The technical manual covers standard designs for different kinds of anchored FADs, and some regional modifications of these. It also discusses technical considerations for the design of upper floatation devices, main lines, and anchors, and considers deployment location and techniques from different kinds of fishing vessels, and maintaining FADs.
The manual improves on a 2005 edition by drawing on the experience and lessons learned by users of FADs across the Pacific.
The manual is published by the Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The new manual doesn’t replace the old ones, which FAME says still contains useful technical information. However, FAME said it became clear in 2016 that the older manual did need updating, when Pacific FAD users came together to share their knowledge and experiences in FAD design and innovation.
They said information that was still relevant in the 2005 edition had not been repeated in the new manual, but was referred to.
SPC has published short reports into ways that women can have a greater say in fisheries management in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
The reports are a snapshot of information on and analysis of the how women participate in fishing in the four countries.
Each report summarises the steps the country has taken so far to improve women’s involvement. These are mostly in policies. It also highlights strengths and weaknesses in current arrangements, and discusses political factors and social norms that prevent or deter women from becoming more actively involved.
These points are used to list ways in which women could become more equal participants in both decision-making about and control of fisheries resources. They include learning from women themselves what they need and want, targeting women when delivering extension services, and implementing gender-equity policies that already exist.
SPC says the reports are intended to stimulate discussion about how to make improvements in the organisation’s Social Development Programme and Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division.
It says the recommendations are also relevant to the national government of the country, and the country’s external partners in development.
Women often don’t see themselves as fishers
In all four countries, many women do not see themselves as fishers, even though they provide seafood for the family. They and the men in their families see only the men as the fishers.
The reports note that women also have less time to be involved in paid work, community decision-making and development activities, as they do most of the reproductive work and caregiving in the family and the community, and don’t have time for other things.
SPC writes that “care must be taken to consult with women and ensure they have time to benefit from development at a pace they can manage”.
Social norms needed to be discussed if people’s thinking was to change. This was difficult work that would take time, especially as there was a lack of expertise in gender analysis in all four countries.
Opportunities in each country highlighted
Women are involved in community decision-making in places in all the countries, and this could be built on to increase their involvement.
In Tonga, women make up 40% of the community councils that manage the special management areas that the government has set up to restore coastal fishing areas that have collapsed. However, SPC notes, the women on the councils may not have the same power as men when making decisions.
In Fiji, women are involved in subsistence fishing and also work in the cannery, hold positions of power, and have extensive knowledge and skills that are different to those of Fijian men in the industry. However, SPC notes, they remain marginalised in decision-making and consultation, and receive fewer benefits.
In Samoa, women make up about 18% of fishers in villages, and are responsible for about 10% of a community’s fishing effort. They also do most of the processing after harvest. SPC notes that although the Samoan Government is hampered by the limited sharing of skills and knowledge between departments, it is working with development partners to improve women’s involvement in coastal and marine fisheries.
The reports cover all fisheries. However, as women are much more involved in coastal fisheries and aquaculture (and men in deep-sea fisheries), the discussion is more focused on these. SPC has a handbook on gender equity and social inclusion in coastal fisheries last year.
At the core of their research is one of the elements at the heart of a heating planet: carbon.
By tracing two of the most abundant forms of carbon, the isotopes carbon-12 and carbon-13, they were able to show that a significant amount of global heating is caused by human activities rather than natural processes.
They also found that several other factors also influence the amount of different carbon isotopes in tuna.
Scientists find evidence of changes in the food chain
One of the most important happens at the start of the food chain, with a group of plankton known as phytoplankton, which use sunlight and carbon to make the energy they need.
The scientists showed that the abundance of different kinds of phytoplankton has changed in the past 15 years, directly as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. They also showed that the proportion of carbon-12 and carbon-13 available changes the kinds and abundance of phytoplankton. These changes don’t stop here, but alter the kinds and abundance of animals, including tuna, all the way up the food chain.
Numbers of some phytoplankton are shrinking, and this too is affecting the abundance and location of tuna.
The change in the balance of phytoplankton is made worse by another effect of climate change: ocean stratification. Surface and deep waters of oceans now mix less, and that fewer nutrients are stirred up and made available for plankton to consume.
