Labour standards push hopes for thumbs up from Tuna Commission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pacific nations warned of threat to sovereignty from Distant Water Fishing Nations

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HONOLULU, 13 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—- Papua New Guinea’s Fisheries Industry Association has warned delegates at the Tuna Commission to ensure their national interests are protected from the threat posed by Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) wanting to extend the jurisdiction of fishing rules.

Chairman Sylvester Pokajam said members of the Western and Central Fisheries Commission must fight for their rights.

“The biggest threat that I keep telling the members of the PNA and the FFA they (DWFNs) have now encroached into managing our exclusive economic zones and they try to also exercise the mandate of the commission into our internal archipelago waters.

“And we said no, that is non-negotiable and it’s going to remain non-negotiable because that’s our territory, so our members should not lose sight of that.

Pokajam said the WCPFC was formed to manage the high seas but external fisheries interests had encroached into management of the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of some Pacific nations.

“That’s why they should remain alert to make sure that we remain dominant because the moment they have more numbers in the commission, they may exercise their right to vote we would lose our rights and I don’t think we’d allow that.

At the moment Pacific Island nations make up a slim majority of members of the WCPFC but with other countries interested in joining that advantage could be eroded. While decisions within the WCPFC are usually taken by consensus a vote can be called as a last resort

Pokajam said it is important Pacific nations audit co-operating non-members carefully, to ensure that they are in compliance with commission regulations.

“I don’t think we should allow many (to join),” he said

Pokajam explained that members must ensure the interests of coastal states are protected.

“So (the) main objective of the coastal states – mostly the FFA members – is that we make sure that our interest is protected at all times, at all costs and at the same time the way we are seeing now is that DWFN are trying to take the power away from us,” Pokajam said.

“They (have tried) as much as possible since day one to take that power away from the coastal states but for FFA member countries we will fight for it and I think we have been very successful to date. “

Pokajam said the Pacific always remains united and nations had made some sacrifices for the sake of solidarity.

“We have been able to force our message through the purse seine industry, through the FFA and come up with our own measures through the three implementing arrangements to 100 percent observer coverage, High Seas closure – these are measures we put in place,” he said.

The VDS scheme- in which licensees pay a daily fee to operate in fishing zones – is the single most successful resource management model using rights-based control over fisheries resources.

“We have implemented the VDS. Purse seine, effect control, used to be by number of boats, that’s not the case since 2004. Effort has now shifted to days. What we are saying is you can have so many number of boats but you are limited to days,” Pokajam told journalists in Honolulu.

“And to our surprise a decade ago the value of the fisheries was about US$60 million now its more than US$400million. That’s the case because we exercise our rights and our sovereignty over the EEZ.

“The biggest threat that I can see is that they take away our rights to manage and to do whatever we want to do in our own National laws and at the same time through sub-regional and regional arrangements like the FFA, PNA and the Pacific Forum leaders.”

On Bigeye tuna, Pokajam said the Pacific must oppose US efforts to increase catch limits, saying the proposal did nothing to improve sustainable fishing.

Distant-water nations in Europe, China, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan have traditionally been reluctant to curb their tuna catches.

“It’s just because they see the green in all our fishery at the moment, Big Eye, Yellowfin, Skipjack, Pacific Albacore are all now in green,”Pokajam said.

“Our stock assessment is telling us that all our stocks are in green, safe zone. Just because we attain that good management and they try to come in to ride on it and I don’t I think we should agree with that.

“I think FFA member countries should reject that. I’m not part of the group that discuss this – I think I’ll leave it to them but I think we should not support that,” he said… PACNEWS

Japan does not support US big-eye proposal at Tuna Commission

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Japan believes that the US proposal to increase its bigeye catch limit is not fair.

The proposal would reward countries for better than minimum observer coverage on their longline vessels and for banning transshipment of fish. Transshipment is well-known as a key risk area for misreporting on fish catches and for potentially other illicit activities such as trafficking people or drugs.

FFA Members including Tonga have expressed strong concerns regarding the US proposal.

Head of Japan’s delegation to the Tuna Commission in Honolulu Mr Shingo Ota told Pacific Editors Japan does not like the US proposal as there are many other factors to be taken into account.

In the case of Japan, he said, they have been providing catch support which is a fundamental basis of stock assessment, therefore this scientific contribution should be appreciated.

