PORT MORESBY – The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is taking a step towards prioritising climate-change considerations in its policy.
It has adopted a Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) resolution to consider impacts of climate change on tuna stocks, food security and livelihoods.
The resolution was adopted on the final day of the annual Tuna Commission meeting.
Under the resolution, the Commission will consider climate change when developing conservation and management measures (CMMs), and support more investigation of the issue by the organisation’s scientists.
The Director-General of the FFA, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said it established a “solid foundation for a more urgent approach to the threat of climate change”.
Although the resolution is not binding, she said the Tuna Commission acknowledged that climate change would impact fisheries.
FFA chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan said the adoption of the resolution by the Commission sent a “powerful message globally that it is stepping up to the challenge”.
Pacific fisheries officials are calling on the members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to band together and commit to a climate action plan during the commission’s 16th annual meeting.
Any plan needs to take into account the impact of climate change on fish stocks.
In a statement ahead of the week-long Tuna Commission meeting here in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, the 17-member Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) is “therefore calling on the WCPFC to collectively take stronger action on climate change”.
FFA introduced a resolution at the WCPFC urging the commission to:
Fully recognise the impacts of climate change, in particular on the fisheries, food security and livelihoods of small island developing states (SIDS) and territories.
Take into account in its deliberations, including in the development of conservation and management measures, the impacts of climate change on target stocks, non-target species, and species belonging to the same ecosystem or dependent on or associated with the target stocks.
Estimate the carbon footprint of fishing and related activities in the Convention Area for fish stocks managed by the Commission, and develop appropriate measures to reduce such footprint.
Develop options such as carbon offsets to decrease the collective carbon footprint of CCMs and the WCPFC Secretariat associated with meetings of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies.
Tuvalu Minister of Fisheries and Trade Mr Minute Alapati Taupo told Pacific journalists that although climate change was not a problem that his nation had caused, the impacts of climate change would fall on the Pacific, and would threaten the benefits of the region’s tuna fisheries.
“Climate change is not a problem that Tuvalu has caused – but we are going to suffer the effects,” Mr Taupo said.
Pacific Community (SPC) fisheries scientist Dr Graham Pilling said climate modelling shows that, as the climate warms, tuna will move to the east and while some Pacific island nations may benefit from the movement, the others will see a reduction in the fish.
He said it further indicates that fish “will move to the high seas and the overall amount of fish will reduce”.
Dr Pilling said that the major impacts of climate change “are predicted to occur after 2050, with some signs before that time”.
FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said climate change is an important issue that the Pacific islands face at the moment and into the future.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and the impact on Pacific Island countries is particularly threatening, given that tuna fisheries provide significant economic, social and cultural benefits,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said in a statement flagging FFA’s concerns before WCPFC16.
Tuna fishing brings in multiple billions of dollars in revenue for the Pacific island nations. According to the SPC policy brief, tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) averaged 2.7 million tonnes a year between 2014 and 2018, with harvests from the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the Pacific nations representing 58% of this catch.
According to FFA, in 2018 the value of the provisional total tuna catch was US$6.01 billion (AU$8.92 billion, €5.41 billion), which was marginally higher than for 2017 and the highest since 2013.
Donald Trump poses with the presidents of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States. Photo by US Department of Interior.
The United States, Palau, the Republic of the
Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia have made commitments
to work together to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).
In a historic meeting with US President Donald
Trump on May 21st, Presidents of the Marshall Islands,
Hilda Heine, FSM ‘s David Panuelo and Palau’s Tommy Remengesau Jr., the four
nations agreed that one of the region’s most pressing issue is IUU.