The research also showed changes in how quickly phytoplankton grow.
The scientists traced two forms of carbon
The research involved scientists from several fields. Among them was Valérie Allain of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The scientists took 4,500 samples of muscle from albacore, bigeye and yellowfin tuna over 15 years, from 2000 to 2016, from the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. They found that changes were most pronounced in the Pacific Ocean.
They traced two forms of carbon, carbon-12 and carbon-13. This is possible because each isotope each has a different weight and also behaves slightly differently.
Carbon is found naturally in living things, and in the air, land and water. It is also present in coal and oil, and when these burn, carbon-12 is released into the atmosphere.
More than 90% of atmospheric carbon is absorbed by the oceans. From there, it enters the food chain, being taken up by plankton and passed on to each predator up the chain, until it ends up in tuna, along with other forms of carbon such as carbon-13.
Reporting on their findings in the most recent issue of SPC’s Fisheries Newsletter, Valérie Allain and another researcher, Anne Lorrain, said that the data will be “of inestimable value” in projecting the effects of climate change on the health and quantity of seafood, and in validating modelling. This is because they collected so much data over such a long time and a very large geographical area.
Their research makes much more certain that humans do affect the environments and inhabitants of the open oceans.
It covers the subtropical and tropical waters of the WCPO, and informs users about the best methods for handling and releasing sharks and rays, recommended by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
Many shark and ray species in the WCPO (and elsewhere in the world) are in danger of dying out, and accidental catch during fishing is a major cause of deaths in some species. If these species are to be saved, scientists and fisheries managers need accurate figures on how many are being caught. And that means being able to identify them reliably.
SPC says that, as well as helping fishers, it also helps observers, who collect operational data from fishing and report back to fisheries managers, who use the information to manage not just tuna fishing but the care of the marine environments that tuna rely on to remain healthy.
To make identification at sea easier, the illustrations show the most important distinguishing features of each species, and its colour when alive.
Identification will also be made easier by the inclusion of the common name for each animal in six languages: Cantonese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and Spanish.
The manual is written by Timothy Park, Lindsay Marshall, Aymeric Desurmont, Boris Colas and Neville Smith, and illustrated by shark and ray illustrator Dr Lindsay Gutteridge, who is also a scientist.
The new manual refines an older guide that defines 30 species of sharks and rays.
A fisheries information management system, touted as a key element for Pacific islands to control the tuna fishery, has been purchased by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).
Developed by Quick Access Computing of Australia, initially in collaboration with the National Fisheries Authority in Papua New Guinea, the Integrated Fisheries Information Management System (iFIMS) has become the tool used by all members of the PNA to manage the multi-billion dollar skipjack tuna fishery in the western and central Pacific.
PNA leaders had been debating purchasing the system to own it outright for the past two years. PNA ministers at a meeting in September approved the plan to purchase the system, which reportedly has a price tag over $US10 million.
PNA recently established a new company in the Marshall Islands, FIMS Inc, to manage the system, said FIMS board chair Mathew Chigiyal, who works for the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority in the Federated States of Micronesia.
The change in ownership of the fisheries information management system will not affect fisheries departments, industry and other existing users, who would continue receiving services as valued clients, said Mr Chigiyal.
The iFIMS system was described last year as a “game-changer” by PNA chief executive Ludwig Kumoru.
“We are able to control and manage our fishery because we now control the information through iFIMS,” he said.
For decades, Pacific Island fisheries officials were “driving blind” for lack of information on the commercial tuna fishery they were mandated to manage.
Catch data, vessel locations, transshipment activity, use of fish aggregating devices – this and more was controlled by fishing nations, with little information available to inform management decisions by island fisheries departments about their resources.
The development of iFIMS, however, revolutionised management of the tuna fishery by PNA. The system was initially developed by Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority (NFA). It now contains sections for data for the NFA, PNA, fishing industry and flag states that have oversight of fishing fleets.
“This is the world’s first information platform that integrates fisheries management, compliance and marketing,” said NFA vessel monitoring system manager David Karis, who developed the web-based platform.
Prior to electronic reporting, it could take three to four months for daily catch logs filled out by purse seine vessel captains to arrive to fisheries managers in the region.
“Now, through iFIMS, we have this information in real time,” said Mr Karis.