The view from Japan is US is picking up only limited factors which are in favour of their operations and it is unfair. The United States has acknowledged it will be the only country eligible to benefit.

Ota also denied suggestions made in the US proposal that observer coverage on the Japanese fleet has gone down in the past year. He said the US figures are misleading and wrong. Ota emphasised that Japan is actually implementing its requirement for a minimum of 5% coverage.

He said while some of the fleets had little bit less than 5%, others had more than 5%.

On observers, Japan said it had had some unfortunate incidents in the past. Sometimes observers get depressed and they really want to return to port. Therefore, the fishing vessel had to quit fishing operations. Ota said Japan is working on this issue and that’s why electronic monitoring would be one of the solutions.

Pacific countries have proposed that this year’s Tuna Commission pass a resolution in supporting better working conditions for crew and observers working in the tuna fleets of all member countries.

Ina letter to the Commission the FFA Chair, Tepaeru Herrmann said: “The issue of poor labour conditions and mistreatment of workers on fishing vessels is vitally important, both to the Pacific and across the globe. Not only is the reputation of the WCPO fishery threatened by this, but our own citizens are at risk of being subjected to deplorable working conditions,”.

Ota said while Japan was very much supportive of the idea it the questioned if the Tuna Commission is best placed to handle this issue.

“The International Labor Organisation has a convention which deals with exactly the same topic so I think it would be natural to ask the members to ratify the Convention rather than discussing this issue at WCPFC,” Ota said

Japan fears the resolution, which is non-binding, might lead on to a push for binding labour standards.

It is easier to accept if it is a non-binding resolution, but what comes next is the question,”  Ota said. ……ENDS

Japan seeks to continue fishing in Palau waters

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Japan stressed the importance of its relationship with the Pacific, with most of the big scale fishing by the Japanese being centered in Pacific nations’ water.

Head of Delegation for Japan Shingo Ota, speaking at the Tuna Commission meeting in Honolulu said they were concerned about 20 small-scale longliners from Okinawa prefecture operating in Palau’s exclusive economic zone.

Mr Ota said those boats fear losing their livelihood once the island nation transition’s 80 percent of its waters to a no-fishing zone.

He said Japan is currently in talks with Palau to allow Okinawa fishermen to continue to fish in Palau after 2020 or the implementation of the Palau Marine Sanctuary.

“We are very much concerned because this is the main fishing ground for those 20 small-scale longliners. If Palau is going to close the area those vessels have nowhere to go,” Ota said.

He said Japan is requesting Palau to find a way, maybe through research, to allow the fishermen from Okinawa to continue fishing.

Ota, however, declined to give further details on the request.

Japan is one of Palau’s top foreign donors and the aid provided by Tokyo has helped the island nation to build roads and infrastructure.

By 2020, Palau is set to designate 80 percent of the nation’s maritime territory as a fully protected marine reserve in which no fishing or mining, can take place. 

Twenty percent of Palau’s waters will become a domestic fishing zone reserved for local fishermen and small-scale commercial fisheries with limited exports.

The marine sanctuary is President Tommy Remenegsau’s signature policy saying, Palau wants to lead the way in restoring the health of the ocean for future generations.

Japan speaks out on ‘unfair’ US proposal

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Japan said that the United States proposal to that the Tuna Commission increase its catch-quota on for bigeye tuna is “unfair,”

“I think the US is picking up only limited factors which are in favour of their operations. So, I think it is unfair,” the Head of Delegation for Japan Shingo Ota told reporters at the Tuna Commission meeting.

Pacific nations and other members of the WCPFC are locked in tense discussions over the future of the tropical tuna fishery which includes bigeye tuna as well as skipjack and yellowfin.

WCPFC’s current members are Japan, Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, the European Community, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Japan, Kiribati,Korea, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Tonga, Tuvalu, the United States of America, and Vanuatu.

Ota was quick to criticise the US proposal, joining other Pacific nations in resisting any increase in the quota: “We don’t like it. 

“Their proposal is if a country has better observer coverage and does not conduct transshipment they can receive more allocation,” Ota said.

The US is seeking a higher catch limit for bigeye tuna by its Hawaii-based longline fishing fleet.

In its proposal, Washington highlights the significant levels of monitoring and control it maintains in the fishery, outperforming other members of the Commission.

The US points out that while large longline fleets are maintained by Japan, Korea and Taiwan have failed to meet the Commission’s minimum requirement of placing independent fisheries observers on 5 per cent of their vessels the Hawaii-based US fleet does better.

