Having had nation-wide consultations in 2018 and 2019, the Tonga Ocean 7 team had hoped to finalise the plan in 2020.
But COVID-19 forced the delay as the Tongan government focused on keeping the kingdom free of the virus.
Environment Chief Executive Officer Paula Ma’u said the delay had given the team more time to review the plan and ensure everything was in place before it was submitted to cabinet.
Working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Waitt Institute and the Italian Ministry of Environment, the Tonga Ocean 7 team has been able to finalise finer details of the plan.
These include different maps showing zones that have been marked for specific activities such as the special management areas (SMAs), marine protected areas (MPAs) and no-take zones.
Included in the zoning as well are areas marked for tuna fisheries, tourism activities and special marine parks.
“These are important parts of the plan, which will become the ocean management plan once that is approved and then gazetted,” Mr Ma’u said.
Plan critical for protecting marine resources
The plan is critical for Tonga, especially in the face of losing marine resources for various reasons, including over-use and climate change.
Mr Ma’u is one of the three government chief executive officers who chair the Tonga Ocean 7 management committee.
The others are Dr Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi, of the Fisheries Ministry, and Ms Rosamond Bing, of the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources.
A challenge to manage the fisheries for all
Dr Halafihi said his ministry had been in the forefront of finding solutions to Tonga’s fisheries problems, which included tuna fisheries.
Tuna fishing within the Tongan exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has been dominated by longlining since the 1950s.
He said tuna in the Tonga EEZ were fished mainly by the distant-water longline fleets of Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Before 2004, the longline fleet consisted of around 15–25 local and locally based foreign vessels. Following a moratorium on foreign fishing in 2004, the size of the fleet declined, and by the end of 2011 consisted of only 3 vessels.
Dr Halafihi said foreign tuna longliners had been allowed to fish in Tongan waters since 2011 as part of Tonga’s program to increase tuna fisheries production.
In 2014, 19 foreign-flagged longline vessels had valid licences to fish in Tongan waters. The vessels were from Chinese Taipei (14 longliners), China (3), and Fiji (2). Thirteen of those vessels were less than 100 gross registered tonnes (GRT), with one being larger than 200 GRT.
In the same year, the catch for the Tongan longline fleet was about 61% yellowfin, 8% albacore, and 7% bigeye. In previous years, albacore was targeted but the focus switched to the higher-value yellowfin and bigeye tuna for fresh fish export markets. Dolphin was presently the most common non-target species.
With this scenario in place, the Fisheries Ministry had worked tirelessly with the Tonga Ocean 7 team to ensure that the Ocean Plan was finalised and gazetted for use.
“This is going to be a comprehensive management plan,” Dr Halafihi said.
While the tuna fisheries are a major focus, communities around Tonga have also raised their concerns on what they believe is best for the country.
Some have asked that special areas be marked off so that they can fish and earn income from their own fisheries activities.
Others have voiced concern that “others” from outside their communities are accessing their fishing areas.
“So there has been a lot of give and take to make sure that everyone is on the same page,” Dr Halafihi said.
Policing the Ocean Plan the biggest challenge
Once the plan is gazetted and in use, the bigger challenge would be policing the legislation.
“That is going to be a major challenge,” Mr Ma’u said.
Part of the work so far has been looking at the legal aspects of the draft plan and getting experts also to work on how it will be monitored and policed.
That is why the Tonga Ocean 7 has worked with communities, civil societies, the private sector, government departments and the fisheries industry across the country.
“We will need everyone working on this together if it is going to be successful,” Mr Ma’u said.
The plan is expected to go to cabinet by mid-year and to be in place by the end of 2021.
HONIARA – The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has revealed that some fish species will likely vanish as a result of overfishing in waters near Gizo, the capital of Western Province of Solomon Islands.
Gizo has faced many life-threatening challenges and now it faces a bigger challenge in the fishing industry – an industry that was once rich in marine resources.
WWF Gizo officers carried out a study in 2020, looking at the top 10 species fishers target.
Their results show that some fish species decreased in a matter of weeks. Dafisha Aleziru, a fisheries officer for WWF, said this was a serious concern for the province and the fishing communities that relied on selling fish for survival.
“The study was done by measuring the maturity size, the spawning size of fish, and the minimum size limit of fish that are eligible to be caught,” Ms Aleziru said.
“The results we compiled have depicted that there are some species which need immediate attention. We have advised fishermen in and around Gizo to refrain from harvesting them in their hotspots.”
The researchers discovered that fishing has changed the size of fish all year round, because people rely every day on the sea for their daily needs. This means that fishing is changing the size of fish in terms of population, growth and environmental changes.
“Overfishing can be fatal to all fish types and stocks. When fish is overharvested, the wider food web will also be affected. On healthy reefs, algae are usually low from the grazing of some herbivores such the surgeonfish and the parrot fish, but when these fish disappear there will be no proper balance in the coral reef ecosystem, and seaweed-like algae (called macroalgae) can grow free, eventually suffocating reefs,” Ms Aleziru said.
“This is what’s happening now is Gizo and the surrounding islands.”
She said they had found that two of the popular fish species would disappear soon.
“The data collected shows that species like Acanthurus lineatus, [a surgeonfish] known locally as bebera, seki, berava or quere, and the Lethrinus olivaccus, which is locally known as long nose, misu, mihu or miu mola, are under huge threat locally,” she said.