“About 240 purse seiners are reporting real time catch data daily.”
Majuro – Despite millions of pounds of tuna transhipped through Pacific island ports, nobody has a precise count of the tonnage.
The entire system for both industry and island fisheries managers revolves around estimates of the tonnage – a deficiency the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) is attempting to remedy.
“Knowing how much fish a purse seiner really caught is not an easy task, not for industry or for the authorities,” said Francisco Blaha, the Offshore Fisheries Adviser at MIMRA in Majuro.
“Traditional scales don’t work on board, and getting fish into low temperatures as soon as possible is fundamental for food safety and quality particularly when you have a big set of over 100 tons in the water.”
As a result, tuna boat captains and fisheries observers work on estimates. “While they are very good, it is still an estimate,” said Mr Blaha. “Only once the fish is unloaded for ‘weigh in’, generally at the cannery, or sometimes before containerisation do we get to know the real verified weights.”
But, he added, this often happens months after the tuna is caught, and the catch tonnage data may never actually be seen by the island fisheries managers.
Mr Blaha, an experienced commercial fisher whose position in Majuro is supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said this has negative implications for stock assessments and fisheries assessments, but also financial impacts for the fishing crew.
Gaining accurate weights is good for everyone since “weights are fundamental and benefit all sorts of fisheries decision making”, said Mr Blaha, who ticked off those interested in catch weights: crew and skipper who are paid partly based on the volume of fish caught; vessel managers who deal with profitability and insurance issues; carrier vessels that deliver the tuna to canneries; and scientists and regulators who generate stock assessments and advice about allowable catch levels. “Quite simply, the more accurate the data, the better decision making,” he said.
Majuro is currently the busiest tuna transhipment port in the world, with over 400 purse seiners annually transshipping about 300,000 tons of tuna. The process of transferring between 800 and 1,700 metric tons of fish from purse seiner to carrier vessel can take up to a week and involves putting the frozen fish in nets and hoisting them into the carrier from the deck of the purse seiner.
MIMRA science and boarding officers saw transhipment operations as an excellent opportunity to verify the weights caught by purse seiners by weighing each the of the nets with frozen fish as they are transshipped using hanging scales attached to the hooks of the cranes used during the operation.
MIMRA gained support from the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and Pacific Community (SPC) to research the feasibility of the concept and to evaluate what type of hanging crane scales will do the job best.
Last month, MIMRA started what is believed to be a world-first research program to determine the best system for weighing fish coming off a purse seiner to a carrier vessel. A team composed of FFA, SPC and MIMRA people launched the testing of four different types of remotely operated electronic crane scales during the transshipment of a Marshall Islands flagged tuna vessel.
Mr Blaha said they evaluated each model against attributes such as precision, robustness and ease of use, battery performance, recyclability, and price and connectivity.
“The results will benefit not only the Marshall Islands but the whole region as there is transshipment activity in Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands,” said Mr Blaha.
The work is expected to continue in 2020 with the general aim of standardizing the use of crane scales for monitoring the weights of all tuna transhipped in the region. It has additional benefit for management and data acquisition for port monitoring operations, he said.
(Tuna Pacific): There is no doubt that the Pacific’s ocean needs to be better managed so
that respective countries in the region can gain the maximum benefits.
This is something the Government of
Tonga believes should be done urgently.
Almost everyone believes activities being carried out in Tonga’s waters, including the tuna industry here, have not raked in the maximum that the kingdom should be getting in terms of income and earnings.
Locals are of the thinking that overseas companies and operators are taking advantage of the lack of monitoring and policing – making money and taking that away overseas, without any contribution to the local economy.
“There is no doubt that a lot of activities have been happening in our ocean, throughout our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and we are not getting the full advantage we should be getting,” said Mr Paula Ma’u, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Meteorology, Environment, Information, Disaster Management, Energy, Climate Change and Communication (MEIDECC).
“This includes the tuna industry and fisheries in general. And we have decided that we needed to look into how best we can better manage our marine resources and activities so that we gain the benefits we should be getting.
“That saw the birth of the Tonga
Ocean 7, which is the name we have given our team tasked with putting together
the Tonga Ocean Plan.”
