Palau checks out movement of yellowfin tuna, blue marlin

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A two-year mission to examine the movement of yellowfin tuna and Indo-Pacific blue marlin was launched in Palau late last year.

Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC), together with Dr. Alan Friedlander from National Geographic’s Pristine Seas and the University of Hawaii, and with support from the Government of Italy and National Geographic Pristine Seas, are working on the mission to determine the effectiveness of a large-scale marine protected area for the conservation of highly mobile species and its potential value to local fisheries.

Palau is the first country to declare 80 percent of its 193,000 square miles of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as a no-take zone, or the so-called Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS).

The study is to look into the extent to which the PNMS will provide protection for highly mobile species such as tuna and billfish, which are a major focus of the local fishery.

A press release from the PICRC said that effective management under the PNMS depends upon understanding the amount of time these fishes spend within the sanctuary, the extent of their migrations, and the importance of Palau as a spawning and nursery area for these species.

“This is the first ever scientific examination of the effectiveness of a large-scale marine protected area for the conservation of highly mobile species and its potential value to local fisheries,” says researcher Dr. Alan Friedlander.

The researchers will work with local fishers with the use of advanced satellite and acoustic technologies to examine the movement of tuna and other important fisheries species.

The press release said preliminary results suggest young adult yellowfin tuna and blue marlin are well protected within the PNMS.

While some yellowfin fish moved outside of Palau’s waters, most tuna and all the blue marlin tagged stayed within the sanctuary boundaries. Further research will expand our knowledge and understanding of the movements and behaviors of these species.

Understanding the movement of open-ocean fishes in and around Palau is critical to the sanctuary’s success.

Science and monitoring is a key component of the PNMS, and data from this study will provide valuable information about the ecology of yellowfin tuna, billfish, and other open-water species. This will provide essential baseline information to compare the fisheries’ productivity before and after the establishment of the PNMS.

The Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, in their year-end report for 2017 submitted to Palau President Tommy Remengesau, said that historically, reef fish have been a staple of the Palauan diet. However, increased fishing pressure on these often slow-growing species has caused a significant decline in their biomass in recent years.

As part of the PNMS, which will be implemented by 2020, transitioning Palau’s pelagic fishery – which is currently dominated by foreign fleets – into a purely domestic fishery should alleviate pressure on reef-associated species and help preserve pelagic fish stocks within the EEZ for Palauans.

Under the PNMS law, 20 per cent of the EEZ will be a domestic fishing zone.

Palau partners, including National Geographic, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) have committed to the project.

UNPLUGGED: Impacts of 2018 Tuna Commission measures on Pacific island fisheries

Categories @WCPFC14, Features, NewsPosted on

“When you look at the measure [Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure], there’s a series of very strong concessions that FFA members as a group gave to achieve consensus.” Ms Jenny Baldwin, Chair, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC).

Each year millions of tonnes of tuna are caught in the oceans of Pacific Island nations.

As Pacific Islanders we know tuna is important for our economies, our culture and our future, but with so much of that mind-boggling quantity of fish caught over the horizon by foreign fishing vessels, do we realise the scale of what is at stake and how easy it would be for the Pacific to lose its hard-won tuna gains?

With tuna over-exploited elsewhere in the world, the major fishing nations – China, Japan, South Korea, The United States, Europe and more – are increasingly wanting to fish in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO).

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), popularly known simply as the ‘Tuna Commission’, is the body set up to make sure the fishing rules are fair, by bringing those powerful distant-water fishing nations (DWFN) together with Pacific countries in a consensual decision-making process.

The 14th session of the Tuna Commission (WCPFC14), held in December 2017, adopted important measures governing tuna fishing activities for 2018 in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. It is the world’s largest fishery, producing nearly 60 per cent of the globe’s entire tuna harvest – with a catch value estimated at US$4.7 billion in 2015.

A few hours after its conclusion, Commission Chair Ms Rhea Moss-Christian told Pacific journalists covering the event as part of the #Tunanomics initiative, “WCPFC14 has been a particularly successful meeting in terms of agreeing a range of measures and initiatives that will ensure ongoing environmental and commercial sustainability of tuna management in the Western and Central Pacific Fishery.”