According to the research findings, these two types of fish no longer reach maturity before they are harvested. The bebera begins to spawn at a length of about 17.5 cm, and is allowed be harvested once it reaches 20 cm. The long nose begins to spawn at about 46 cm and may be caught once it is 50 cm long.
She said the results showed clearly that the area had been heavily overfished over the years, with indiscriminate fishing methods used. The rising impacts of climate change were also contributing to the loss of fish. The scientific data they had collected proved that these species were in great danger.
“The destruction of the marine ecosystem has heavily contributed to the low fish population and, even worse, people tend to dive for fish, which has directly affected the growth of the fish population,” Ms Aleziru added.
Piokera Holland, a conservation officer for WWF Gizo, said: “The size of maturity for these fish to be harvested is 20 cm or 50 cm, but now you will find that most of the fish at the market are less than the actual maturity size.”
He said that the Gizo area would lose the species “very soon” from lack of conservation knowledge in the local communities.
Based on the findings of the scientific study, most of the communities had no knowledge of conservation management. Therefore, the WWF has begun to work closely with four communities in Saeragi, Simbo and Kolombangara to provide support through community-based resource management, in the hope that the two species can be saved and others protected from threat.
Apart from the WWF assistance, help may also come from the Western Province Network for Sustainable Environment (WPNSE), a network of non-government organisations operating in the province along with the provincial government’s fisheries office, to monitor the flow of a sustainable environment both Inland and Ocean.
In response to the outcome of the WWF study, WPNSE said it “will collaborate to address the issue in due time. The association will try as much as possible to not replicate the work of our members, but will meet to let each other know what they doing on a particular area.”
In light of the worrying findings from the study, the association is urging the provincial government’s fisheries office to take the lead before it is too late for the endangered species.
“We will be requesting the provincial government to put an action to the issue which the people and the marine ecosystem of Gizo are now facing,” a WPNSE statement said.
As with many other aspects of government policy, overfishing and other fishing-related environmental issues are a real problem, but it’s not clear that government intervention is the solution. Indeed, it might be one of the main drivers of overfishing and other conservation and sustainability issues stemming from commercial fishing. Much like drone fishing, there are serious ethical issues of interest to the average angler.
There’s another commonality that overfishing has with environmental issues more broadly: The Western companies primarily concerned with serious efforts to curb overfishing are not the ones who are most guilty of overfishing. What this means is that the costs of overfishing are disproportionately borne by the countries least engaged in practices that are counter to efforts to make commercial fishing more sustainable while also promoting conservation of fish biodiversity.
All of these are important issues not just for commercial fishermen [sic], but also those interested in questions of conservation and sustainability in general, as well as recreational fisherman and basically anyone who uses fish as a food source.
As the ocean goes, so goes the planet, so it is of paramount importance for everyone to educate themselves on what is driving overfishing, what its consequences are and what meaningful steps — not simply theatre to feel as if “something is being done” — can be taken.
Indeed, over three billion people around the world rely on fish as their primary source of protein. About 12% of the world relies upon fisheries in some form or another, with 90% of these being small-scale fishermen: think a small crew in a boat, not a ship, using small nets or even rods and reels and lures not too different from the kind you probably use.
There are 18.9 million fishermen in the world, with 90% of them falling under the same small-scale fisherman rubric discussed above.
Overfishing definition: What is overfishing?
First, take heart: as a recreational fisherman, you are almost certainly not guilty of “overfishing”. This is an issue for commercial fishermen in the fishing industry who are trawling the ocean depths with massive nets to catch enough fish to make a living for themselves and their families, not the angler who enjoys a little peace and quiet on the weekends.
Overfishing is, in some sense, a rational reaction to increasing market needs for fish. Most people consume approximately twice as much food as they did 50 years ago and there are four times as many people on Earth as there were at the close of the 1960s. This is one driver of the 30% of commercially fished waters being classified as being “overfished”. This means that the stock of available fishing waters are being depleted faster than they can be replaced.
There is a simple and straightforward definition of when an area is being “overfished” and it’s not simply about catching “too many” fish. Overfishing occurs when the breeding stock of an area becomes so depleted that the fish in the area cannot replenish themselves.
At best, this means fewer fish next year than there are this year. At worst, it means that a species of fish cannot be fished out of a specific area anymore. This also goes hand in hand with wasteful forms of fishing that harvest not just the fish the trawler is looking for, but just about every other organism big enough to be caught in a net. Indeed, over 80% of fish are caught in these kinds of nets that sweep up everything into them.
What’s more, there are a number of wide-reaching consequences of overfishing. It’s not simply bad because it depletes the fish stocks of available resources, though that certainly is one reason why it’s bad. Others include:
Increased algae in the water: Like many other things, algae is great, but too much of it is very, very bad. When there are fewer fish in the waters, algae doesn’t get eaten and there’s way more of it than there should be. This increases the acidity in the world’s oceans, which negatively impacts not only the remaining fish, but also the reefs and plankton.
Destruction of fishing communities: Overfishing can completely destroy fish populations and communities that once relied upon the fish that were there. This is particularly true for island communities. And it’s worth remembering that there are many isolated points on the globe where fishing isn’t just the driver of the economy, but also the primary source of protein for the population. When either or both of these disappear, the community disappears along with it.