In a joint statement following the meeting the leaders stated, “we
resolve to continue develop joint initiatives, both bilaterally and through
multilateral forums, such as the Pacific Islands Forum, to tackle the region’s
most pressing issues, including responding to natural disasters; combating
illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; advancing economic development;
strengthening the rule of law; and supporting the resiliency of the Pacific
President Heine said during the talks in Washington that her country deals
with illegal ship entries, supposedly for fishing all
Aa press briefing by US administration
officials on May 20 said illegal fishing is one of the security concerns in the
“President Trump is really looking forward to
discussing our shared security concerns, and that includes things like
countering illegal and unregulated and underreported fishing; it includes
addressing transnational crime and trafficking; and of course, the protection
of all the nation’s sovereignty as part of the free and open Indo-Pacific,” the
officials told reporters.
Although the joint statement between Trump and
the FAS leaders did not mention climate change, officials said that the US will
be assisting all the Pacific Island nations in strengthening their resilience
against natural disasters, rising sea levels, soil erosion, invasive species,
US Acting Secretary of Defence, Patrick
Shanahan, in his meeting with the leaders reiterated the United States
commitment to “working with you to address common security challenges such as illegal,
unreported and unregulated fishing.”
A report on the impact of IUU fishing prepared for the Forum
Fisheries Agency in 2016 catch associated with illegal fishing is valued
over $US600 million annually, with the direct economic loss to FFA members of
around US$150 million.
Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO Ludwig Kumoru
last year said eliminating IUU fishing is a core part of the fisheries
“Working together to eliminate IUU will enhance
sustainable and economically viable fisheries for the benefit of everyone,” he
The FFA and PNA are calling for the support of Distant Water
Fishing Nations (DWFNs), to eliminate IUU fishing.
“We want them on board and to understand this is a collective
effort of the FFA and PNA to implement a best practice strategy to effectively
track and hold offenders accountable,” said Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director
General of the FFA.
In February this year, Micronesian nations that
include Palau, RMI and FSM committed to uniting to combat illegal, unreported,
and unregulated fishing (IUU) in the Pacific by 2023. in the Pacific.
At the 19th Micronesia Presidents’ Summit on 21 February, Palau, Kiribati, the
Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Nauru signed a communique supporting
an IUU Free Pacific by 2023 – a challenge was set up by RMI.
“It is important to build on the momentum we have at the
national and regional level to combat IUU and to give it a goal or a target if
you will. Imagine an IUU Free Pacific by 2023,” RMI President Hilda Heine said
during the summit in Palau.
Nauru – 05 September, 2018 – Today, the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and The University of the South Pacific (USP) signed a landmark agreement with the European Union to help promote sustainable management and sound ocean governance in the Pacific Region.
The Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership Programme addresses some of the most serious challenges faced by the region. Among these are the increasing depletion of coastal fisheries resources; the threats to marine biodiversity, including negative impacts of climate change and disasters; the uneven contribution of oceanic fisheries to national economic development; the need for improved education and training in the sector; and the need to mainstream a rights-based approach and to promote greater recognition of gender issues within the sector.
This 5-year programme is funded by the European Union (EUR 35 million) with additional targeted support from the government of Sweden (EUR 10 million). The programme provides direct assistance through regional organisations to support regional and national level activities in the Pacific.
The signing of this agreement marks the operational starting point of the implementation of the Programme by FFA, SPC, SPREP and USP. It follows the agreement at the Our Ocean Conference in Malta, signed in October 2017 by the Secretary General of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.
Mr. Jean-Louis Ville, Head of Unit for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific at the European Commission Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development, reaffirmed the role of the European Union as a reliable partner of the Pacific, and said: “Oceans are essential, ensuring food, livelihoods, biodiversity and climate resilience. They are increasingly under threat through unsustainable management practices, accelerated by the negative effects of climate change. So if we do not act today, we compromise all of our tomorrows. Therefore, in our marine partnership with the Pacific, the EU will continue to support every effort to manage the Pacific Ocean more sustainably for local communities and for many generations to come.”