Tuna Commission Chair, Ms Rhea Moss-Christian facing up to #Tunanomics Pacific media after the successful conclusion of WCPFC14 negotiations.

It could so easily not have been so, as negotiators battled until 2:45am beyond the last day of the meeting to reach agreement.

The most important decision endorsed by the Commission’s 28 member countries was agreement on a ‘Bridging Measure’ for Tropical Tunas [bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin], the largest commercial harvesting activity in the WCPO fishery.

“Negotiating a new measure such as this is an extremely complex process, so it has been gratifying to see commission members cooperating so well to produce a measure that will ensure responsible tropical tuna fishing management into 2018 and beyond,” said Ms Moss-Christian.

“What we have achieved is a balanced measure that aims to protect the national and commercial interests of all members, from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to large fishing nations, while also being sustainable.”

The tropical tuna and other measures endorsed by the Commission become legally binding this month (February 2018; 60 days after adoption on 8 December 2017), and took on extra significance earlier this year when a study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that depletion of global fish stocks has reached a tipping point: that approximately 60 per cent of the world’s assessed fish stocks are fully exploited and 31 per cent are over-fished.

For the Commission’s largest bloc, the 21 Pacific Island countries and territories, a sustainable WCPO fishery is not only important for jobs and economy, it is their bulk source of nutrition, protector and provider of climate change resilience, and the ocean that defines their cultural heritage and identity.

The commercial importance of the Pacific bloc to the Commission, together with each individual Pacific country’s high reliance on its marine resources, are underscored by two broad facts.

Firstly, the majority of the WCPO’s tuna harvest (1.4 million of 2.6 million tonnes) takes place in their collective waters, so it directly impacts their economies (government revenue, employment and exports), development (education, health, transport, policing and security, human rights, etc.) and the potential to further develop their fisheries industry.

In 2015, fisheries contributed: US$453 million to the region’s GDP, generated US$571 million benefit to the balance of payments in the form of net exports, paid US$46 million to 23,000 national employees, contributed US$54 million to government revenue in the form of license revenue and other payments, and spent US$120 million on the purchase of locally produced goods and services.

As individual countries, Tokelau’s fisheries contributed more than 60 per cent of total government revenues in 2016. In Kiribati and Tuvalu, it is even higher at 80 and 90 per cent.

Secondly is the fact that their environment, traditional ways of living, and food security is wholly dependent on marine and fishery resources. If the fish go, or the waters get polluted or suffer a shipping disaster, or reefs plundered, they would be in serious trouble as there are few other alternatives at their disposal. This vulnerability is exacerbated by the increased frequency and more destructive natural disasters now resulting from the impacts of human-induced climate change.

That is why the nine key outcomes agreed by the Commission on 8 December 2017 are important to fight the current rate of illegal and unregulated activities threatening the sustainability of the fishery; and, by extension, safeguard the very existence of these small Pacific nations.


So what are the deeper impacts of the Commission’s measures for Pacific islands countries and territories? What did they give up in the negotiations? What were the concessions made by Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFN)? In the allocation of rights to fishing on the High Seas, was the Pacific bloc finally recognized? And what do these mean from the lens of the ordinary Pacific weaver, planter and fisher?

Just hours after WCPFC14 concluded, then deputy Director General for the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Mr Wez Norris gave a briefing to Pacific media covering the congress.

He highlighted:

  • All Pacific nations made concessions.
  • Japan’s role in the negotiations was critical. With help from a few Pacific countries, especially Tokelau, Japan was able “to broker deals, make arrangements” in the margins of the negotiations that led to the successful outcomes at WCPFC14, especially the hotly contested Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure (TTM).
  • For the first time, a concrete move was made by Commission members on the issue of High Seas fishing rights and allocation for the Pacific islands bloc.
  • The failure in the Albacore tuna negotiations that came with a silver lining.
  • Lifting the 12-month ban on FAD fishing in the High Seas unraveled all the gains by the Pacific bloc implemented in 2017.
  • The relaxation of catch limits could come with significant opportunity costs for many FFA members in the future.
Mr Wez Norris at the post-WCPFC14 media briefing

“I think every single Pacific country gave up something or gave up measures that come at cost but also provide potential for future benefit,” said Mr Norris.