 Figures included in the proposal show the US fleet has achieved observer coverage of about 20 per cent in its deep-set fishery and 100% in its shallow-set fishery.

But Japan said the figures cited in the U.S proposal that suggest observer coverage on the Japanese fleet has gone down in the past year are “misleading.”

“Actually, the U.S figures are not correct and we are actually implementing 5% coverage. In some of the fleets a little bit less than 5% but some of the fleets are more than 5%,” Ota stated. 

FSM taps into technology for full tuna transparency

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The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is tapping into the latest high-tech surveillance technology to be its eyes on the vessels to monitor fishing activities in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) embarking on a commitment to Technology in Tuna Transparency Challenge.

Eugene Pangelinan Executive Director of the FSM National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA), said FSM is making use of emerging technologies to further improve national fisheries administrations, “to ensure that fish can be verified for traceability and transparency.”

Pangelinan, on the sidelines of the ongoing Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), said the goal is to use a variety of technology so that that they can collect detailed data on fishing effort, target catch composition, and bycatch of non-target species that come in on the vessels in FSM. 

Electronic Monitoring systems in fisheries use video cameras, remote sensors, satellites, and hard drives installed on fishing boats to provide a range of information, including information on retained and discarded catch. The data is provided to shore-based teams of analysts.

In tuna fisheries, gathering information in this way is particularly important in the longline fisheries where the very large number of smaller vessels makes it challenging to achieve the 5% percent target coverage by on board fisheries observers.

Pangelinan said the data it will ensure that “tuna caught in FSM was harvested legally, sustainably and without slave labor.”

FSM President Peter Christian at the Our Oceans Conference in Bali, Indonesia in October vowed to have all fleets active in its waters comply with full transparency by 2023.

Christian challenged other nations to do the same, commit to full tuna transparency by 2023 in what is known at the T-3 Challenge or Technology for Tuna Transparency Challenge.

 “By taking this lead, the FSM are committed to full tuna transparency that we hope will promote a worldwide shift in fishing practices and set the stage for global seafood market transformation for the betterment of us, and our oceans,” Pangelinan said.

 To kick start the initiative, Pangelinan said the Nature Conservancy have announced a $2.5M funding goal to support the T-3 Challenge.

Pangelinan stressed the technology is not aimed at replacing human observers but rather enhancing the compliance monitoring system. Observers provide a different kind of information and are important in ground-truthing information gained through electronic monitoring.

Pangelinan said the shore-based analysis centers will provide jobs for Pacific Islanders with observer experience.

He said FSM is falling behind WCPFC requirements of five percent coverage because of the logistical issues about placing these independent observers on long liners when they traverse the Pacific for long months and often do not return to the port from where they started their trip.  

FSM is hoping that Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and WCPFC will partner with them to achieve the Tuna Transparency challenge by 2023.  

“I think we will achieve it, but it’s just that it would be very helpful and strengthen and support us for others to have the same commitment,” Pangelinan said.

PNA officials recently considered the development of a PNA E-Monitoring Program at a workshop in Honiara. 

According to an earlier statement, PNA said the workshop was a response to both the decision of PNA Ministers to put a priority on developing a PNA E-Monitoring Program, and President Christian’s call for 100 percent coverage of longline fishing vessels by electronic monitoring by 2023.  

In FSM, revenues from fisheries account for 70 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which translates to about $50 to $60 million a year.

High seas transshipments of tuna targeted for action

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Honolulu 13 December 2018 — Pacific Island fisheries leaders want the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to effectively address a serious management gap in the tuna fishery: high seas tuna transshipments.

  The existing Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) measure governing transshipment was adopted in 2009 and is intended for review next year. 

  Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, including the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) bloc, want to see a WCPFC review process that is comprehensive and results in significant strengthening of the current measure.

   Ina letter last month to WCPFC Executive Director Feleti Teo, Forum Fisheries Committee Chairperson Tepaeru Herrmann expressed the concern of FFA members that insufficient regulation, monitoring and reporting of tuna transshipment, particularly on the high seas, was contributing to distort the reporting of catches.

  Ms. Herrmann said the current system of unmonitored transshipments on the high seas also exposed WCPFC members, cooperating non-members and participating territories (known as CCMs), and the wider Pacific region, to increased risks of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and transnational criminal activity.    