The Tonga Ocean 7 is made up of government ministries and departments that have come together with the common interest of ensuring that Tonga’s ocean and its resources are managed for a sustainable future.
They include the Ministry of MEIDECC, Ministry of Lands and Survey, Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Tourism, the Marine Department, the Ports Authority of Tonga, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
How will the Tonga Ocean Plan help the tuna industry?
The tuna industry in Tonga has faced
its fair share of ups and lows over the last 30 years.
Tuna fisheries have been identified as one of Tonga’s most important natural resources.
Former Minister for Fisheries Hon. Semisi Fakahau stated in the ‘Tonga National Tuna Fishery and Management Plan’ (2018–2022) that in recent years Tonga had experienced challenging times with the domestic longline operations.
“The rising fuel prices, low albacore prices, low catch rates, and economic pressures create a very difficult environment for domestic operators to remain viable, even with technical and policy support and advice from government,” he stated.
“That said, progress in developing
tuna resources for the benefit of the people of Tonga is vital.”
Hon. Fakahau said then that Tonga was working to “fulfil our national and international obligations and to further provide for the sustainable development and management of our domestic tuna fishery”.
In reality, there have been more lows than highs, especially in terms of the local industry’s survival.
Fisheries Chief Executive Officer Dr Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi said there needs to be a review of how Tonga has been managing its tuna resources and the general fisheries practices.
“We believe the Tonga Ocean Plan will
help in managing our ocean and its resources,” Dr Halafihi said.
“Records show that we are losing out with our fisheries, and there are possible declines in our fish population generally.
“In the past 15 years or so, we started implementing the Marine Protected Area and Special Management Areas projects, which were aimed at sustaining fisheries and marine resources around our country, in areas that we identified were critical to implementing these in.
“The Tonga Ocean Plan includes all
that has been done and looks at how better we can manage everything, including
income and what we are losing out on financially.”
Dr Halafihi, and the Fisheries Ministry, is a critical partner in the process that is currently being followed.
So critical that he is one of the three chief executive officers who are joint chairs of the Tonga Ocean 7.
The other two are Mr Ma’u of the Ministry of MEIDECC and Ms Rosamond Bing of the Ministry of Lands and Survey.
Mr Ma’ said the importance of the Tonga Ocean Plan cannot be overemphasised.
“The plan is critical for us as we really need to ensure that we are able to manage what we have and sustain that for the future generations,” he said.
Pointing to the tuna industry and the challenges it faces, Mr Ma’u said ensuring that areas where the tuna population thrive need to be protected.
The process to develop the plan
With funding from the Italian
Government, Waitt Institute, Ocean5 plus technical support from the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Vava’u
Environment Protection Agency (VEPA), the Tonga Ocean 7 team commissioned a
national consultation in 2018.
That consultation focused on what is currently being done in Tonga’s ocean and sea area, what will happen if we continue with the current trend, what the pros and cons are, what people believe should be done, and the benefits of having the Tonga Ocean Plan.
Starting in Ha’apai in October 2019, the consultation team then visited Vava’u, NIuatoputapu, Niuafo’ou, ‘Eua and then made the round the island consultation on Tongatapu.
Consultation team member and former
Fisheries Director Dr Vailala Matoto said they were surprised with the feedback
and responses from members of the public.
Respondents included men, women and youths from the different villages, tourism operators on the different islands, local fishermen and women, ship operators, and tuna industry players.
“There was general consensus that
there needs to be a change in how we are doing things and managing our
resources,” Dr Vailala said.
“The idea of the Tonga Ocean Plan was
unanimously endorsed at all the consultation meetings held, which was very
“The responses, suggestions and
reports were then given to the legal drafting team, headed by Ms Rosamond Bing,
who were tasked with drafting the legislations.”
The drafting team worked with all
stakeholders, especially members of the government legal fraternity, in
drafting the legislation.
Dr Vailala said that legislation will
now be taken to the communities for the second round of consultation this year.
Tonga intends to implement the ocean plan by the end of this year.
That plan will manage all activities
carried out within Tonga’s EEZ.
And there is optimism in that that there are better days are ahead.
“We are already seeing the results
from the SMAs and MPAs around the country,” MEIDECC’s Mr Ma’u said.