But at the end of the day the reality of “the Tropical Tuna Measure (TTM) that was agreed was a relaxation.”

This means more tuna will be caught. Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), which have a higher accidental catch of vulnerable bigeye – were a particular talking point, especially the FAD closure rules which ban FAD fishing during certain months of the year.

“Everybody that was subject to a limit under the old measure will benefit from this current measure,” Mr Norris said.

“Everybody who had some sort of restriction has less of a restriction now. The High Seas FAD closure was relaxed, the EEZ FAD closure was relaxed, the long line catch limit was relaxed. And that applies to FFA members as well. They will all enjoy the benefits of increased economic efficiency of the fishing fleets that they license or flag.”

However, he sounded a warning about possible future repercussions for FFA members.

“Our big concern at the FFA Secretariat is that the concessions FFA members gave to developed fishing fleets may come back to bite us in the future, in terms of the need to take cuts in the future or in terms of increased difficulty to develop our own fishing fleets and our own fishing industries.”

Before unplugging more 2018 outcomes, it is worthwhile to familiarise readers new to the tuna negotiations with a few WCPO fishery basics and the Pacific islands context.


The WCPO share of the global catch of albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tunas increased from 50 per cent in 2006 to 58 per cent in 2014.

In 2015 the total WCPO catch of these species was 2.7 million tonnes with an approximate value of US$2.2 billion. It means that 57 per cent of the world’s total tuna harvest of 4.7 million tonnes is caught in the Pacific.

The WCPO fishery: FFA Members’ Exclusive Economic Zones (dark blue) with western High Seas pockets (light green)

Purse seine fishery

The catch by sleek, modern purse seine fishing vessels is the largest. The WCPO purse seine fishery catch is predominantly based in the waters of FFA member countries. In 2015 it was around 1.3 million tonnes, 72 per cent of the total WCPO purse seine catch, and valued at around US$1.7 billion.

Historically, between 2006 and 2015, the purse seine catch in the waters of FFA members has varied between 63 per cent and 85 per cent of the WCPO purse seine catch.

For Pacific nations, this matters: they reap rich benefits from fishing within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) but none from any fishing immediately outside those areas in the High Seas. The proportion of in-EEZ fishing increased dramatically from 2009 to 2010 (from 65 per cent to 82 per cent) as a result of the closure of the western High Seas pockets to fishing. However, catch in the High Seas in 2015 almost doubled in 2014, and more than trebled between 2010 and 2013 as some fleets increased their High Seas fishing – likely, at least in part, in response to the increasing fees charged by Pacific members of the PNA group for access to their EEZs.

The eight Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) plus Tokelau control the largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery in the world, because they control most of the waters in which the tuna are found. For skipjack, the most commonly canned tuna, around 50 per cent of the global supply is harvested in the waters of PNA members.

Revenue accruing to PNA has risen from US$60 million annually in 2010 to close to US$500 million in 2016. Central to this success is its zone-based management and Vessel Day Scheme, which have been shown to be effective for both conservation and economic development. Fishing nations are not so happy with the sharp increase in fees.

Longline fishery

The WCPO longline fishery, which is made up of many smaller, fewer well-supervised boats, produced between 40 per cent and 48 per cent of the global longline catch of albacore, bigeye and yellowfin over the period 2006 to 2015.

The longline fishery accounted for around 11 per cent of the total WCPO catch 10 years ago. Although it has continued a steady decline to current levels of around 9 per cent, the level of catch remained flat, fluctuating between 240,000 and 280,000 tonnes.

A longline fishing vessel sailing into Samoa’s Apia harbour. Photo: F. Tauafiafi.

But this is not the case in the waters of FFA member countries where the proportion of the total longline catch has increased from under 30 per cent prior to 2010 to over 38 per cent since 2014.

In 2015, FFA members’ WCPO catch was around 77,000 tonnes, valued at US$436 million. It represents 31 per cent of the total WCPO longline catch.

The longline fishery is particularly important to countries with albacore tuna, such as Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and more.

These countries have got together to improve management of the fishery under an agreement, called the Tokelau Arrangement, but so far it has been hard to implement. At WCPFC14, the measures proposed by FFA members were not direct management measures. They were not going to immediately cut catch or effort, nor rebuild the economics of the fishery; rather, they were a first step in the process towards doing so.

