, Pacific members are generally pleased with progress made on their priority issues. But there is still a long way to go when the Commission negotiations reconvene tomorrow.
The reality is that the WCPFC is always a complex negotiation with several different proposals being negotiated at the same time according to FFA Deputy Director-General Mr Matthew Hooper.
“Often there are trade-offs to be made, with countries willing to compromise on certain things if they get what they want in other parts of the negotiation. For this reason, it can be hard to predict how things are going to end up at the end of the meeting,” Mr Hooper said.
FFA members are pushing hard for agreement on the Resolution on Climate Change they put forward at the start of the meeting. While some of the elements of the proposed resolution will likely change, FFA is hopeful that a resolution will be passed that will start the Tuna Commission off on making concrete efforts to respond to the impacts of climate change. (See below for more detail.)
High-seas limits and allocation
There is general agreement to the proposal from FFA members for the WCPFC to hold a two-day workshop to discuss high-seas limits and a framework for allocating those limits. The terms of reference for this workshop still have to be discussed, but FFA is hopeful that agreement will be reached so that the Tuna Commission can tackle this difficult issue in 2020. (See below for more detail.)
Revision of skipjack target reference point still to be agreed
Discussions on the target reference point (TRP) for skipjack tuna are proving difficult. While most WCPFC members support FFA members’ call for the TRP to be adjusted to reflect the new scientific model that was used for the latest stock assessment, not all members are ready to agree to this yet. This is another issue that is not likely to be resolved till later in the meeting.
The Transhipment Intersessional Working Group, co-chaired by RMI and USA, has made some good progress. A study that will get under way early next year will identify weaknesses in the existing measure.
Mobulid rays CMM
FFA members proposed draft conservation and management measure (CMM) for mobulid rays (such as manta rays) has been well received and Palau is coordinating comments from other members. A revised version of the measure will likely be posted on Monday morning for a further round of comments from other members.
Compliance Monitoring Scheme
FFA members’ proposal to reform the WCPFC Compliance Monitoring Scheme is being discussed in a small working group. Even more intensive discussions are progressing in the margins of that meeting.
This will be one of the hardest issues to reach agreement on, given the different approaches taken by some WCPFC members. However, FFA is encouraged by the delegates’ willingness to work together to try and achieve a compromise that focuses compliance monitoring on the implementation of measures by members, rather than delving into the detail of individual cases involving fishing vessels that are the better dealt with through other mechanisms.
South Pacific albacore
FFA members have taken the lead in reinvigorating discussions on the South Pacific Albacore Roadmap, with a focus on moving the stock towards the TRP agreed in Honolulu last December. And putting in place a new measure that recognizes the EEZ limits of FFA members, and also puts limits on fishing in the high seas.
A small working group, led by Fiji, will meet on Monday morning to start informal discussions.
Discussions on the harvest-strategy approach to fisheries management have been a big feature of WCPFC16. The approach is complex and very science-focused.
While FFA members support the approach, the organisation has identified a clear need for further capacity building of members so that everyone understands the implications of the decisions that are required to move this work forward. It has been clear that many other WCPFC members are also struggling to understand the complexities of the harvest strategy, and so this work will continue but at a slower and more deliberate pace.
Climate change resolution: Niue and Tuvalu ministers’ say
Top of the list is the Pacific call to adopt the Climate Change resolution. Pacific countries and delegations with ministerial representations have been active in garnering support for the proposal.
The chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee, Mr Eugene Pangelinan, said, “FFA members call on the WCPFC, as a collective body made up of all its member countries, to take stronger action on climate change and we look forward to discussing our proposals further with members at this meeting.”
It is a conversation that is relevant for all members, he added, “This is not just a Pacific issue necessarily: it is a fishing issue that we are all a part of and we have to do our parts together.”
Niue’s Associate Minister for Natural Resources, Hon. Esa Sharon-Mona Ainuu, called on the Commission to adopt the FFA resolution during her formal address at the first session of the meeting.
“Climate change is an existential threat to our region, and directly threatens our livelihoods, security and wellbeing,” she said.
Tuvalu’s minister for Fisheries and Trade, Hon. Minute Taupo, emphasised at a press conference, “Climate change is not a problem that Tuvalu has caused – but we are going to suffer its effects. We suggest that the current global arrangements are changed to prevent this injustice.”
The climate-change resolution is not binding. Its main purpose is to provide an entry point into the Commission space to allow formal discussions to take place, as FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen explained.
“It will serve to focus attention on this important area whilst we refine the specific actions that can be taken by this Commission – then we can collectively begin work on binding measures,” she said.
High-seas allocation a priority and links to tropical tuna measure
According to FFC Chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan, Pacific leaders have pronounced zone-based management as their mainstream fisheries-management program to rights within Pacific waters.
“Therefore, we already have well established zone-based limits within the EEZs that have been recognised by the Commission,” Mr Pangelinan said.
The conversation FFA members are looking to have on “allocation” is in relation to the high seas: about the current effort on the high seas and how the members, as small island developing states (SIDS), will have a fair share.
Mr Pangelinan reiterated that the issue for discussion is purely about “high seas allocation”, a conversation that was bedded down at WCPFC14 in Manila in 2017. At WCPFC16, he said, it is time to discuss what is the best way to approach the issue and make sure there is a fair and equitable distribution of those allocation rights to the high seas.
The high seas are in the SIDS’ back yards, and they want access to develop this area just as the distant water fishing nations (DWFN) have for many years.
Pacific members would like to see an agreed approach and process come out of the WCPFC16 conversation, Mr Pangelinan said.
“2020 will be an important year for us. That’s when the tropical tuna measure (TTM) will expire, and we will need to make sure that in 2020 we have that process well set. We are advocating a two-day workshop to tackle high seas allocations because its fundamental to agreeing to a future TTM,” he said.
The 16th annual meeting of WCPFC reconvened at 9 am today, and is expected to close its proceedings on Wednesday, 11 December.
Article by Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi’s. His participation and coverage at the WCPFC16 was made possible by the Forum Fisheries Agency, Pew Charitable Trusts, and GEF OFMP2 project.