Tougher fishing for small vessels: If you’re a fan of small business, you ought to be concerned about overfishing. That’s because overfishing is mostly done by large vessels and [the situation] makes it harder for smaller ones to meet their quotas. With over 40 million people around the world getting their food and livelihood from fishing, this is a serious problem.
Ghost fishing: Ghost fishing is the term for what is basically littering in the ocean. The illegal fishermen created by poorly drafted regulations and subsidies often simply abandon their tools of the trade in the ocean where they were used. Not only does this create pollution because of the trash, it also attracts scavengers who are then ensnared in the garbage and can no longer fulfill their vital function elsewhere in the ocean.
Species pushed to near extinction: When we hear that a fish species is being depleted, we often think it’s fine because they can be found somewhere else. However, many species of fish are being pushed close to extinction by overfishing; [these include] … several species of cod, tuna, halibut and even lobster.
Bycatching: If you’re old enough to remember people being concerned about dolphins caught in tuna nets, you know what bycatching is: it’s when marine life that is not being sought by commercial fishermen is caught in their nets as a by-product. The possibility of bycatching increases dramatically with overfishing.
Waste: Overfishing creates waste in the supply chain. Approximately 20% of all fish in the United States are lost in the supply chain due to overfishing. In the third world, this rises to 30% thanks to a lack of available freezing devices. What this means is that even though there are more fish being caught than ever, there is also massive waste of harvested fish.
Mystery fish: Because of overfishing, there are significant numbers of fish at your local fish market and on the shelves of your local grocery store that aren’t what they are labelled as. Just because something says that it’s cod doesn’t mean that it actually is. To give you an idea of the scope of this problem, only 13% of the “red snapper” on the market is actually red snapper. Most of this is unintentional due to the scale of fishing done today, but much of it is not, [with people] hiding behind the unfortunate realities of mass-scale fishing to pass off inferior products to unwitting customers.
Why is overfishing happening?
So, why is overfishing happening? There are a variety of factors driving overfishing that we will delve into here, the bird’s eye view is below.
Regulation: Regulations are incredibly difficult to enforce even when they are carefully crafted, which they often are not. The worst offenders have little regulation in place and none of the regulations apply in international waters, which are effectively a “wild west”.
Unreported fishing: Existing regulations force many fishermen to do their fishing “off the books” if they wish to turn a profit. This is especially true in developing nations.
Mobile processing: Mobile processing is when fish are processed before returning to port: they are canned while still out at sea. Canned fish is increasingly taking up the fish consumption market at the expense of fresh fish.
Subsidies: Anyone familiar with farm subsidies knows that these are actually bad for the production of healthy food. Subsidies for fishing are similar. They don’t generally go to small fishermen whom one would think are most in need, but rather to massive vessels doing fuel-intensive shipping.
What’s more, subsidies encourage overfishing because the money keeps flowing no matter what: the more fish you catch, the more money you get, with no caps influenced by environmental impact fishing regulation.
Of these, the main driver of overfishing is, predictably, government subsidies. So it is worth taking a few minutes to separate that out from the rest of these issues and give it some special attention.
Overfishing and government subsidies
The subsidies that drive overfishing are highly lucrative: the governments of the world are giving away over $35 billion every year to fishermen. That’s about 20% of the value of all the commercially caught fish in the world every year. Subsidies are often directed at reducing the costs for mega-fishing companies — things like paying for their massive fuel budgets, the gear they need to catch fish or even the vessels themselves.
This effectively allows for massive commercial fishing operations to take … [over] the market or recapitalise at rates significantly below that of the market, disproportionately favouring them over their smaller competitors.
It is this advantage that large mega-fishing companies enjoy that is a primary driver of overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices. The end result of this is not just depleted stocks, but also lowered yields due to long-term overfishing, as well as lowered costs of fish at market, which has some advantages for the consumer, but also makes it significantly harder for smaller operations to turn a profit.
Such government subsidies could provide assistance to smaller fishermen, but are generally structured in a way that favours consolidation of the market and efforts counterproductive to conservation efforts.
What role do farmed fish play?
Farmed fish is a phenomenon that we take for granted today, but is actually a revolutionary method of bringing fish out of the water and onto our dinner tables. Originally, it was seen as a way of preserving a population of wild fish. The thinking was this: we could eat fish from farming while the wild stock replenished itself.
At the same time, communities impacted by overfishing would find new ways to get income in an increasingly difficult market. Third world countries would have their protein needs met in a manner that did not negatively impact the environment. It was considered a big, easy win for the entire world.
The reality, as is often the case, turned out to be a little different. Crowding thousands of fish together in small areas away from their natural habitat turns out to have detrimental effects. Waste products, primarily fish poo, excess food and dead fish, begin to contaminate the areas around fish farms. What’s more, like other factory farms, fish farms require lots of pesticides and drugs thanks to the high concentrations of fish and the parasites and diseases that spread in these kinds of living conditions.
Predictably, the chemicals used in making farmed fish possible are not contained in the areas where they are initially used. They spread into the surrounding waters and then simply become part of the water of the world, building up over time. In many cases, farmed fish are farmed in areas that are already heavily polluted. This is where the admonition to avoid eating too much fish for fear of contaminants like mercury has come from.