But the negotiations to a ‘Target Reference Point’ for albacore broke down due to two key issues: the failure of Pacific island countries to agree on in-zone limits that would fit within the overall southern albacore catch limits recommended by scientists, and the unwillingness of fishing nations to cut their catch in the High Seas.

As FFA Director General Mr James Movick highlighted during a media briefing at WCPF14, the sticking point was China not wanting to cut its effort “by correctly pointing out that, in terms of the overall management of the southern albacore, there needs to be measures adopted both In-Zone [inside FFA members’ EEZs] as well as in the High Seas.”

Although there will be no immediate or significant impacts from the negotiations breakdown, the “Commission does need to step up and start that process [to an albacore measure], we are a couple of years behind where we would have ideally been,” Mr Norris confirmed at the post-Commission media briefing.


Success for the Pacific in tuna negotiations requires sticking together and overcoming often-trenchant opposition from fishing nations. Chair for the 17-member Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC), Australia’s Ms Jenny Baldwin, rated the Commission’s outcomes as a “mixed result” for Pacific countries.

Chair for FFC, Ms Jenny Baldwin at the post-WCPFC14 media briefing

There was a “relatively positive outcome … as we did end up with a tropical tuna measure that is going to improve the continued management of the tropical tuna species [bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin] within the WCPFC,” she stated.

“But as FFA members, we are quite disappointed we couldn’t agree to a Target Reference Point for South Pacific albacore this year.” But she noted that with the disappointment came a silver lining: “We have got some commitment from most [Tuna Commission] members to have that agreed at next year’s [2018] WCPFC.”

Mr Norris, who accompanied Ms Baldwin to the media briefing, added there were other positive outcomes that “we must not lose sight of”, such as the marine pollution measure, the Port State Measure, the silver lining in the failed albacore Target Reference Point negotiations and, for the first time, the Commission agreeing to discuss a specific process for SIDS’ participation in the High Seas fishery.

“The marine pollution measure is a very good first step towards addressing what Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have identified as a critical issue for the Pacific – the amount of plastic waste in the ocean. So that’s a starting point, and FFA members are looking forward to ways the Commission can build on that.”

The Port State Measure agreed was an important one, he stated.

“The world has been very focused on ports as a mechanism to fight illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activities.

“This is the first concerted step by the WCPFC [Tuna Commission] to move towards regional action to address that issue.”

On a Target Reference Point for the South Pacific albacore fishery: “While we are all disappointed on the albacore outcomes, they do represent a far more solid commitment to action than the Commission has ever done before,” said Mr Norris.

“FFA members walked away dissatisfied that we didn’t achieve an albacore target reference point – that is, we didn’t address a specific measure for improving the management of the stock. The commitment we saw at the end of the day from key fishing states China and Chinese Taipei was far more concrete than we have ever seen before. So that is very encouraging.”


A surprising and significant highlight for Pacific countries came as a byproduct of the Tropical Tuna Measure [TTM] negotiations – agreement to discuss the development of a ‘process’ to securing High Seas participation rights for Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

At the moment, allocation of High Seas fishing rights is based on records of which country has fished there in the past but Pacific countries argue that as tuna-owners they should have rights too.

“I think the outcomes in the TTM, in terms of allocation processes, are really positive for FFA members and all SIDS,” said Mr Norris.

“For the first time, the Commission actually acknowledged the need to go into a specific ‘process’ to look at who has what opportunities, who has rights in the high seas.

“In the past, all of our discussions, and this is consistent with all other regional fisheries management organisations (RFMO) [international organisations formed by countries with fishing interests in an area], have simply been about catch history. Those developed fleets that have been fishing in the region for 50 years get a limit based on what they’ve been doing for the last 50 years.”

Pacific countries have not fully developed their industries and as a result have no ‘High Seas footprint’, and therefore no catch history on which to base catch limits for their participation.

“However, the TTM negotiations was the first acknowledgement that ‘no, we’re going to go through a process where we will sit down and have a look at High Seas participation’.”