“We remind ourselves that FFA members were the founding members for the Tuna Commission. And since the beginning, even during the days of the negotiations for the Convention [to establish the Commission], we have been driven by the exceptional vision, forty years ago on why we do this.” — Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director-General, Forum Fisheries Agency
Forty years ago, 12 Pacific leaders met in Solomon Islands under the chairmanship of the Rt Hon. Peter Kenilorea. They adopted and opened for signature an international treaty (convention) to formally establish the agency that today is known as the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
It was a time when religion was stronger, and “In the beginning …”, the first words in the Bible, was the most widely remembered term in the region. In 1979, leaders recognised that the terms “coastal states” and “living marine resources” in the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency Convention and, in particular, the highly migratory species.
They also correctly anticipated the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [which happened in 1982], and so they identified fisheries as a critical regional sector in which Pacific coastal states could support each other in harnessing their sovereign rights to conserve and manage their highly migratory species.
established the FFA, specifically designed to promote the rational exploitation of highly migratory species in the region for the benefit of the Forum member countries, and
came up with the vision to drive and inspire its efforts into the unknown waters of the future:
“Our people will enjoy the highest levels of social and economic benefits through the sustainable use of our offshore fisheries resources.”
Against the backdrop of this vision, FFA’s first female Director-General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, stopped a press conference to reflect on the significance of the agency’s anniversary.
It was a pause necessary to remind all concerned about the inspiration, the relevance and wisdom of Pacific tupuna as FFA members push for one of the most important pieces of work ever undertaken by its members – tabling a climate-change resolution calling on all Tuna Commission members to support united action against the greatest threat ever faced by the Pacific fishery and peoples – and humanity collectively.
“We must always remind ourselves of the reason why we are here,” said Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen.
ourselves that FFA members were the founding members for the Commission. And
since the beginning, even during the days of the negotiations for the
Convention [to establish the Tuna Commission] we have been driven by why we do
“It is for our
people to create the social and economic benefits that come from our valuable
tuna resources. This is always top of mind for our membership, no matter what
specific task is given to each FFA member or to our collective membership as we
undertake the duties entrusted to us by our Pacific people in the Commission.”
For FFA, it means one of the important parts of its effort is to ensure that the interests and special requirements of Pacific small island developing states (SIDS) are actively considered in the decision-making of the Tuna Commission.
“This includes ensuring effective participation by SIDS in the vast work of the Commission and that there is no disproportionate burden placed on SIDS from conservation action,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.
“So it is an
important reminder that we are here to represent those who entrust us.”
The climate-change resolution proposed by FFA members to the 16th meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission reads:
FFA members call on the WCPFC, as a collective body made up of all its member countries,to take stronger action on climate change.
We propose action on three fronts:
Increased focus and attention by the Scientific Committee’s Ecosystem and Bycatch Working Group on the implications of climate change for the region’s tuna stocks;
Active consideration by the Commission of how, through agreement of appropriate Conservation and Management Measures, it can:
mitigate the impacts of climate change on Pacific Island countries arising from the influence of climate change on regional tuna stocks;
reduce the carbon footprint of fishing in the Convention Area for fish stocks managed by the Commission.
Ongoing action by the WCPFC Secretariat and members to reduce our collective carbon footprint, and the carbon footprint associated with WCPFC meetings.
FFA members look forward to working with our fellow WCPFC members to respond proactively to the threat to all of us posed by climate change.
FFC Chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan, left, and FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, right, at Sir John Guise Stadium, Port Moresby, for the 16th Tuna Commission meeting.
The 24 countries and territories of the Pacific are united behind a call for a Climate Change resolution to come out of the 16th meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC16) taking place in Papua New Guinea.
“Climate change is a top priority for us,” said Mr Eugene Pangelinan, Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) and Head of Delegation for Federated States of Micronesia.
“The [FFA] membership are calling for strong action by the Tuna Commission, specifically looking at food recognition of the impacts of climate change on our fisheries, on our food security, and livelihoods.
He said science has already started to show some of the impacts of climate change, such as “the distribution of fish stocks moving more towards the east as years go on. So there is direct scientific information that tells us something is happening to our fish stocks.”
the Forum Fisheries Agency, given the importance that ministers have placed on
addressing and advocating for more attention to climate change in particular,
in terms of its impacts on fisheries. How do we address that here at the
Commission,” he said.
our emphasis here [at the Tuna Commission] is a starting point. This is a
resolution, it is not binding. It is just to start that conversation within the
WCPFC but most importantly, FFA and all the developed countries sitting around
the table need to understand that climate change is happening for us and as
ministers highlighted, we need to start that process here and a resolution
always starts that discussion.”
He agrees it could turn out to be a very costly activity, “but we have to have that conversation. So we are putting ourselves up in front but we invite our colleagues to come in and help us have that discussion.”
FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen emphasised that, “While a resolution is non-binding, it will serve to focus attention on this important area, and whilst we refine the specific actions that can be taken by this Commission. Then we can move into binding measures.”
The resolution was introduced yesterday, and preliminary feedback asking questions including the mandate of this Commission on the topic of climate have been received.
“But our members are committed – our leaders have been clear – that this is the greatest threat to our security, and to our well-being and health as Pacific islanders, so there’s a really strong push from our members to persevere with this,” Dr Tupou-Roosen confirmed.
“It’s early days to tell where we are at with this. But we are so privileged to have key advocates such as the Hon. Minister from Fiji, the Hon. Minister from Tuvalu, and others in the room who will be able to help us get this through.”
Modeling from the Pacific Community indicates that as a result of climate change, tuna stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean will move east. It will mean more difficulty in monitoring and managing the fisheries, and the total tuna business opportunities are likely decline in the second half of this century.
To date, the tuna catch has been increasing, especially for domestic fleets. According to the Pacific Community, the amount of tuna caught in the Pacific fishery has doubled in the past 25 years, from 1.4 million tonnes in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2014. While large foreign fishing vessels dominate the catch, the percentage caught by domestic fleets is increasing substantially, and 550,000 t of tuna was caught by Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) in 2014.