   Subject to not infringing on the right of CCMs to regulate transshipment occurring in areas under national jurisdiction, the WCPFC has a responsibility to effectively regulate transshipment activities to address these risks, she said.

  The aim of FFA members is to see all transshipments in the WCPFC area occurring in port. The FFA’s position is consistent with Article 29 of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention which provides that “the members of the Commission shall encourage their vessels, to the extent practicable, to conduct transshipment in port.”

  The PNA already requires all purse seine vessels operating in their waters to transship tuna in ports, which allows for monitoring of catch and other compliance measures to be enforced. PNA is also gearing to implement a ban on high seas bunkering for fishing vessels by fuel tankers beginning in2020. Currently, however, only a fraction of longline vessels transship their tuna catches in the ports of FFA members.  

   The current level and regulation of high seas transshipment activity is inconsistent with the objective of the WCPF Convention, said FFA Director General Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen and PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru in comments Thursday during the ongoing annual meeting of the WCPFC in Honolulu.

   Under the current WCPFC measure, there is to be no transshipment on the high seas except where a CCM has determined it is impracticable for its vessels to operate without being able to transship on the high seas. The measure requires CCMs to inform the WCPFC of any of their vessels transshipping on the high seas.

   The WCPFC measure requires a declaration prior to transshipping on the high seas, and a report after the operation is completed. A Final Compliance Monitoring Review report,which will address compliance with these and other provisions of the measure,is to be issued as part of the review of the 2009 measure scheduled for next year.

    The basis for approving high seas transshipments is that prohibition would cause significant economic hardship to vessels. This would be assessed in terms of the costs incurred and if in-port transshipment would require the vessel to make significant and substantial changes to its historical mode of operation as a result of the prohibition of transshipment on the high seas.

   “There is no proper mechanism for review of the transshipment justification and there is a shortfall in compliance with WCPFC reporting provisions,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.“This situation is untenable and results in high risks that catch data is not accurately and effectively reported.”

  She said FFA members are anxious to see the review of this 2009 transshipment conservation and management measure undertaken with diligence and a focus on compliance.

   She also noted the initiatives of many members to roll out electronic monitoring systems on longline vessels as a means of improving coverage for a sector of the Pacific tuna fishery that is currently not well monitored.

   “In2013, FFA facilitated the first electronic monitoring trials for longline vessels in the region in collaboration with SPC and industry. This trial coupled electronic systems with human observers to compare data in the context of WCPFC observer requirements,” she said.

More recently, four members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement — Palau, FSM, Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands — have engaged in a trial of electronic monitoring of longline vessels,using video cameras and training fisheries officers to use software programs to evaluate the film collected on longline vessels.

   “We need an outcome from this review (of the high seas transshipment measure) that properly addresses the reporting risks and results in the receipt of timely,complete and well-documented data from transshipment activity,” said Mr. Kumoru.

“Our position is to move as quickly as possible to a complete ban of all high seas transshipment. PNA already requires all purse seiners to transship their catch in port. We think all transshipments should take place in ports in our region. In-port transshipment generates economic benefits for our members as well as eliminating IUU and other risks inherent in unmonitored high seas transshipments.”

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 FFA media coordinator Donna Hoarder on email:donna,hoarder@ffa.int.

Fiji steps up pressure for adopting target reference point for South Pacific albacore

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HONOLULU, 14 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—-Fiji is the latest country to push the  Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to adopt a target reference point for South Pacific Albacore before the meeting wraps up this week.

The 17 members of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are advocating strongly for strengthened Conservation and Management Measures (CMM’s) and also pushing to advance several priority issues including the Tropical Tuna Measure and adoption of a Target Reference Point (TRP) for the South Pacific Albacore tuna stock.

For the past three years this matter has been deferred under pressure from Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) interests in the southern longline fishery.

Fiji’s delegate Meli Raicebe reminded the Commission that WCPFC has on its books a binding decision to adopt a target reference point for South Pacific Albacore this year.

 “Every year we give a lengthy explanation of our TRP proposal, trying to anticipate and answer all the questions that we know will be asked. And for every question we answer, a new question is raised. Usually a question that we answered the previous year.

“This year we would like to ask a question of other CCMs (member nations). The question is: what do you expect will be the likely result of taking no effective management action and the impact this will have on South Pacific small island developing states? I think you already know the answer and we are simply not prepared to see this happen. I don’t need to go into detail on the FFA proposal – it has been in front of the Commission for three years now,” Raicebe stressed.