What’s more, the fish that we eat are not the only fish that are living at the fisheries. Often times, the preferred fish of the human consumer are carnivores that must eat lots of other fish to get to an appropriate size to be marketable. These fish, known as “reduction fish” or “trash fish” require the same kind of treatment that the larger fish they feed do.
All told, it takes 26 pounds [almost 12 kg] of feed to produce a single pound [450 g] of tuna, making farmed fishing an incredibly inefficient way of bringing food to market. Indeed, 37% of all seafood globally is now fed to farmed fish, up dramatically from 7.7% in 1948.
Salmon, for example, is only healthy when it is caught in the wild. Farmed salmon is essentially a form of junk food. This is in large part due to the diet that the fish eat in fish farms, which is high in fat, genetically engineered and uses soy as a primary source of protein. Toxins at the farms concentrate in the fatty tissue of the salmon. Concentrations of the harmful chemical PCB [polychlorinated biphenyl] are found in concentrations eight times higher in farmed fish than traditionally caught wild salmon.
The pesticides, of course, are not used for no reason, but because of the proliferation of pests due to the high concentrations of fish in the fisheries. Sea lice are one example of such pests; they can eat a live salmon down to the bone.
These pests do not stay in the fisheries, but quickly spread to the surrounding waters and infect wild salmon as well. The pests aren’t the only ones escaping: farmed fish often escape and compete with the native fish for resources, becoming invasive species.
Subsidies vary from one country to another and specific statistics about how much goes to fish farms is generally not forthcoming. But fish farms effectively move the problem of overfishing from the wild oceans and into more enclosed areas. This does not solve any of the problems of overfishing. It merely creates new ones with no less impact on the environment.
Which countries are overfishing?
The main offenders with regard to overfishing tend to not be developed Western countries, but countries from the developing world and parts of Asia. Sadly, the United States is the only Western nation that appeared on a “shame list” put out by Pew Charitable Trusts. This is known as the Pacific Six. The other members are Japan, Taiwan, China, South Korea and Indonesia.
The list only refers to overfishing with regard to bluefin tuna, but it provides a snapshot of the face of overfishing internationally. Overfishing facts say that these six countries are fishing 80% of the world’s bluefin tuna. These countries took collectively 111,482 metric tons of bluefin tuna out of the waters in 2011 alone.
However, when it comes to harmful subsidies there is a clear leader: China. A University of British Columbia study found that China provided more in the way of harmful subsidies encouraging overfishing than any other country on Earth — $7.2 billion in 2018 or fully 21% of all global support. What’s more, subsidies that are more beneficial than harmful dropped by 73%.
The negative effects of overfishing are not taking place far away and in very abstract ways. They are causing communities right here in the United States to collapse. In the early 1990s, the overfishing of cod caused entire communities in New England to collapse. Once this happens, it is very difficult to reverse. The effects are felt by the marine ecosystem but also by the people whose livelihoods depend on fishing.
Another example of economic instability is the Japanese fish market. Japanese fishermen are able to catch far less fish than they used to, meaning that the Japanese are now eating more imported fish, often from the United States. This creates a perverse situation where America exports most of its best salmon to other countries, but consumes some of the worst farmed salmon in the world today.
Just how bad is overfishing?
Surely overfishing can’t be that bad, right? The seas are just filled with tonnes of fish and it would take us forever to overfish to the point that they began to disappear entirely, right?
The first fish that disappear from an ecosystem are larger fish with a longer lifespan that reach reproductive age later in life. These are also the most desirable fish on the open market. When these fish disappear, the destructive fishing operations do not leave the area: they simply move down the food chain to less desirable catches such as squid and sardines. This is called “fishing down the web” and it slowly destroys the entire ecosystem removing first the predator fish and then the prey.
There are broader effects on the ecosystem beyond fish, effects that resonate throughout the entire Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Many of the smaller fish eat algae that grows on coral reefs. When these fish become overfished, the algae grows uncontrolled and the reefs suffer as a result. That deprives many marine life forms of their natural habitat, creating extreme disruption in the ocean ecosystem.
What are some alternatives to government-driven overfishing?
While there are certainly policy solutions to rampant overfishing, not all solutions will come from government. For example, there are emerging technological solutions that will make bycatching and other forms of waste less prevalent and harmful.
Simple innovations based on existing technologies, such as the Fishtek Marine pinger, seek to save sea mammals from the nets of commercial fishermen while also increasing profit margins for these companies in a win–win scenario. The device is small and inexpensive and thus does not present an undue burden to either the large-scale commercial fishing vessels or small fishermen looking to eke out a living in an increasingly difficult market.
We must also recognise that current regulations simply do not work. In one extreme case, governments restricted fishing for certain forms of tuna for three days a year. This did absolutely nothing for the population of tuna, as the big commercial fishing companies simply employed methods to harvest as many fish in three days as they were previously getting in any entire year.
This, in turn, led to a greater amount of bycatch and waste. Because the fishing operations didn’t have the luxury of time to ensure that they were only catching what they sought to catch, their truncated fishing season prized quantity over quality, with predictable results.
Quotas, specifically the “individual transferable quota” scheme used by New Zealand and many other countries, does not seem to work as intended for a number of reasons. First, these quotas are, as the name might suggest, transferable. This means that little fishermen might consider it a better deal to simply sell their quota to a large commercial fishing operation rather than go to work for themselves, and we’re back to square one.