Aigaletaule’ale’a F Tauafiafi’s participation and coverage at the WCPFC16 was
made possible by the Forum Fisheries Agency, Pew Charitable Trusts, and
GEF OFMP2 project.
The 16th session of the Pacific Tuna Commission (WCPFC16) that oversees waters producing 55% of the global tuna catch gets underway this week in Papua New Guinea. With a yearly value of over $5 billion to fishers in the region the annual event is incredibly important to the Pacific region, which makes up the largest bloc of the 33-member group.
The 21 Pacific island countries and territories make up 64% of the Commission membership. Not only are their waters the seascape where the majority of the tuna harvest takes place, but these are the same waters and biosphere that define their indigenous reference.
Those are two of the main reasons why the annual Tuna Commission congress is all-important to Pacific nations and to their people – the resource owners.
“As custodians of our land and resources, this is an important forum that seeks to establish rules and regulations that conserve and preserve natural resources, especially the marine resources, and PNG is proud to be part of the 16th WCPFC forum,” Dr Lino Tom, PNG’s Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources, told media earlier this week.
This feature is an attempt at introducing the Pacific resource owners: weavers, planters and fishers. Who they are; what and why the ocean means so much to them; and a number of reasons why they are not as engaged as they should be in their “tuna story”.
It is dedicated to Tuvalu’s Elisala Pita who passed away in August 2016, and to our brave forebears who fought, and continue to fight, for equity and sustainability of their offshore fishing resources. And in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) set up by Pacific nations to guard and protect its oceans and, ultimately, Pacific islanders’ way of life.
In the Samoan indigenous reference, Va Tapuia (sacred relations) means each living thing shares a common story of origin. It means that Va Tapuia governs relationships between people and the environment; that is, the land, the sea, the sky, the flora and fauna. For instance, water shares a genealogy with land, who in turn shares a genealogy with humans, the cosmos and the gods. This genealogy is sacred and invests a legacy of responsibility on all living things (trees, clouds, volcanoes, water, animals, people) to respect, through reciprocity, the divine balance or harmony they share.
Reciprocity: harmony’s Pacific meaning
History records “modern civilization”, the “West”, as birthed in the 15th century CE after the fall of the Roman Empire. And like those that preceded it, it is defined by the things it excludes. The people who do not fit.
The unfit, who civilization must prune to protect its sense of self. And so long as there is progress, the pruning is encouraged to continue. But progress and pruning bring with them an unwelcome side-effect – the increasing and unwanted human debris left behind in their wake: the excluded, littered muck on the outside looking in.
Every culture, except for Pacific islanders, has survived this way since early antiquity. And each has had to find an answer to the question that confronted it: What becomes of them, the human debris?
In the 17th century, the growing British empire’s “answer” was two-part: call them criminals, and throw them in a deep dark hole that hopefully would never run over. But justice demanded the “West” do better than that; that civilization be not judged by who it excludes, but by how it treats the excluded. Today, amidst trade wars, rampant diseases, mass killings, and wanton environmental destruction, we bear witness to that treatment.
Pacific civilisation, Polynesian in particular, traces its roots back to 800 BCE, 2,300 years before the “West” was born. It is defined by a culture based on the collective and on reciprocity. An “inclusive” society that embraces rather than excludes, living a way of life based on sacred relations.
In the Samoan indigenous reference, Va Tapuia (sacred relations) means each living thing shares a common story of origin. When followed, Va Tapuia gives rise to other principles such as the Va Fealoa’I, or mutual respect; Tofa mamao ma le Faautautaga Loloto, or wisdom in the exercise of authority. It is this “reciprocity” in place of the West’s “progress” that gives rise to the Pacific interpretation of “harmony”. It is a reference with clearly defined components that ensures no one is excluded, no one is left behind – there is no human debris.
School of fish in Auckland: March 2016
In the world’s most populous Pacific city, Auckland, an old man smiles, eyes calmly surveying the throng of people busy setting up in the room. It reminded him of a school of fish swimming in the lagoon close to shore all those years ago.
His head still fully covered with hair that has almost completely turned grey, clearly, this is an important person, despite his simple appearance. Respected too, judging by the glances and the manner of endearments invited guests and peers show him. His Order of the British Empire, awarded in 2001, affirms him a person of distinction, international stature and influence.
As he sat there, calm and relaxed behind the front table, there was a glint in his eyes. An excitement made obvious by the satisfied veneer subtly painted over his demeanour. The impression one gets is that he had been party to something of great importance recently – yet the occasion on 15 March 2016 that finds him in Auckland’s Mercure Hotel was not about the telling of that tale.
As questions about what that “significant other” swirled, a call from the organiser that the event was about to start quieted the crowd.
The grey-haired gentleman was introduced.
Elisala Pita, tuna champion
“We are honoured to have here with us the Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee,” smiled Lisa Williams-Lahari, “and Tuvalu’s Minister for Works and Natural Resources, Honourable Elisala Pita.”
Yet those titles barely scraped the surface of the immense influence this man wielded in the vastness of oceans and historic negotiations over the Pacific’s 9.6million square kilometre tuna fishery. Or his pivotal role in 2013 that promoted Enele Sopoaga from leader of the opposition to Prime Minister of Tuvalu. Or of the ancient Polynesian wayfarers’ heritage coursing through his veins, and founded on a way of life built not on the individual and self-interest, but of a shared tofi (inheritance) with fellow islanders. A communal way of life, its roots traced back to around 800 BCE. Although fading, a way of life that is still practiced today.
Slowly, as is the contemplative way of Pacific elders, he leaned forward. With assurance borne of confidence as an experienced orator, he acknowledged his ancestors, and surveyed his audience. Then he spoke.
“Let me start off with a brief mention of the importance of the tuna fishery,” he asked politely.
In English, the strong and unmistakable orator’s tenor voice and accent overlaid with authenticity the topic of his address: why the Pacific’s tuna fishery is so important to Pacific island nations, people, and their struggle against the threats casting shadows and uncertainties in today’s modern world. Threats like illegal fishing, driven by self-interest, corruption, greed and desperation.