“There is a bright future ahead if we
are serious and act on what is now being planned.”
Dr Halafihi supported that comment and added that Tonga’s tuna fisheries should be in a better shape moving forward.
“We are positive,” he added.
That is the feeling around the kingdom right now as people anticipate the finalisation of the Tonga Ocean Plan and its implementation – aimed at sustaining Tonga’s tuna fisheries and marine resources for years to come!
Bigeye, yellowfin, South Pacific albacore, and skipjack tuna are all reported to be in healthy condition, according to a 2018 stock assessment announced this week during the 16th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
The stock-assessment report of the Pacific Community (SPC) stated that the estimate of the total tuna catch in the WCPFC Convention Area for 2018 is 2,790,859 metric tons (MT), which represents 81% of the total Pacific Ocean catch of 3,443,174 MT, and 54% of the global tuna catch, which was 5,172,543 MT.
According to SPC’s overview of the tuna fisheries paper, the total estimated value of the tuna catch in the convention area increased by 1% to US$6.01 billion (€5.47 billion) in 2018.
The value of the purse-seine catch is US$3.26 billion (€2.9 billion), accounting for 54% of the total value of the tuna catch. The value of the longline fishery increased 16% to US$1.72 billion (€1.5 billion), accounting for 29% of the total value of the tuna catch.
WCPFC Executive Director Feleti Teo said, in his opening statement at the meeting on 5 December, that the region has high levels of tuna production. He said the region’s key commercial tuna stocks of bigeye, skipjack, albacore, and yellowfin were “assessed to have been managed and maintained above agreed sustainable levels”.
Teo added that, compared to other ocean regions, the tuna stocks in the region are not overfished.
Graham Pilling, director of the Oceanic Fisheries Program at the Pacific Community, added in a media release that conservation measures have contributed to the sustainability of the Pacific tuna stock.
“The healthy status of WCPO tuna stocks is attributed to the management of the fishery through the WCPFC process and its members, including the key roles played by the Pacific island member-countries and subregional fisheries agencies including the Fisheries Forum Agency [FFA] and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement [PNA],” Pilling said.
Despite the positive assessment, Teo said that the tuna commission should continue with its collective conservation efforts and not “to be complacent and to be less vigilant”.
But the Pacific Community also pointed out that there are still challenges such as the state of certain Western Central Pacific Ocean billfish and shark stocks that need to be addressed by the Commission. It said they are in need of urgent attention.
Economic impacts resulting from the recent decline in the price of skipjack tuna also poses a challenge in the region. Skipjack prices have fallen below US$1,000 (€900) per MT for the first time in a number of years.
But the WCPFC is developing and implementing harvest strategies for key tuna stocks to address the challenges, WCPFC Chair Jung-re Riley Kim said.
“I am very grateful to SPC for their significant contribution to providing science and data inputs into the important harvest strategy work of the commission, and their innovative efforts and initiatives to engage with cooperating members, cooperating non-members and participating territories, and contribute to building their capacity in terms of harvest strategy,” Kim said in a release.
conservation management measures (CMM) endorsed on the non-target species of mobulid rays and sharks
FFA summarises WCPFC16 outcomes for Pacific priorities
When Ms Jung-re Riley Kim, the Chair of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), officially closed its 16th annual meeting on Wednesday, Pacific officials finally relaxed and allowed themselves muted celebrations for a job well done.
Praise for major decisions made by WCPFC16
The Chair of the Pacific’s Forum Fisheries Committee, Mr Eugene Pangelinan, told regional journalists at the final media conference, “This is a very successful WCPFC16, and wonderful hosting by the people and government of Papua New Guinea and the National Fisheries Agency.”
“There’s been some very good outcomes, and the first one is the adoption of the climate-change resolution. From the FFA members’ perspective, that is one of the key priorities we wanted to get out of this meeting, given that one of the things our ministers tasked us to advocate for at the WCPFC was to address climate-change issues in relation to fisheries.”
He said another great outcome was the continuation of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS) for the next two years.
“The compliance scheme ensures members are held accountable to their obligations and goes a long way to ensuring sustainable fisheries management for the region,” Mr Pangelinan said.
Mr Bubba Cook of the World Wildlife Fund paid tribute to Pacific leadership at the meeting.