Ms. Åsa Hedén, Head of the Swedish Regional Development Cooperation for Asia and the Pacific. Ocean Governance is a high priority in Sweden´s global agenda to overcome transboundary challenges. “Marine resources are the backbone of the Pacific island countries economy and key to long- term sustainable development in the region. Sweden is pleased to see that this partnership is now ready to start. We believe it has potential to become unique and innovative with its holistic and multi sectorial approach and thereby contributing to social, economic and environmental development in the region. The programme will promote direct opportunities and positive changes for the Pacific island people, targeting women, men, youth and vulnerable groups.”
SPC Director General, Dr. Colin Tukuitonga highlighted how the program aligns with the notion of a ‘Blue Pacific” as identified by Pacific Islands Forum leaders. Dr Tukuitonga noted, “Protecting and strengthening our marine environment is an issue that cuts right to the heart of our region. The health of our oceans has a direct impact on the lives of every person who calls the Pacific their home, and remains an invaluable resource for the entire globe. This Partnership will provide further support to help ensure that, as stewards of the Pacific, our community is able to manage and preserve our ocean resources within a sustainable future”.
The PEUMP Program will focus on several key principles. First, the Programme will support Sound Ocean and coastal governance with a focus on biodiversity protection and sustainable use of fisheries and other marine resources. Second, PEUMP will mainstream human rights and gender equality using a rights-based approach to improve the capacity of communities, men, women and youth, to participate in decision making and to encourage governments to fulfil their obligations around fisheries and coastal management. Third, the Programme will mainstream climate change and environmental issues with due consideration to biodiversity. Fourth, PEUMP will aim to strengthen capacity at regional, national, sub-national and local level with a focus on education, training and research. This will help the next generation of Pacific decision makers and marine resource managers to deliver sustainable management across the sector with increased accountability. Additionally, the Programme will seek to promote equitable benefits for all the PACP countries whilst recognising the diversity of resources, needs and opportunities across the 15 PACP countries.
The PEUMP will facilitate sector policy dialogues, involving civil society organisations and non-state actors, including the private sector, at all levels, thus further contributing to ownership and sustainability beyond the lifetime of the programme.
In the context of the programming directions for International Waters in the GEF, the project makes significant contributions to FFA activities in support of both the blue economy and improving the management of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).
Cooperation in the management of tuna fisheries by Pacific Island countries is a direct application of the principles of the blue economy. This concept aims to promote economic growth, social inclusion, and the preservation and improvement of livelihoods while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability of the oceans. It is closely linked with Sustainable Development Goal 14, specifically 14.4 and 14.7.
The Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) tuna fishery is the largest tuna fishery in the world and the 2.7 million ton annual WCPO tuna catch accounts for sixty percent of global production with sixty percent of this catch coming from the waters of FFA Members. Tuna fisheries are a key resource for all Pacific Island countries – for many the only renewable economic resource. The WCPO is the only tuna fishery on the planet in which all four target stocks are currently rated as sustainably fished with no overfishing occurring.
The Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) is a fisheries management system that establishes rights in the shared fishery for coastal state and has been driven by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a sub-regional grouping of FFA member countries. The consolidation of VDS which allows members to sell the rights to purse seine fishing days in their waters has seen SIDS revenues from the purse seine fishery increase from from 220 million in 2012 to 480 million in 2016, accounting for more than 40% of government revenue in five member SIDS and supporting 25,000 jobs in FFA Member countries in 2017. Of those employed in the processing sector 80% are women.
The Regional Fisheries Surveillance Programme is a unique collaboration between the members of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) to address illegal, unreported and unregistered (IUU) fishing in support of SDG 14.4. A range of regionally agreed systems and tools and best practice technology applications provide a high level of monitoring, control and surveillance and the agency is active in a range of activities supporting IUU mitigation such as the implementation of electronic monitoring and reporting systems on WCPO vessels.
In terms of activities supporting improved management of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), the OFMP2 project supports the annual FFA Management Options Consultation (MOC) meeting in which FFA Members Countries actively participate in WCPFC decision making and includes the improved management of ABNJ. MOC processes have provided the opportunity for supporting the adoption of high seas Special Management Areas and promoting strengthened catch and effort limits on the WCPFC high seas for tropical tuna fisheries, as well as an allocation process that will take account of the WCPFC Convention’s recognition of the special requirements of SIDS.