“For many Pacific islands, including my country Tuvalu, tuna is the only renewable commercial resource,” he continued without pause.
“The revenues Tuvalu receives from tuna fishing taking place in our waters represent about 45% of the Government’s 2016 budget. It does, however, require our joint efforts to protect and to sustain this revenue source.” (The joint efforts refer to working with another 15 Pacific independent states, plus Tokelau.)
Tuvalu has 26 square kilometres of land, and 900,000 square kilometres of ocean.
At the time of his address, Tuvalu’s vast ocean area was being serviced by a fisheries staff of three. And the cost of running its purse-seine fishery was estimated to be US$4 million a year.
To the north-east of Tuvalu is Kiribati. A country where its 810 square kilometres of land houses 110,000 people, inside its 3,600,000 square kilometres of waters. With only one patrol boat to police it.
Elisala re-emphasised that the immense expanse of ocean that Pacific countries are responsible for monitoring is fraught with many challenges: a complicated legal seascape, an even more complicated political seascape, and with limited resources at their disposal, both human and financial, the sustainable management of the fishery is nigh on impossible. The situation is made worse by foreign countries breaching not only their licence and terms of access, but also reneging on legal obligations to manage their fleets when harvesting tuna in Pacific island-owned waters.
“Tuna do not recognise our borders or our baseline maritime boundaries. Managing and enforcing a fishery where fish move freely in an area of water over 9.6 million square kilometres, with occasional tiny low-lying coral atolls in between, can only be achieved through regional collaboration,” Elisala said.
This was part of Elisala’s keynote address to launch the study, “Towards the quantification of illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Pacific islands region”.
When he sat down, one could now see why the old man was given those admiring and respectful looks before he spoke.
In the global world of tuna, worth US$42 billion a year, Elisala needs no introduction. World-renowned and recognised by the highest powers, he is one of the Pacific’s founding fathers who champions multi-million dollar benefits and favourable conditions in order to manage, protect and maximize the economic potential of the Pacific fishery. He was so good that even the United States hired him as their fisheries adviser early in his fisheries career.
Sadly, on 22 August 2016, just five months after his March speech, Elisala passed away in Funafuti, Tuvalu. His loss was made more poignant through the rekindled memories of other Pacific tupuna who fought hard and uncompromisingly in the years of the tuna war.
Elisala was Pacific old school. A direct descendant of ancient Pacific mariners who, without the aid of navigational equipment, settled the tiny islands of Oceania that dot its multi-million acreage of ocean. This deed was achieved hundreds of years before the first European explorers ventured into the region in the 17th century.
As with all others born on Tuvalu, the dominant geographical feature of Elisala’s childhood was the ocean.
It shaped his identity and perceptions, and contextualised his understanding of reality and the world. With roots anchored in the ancient Pacific’s communal way of life, he left home, one of the first Pacific generation to attend Western schooling in preparation for the new world. Yet embossed in his spirit were the ancient stories and lore of his mariner ancestors: of warriors, legends, tales of discovery as told by elders in the shadowed blanket of night lit by flickering tongues of flames from sooty kerosene lamps, the stars and moonlight.
Knowledge gleaned from these two worlds informed Elisala, and selected kin of his generation, with gave them ways to navigate that world and influence the reality that plays out now in today’s modern world of tuna, oceanic management and technologically advanced tools of harvest.
But for all the international and regional acknowledgements, accolades and Pacific milestones – sadly, they are virtually unknown to the weavers, planters and fishers of the Pacific.
Wouldn’t it be great if every Pacific islander knew about the monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) employed to protect their fisheries? It is the story of how Elisala and other Pacific leaders came up with the MCS suite of tools that is fighting the bane of IUU.
The MCS system is worth talking about. In fact, Elisala did tell the Auckland meeting how the MCS, used as a tool, saw “an astonishing number of achievements ranging from:
the first centralised regional satellite based Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)
innovative agreements and systems to share data and intelligence, and
cooperative mechanisms that allow us to share our limited surveillance assets.
“These are coupled with:
robust systems for data collections, including well developed yet growing programs for the placement of independent observers on fishing vessels, and
excellent support and coordination from our regional agencies like Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
“I am therefore extremely proud to note that the results of this study demonstrate that these programs have been effective. As you will hear, there is of course still more that can be done, but there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that without that historical and ongoing effort, we would be looking at a much different report today. We would be looking at a report that says:
rogue vessels come and go as they please,
that industry knows it can fish illegally with impunity, and
that the Pacific is losing more than its gaining.
“I am pleased to say that this report says none of those things.”
And this is the sad part: Elisala’s words describing the effort, innovation and hard work put in by Pacific leaders, fisheries officials – women and men – and their international partners, collaborators and friends to protect the Pacific fishery were not heard by the many ordinary weavers, planters and fishermen.
It is evidence that the “tuna story” and those involved in its composition and distribution have challenges and barriers they need to scale in critical mass.
For it is clear that fully maximised economic returns, achieving preferred levels of sustainable management for the Pacific fishery, will only happen if the weavers, the planters and the fishers are integral to the “tuna story”. That they become subscribers, writers, poets, songwriters, movie producers, advocators, owners of the tuna story.
Why is that so important?
The answer lies in the next two paragraphs. Bear in mind that this is not definitive, as there are other pockets of literature inked with the same narrative and message.
The first is from the IUU study launched by Elisala. It states:
“One of the ways to ensure Pacific countries get their fair share (of profits, exports, jobs) would be by increasing value rather than volume, by eliminating oversupply, and targeting higher value products and markets.”
leveraging that control to maximise the economic benefits generated from the fishery to national economies.
The “something else”
With the vastness of the Pacific fishery, the inadequate resources to manage and control it, and the weak political clout the Pacific holds internationally, the Pacific will never truly reach above aspirations. It needs “something else”.
And that something else exists and has been successfully used in similar situations at the highest level.