Special Requirements of Developing States on the Agenda

Mr Norris emphasised that the language in the TTM specifically refers to Article 30 of the Tuna Commission’s establishing convention, which insists the special requirements of Small Island Developing States be taken into account. Article 30 can be used as the legal basis to force the Commission to live up to its obligations under the UN Fish Stock Agreement to facilitate increased High Seas participation for SIDS.

“The agreement to High Seas allocation is a really large step forward in terms of other Commission members recognising the needs of SIDS,” continued Mr Norris.

“We have been through this debate many, many times in the WCPFC about Article 30. This is a real, tangible way that the Commission can implement it. It is not about development funding or assistance for meeting participation – it is about actually structuring management measures that will benefit SIDS in the region.”

Mr Norris claimed such an achievement would be of global and historical significance.

“When we go through that process and secure specific rights for developing states on the High Seas that will be a real big achievement in the world of international fisheries.”

But as the prolonged and complex TTM negotiations highlighted, together with the breakdown in the albacore target reference talks, securing High Seas rights and participation will not be easy.

One of the difficult challenges is the opposing position taken by DWFNs and the majority of the Pacific bloc in regards to what management system to adopt for the High Seas.


The majority of Pacific countries subscribe to ‘Zone-Based’ management while DWFNs are in favour of ‘Flag State’.

There are two fundamental issues at the centre of the debate for Pacific nations: sovereignty, and future potential to fully develop and exploit their fisheries.


Who owns the fish? DWFNs promote the belief that because of the highly migratory nature of tuna, it is therefore a commodity of the commons.

Who owns the fish? Mr Ludwig Kumoru answered, “When it [the fish] comes into your waters, it is your fish. But once it crosses your boundary and goes into someone else’s water, then it is not your fish.”
Pacific countries’ definition differ slightly and in a very significant way.

“When it [the fish] comes into your waters, it is your fish. But once it crosses your boundary and goes into someone else’s water, then it is not your fish,” said Mr Ludwig Kumoru, CEO for PNA. “For the time the fish is within your waters, your rule applies to that fish. How you catch it, how you harvest it. What happens in your zone is up to you.”

That is the basis for PNA’s Zone-Based management approach. It views tuna as a long-term economic platform, therefore sustainability underpins their approach to assessing fishing access and participation in their sovereign waters – aspirations that will not be possible under ‘Flag State’ management, which is based around the national flag of boats already in the fishery and tends to be much more short-term in its thinking.

Potential to develop Pacific fisheries and industry

The other significant factor for Zone-Based management is the fact 85 per cent of the WCPO purse seine fishery is harvested in the waters of FFA members. So their emphasis on the longer-term conflicts directly with ‘Flag State’ approach, focused on the short-term to maximise catches and revenue.

“That is why zone-based is more effective in this region than in other global regions, because we approach management from the viewpoint of the countries who have been impacted, rather than the countries whose citizens and boats are engaged and have to regulate themselves,” explained Mr Kumoru.

The key ingredient in the zone-based approach is “the countries in whose waters the fishing is occuring are actually taking the lead to ensure the resource within their EEZs are managed.

“No other ocean on this planet today have all three stocks of tuna: bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack all in the green [not overfished]. Even the albacore is not in the ‘overfished’ state.”

Mr Kumoru said the reason why the other oceans are not faring well is because they are managed “by their fishing fleets. So I think it is very important in managing the stock that it’s the coastal states taking responsibility.”

The vision behind the PNA’s zone-based system is to greatly expand Pacific islands participation in a fishery where many of them have been bystanders for decades.

Mr Ludwig Kumoru (R) and FFA Director General Mr James Movick (L) briefing Pacific media during WCPFC14 negotiations

“Right now, we license Distant Water Fishing Nations, giving them opportunity to fish in our waters, because coastal states haven’t yet built the capacity to fish. There will come a time when the islands have the capacity to expand fishing in their own zones, and others must be prepared to give way.”

Which is why the agreement at WCPFC14 to relax the longline catch limit for the DWFN fleets will potentially come at significant opportunity cost for many FFA members.

“Allowing existing fleets to increase their level of catch and effort does make a big impact on how difficult it is to develop our own domestic fleets in the future. So I think there were large compromises made all round,” said Mr Norris.

In hindsight, the WCPFC14 negotiations were the first time in history that talks went so far beyond the set finishing time.