He said that the climate resolution “demonstrates that in two consecutive years we have seen a measure that’s been passed – crew welfare in 2018 and now climate change – that is reflective of the leadership in the Pacific island members. The [show a] willingness to take on the tough and challenging issues and provide solutions to those issues, so we are very encouraged by that motivation.”
The Director-General for FFA, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, added and re-emphasised the importance of the climate decision. She pointed out its valuable role as a “starting point to increase the focus of the Commission in this critical space so we look forward to that active work in this area with all Commission members”.
She acknowledged the work by Pacific countries as well as other Commission members, “underlining that no one achieves anything alone. Our members have worked really hard including with all Commission members to get to the point we’re at tonight.”
Dr Tupou-Roosen also highlighted positive outcomes for other species that get caught up indirectly as fishers chase the tuna harvest.
But some FFA priorities did not progress as well as hoped
But there were also a number of priority issues that did not progress as well as they should.
Mr Pangelinan said, “We were not able to agree on how we are going to proceed with the discussions in terms of the high-seas allocations. That’s something that has been somewhat watered down and now we are going to tackle it at the next WCPFC meeting.”
Mr Glen Holmes, international fisheries officer with Pew Charitable Trusts, praised the success of the rays CMM, but said that work on harvest strategies didn’t go far enough.
“We are very happy with the adoption of the mantas CMM. We think that was a big win for the Commission,” he said.
“But I think there was a very big missed opportunity for the Commission to establish a dedicated meeting for scientists and managers to meet to discuss the issues around harvest-management strategies to further progress that part of the Commission that will lead to a more sustainable management of the stocks into the future.”
Mr Bubba Cook expanded on perceived missed opportunities.
“We think there was some significant progress around a number of issues at the meeting, specifically around harvest-strategy development, but we also remain concerned that some of the measures were not quite as robust as they could have been, particularly for the sharks CMM.
“We have one of the most endangered stock of sharks here in the Pacific with the oceanic whitetip and there were a couple of provisions that would have gone a long way to help with sharks and ensure the long-term sustainability of those stocks. But at the same time there was a great amount of effort that went into the CMM for sharks and it reflects a lot of willingness to compromise around the table, and I certainly would like to acknowledge that as well.
“The manta and mobulid [rays] CMM was also a big step and we are certainly happy to see that move forward.”
Although there was no movement in the skipjack target reference point (TRP) negotiations that are important to members to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), there was no harm done, according to Chief Executive Officer for the PNA Office, Mr Ludwig Kumoru.
“Overall, we are happy with the outcome of this Commission meeting,” Mr Kumoru said.
“Our major objective was on the TRP. It may be seen as a push back, but for PNA it is still acceptable, we still have time to work on it. I think if we rushed it and got to a decision where we wouldn’t be comfortable then we would be in a very difficult position. So, we are comfortable with the outcome. The stock is not in the red; it is in the green we can still buy some time and look at ways to address it.”
Looking to the future
In summing up, Mr Pangelinan said, “The Commission has done very well in discussions about future tools that the Commission wants to use to improve monitoring. And two of those are electronic reporting and electronic monitoring. From the FFA perspective, these are important tools that will help fill the gaps in the data from fishing on the high seas in particular and the longline operations.
“So that is something that we also want to highlight: that adopting/agreeing to the objectives here, was a big step to progress the work of the Commission.”
FFA summary of WCPFC outcomes on Pacific priorities
Climate-change resolution – resolution adopted
WCPFC adopted a resolution on climate change based on the draft that was put forward by FFA members at the start of the meeting. This was a significant milestone for the Commission and a great success for FFA Members. The resolution responds to the call from Pacific Islands Forum leaders for increased attention, including in scientific research, to be placed on the impacts of climate change on the region’s highly migratory tuna stocks.
The non-binding resolution also looks at the links between fishing activity and climate change, and for the Commission to consider options to reduce the environmental impacts related to headquarters operations and meetings.
FFA members’ proposal to reform the WCPFC Compliance Monitoring Scheme was one of the hardest issues discussed at WCPFC16.