That something else is … A Movement – a groundswell of united voices so powerful that they influence a change of mindset, a change in lifestyle, a change in choices, and the political impact to act in solidarity to stand up and defend the Pacific’s tuna fishery. A movement that envelopes and packages the interrelated work and tools needed to sustainably manage, protect and maximise economic benefits of the Pacific tuna fishery into one singular call to action.
Based on a philosophy inspired by American philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience”, it is called the “non-violent movement of passive resistance”.
It won for Ghandi India’s independence. It won for Martin Luther King his dream. It won for Samoa sovereignty in 1962.
The single critical element to its success? Ordinary people. Not the elites: ordinary people who are the owners, who have the integrity, honesty, courage, and rights. It is they, when united in solidarity, that bring the truth to bear.
It is why the weavers, planters and fishers of the Pacific are of paramount importance in achieving control of the Pacific fishery. It is they, and only they, who can make such a movement possible and successful.
How do non-violent movements work?
According to Why violence? author Robert J. Burrowes, non-violent action works because of its capacity to create a favourable political atmosphere and a non-threatening physical environment, and its capacity to alter the human psychological conditions that make people resist new ideas in the first place.
“In essence, non-violent activists precipitate change because people are inspired by the honesty, discipline, integrity, courage and determination of the activists – despite arrests, beatings or imprisonment – and are thus inclined to identify with them,” he said.
“Moreover, as an extension of this, they are inclined to change their behaviour to act in solidarity.”
In the context of groups, like Pacific countries struggling to defend their tuna fishery, Mr Burrowes wrote that they should convey compelling messages that explain what people can do in their particular context.
“It is important that these messages require powerful personal action, not token responses. And it is important that these actions should not be directed at elites or lobbying elites,” he wrote.
“Elites will fall into line when we have mobilised enough people so that they are compelled to do as we wish. And not before.”
Ghandi’s Pacific fishery example?
An example of this non-violence protest that parallels the experience in the Pacific tuna fishery is that of Ghandi and the Salt March message that illustrated what an Indian independence stance against British rule would look like.
“At the end of the Salt March in 1930, Gandhi picked up a handful of salt on the beach at Dandi. This was the signal for Indians everywhere to start collecting their own salt, in violation of British law,” Mr Burrowes wrote.
“In subsequent campaigns, Gandhi called for Indians to boycott British cloth and make their own khadi (handwoven cloth). These actions were strategically focused because they undermined the profitability of British colonialism in India and nurtured Indian self-reliance.
“A key reason why Mohandas K. Gandhi was that rarest of combinations – a master non-violent strategist and a master non-violent tactician – was because he understood the psychology of non-violence and how to make it have political impact.”
And this is why regional agencies like Forum Fisheries Agency, its member countries and officials, and their champions such as the late Elisala need to solve the information barrier so the weavers, planters and fishers can be reached and engaged.
For it is they, not the elites, who have the honesty, integrity, and rights as owners to garner solidarity and international political support to effect required results and outcomes.
Some of the possible results that could be had:
reduction or elimination of illegal fishing
greater and broader industry and flag state support to MCS system for sustainably managed fishing, and
consumer preference for Pacific-owned brands and certified products at various levels of the value chain (valued at US$22.7 billion in 2014).
Challenges and barriers to reaching weaves, planters and fishers
There are two major barriers that need scaling if the tuna story is to reach the weavers, planters and fishers of the Pacific.
Fisheries officials, national offices and regional agencies
There is no doubt about the commitment, and the innovative, difficult and ground-breaking work Pacific fisheries officials, MCS practitioners, ministers, non-government organisations and their various partners dedicate to the cause.
The same is equally true of regional staff and their application to the cause at the FFA, the related regional sibling the Pacific Community (SPC) and, to a lesser extent, the University of the South Pacific (USP), Forum Secretariat, and a whole raft of international stakeholders.
However, what is noticeable at this level of the tuna story is how insular, narrow and specific their focus is. And that is a function of a few home truths.
That the complex, highly technical, drawn-out fieldwork and overlapping or collaborative nature of the work with other government agencies takes most of the officials’ time.
When added to that is the number of meetings that must be attended to ensure each country’s voice is represented and their interventions noted on issues where the majority of them, like the illegal Vietnamese blue boats, are live and developing – it means scarcity of time for anything else.
In a country like Tuvalu that level of difficulty is multiplied manyfold when taking into account that there were only three fisheries officials in 2016.
But that’s not all.
Officials are in a sector where those at the coalface are taking a giant leap to developing and using cutting-edge technology.
Surveillance and monitoring are fast-tracked into the digital world of hyper-telecommunications with many of the paperwork legacy systems transitioning and upgraded with urgency to digital information management systems (IMS) platforms. The hugely successful Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) employed by Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) is made possible by its highly developed Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS) that is able to manage and monitor the VDS.
It all adds up to the situation where more is expected of fisheries personnel, and at the same time, Pacific countries are doing the best they can with the limited human and financial resources at their disposal. Which essentially leaves no time to look beyond their core work program to even try and engage with relevant layers of government, let alone the media, and weavers, planters and fishers directly.
It also reveals another barrier: that Pacific fisheries departments or divisions are usually merged within a wider government ministry. In the internal challenge to get a media advice, a press release or article drafted, there is usually an information officer who deals with the multiple departments. In many cases, there is no dedicated information officer. Which means the time-poor fisheries officer will need to draft the material.
In any case, the information needs to be drafted which then has to go through the approval process before it could be posted on the department Facebook page or website, which will need another dash through a separate can and technical process. The process can be delayed when the website administrator is not a journalist and changes a few things to make it look more aesthetic, but inadvertently changes the whole technical context of the information.
The difficulty is multiplied many-fold when the information is to be sent externally, for example when it’s a media release or an article for the local paper.
And heaven forbid if a journalist interprets the information in a way that is negative: the fallout will impact the official, their relationship with their bosses, the public perception of the issue, and trust of journalists generally. Most times, the extrapolation of these scenarios usually render it best for officials not to even start the process.
But in the case that all internal hurdles are successfully navigated, what is the assurance that getting the information to the media would, first, reach the weavers, planters and fishers, and, second, be in a format they understand, and is relevant enough to engage them to action?