OFMP2 has also assisted PNA countries to develop the capacity to implement their prohibition on PNA-licenced purse-seiners from fishing in the two western high seas pockets.
Wider FFA promoted and supported measures such as FAD closures, 100% observer coverage in the purse seine fishery and coordinated approaches to high seas boarding and inspection activities also support more effective management of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.
The GEF OFMP II is a key contributor to the success of the blue economy in the WCPO.
This story provides an illustration of how GEF IW projects are already addressing themes in the new GEF IW strategy for the 7th GEF Replenishment. In this case the story highlights how projects can address Objective 1. Strengthening Blue Economy opportunities. In GEF-7, investments will be strengthening nations Blue Economy opportunities, through three areas of strategic action: 1) sustaining healthy coastal and marine ecosystems; 2) catalyzing sustainable fisheries management; and, 3) addressing pollution reduction in marine environments.
Leaders of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) said last week they will seek to move longline vessels fishing in its waters into a management format currently in place for tuna purse-seiners.
Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Director Glen Joseph, who chairs the PNA, which is composed of eight Pacific Island nations that jointly run a zone-based fishery management area, said implementation of a longline vessel day scheme will increase oversight of the fishing industry operating in PNA waters.
“PNA’s management scheme – the VDS – has served us well. We see value in expanding it to longliners,” Joseph said in the PNA’s monthly newsletter. “We recognize it is a different fishery, but it has been left unmanaged for too long.”
The PNA’s VDS for purse-seiners sets a limit on the number of fishing days allowed in the region, requires an independent fisheries observer on board and the collection of detailed catch data, and includes an annual three-month moratorium on the use of fish-aggregating devices (FADs) and in-port transshipment for further monitoring.
Currently, longliners operating in PNA waters are not required to have full observer coverage and do not collect or report adequate data on catch tonnage, bycatch amounts, and transshipment, Joseph said.
“These are the reasons it is urgently needed for the longline industry, particularly on the high seas where there is almost no verification of catches by independent observers or other management systems,” he said.
Joseph said the PNA was beginning the process of seeking support from the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to implement a VDS for the longliners. Joseph added that the PNA has heard interest from other island nations outside of the PNA who are interested in joining the PNA’s longline management scheme. Furthermore, he dismissed the possibility that the PNA would move to flag state fishing rights in the Western and Central Pacific.
“PNA members agree on the principle of zone-based management,” Joseph said. “Flag state rights are not appropriate or effective as a management tool in the western and central Pacific fishery. The VDS is effective in both conservation and economic development.”
Another reason the group is pushing for a longliner VDS is its economic benefit, PNA Chief Executive Officer Ludwig Kumoru said in the newsletter. Revenue to PNA countries has risen from USD 60 million (EUR 50.7 million) to nearly USD 500 million (EUR 422.7 million) in 2016 as a result of implementing the VDS, he said. Secondary economic benefits have included fishery training, the construction of new airports and air routes, wharfs, and fleet service facilities.
“Domestic development of the fishery is a catalyst for economic development,” Kumoru said.
Kumoru added that one of PNA’s primary goals “is to make sure our people are involved in the fishery, not spectators,” and that the group will pursue efforts to increase the capacity of the local fleet.
“If we have an opportunity to exploit our fishery, we’ll do it,” Kumoru said. “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.”
The PNA’s strategy of seeking to grow the domestic commercial tuna fishery may create tensions between the current overseas fleets fishing in PNA waters, “but it’s a matter of survival for the islands,” Joseph said.
“From the increasing revenue, hospitals are being built, roads are being paved, government operations are being funded,” he said. “It’s not about cutting out the distant-water fishing nations. It’s about developing the capacity of our islands to fish our own waters and process the catch.”