More generally, quotas seem to be a source of waste. Here’s how they work. A fishing operation is given a specific tonnage of fish from a specific species that they can catch. However, not all fish are created equally. So, when commercial fishing operations look at their catch and see that some of it is of higher quality than others, they discard the lower-quality fish in favour of higher-quality fish, creating large amounts of waste. These discards can sometimes make up 40% of the catch.
An alternative to the current system is one that balances the need for fish as a global protein source with a long-term view of the ecosystem, planning for having as many fish tomorrow as there are today and, thus, a sustainable model for feeding the world and providing jobs. One way to do this would be to tie subsidies to conservation and sustainability efforts, rather than simply writing checks to large commercial fishing operations to build new boats and buy new equipment. Such a scheme would also prize smaller-scale operations over larger ones. A more diversified source of the world’s fish would also be more resilient.
One such alternative is called territorial use rights in fisheries management (TURF). In this case, individual fishermen or collectives are provided with long-term rights to fish in a specific area. This means that they have skin in the game. They don’t want to overfish the area because to do so would be to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. So, they catch as many fish as is sustainable and no more. They have a vested, long-term interest in making sure that there is no overfishing in the fisheries that have been allotted to them.
Not only does this make sustainable fishing more attractive, it also means that there is less government bureaucracy and red tape involved. Fishermen with TURF are allowed to catch as much as they like. It is assumed that sustainability is baked into the equation because the fishermen with rights want to preserve the fishing not just for the next year, but for the next generation and the one after that. This model has been used successfully in Chile, one of the most economically free countries in the world … to prevent overfishing and create sustainability. It is a market-driven model that prizes small producers with skin in the game over massive, transnational conglomerates with none.
While it’s nice to support the little guy over Big Fishing and we certainly support sustainability and conservation efforts, there’s another, perhaps more important and direct, reason to support reforms designed to eliminate overfishing: food security. When bluefin tuna, for example, becomes extinct, it’s not coming back. That means no more cans of tuna on the shelves of your local supermarket.
That’s a big deal for people in developed, first world countries, but a much bigger deal in developing countries. When major protein sources are depleted forever, there will be intensified competition for the resources that remain. This also creates unrest in the countries that are less able to compete in a global market due to issues of capital and scale. Even if you’re not concerned with overfishing, overfishing and the problems it creates will soon be on your doorstep – unless corrective measures are taken before it’s too late.
A joint media release of UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific islands Forum, the Pacific Community, and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme
Suva, 2 September 2020 – Climate action and oceans realities for the Pacific have been the focus of a just-ended virtual tour of the region by the United Kingdom’s Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Lord Zak Goldsmith.
Yesterday, Lord Goldsmith held a virtual regional roundtable discussion with the four largest regional organisations serving the Pacific: the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
The two-hour dialogue late Monday Fiji time followed a week-long virtual dialogue ‘tour’ of the Pacific for Lord Goldsmith, who met with the governments of Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. He said the UK will put nature at the heart of the climate change discussion.
“For COP26 to be successful, it needs to be truly inclusive. The UK wants to ensure Large Ocean States have a platform, and the opportunity to shape the agenda. We want to make sure COP26 delivers important change, to finalise the Paris Agreement, to ramp up ambition and put that into action to limit global temperature rises,” Lord Goldsmith said. [COP26 is the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties 26th meeting, to be held in Glasgow in 2021.]
Welcoming the opportunity for heads of Pacific regional organisations working on climate change and the ocean to meet with the UK Pacific Minister, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said the dialogue “was a valuable opportunity to reaffirm the Pacific region’s commitment to strong and ambitious climate action, as set out in the Kainaki II Declaration”.
“Of particular importance to the Blue Pacific Continent is the ocean–climate nexus. The ocean is central to everything we represent as a region. And a defining issue is the securing of our maritime boundaries in the face of sea level rise. The UK’s COP26 presidency is a strategic opportunity for the Pacific and its people, and I am encouraged by Lord Goldsmith’s commitment to amplify Pacific issues and leadership at COP26, to ensure Paris Agreement commitments are upheld,” she said.
Building on the high-level Blue Pacific context, SPREP Director General Kosi Latu extended the focus on climate priorities, including building regional resilience, and climate financing, as well as ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement, in line with the December 2020 date.
“The urgent need for climate action is heightened as COVID-19 increases our vulnerability. Momentum must continue — for us as a Pacific people, living on the frontlines of climate change, this is about our survival,” said Mr Kosi Latu.
“We are encouraged by the inclusive approach of the UK, as the COP26 Presidency, it allows our collective Pacific voice to be brought to the fore.”
The issues of maritime boundaries and sea-level rise, as Pacific priorities for the 2nd UN Ocean Conference and the UN Decade for Ocean Science, were facilitated by SPC Director General Dr Stuart Minchin.
“We all recognize that sea-level rise will have an impact on a wide range of issues in the Pacific, including on the shorelines from which our maritime boundaries are defined” said SPC’s Director-General.
“Working together on capturing, analysing and sharing reliable data on this issue will be essential in ensuring that our region is able to effectively manage and respond to the changing ocean environment.”
Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, raised oceanic fisheries priorities and issues that are of critical importance for Pacific nations from both an economic and a sustainability perspective. Dr Tupou-Roosen said, “It’s important that Pacific nations, as custodians of the resources within our sovereign maritime domain, build strong relationships with global allies and champions.”
“Wherever we have the opportunity”, she said, “hard-won gains in regional fisheries cooperation on key areas including rights-based management, and monitoring, control and surveillance efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, must be leveraged to create enduring social and economic benefits for our people, especially as we look to manage climate-change impacts on our shared fisheries resources and the flow on effects on fisheries revenues of small island developing states and territories in the region.
“I was delighted to attend a virtual roundtable with regional organisations in the Pacific. We had a wide-ranging and productive discussion on how to tackle climate change and protect our ocean. There can be no more important region to be engaging with on the climate–ocean nexus than the Pacific.”
Thanking the roundtable group for the exchange of views, Lord Goldsmith noted the “fantastic ambition and leadership on climate change” at every stage of his virtual Pacific tour.
“That ambition and leadership, combined with being on the front line of climate change, and tackling its impacts, gives the Pacific a strong moral authority, which is encouraging other countries to raise ambition on climate change. We can’t solve climate change without restoring and protecting nature on a massive scale through cooperation.”
The campaign is being run by the Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service.
Bruno Mugneret, from the Department of Fishing and Management of Marine Resources in Wallis, said the number of washed-up FADs had become a problem.
“In Wallis and Futuna, the problem appeared with great intensity in 2019, when the population saw the resurgence of these objects on beaches, on reefs, in the lagoon, and also in the open sea around the islands, causing many questions about the origin and the activities associated with this multiplication,” he said.
The Fisheries Service is collecting data from fishers and local populations. It will use a radio campaign to raise awareness in communities about their important role as “sentries” in locating washed up FADs.
The results of the research will be shared with coastal communities, so they can help develop ways of managing the FADs and protecting coastal environments.
“SPC conducted this study to estimate the impact that the massive use of FADs can have on the coastal areas of our region. The data available demonstrate a certain under-estimation of strandings,” Dr Escalle told Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service people at the launch of the local campaign.
She said it was important that island nations and territories collect information on stranded FADs to contribute to existing databases that are used to assess grounding rates and the consequences of strandings on coastal ecosystems and local fisheries.
Tuna fishers will have to do everything they can to save rays, including the magnificent manta ray, that are unintentionally caught during fishing operations.
Several species of mobulid rays, which include the mantas, are perilously close to extinction. One of the reasons for this is the numbers that die when they become part of the tuna catch.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) hopes to reverse the trend to extinction. At its 16th annual meeting, delegates agreed on tougher rules aimed at helping rays survive industrial fishing operations. (Wildlife caught accidentally during fishing is known collectively as bycatch.)
According to World Wildlife Fund, every year between 13,000 and 19,000 seabirds, particularly albatrosses and petrels, die after being caught on longline hooks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean — even though a conservation and management measure already exists to protect them.
The new guidelines are simple so that they can be followed easily, and so are the materials needed to safely release seabirds: a towel or blanket, pliers, net, a box or bin, and gloves. Most of these are already likely to be on longline vessels.
Although the guidelines aren’t binding, they do mark a step up in WCPFC’s push for a sustainable tuna industry.
PORT MORESBY, 11 December 2019 – A landmark Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) resolution on climate change has been adopted by the 16th annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), creating a platform for a more urgent response to global warming by the world’s largest tuna fisheries organisation.
The resolution (see below) means the WCPFC will now more closely consider the impact of climate change on migratory fish stocks, food security and livelihoods in the Commission’s Convention Area, as well as the implications for fishing activities.
The effects on small island developing states (SIDS) will be a particular focus.
The resolution was passed today during the final hours of WCPFC16. It also means the WCPFC will take account of climate change when developing conservation and management measures and support more investigation of the issue by Commission scientists.
Additionally, the adopted resolution requires the WCPFC to consider how it can reduce the environmental impacts of its operations.
FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said FFA members were extremely pleased to see the resolution adopted, given the particular vulnerability of Pacific island countries to climate change.
“From the perspective of FFA members, the adoption of this resolution is a key development,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.
“It establishes a solid foundation for a more urgent approach to the threat of climate change, and not a moment too soon. While the resolution is non-binding, it will underpin momentum on this critical issue.”
FFC Chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan said, “As responsible fisheries managers, we have a part to play in addressing climate change, and the WCPFC’s willingness to endorse this resolution will send a powerful message globally that it is stepping up to the challenge.”
He added that the focus in the resolution on assessing the impact of climate change on SIDS was particularly pleasing.
“We came into WCPFC16 lobbying for Commission members to consult more comprehensively with SIDS. The special reference in the adopted resolution to SIDS shows that our concerns are being heard. There’s a long way to go, but this resolution is a good starting point.”
FFA resolution on climate change: media backgrounder
The text below is the wording of the resolution FFA put to WCPFC16.