Media channel for weavers, planters and fishers
It is this question that is important for national officials and regional communications officials to answer: are they using the right communications and media channels; and do they know what the information channels for weavers, planters and fishers even look like?
Sadly, the low rate of engagement success in this area says they don’t. And that the West’s media platforms and role as the Fourth Estate is not working for the Pacific’s grassroots.
To find the weavers, planters and fishers “media” platform, there is a need to analyse the “Western” model and then assess if the Pacific platform exists within that space.
The scope of this feature does not allow for an extensive treatment of this topic, but a brief narrative of the relevant communication element to tease out the “media/messenger” in a Pacific setting is important to include.
But first a bit of background as to where democracy and the Fourth Estate came from and why they are important today.
Western civilisation and the Fourth Estate?
Today’s modern world, the “West”, is the most extraordinary civilisation in all of history (so far). Its roots lay in medieval Europe from where a Christian feudal society developed after the fall of the Roman empire, and started sprouting in the 15th century, spreading to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania and pretty much to the rest of the world.
It has become a globe-spanning industrial society colonising and establishing control over its subjects through democracy and the rule of law.
It is distinguished by two unique features:
representative government (born out of the republican government idea from Rome, and the fragmented power structures fostered by medieval feudalism), and
science (a distinct and rigorous way of looking at the world).
The combination of the two has driven technological advancement and economic growth. While the rise of democracy, from the American Civil War (1775–83) maintains control and power by enabling individualism and free-thinking to revolutionise social change through the accompanied changes of thought and philosophy.
What does that look like?
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution became widely accepted, and encouraged the rise of a more secular outlook.
Sigmund Freud and others pioneered a scientific understanding of the mind and the emotions, previously regarded as the preserve of spiritual sphere.
Einstein’s theory of relativity changed people’s views of the universe.
Karl Marx and others analysed society in new ways, leading to calls for the creation of radically new economic and social structures.
The importance of the media was first recognized by Thomas Carlyle. He was the first to use the term “fourth estate” back in 1837 (in his French Revolution paper), in an attempt to quantify why the press would be instrumental to the birth and growth of democracy: by spreading facts and opinions, and sparking revolution against tyranny.
How the press does that in a representative democracy is threefold:
it informs citizens
it sets up a feedback loop between the government and voters, and
it provides a forum for debates to expose people to opinions contrary to their own by moderating and curating arguments presented by all sides. This is important because informed decision-making on the part of voters requires an awareness of multiple points of view, not just seeking out those with opinions the same as their own.
Basically, Carlyle’s argument vouches that the press makes the actions of the government known to the public. Voters who disapprove of current trends in policy can take corrective action in the next election. And that without the press, the feedback loop is broken and the government is no longer accountable to the people.
When these pieces of information are taken together, what we have is that the Western civilization of today, born in the 15th century CE, and democracy born in the 18th century, are only 1,100 and 800 years old. These are young ideas compared to the Pacific’s communal governance system, which traces back to more than 3,000 years ago.
To tease out the Pacific media role in the way Thomas Carlyle saw it within democracy in 1837, the Samoa way is used as a reference.
This is done for two reasons.
First, because of mounting evidence, both oral and scientific, that the settlement of Polynesia originated from Samoa around 800 BCE (but if it’s Tonga that’s fine too). It ended with the settlement of New Zealand around 1300 CE. And second, because it means the traditional and communal way of life unique to Samoa would have also spread along the settlement path. A Pacific way of life, history, religious practice, and language that is one of the most well-known internationally.
Characteristics of weavers, planters and fishers
The most basic unit of the Samoan system is not the individual – it is the aiga, or family.
The term aiga is contextually different to the “West’s” definition of family. ’Aiga includes not only the immediate family (father, mother and children), but also the whole union of families of a clan and those, who although not related, are subject to the aiga’scontrol.
At the head of each aiga is a matai. It is a chiefly title (suafa) by and through which they exercise their rights in the family over which they preside.
Although it is common for each ’aiga to have a number of matai titles, one particular title, the Sa’o, is the most important and serves as the paramount matai title to which all others of the aiga defer.
With Samoans consisting of groups of families with close ties and history, the influence of the matai is felt not only in the village but also in the district and beyond.
That power and influence extended to life and limb. But that has been altered and absorbed by the advent of Western civilization through the democratic government of today where the matai’s authority is now confined and balanced against.
It is from this aiga unit that the structure of Samoan society is founded. Briefly, parts of its traditional structure are described below.
A Village Chief Council is part of Samoa’s faamatai system of governance. It is the highest level of authority in the village where decisions are passed by consensus. It maintains village traditions, and organises village affairs. Its decisions and deliberations are carried out and informed by various committees and groups.
The Women’s Committee is responsible for administering women’s duties and role, which include: traditional hospitality for guests and beautification of the village through scheduled visitations to ensure each family house and the surrounding are clean; managing village events and schedules, child rearing and initiatives such as training, education, handicraft production and the like.
The Village ’Aumaga (untitled men) protect and serve the village in all faasāmoa ceremonies and keeping up traditional agriculture and fishing methods. Tautua (service) is the core function of the ’aumaga. They serve the matai council, develop the family land, provide food through plantation and fishing, and ensure the welfare and protection of the family.
The Aualuma (unmarried women) are charged with gardening, weaving, cooking and beautifying the village. Traditional ceremonial such as the ifoga play an important part in peace-keeping, and the traditional kava ceremony contributes to maintenance of good relationships. Cultural practices such as community correction through the village council are to ensure social cohesion and order in a Samoan village.
What is clear is that information and its channels were original parts of the social structure, not later additions. And the central conduit through which information is received, interpreted, and disseminated to all the various parts of society is the matai.
From the Samoan perspective, it is the matai and the traditional structures of its villages that are key to reaching and engaging the weavers, planters and fishers.
Have Pacific fisheries officials, regional communications officials, their international networks, and media practitioners built this into their information content and channels of communications?