It prompted the following comment from Mr Norris: “It has never come down to the wire in terms of timing as much as it did this morning [8 December 2017], but certainly the types of negotiations that we went through over the last week are not new to anyone in the Commission; we’ve had those difficult discussions before.

“At the end of the day, we are talking about national interest, we are talking about very significant commercial interest in the private sector, so it’s not surprising that it comes down to those fairly pointy discussions.”

Taking all of the above into account, it was the summation by FFC Chair Ms Baldwin that stood out.

“When you look at the measure [Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure] there’s a series of very strong concessions that FFA members as a group gave to achieve consensus.”

Her statement spotlights the source of Pacific countries’ frustrations at these annual meetings. Although they are the tuna owners, they are the ones that have to make the most concessions, as well as carry a disproportionately heavier burden for the conservation component of the measures agreed to at these annual Tuna Commission meetings.

“They [DWFNs] are here to make profit. It is not their waters so they would rather make money and go develop their own place. They are not coming here to develop the Pacific islands,” emphasised Mr Kumoru.

“In their own EEZs, how much of their [fishery] allocation have they given to other people?” he asked.

“None of them.

“Because they use all of their allocation in their EEZs. None of their waters are allocated to someone else. And here, they want to use our waters!” shouted Mr Kumoru.

“This is why we are pushed to the corner, this is how people come here, fish here and we have no control. There are opportunities under so many international laws that we cannot fight our way out – this is the message our people back home [weavers, planters and fishers] need to know, to understand what we are up against.”

Ms Jemima Garrett and Ms Lisa Williams-Lahari contributed to this report.

Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F Tauafiafi’s participation and coverage at the WCPFC14 was made possible by the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF, Australia, Japan and GEF OFMP2 project. 


  1. Tropical Tunas Bridging Measure

Key features of the new bridging measure for managing tropical tunas include:

  • A three-year agreement, with some 12-month provisions that reflect the need to wait for further scientific stock assessments in 2018. The one-year provisions relate to FAD management in the purse seine fishery, high seas purse seine effort control and bigeye catch limits in the longline fishery.
  • Measures designed to ensure stocks are maintained at recent average levels and capable of producing Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).
  • Recognition for Small Island Developing States of disproportionate burden risks. This recognizes the extra burden or cost placed on resource owning states (usually) as a result of conservation measures eg closing a fishery or FAD fishing has a bigger impact on Pacific nations than on fishing nations, as most fishing nations have many other industries to rely on, and they have the option of fishing elsewhere.


  1. Rebuilding plan and revised Conservation Measure on Pacific Bluefin

The Commission adopted the Conservation and Management Measure developed by the Northern Committee to implement the Harvest Strategy for Pacific Bluefin Tuna Fisheries. It was agreed that CCMs take measures to ensure:

  • Total fishing effort by CCM (Commission Members, Cooperating Non-Members and Participating Territories) vessels fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna north of 20° N shall stay below 2002–2004 annual average levels.
  • All catches of Pacific bluefin tuna less than 30 kg shall be reduced to 50% of the 2002–2004 annual average levels.
  • All catches of Pacific Bluefin tuna 30kg or larger shall not be increased from the 2002-2004 annual average levels.


  1. Updated Harvest Strategy Workplan

The Commission adopted a revised Harvest Strategy work plan that will re-prioritise as needed the annual agenda of the Commission and Scientific Committee to allow sufficient additional time for consideration of harvest strategy issues.


  1. Standards for e-reporting of observer data

Reporting standards for electronic reporting of observer data were adopted. The standards relate to data fields, summaries, activity logs, vessel and gear data, crew and trip-level data and also pollution reports. The standards will enable more effective monitoring and management by enhancing the work of observers in enabling the entry of near real-time observer data directly into the database systems of monitoring and scientific agencies.


  1. Port State Measure to reduce illegal fishing

The Commission adopted a Port State Measure that will strengthen overall port controls to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and support development opportunities for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by reducing the impact of IUU fishing on stocks. The busiest ports in the WCPO fishery area are located in SIDS, imposing the most significant reporting requirements on SIDS. The Measure provides implementation flexibility in that Members will choose which designated ports they notify to WCPFC to come under the provisions of the Measure.