Resolution on climate change as it relates to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
The Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean,
RECOGNISING international initiatives to address the impacts of climate change including through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;
NOTING the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change;
MINDFUL of the work of the Scientific Services Provider to the Commission in assessing the impacts of climate change on target stocks and non-target species, and species belonging to the same ecosystem or dependent or associated with the target stocks in the Convention Area;
NOTING that Pacific Islands Forum Leaders reaffirmed at their meeting in August 2019 that climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific and their commitment to progress the implementation of the Paris Agreement;
FURTHER NOTING the Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now made by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in August 2019;
NOTING the importance of addressing the potential impacts of climate change and other environmental degradation on target stocks, non-target species, and species belonging to the same ecosystem or dependent or associated with the target stocks in the Convention Area;
NOTING the objective of the Convention to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks in the western and central Pacific Ocean in accordance with the 1982 Convention and the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement;
Consider the potential impacts of climate change on highly migratory fish stocks in the Convention Area and any related impacts on the economies of CCMs and food security and livelihoods of their people, in particular Small Islands Developing States and Participating Territories.
Support further development of science on the relationship between climate change and target stocks, non-target species, and species belonging to the same ecosystem or dependent on or associated with the target stocks, as well as interrelationships with other factors that affect these stocks and species, and estimates of the associated uncertainties.
Take into account in its deliberations, including in the development of conservation and management measures, scientific information available from the Scientific Committee on the potential 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.
Consider how climate change and fishing activities may be related and address any potential impacts in a manner consistent with the Convention
Consider options to reduce the environmental impacts of the Commission related to headquarters operation and meetings of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies.
For media enquiries, contact Tevita Tupou, +675 7333 9945
South Pacific albacore tuna being processed at the Solander plant in Fiji. Photo: WWF Pacific.
PORT MORESBY, 11 December 2019 – One of the positive outcomes from the just-ended 16th annual Tuna Commission meeting is the adoption of the South Pacific albacore work plan.
The formal agreement allows work to start that will address the range of issues associated with albacore fishing and management.
The Director-General of FFA, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said the outcome is positive.
“Agreeing to a pathway to achieve the target reference point (TRP) that was endorsed at last year’s Tuna Commission signals the start and an important first step of this process for our FFA membership,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.
Early in 2020, Pacific members will seek to engage the Commission on this issue.
The aim is to return the stock biomass (total number or weight of population) of albacore to its TRP as soon as is economically possible. Doing so is intended to ensure future individual vessel profitability in the fisheries of Pacific small island developing states (SIDS).
Zone-based management will be a key tool in managing the stock. It ensures that FFA members’ sovereign rights are preserved within regionally compatible limits.
Limits—agreement and recommendation on an overall hard limit and a subsequent pathway (annual total catch reductions).
Allocation—agreement on the split of the total hard limit, as discussed at WCPFC14.
Conservation and management measure (CMM)—implementation of the agreed overall hard limit which recognises zone-based management, allocated limits, data collection, and reporting requirements, via a revised CMM for South Pacific albacore tuna, until a harvest strategy is finalised and agreed on.
Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F Tauafiafi’s participation and coverage at the WCPFC16 was made possible by the Forum Fisheries Agency, Pew Charitable Trusts, and GEF OFMP2 project.
ABOUT PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM FISHERIES AGENCY (FFA)
FFA assists its 17 member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management
Members: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
ABOUT WESTERN CENTRAL PACIFIC FISHERIES COMMISSION (WCPFC)
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPF Convention) which entered into force on 19 June 2004.
The WCPF Convention draws on many of the provisions of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement [UNFSA] while, at the same time, reflecting the special political, socio-economic, geographical and environmental characteristics of the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) region. The WCPFC Convention seeks to address problems in the management of high seas fisheries resulting from unregulated fishing, over-capitalization, excessive fleet capacity, vessel re-flagging to escape controls, insufficiently selective gear, unreliable databases and insufficient multilateral cooperation in respect to conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks.
The Commission supports three subsidiary bodies; the Scientific Committee, Technical and Compliance Committee, and the Northern Committee, that each meet once during each year. The meetings of the subsidiary bodies are followed by a full session of the Commission. The work of the Commission is assisted by a Finance and Administration Committee.
Members: Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu.
Participating territories: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna.
Cooperating non-members: Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Liberia, Thailand, Vietnam.
Inside the 16th Tuna Commission meeting in Port Moresby. Photo: F. Tauafialfi.
Midway state of play on eight Pacific priorities as provided by the FFA Secretariat
Climate change resolution: Niue and Tuvalu minister’ say
High-seas allocation a priority, and links to the tropical tuna measure
A strong stance on action on climate change remains at the top of FFA’s agenda half way through the 16th Tuna Commission meeting. The other top priority is on allocations of access to high-seas tuna.
At the midway point of the meeting in Papua New Guinea, Pacific members are generally pleased with progress made on their priority issues. But there is still a long way to go when the Commission negotiations reconvene tomorrow.
The reality is that the WCPFC is always a complex negotiation with several different proposals being negotiated at the same time according to FFA Deputy Director-General Mr Matthew Hooper.
“Often there are trade-offs to be made, with countries willing to compromise on certain things if they get what they want in other parts of the negotiation. For this reason, it can be hard to predict how things are going to end up at the end of the meeting,” Mr Hooper said.
FFA members are pushing hard for agreement on the Resolution on Climate Change they put forward at the start of the meeting. While some of the elements of the proposed resolution will likely change, FFA is hopeful that a resolution will be passed that will start the Tuna Commission off on making concrete efforts to respond to the impacts of climate change. (See below for more detail.)