He said FFA members are determined that WCPFC needs to follow through on this to help bring the fishery back into economic health.

“Enough to say that is based on the best scientific advice and seeks to start this Commission on the path towards effectively managing this stock in a way that will provide economic benefits to all participants in this fishery.

We thank those CCMs that have already engaged with us on our proposal and we look forward to the cooperation of all WCPFC members to ensure it is passed this year,” Raicebe emphasised.

Fiji is the latest country in the region to seek concrete action taken for the adoption of the Target Reference Point.

FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou Roosen said they are keen to see progress on rules governing the albacore tuna fishery.

“So, it is critical that as a start,as a first step that we adopt this target reference point. And it is just a first step on a long journey that we will have with our partners, our fishing partners, to develop a harvest strategy around that fishery.

“With the albacore fishery, what we are looking for with the adoption of that Target reference point, is to get to a point where we can be economically viable, despite the high operating costs or the low fish prices.  But even in those low troughs, or low peaks that we are able still able to make a profit. And we see as a critical starting point, the adoption of a target reference point, which is why it is a high priority going into this meeting,” Dr Tupou Roosen said…..PACNEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samoa wants tropical tuna measure to remain, and action on climate change

Categories @WCPFC15, News, NewsPosted on

HONOLULU, 13 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—- Any revision of the Tropical Tuna measure by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) will not be supported by Samoa.

FisheriesMinister Lopaoo Natanielu Mua told delegates at this week’s 15th WCPFC meeting this is one key area that is critically important to Samoa and also of importance to other Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“We are not comfortable with any revision of the tropical tuna measure that will tend to limit the opportunity for a small island developing States to participate in high-seas fishing until such time as high seas limits and a fair price for allocating that limit has been agreed to by the Commission.”

Mua is also keen to see action on albacore tuna which are mainly found in more temperate waters.

“The South Pacific albacore tuna is very important to Samoa as it is the target species for our domestic longline fishery which had been one of the main foreign revenue earners for our economy as well as supporting food security and livelihoods for our people. The inability of the commission to agree to a Target Reference point for the South Pacific albacore will further delay implementation of desired management Interventions, while our domestic fleet is experiencing poor conditions and prolonged reduction in catches.”

“I am also aware of the uneven playing field due to the subsidy support received by some fleets and therefore an appropriate management strategy should be in place to ensure domestic an unsubsidised fleet remain economically viable,” said Mua.

He has also asked the Tuna Commission to urgently develop an agreed robust management arrangement for South Pacific albacore.

“I respectfully ask the Commission members, particularly our fishing partners interested in the South Pacific albacore, to urgently develop an agreed robust management arrangement for South Pacific albacore including progressing with and agreement on the various elements of a harvest strategy, such as the interim target reference point to reverse the decline in biomass trends we have observed of overtime and to restore profitable levels to the fishery.”

Mua explained Samoa is very disadvantaged in terms of its EEZ-size due to its geographic location and being sealocked by EEZs of other Pacific Island States.

“This situation has limited our ability to realise our fishing interest and development aspirations especially opportunities for our domestic fleet operations to be profitable as well as minimising the potential undesirable impacts of commercial operations on our small external fishery.”

“We are considering exploring development opportunities that take place in the closest high seas and your serious consideration of our situation would be much appreciated,” Mua emphasised at the meeting.

As Small island developing States, Mua said the Pacific is facing greater challenges from collapsing fisheries due to increasing level of fishing including IUU, environmental impacts and climate change.

“These challenges threaten the Integrity of our oceans and marine ecosystems and importantly our survival if we are not careful. On that regard we should be mindful that the burden actions to protect our oceans and manage our fisheries resources should not disproportionately fall on our small island developing states.”

“Our resource-constrained Islands, living and non-living resources in our oceans,and beyond high seas, present an exciting prospect in expanding our limited resource base. For instance, tuna and other highly migratory species are critically important as it provides the means for food security, livelihood and economic prosperity for Samoa as a Small Island Developing State.

“It is also important to note that over the past few the decisions, outcomes and inaction by the Commission on addressing key issues pertaining to the management of important tuna stocks have significantly impacted on realising social and economic benefits for some if not all Small Island Developing States, including Samoa,” he said. ……PACNEWS