  1. Bycatch mitigation initiatives

Sharks: WCPFC14 agreed to devote significant intersessional resources to resolve longstanding and contentious issues surrounding the conservation and management of sharks. For the first time there will be an Intersessional Working Group – Sharks – which will aim to unify the existing five management measures and build on them to develop a comprehensive management framework.

The IWG-Sharks will be led by Japan but is open to all members (and observer delegations). A list of issues prepared by the Scientific and Compliance committees has been adopted by the Commission, as part of a terms of reference for the IWG-Sharks.

Sea Turtles: WCPFC14 adopted two recommendations for the SC to undertake work that will inform the potential revision of the WCPFC sea turtle CMM. Under the first recommendation, the Scientific Committee (SC) will consider the technical details of a proposal to expand mitigation from shallow set longliners fishing for swordfish to all longliners. Key issues will be whether there are impacts on other bycatch or target species from the proposed expansion. The second adopted recommendation requires the SC to consider whether the WCPFC observer data standards should be modified to collect better data on sea turtle interactions.

Sea Birds: WCPFC14 adopted a new CMM for seabirds that involves minor amendments to the existing seabird CMM. The changes relate to (a) new requirements for tori (bird-scaring) lines to be used on small vessels fishing south of 30 degrees South and (b) to the formats CCMs use to report seabird interactions in annual reports to the Commission.


  1. Conservation and Management Measure on Marine Pollution

This measure involves collective action to reduce the detrimental impact of marine pollution on ocean and coastal environments, wildlife, economies and ecosystems. Under the measure, CCMs will prohibit their fishing vessels operating in the WCPFC Convention Area from discharging any plastics (excluding fishing gear). CCMs will also be encouraged to prohibit their fishing vessels from discharging oil or fuel products, garbage, food waste, domestic waste, incinerator ashes, cooking oil or sewage.


  1. Target Reference Point (TRP) for South Pacific Albacore

The Commission agreed to prioritise the development and adoption of a Target Reference Point for south Pacific albacore through the following actions:

  • CCMs will review available scientific and economic information to decide appropriate goals for the fishery and corresponding candidate target reference points.
  • Regardless of the results of the 2018 stock assessment and the management advice from SC14 to WCPFC15, SC14 will dedicate sufficient time in the Management Issues Theme to develop robust advice to WCPFC15 on candidate target reference points.
  • CCMs will develop TRP proposals and WCPFC 15 will adopt a Target Reference Point for south Pacific albacore, using whatever decision-making means are necessary.


  1. Amendment to the Record of Fishing Vessels (RFV) CMM – Samoa

CMM 2013-10 RFV was amended to support the continued operation of Samoa’s domestic longline fleet that fishes exclusively in Samoa’s EEZ. The amendment will allow this fleet to directly offload to American Samoa instead of landing and containerising fish in Samoa, and then shipping to American Samoa. The current practice is costly, impacting on the economic hardship experienced by Samoa in this fishery as a result of prolonged reductions in catch rates in the albacore fishery.


Location for next WCPFC annual meeting

The next annual meeting of the Commission – WCPFC15 – will be hosted by Federated States of Micronesia and held in Pohnpei from 3-7 December 2018.





Palau’s marine surveillance boosted with new patrol boat

Categories News, NewsPosted on

Boosting its marine surveillance, a Japan-funded patrol boat arrived in Koror Palau on December 19, 2017.

An official handover ceremony is scheduled to take place in February 2018.

PSS Kedam is the additional patrol boat for Palau. Palau has the existing PSS H.I Remeliik, which is 31.5-meter (104ft). Remeliik is Palau’s first patrol board donated by the Australian government .

The new patrol boat Kedam is funded with the grant by the Nippon Foundation at a cost of over $30 million. Kedam is expected to enhance Palau’s marine surveillance capabilities and police its s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

It is also part of the grant assistance from the Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation on the 10-year $70 million assistance provided by the two foundations referred to as the Support to Enhance Coast Guard Capabilities and Promote Eco-conscious Tourism in Palau.

The Nippon Foundation also provided new berth and the administration building., while the Sasakawa Peace Foundation provided capacity training and salary for the crew.

In 2016, Palau through President Tommy Remengesau Jr., Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa, and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation chairman Jiro Hanyu. signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) .