High-seas limits and allocation
There is general agreement to the proposal from FFA members for the WCPFC to hold a two-day workshop to discuss high-seas limits and a framework for allocating those limits. The terms of reference for this workshop still have to be discussed, but FFA is hopeful that agreement will be reached so that the Tuna Commission can tackle this difficult issue in 2020. (See below for more detail.)
Revision of skipjack target reference point still to be agreed
Discussions on the target reference point (TRP) for skipjack tuna are proving difficult. While most WCPFC members support FFA members’ call for the TRP to be adjusted to reflect the new scientific model that was used for the latest stock assessment, not all members are ready to agree to this yet. This is another issue that is not likely to be resolved till later in the meeting.
The Transhipment Intersessional Working Group, co-chaired by RMI and USA, has made some good progress. A study that will get under way early next year will identify weaknesses in the existing measure.
Mobulid rays CMM
FFA members proposed draft conservation and management measure (CMM) for mobulid rays (such as manta rays) has been well received and Palau is coordinating comments from other members. A revised version of the measure will likely be posted on Monday morning for a further round of comments from other members.
Compliance Monitoring Scheme
FFA members’ proposal to reform the WCPFC Compliance Monitoring Scheme is being discussed in a small working group. Even more intensive discussions are progressing in the margins of that meeting.
This will be one of the hardest issues to reach agreement on, given the different approaches taken by some WCPFC members. However, FFA is encouraged by the delegates’ willingness to work together to try and achieve a compromise that 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.
South Pacific albacore
FFA members have taken the lead in reinvigorating discussions on the South Pacific Albacore Roadmap, with a focus on moving the stock towards the TRP agreed in Honolulu last December. And putting in place a new measure that recognizes the EEZ limits of FFA members, and also puts limits on fishing in the high seas.
A small working group, led by Fiji, will meet on Monday morning to start informal discussions.
Discussions on the harvest-strategy approach to fisheries management have been a big feature of WCPFC16. The approach is complex and very science-focused.
While FFA members support the approach, the organisation has identified a clear need for further capacity building of members so that everyone understands the implications of the decisions that are required to move this work forward. It has been clear that many other WCPFC members are also struggling to understand the complexities of the harvest strategy, and so this work will continue but at a slower and more deliberate pace.
Climate change resolution: Niue and Tuvalu ministers’ say
Top of the list is the Pacific call to adopt the Climate Change resolution. Pacific countries and delegations with ministerial representations have been active in garnering support for the proposal.
The chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee, Mr Eugene Pangelinan, said, “FFA members call on the WCPFC, as a collective body made up of all its member countries, to take stronger action on climate change and we look forward to discussing our proposals further with members at this meeting.”
It is a conversation that is relevant for all members, he added, “This is not just a Pacific issue necessarily: it is a fishing issue that we are all a part of and we have to do our parts together.”
Niue’s Associate Minister for Natural Resources, Hon. Esa Sharon-Mona Ainuu, called on the Commission to adopt the FFA resolution during her formal address at the first session of the meeting.
“Climate change is an existential threat to our region, and directly threatens our livelihoods, security and wellbeing,” she said.
Tuvalu’s minister for Fisheries and Trade, Hon. Minute Taupo, emphasised at a press conference, “Climate change is not a problem that Tuvalu has caused – but we are going to suffer its effects. We suggest that the current global arrangements are changed to prevent this injustice.”
The climate-change resolution is not binding. Its main purpose is to provide an entry point into the Commission space to allow formal discussions to take place, as FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen explained.
“It will serve to focus attention on this important area whilst we refine the specific actions that can be taken by this Commission – then we can collectively begin work on binding measures,” she said.
High-seas allocation a priority and links to tropical tuna measure
According to FFC Chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan, Pacific leaders have pronounced zone-based management as their mainstream fisheries-management program to rights within Pacific waters.
“Therefore, we already have well established zone-based limits within the EEZs that have been recognised by the Commission,” Mr Pangelinan said.
The conversation FFA members are looking to have on “allocation” is in relation to the high seas: about the current effort on the high seas and how the members, as small island developing states (SIDS), will have a fair share.
Mr Pangelinan reiterated that the issue for discussion is purely about “high seas allocation”, a conversation that was bedded down at WCPFC14 in Manila in 2017. At WCPFC16, he said, it is time to discuss what is the best way to approach the issue and make sure there is a fair and equitable distribution of those allocation rights to the high seas.
The high seas are in the SIDS’ back yards, and they want access to develop this area just as the distant water fishing nations (DWFN) have for many years.
Pacific members would like to see an agreed approach and process come out of the WCPFC16 conversation, Mr Pangelinan said.
“2020 will be an important year for us. That’s when the tropical tuna measure (TTM) will expire, and we will need to make sure that in 2020 we have that process well set. We are advocating a two-day workshop to tackle high seas allocations because its fundamental to agreeing to a future TTM,” he said.
The 16th annual meeting of WCPFC reconvened at 9 am today, and is expected to close its proceedings on Wednesday, 11 December.
Article by Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi’s. His participation and coverage at the WCPFC16 was made possible by the Forum Fisheries Agency, Pew Charitable Trusts, and GEF OFMP2 project.