Cook Islands led the charge for FFA members and, after extensive negotiations, agreement was reached on the last day to a revised measure which focuses compliance monitoring on the implementation of measures by members rather than delving into the detail of individual cases involving fishing vessels that are the better dealt with through other mechanisms.
This was a significant achievement for FFA members, and should see the WCPFC compliance-monitoring process remain the strongest of all the tuna regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). The measure agreed to applies for two years, giving time for additional work to take place on additional elements of the scheme including a refinement of audit points and the development of a risk-based framework.
South Pacific albacore – clear direction for roadmap in 2020
There were two informal meetings, chaired by Fiji, of the small working group to discuss the way forward for South Pacific albacore tuna.
The terms of reference and the work plan for the South Pacific albacore roadmap process were progressed, with a focus on rebuilding stock so that catch rates improve. This will assist in improving the economic viability of the fishery.
The roadmap group will hold two face-to-face meetings in 2020, in the margins of the Scientific Committee meeting in August and the Technical and Compliance Committee meeting in September. This should ensure good progress is made before the Commission considers a revised measure in December 2020.
High-seas limits and allocation – two extra days for WCPFC17
While there was general agreement to the proposal from FFA for the WCPFC to hold a two-day workshop to discuss high-seas limits and a framework for allocating those limits, agreement could not be reached on the terms of reference for a workshop. This highlighted how difficult it is going to be reach agreement on allocation within the Commission, especially since allocation decisions can only be taken by consensus. In the end, WCPFC16 agreed to extend the next annual meeting by two days so that time could be devoted to this issue.
Transhipment – slow progress in the intercessional working group
The Transhipment Intersessional Working Group (IWG), co-chaired by RMI and US, made some good progress, but further work remains to finalise the scope of work for a study to identify weaknesses in the existing measure.
A small number of fishing nations remained concerned about the information that would be made available to conduct the study, and this has unfortunately delayed the process. The IWG will continue its work electronically, with the aim of finalising the scope of work as soon as possible.
Mobulid rays conservation and management measure – new measure adopted
FFA members proposed the draft conservation and management measure (CMM) for mobulid rays (such as manta rays), and this was adopted by the Commission following constructive engagement by Commission members. The measure will come into effect in 2021, to allow Commission members time to promulgate the measure with their fishing industries.
Consolidated sharks CMM
After two years of lengthy negotiations, chaired by Japan, a comprehensive measure on sharks was finally agreed. The new measure rationalises and streamlines reporting that was previously spread across a number of different CMMs. There was also some strengthening of the standards around requirements that fins remain naturally attached to shark carcasses with simplification of alternative measures to ensure that they can be monitored and enforced.
PORT MORESBY – The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) took a major step in helping to protect “threatened” manta and other mobula rays on the final day of its annual meeting on Wednesday.
It adopted a resolution that requires fishers to immediately release any manta rays caught accidentally as “bycatch”.
An international fisheries officer of Pew Charitable Trusts, Glen Holmes, said the increased protection was one of the positive outcomes of the WCPFC meeting, which was held in Port Moresby.
Mr Holmes said the action is considered a “big win” from the commission meeting.
“WCPFC agreed to increase protections for threatened manta and mobula rays by banning purse-seine and longline vessels from keeping any caught in their nets and hooks. This is a positive step and helps remove the incentive for fishers to capture and keep these imperilled species,” Mr Holmes said.
Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members were the proponents of the proposal for a new measure to prevent targeted fishing and retention of mobulid rays, and to promote their safe release, when they are caught in WCPFC convention area fisheries.
FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said that the protection of rays is one of the “excellent” outcomes of the WCPFC meeting.
To many island nations such as Palau and FSM, manta-ray watching is a big tourism draw. There is also global plea to protect rays, which not only get tangled in nets and fishing lines but are also targeted for their meat and gill plates.
Under the measure, purse seiners are required to release rays while they are still swimming freely, with rays that are too large to be lifted safely by hand to be brailed out of the net and released using a purpose-built large-mesh cargo net, or canvas sling or similar device.
Purse seiners and longliners are also banned from dragging, carrying, lifting or pulling a ray by its “cephalic lobes” or tail or by inserting hooks or hands.
Bubba Cook, the head of WWF’s delegation to the WCPFC16, said WWF was happy to see that the manta rays measure move forward.