The MOU also includes the donation of another small patrol boat.

The Nippon Foundation will provide financial support to cover fuel and maintenance cost for the vessel until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2027, and for the boat until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2026.

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation will fund employment of crews to operate the medium-sized patrol vessel, including the training of those crews, which will be conducted by the Japanese partner organizations until the end of Japanese fiscal year 2027.

On its way to Palau from Japan, PSS Kedam encountered typhoons. The vessel and crew made a stop at Ishigaki Island in Okinawa, and also detoured to Philippines to avoid two separate storms.

However the 15-men crew of the new boat, boasted of the new vessel’s capability to weather out the storm.

The patrol vessel departed from Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture on December 8th.

Members of the Palauan crew are Captain Mayce Ngirmeriil, Executive Officer Jim Shiro Kloulechad, Chief Engineer Moses Nestor, Engineer Kamrul Zaman, Navigator Duke Joseph and Officers Gerwin Ngemelas Temong, Zachary Ngiraului Remengesau, Franley Omkar Chokai, Allen Lauren Ngiralmau, Ronald Beltau Yashiro, Wyzer Meyar Seklii, Gerald Ringang, Jr., Lenin Lmatk Louis, Harley S. Remoket and Carlos R. Ngirturong. The crew was accompanied by their Japanese counterparts, including Master Hatakeyama Kaoru, Commanding Officer Ryuzaki Misao, Second Officer Matsubara Yoshihiro, Kita Shojiro, Sakurai Motonori, and Doi Shiro.

The PSS Kedam is named after the Great Frigate Bird of Palau, a sea bird that is the largest bird found in Palau.

“The Kedam is a seafaring navigator that searches for food for hundreds of miles and never forgets its way back home. Territorial and cunning, the PSS Kedam is aptly named after this magnificent bird of Palau,” said Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. during the naming and launching ceremony in Hiroshima on September 18, 2017.



NGOs slam fishing nation delay tactics: stalemate on albacore tuna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FFA Deputy Director General appointment announced

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MANILA, Philippines, December 7 — Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General James Movick announced the appointment of New Zealand’s Matthew Hooper to the position of Deputy Director-General of FFA to start during the first half of 2018.

The appointment comes as the current Deputy Director-General Wez Norris prepares to wrap up his final Tuna Commission meeting today.

“The contribution and impact made by Deputy Director-General Norris during his time with the agency has been lasting and impressive, and the extraordinary level of service from Wez to the organisation, and our members, is well-recognised,” said Movick.

“As he completes his final Tuna Commission in his pivotal role with the FFA team, I know our forum fisheries committee officials, leaders, development partners and stakeholders will similarly join me in welcoming the incoming Deputy Director.”

At a press briefing this week, Norris said this is the 11th time he has attended the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

“I think it’s a really significant achievement for the Commission as a whole that all four of the key tuna species are now in the green area of the Majuro plot so the conclusion for all of them is that there is no over fishing and over fishing is not occurring. This is the only RFMO [regional fisheries management organisation] in the world that can make that boast.”

“I certainly don’t take credit for that, everyone plays a role and everyone contributes to it and we’ve had a measure of good luck in terms of the science changing in terms of bigeye. I’m happy to be walking out the door with four sustainable key tuna stocks, but there are plenty of management challenges left for the next guy,” said Norris.

Wez Norris, outgoing FFA deputy director general at a press briefing in Manila last week

“I’m really confident that some of the progress that FFA has made over the last 5 years will be very well driven and supported by my successor.”

Hooper, who spent part of his childhood in Tokelau, and began his career in New Zealand fisheries in 1996, has been with the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as the Counsellor (Primary Industries) and Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), based at the New Zealand Embassy in Rome.

In making the announcement from Manila, where the FFA delegation is supporting Pacific nations to the WCPFC meetings, Movick says the incoming deputy brings significant experience in Pacific tuna fisheries, including the WCPFC, to the role.

“He has national, regional and international experience in fisheries management and negotiations. He’s well known and respected for his capability to work with people and it’s a very tricky situation to help resolve issues,” Movick told the Pacific Media team in Manila yesterday.

Movick’s six year term at the head of FFA also ends next year. He says the appointment process should see a successor announced between May and July 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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