They must. For even as the West’s influence has compromised, absorbed and taken over some of these traditional societal structures, the isolation and youthfulness of the islands region means that disseminating information to the weavers, planters and fishers still rely on traditional structures.
It is the matai element and similar social structures in other Pacific countries that need to be incorporated into communications and media platforms to scale current information barriers.
Success of any movement will depend on the engagement of weavers, planters and fishers for it is they who have the voice and power to make the political impact and initiate action to manage and protect the Pacific fishery.
How to get there
As in all things, the common element to long-term success in the Pacific is: trust and face to face.
And that leads us to the final message Elisala Pita left just over three years ago.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me close by saying that the fight against illegal fishing is one that we cannot afford to lose as it is bound to our future prosperity and wellbeing. It is a hard fight; it is hard to even tell how bad the problem is, but it is a fight that we have made significant ground on, and one that we will continue to challenge.”
When he sat down, the glint in his eye was still there. For in February just before heading down to Auckland, he had just secured the US treaty after a hard-fought arm wrestle with the United States.
As James Movick, the FFA Director-General from 2012–2019, said:
“The role of that generation in setting up fisheries management from which we benefit today is a debt that we owe to Minister Pita and other pioneering colleagues.
“Minister Pita will be particularly remembered for his active and committed chairmanship of the committee of Pacific Fisheries Ministers over the past year (2015–16). His strong leadership, personal engagement and steady support contributed significantly to the successful adoption of the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries that was endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2015; and the successful renegotiation of the fisheries treaty between Pacific countries and the US in June of this year.”
Written by Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi
Yellowfin tuna … stocks of this and other species are a focus of FFA’s platform at WCPFC16. Photo: WWF
PORT MORESBY, 4 December 2019 – Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members have developed a comprehensive list of priorities for the 16th meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC16), including climate change as a central plank.
The meeting opens in Port Moresby tomorrow, 5 December.
Forum Fisheries Committee Chair Eugene Pangelinan, of the Federated States of Micronesia, commended FFA members for their strong commitment and solidarity in preparing for WCPFC16, before listing the priorities for FFA Members which include progress on target reference points for key tuna stocks, tightening up monitoring of transshipment on the high seas, improving the process for reviewing compliance with measures, and making progress on high seas limits and management of longline fisheries.
FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said FFA members are calling on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to take stronger action on climate change.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and the impact on Pacific Island countries is particularly threatening, given that tuna fisheries provide significant economic, social and cultural benefits,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.
“FFA is asking for increased attention by Commission scientists on the implications of climate change for the region’s tuna stocks, and consideration of what conservation and management measures (CMMs) can be put in place to reduce the carbon footprint of both Commission activities and fishing in Pacific waters managed by the Commission.
“Our members are proposing a resolution on Climate Change.”
Enhanced consultation between the WCPFC and small island developing states (SIDS) is also a key agenda item for FFA this year.
Mr Pangelinan said that FFA would be pushing in Port Moresby for Commission members to consult more comprehensively with SIDS when proposing new measures.
“Unfortunately, some measures have been presented to the Commission with inadequate assessments of the potential impacts on SIDS. For example, any measure that has significant implementation requirements should be informed by direct consultation with small island developing states,” he said
Mr Pangelinan and Dr Tupou-Roosen concluded by expressing thanks on behalf of FFA to Papua New Guinea for hosting this year’s Commission meeting.
Further details about key issues for FFA Members at WCPFC16 are in the attached below in the media backgrounder.
Media enquiries: Mr Tevita Tupou, +675 7333 9945
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 decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. www.ffa.int
Media backgrounder: Summary of key FFA agenda items for WCPFC16
Following are details of FFA’s key priorities at WCPFC16.
The FFC Chair and the FFA Director-General will be available for brief media conferences or interviews during the Commission meeting, as time permits. Please direct requests to Mr Tevita Tupou on +675 7333 9945 or by email to email@example.com.
1. Climate change
Tuna fisheries are a critical resource for many Pacific Island countries, providing essential social and economic benefits. The impacts of climate change are particularly severe in the Pacific and place at great risk the benefits of the region’s tuna fisheries for small island developing states (SIDS).
FFA members are therefore calling on the WCPFC to collectively take stronger action on climate change, and will introduce resolution DP04 seeking that the Commission:
Fully recognise the impacts of climate change, in particular on the fisheries, food security and livelihoods of small island developing states and territories.
Take into account in its deliberations, including in the development of conservation and management measures, the impacts of climate change on target stocks, non-target species, and species belonging to the same ecosystem or dependent or associated with the target stocks.
Estimate the carbon footprint of fishing and related activities in the Convention Area for fish stocks managed by the Commission and develop appropriate measures to reduce such footprint.
Develop options such as carbon offsets to decrease the collective carbon footprint of CCMs and the WCPFC Secretariat associated with meetings of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies.
2. Tuna measures
The skipjack target reference point (TRP) is due for review at WCPFC16. FFA members support the Scientific Committee recommendation that the review be informed by the latest stock assessment. This indicates that a spawning biomass depletion ratio of 42% will achieve roughly the same fishery outcomes as the 50% TRP was projected to achieve when it was adopted in 2015.
Therefore, our recommendation is that the Commission adopt a 42% TRP, which is consistent with the level of fishing and the status of the skipjack stock in 2012.
Bigeye and yellowfin tuna
WCPFC16 is due to agree TRPs for yellowfin and bigeye tuna, which will be important in terms of implementing harvest strategies.
FFA members want to maintain bigeye and yellowfin stocks at levels that will create a very low risk of breaching the limit reference points (LRPs), consistent with the UN Fish Stocks Agreement guidelines. They also want modest increases in stock levels, to support ongoing economic management of the purse-seine fishery and to facilitate development opportunities for the SIDS’ longline fisheries.
In the absence of agreement on new TRPs, FFA feels strongly that the current objectives in the Tropical Tuna Measure for Yellowfin and Bigeye must be maintained. We also believe the economic, social and biological implications of the TRPs must be carefully considered, including their interaction with the TRP for skipjack tuna.
