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.