Reaching agreement on these TRPs at WCPFC16 is a challenging task, given the diverse objectives of Commission members. If consensus isn’t possible, WCPFC16 needs to clearly identify any further technical work required to support a decision in 2020, and capacity building to ensure all Commission members understand the implications of harvest strategy elements.
South West Pacific swordfish
FFA will encourage WCPFC16 to support advice from the Scientific Committee that current conservation and management measures for Swordfish (CMM 2009-03) need to be strengthened.
North Pacific swordfish and North Pacific albacore tuna appear to be in relatively good shape, but the Pacific bluefin stock level remains a problem, and this risks the reputation of the WCPFC when the health of other stocks demonstrates good management.
South Pacific Albacore work plan
FFA is seeking renewed focus on the work to build the South Pacific albacore fishery to the TRP agreed in 2018.
FFA has taken the lead in revising the South Pacific Albacore Roadmap work plan, to focus on setting an overall hard limit and on the split of the overall hard limit between the high seas and the exclusive economic zones (EEZs).
The other priority is to ensure that the new measure for South Pacific albacore recognise zone-based management (ZBM), EEZ limits, data collection, and reporting requirements.
3. High seas limits
High seas limits and allocation are also a focus for FFA this year. FFA is providing perspectives to the Commission on the provisions of CMM 2018-01 that commit to limits and an allocation framework for the purse seine and longline fisheries in the high seas. FFA members will promote agreement on a process for 2020 for advancing negotiations on high seas limits, with a view to reaching an agreement at WCPFC17.
FFA members will promote agreement on a process for 2020 for advancing negotiations on high seas limits, with a view to reaching an agreement at WCPFC17.
4. Compliance monitoring scheme
FFA members have worked hard with other Commission members over the last several years in the review of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme. Of high priority in the reform of the scheme is the way in which the Commission reviews the performance of members in implementing their monitoring and enforcement obligations at the national level. FFA members support the Commission’s role in identifying and targeting systemic issues with the implementation of obligations by Commission members and moving away from reviewing and assessing the actions of individual vessels. The core purpose of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme is to review the actions of flag states in respect of their vessel activities, and not of the individual vessels themselves. This approach is taken with a view to promoting and supporting compliance by all members as the foundation for achieving Commission management objectives.
FFA members remain concerned about the lack of effective monitoring of transhipment on the high seas, particularly by large-scale freezer longline vessels. This constitutes a significant gap in our ability to monitor and verify longline catches on the high seas, and we consider it to be a high priority issue for the Commission’s work to stamp out illegal fishing.
The FFA is seeking finalisation of the Transhipment Intersessional Working Group’s 2020 work plan, with a focus on identifying gaps in the current measure and defining measures to close those gaps.
Our members will advocate at WCPFC16 for adequate resources for this important work.
6. Harvest strategy
FFA is seeking more detailed economic analyses to support the harvest strategy work plan as it enters a complex stage at WCPFC16. FFA’s position is what while the work plan should be ambitious, it must also be realistic and there is a need for capacity building for SIDS and other Commission members to ensure they fully understand the harvest strategy work and its implications.
One of the key issues before the Commission will be targets for multiple species and how these might be achieved (e.g. harvest-control rules). FFA notes that SC15 endorsed a hierarchical approach for multi-species considerations. Members want further time to consider the implications of this, noting that it is likely to involve changes to the structure of the work plan.
7. Consultation with SIDS
FFA members are concerned about the lack of consultation with SIDS by some WCPFC member nations when proposing new measures to the Commission.
Some measures have been presented to the Commission with inadequate assessments of the potential impacts on SIDS, including implementation costs where additional investment will be required. Impact assessments require consultation and this must take place well in advance of Commission meetings when new proposals are being considered
On another issue, FFA members look forward to receiving the WCPFC Secretariat’s report on the first year of the Strategic Investment Plan.FFA members express appreciation for the voluntary contributions from Australia, Canada, Korea and the United States to the Special Requirements Fund.
8. Electronic reporting and monitoring
FFA views the Electronic Reporting (ER) and Electronic Monitoring (EM) Working Group as extremely important, particularly for the longline fishery where the reporting record of many vessels is poor and independent verification of vessel reporting through observer courage is struggling to reach 5%.
As standards and procedures for ER for both operational catch and observers have now been agreed for two years, FFA believes a date should be set for 100% electronic reporting by all active vessels on the Record of Fishing Vessels (RFV), and by all observers.
We note that many FFA members are implementing ER for fishing within their EEZs, and propose that ER be implemented for all fishing on the high seas by the start of the 2022 fishing year.
The next step is to recommend Commission-wide minimum standards for electronic monitoring (EM). The work that done this year on reviewing data requirements and sources and determining priority gaps, should enable the Working Group to progress this task in 2020.
Mobulid ray measure
FFA members are putting forward a proposal for a new measure to prevent targeted fishing and retention, and promote the safe release, of mobulid rays such as manta rays when they are caught by WCPFC fisheries.
10. Charter Notification Scheme
As CMM 2016-05 expires this year, FFA members propose a roll-over of the measure for a further two years. The Charter Notification Scheme is an essential component of WCPFC’s fisheries management framework and facilitates SIDS’ participation in fisheries. For example, chartering provides a mechanism for SIDS to develop their own commercial tuna fisheries in an incremental manner without requiring an unaffordable initial capital investment.
11. Harmful fisheries subsidies
FFA members reiterate the call by Pacific fisheries ministers at the 16th FFC Ministerial Meeting in June 2019 for negotiations to be completed on a new WTO agreement to prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies.
These subsidies can contribute to economic losses in the fisheries sector and distort global fish markets, with serious impacts on food security and livelihoods, particularly in SIDS.
We support the ministers’ view that any outcome should not unnecessarily constrain the ability of SIDS to develop their tuna fisheries and that appropriate differential treatment for SIDS should be an integral part of these negotiations.
The following acronyms will be in common use during WCPFC16.
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
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.
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.
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.
Side setting with a bird curtain and weighted branch lines
Night setting with minimum deck lighting
Deep-setting line shooter
Weighted branch lines
Management of offal discharge
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.
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
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.
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
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.