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.
Tropical tuna are one of the few wild animals we still hunt in large numbers, but finding them in the vast Pacific ocean can be tremendously difficult. However, fishers have long known that tuna are attracted to, and will aggregate around, floating objects such as logs.
In the past, people used bamboo rafts to attract tuna, fishing them while they were gathered underneath. Today, the modern equivalent – called fish aggregating devices, or FADs – usually contain high-tech equipment that tell fishers where they are and how many fish have accumulated nearby.
It’s estimated that between 30,000 and 65,000 man-made FADs are deployed annually and drift through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean to be fished on by industrial fishers. Pacific island countries are reporting a growing number of FADs washing up on their beaches, damaging coral reefs and potentially altering the distribution of tuna.
Our research in two papers, one of which was published today in Scientific Reports, looks for the first time at where ocean currents take these FADs and where they wash up on coastlines in the Pacific.
Attracting fish and funds
We do not fully understand why some fish and other marine creatures aggregate around floating objects, but they are a source of attraction for many species. FADs are commonly made of a raft with 30-80m of old ropes or nets hanging below. Modern FADs are attached to high-tech buoys with solar-powered electronics.
The buoys record a FAD’s position as it drifts slowly across the Pacific, scanning the water below to measure tuna numbers with echo-sounders and transmitting this valuable information to fishing vessels by satellite.
Throughout their lifetimes FADs may be exchanged between vessels, recovered and redeployed, or fished and simply left to drift with their buoy to further aggregate tuna. Fishers may then abandon them and remotely deactivate the buoys’ satellite transmission when the FAD leaves the fishing area.
Fishing licence fees can provide up to 98% of government revenue for some Pacific Island countries and territories. These countries balance the need to sustainably manage and harvest one of the only renewable resources they have, while often having a limited capacity to fish at an industrial scale themselves.
FADs help stabilise catch rates and make fishing fleets more profitable, which in turn generate revenue for these nations.
The abandonment or loss of FADs adds to the growing mass of marine debris floating in the ocean, and they increasingly damage coral as they are dragged and get caught on reefs.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t know how the distribution of FADs affects fishing effort in the region. Given that each fleet and fishing company has their own strategy for using FADs, understanding how the total number of FADs drifting in one area increases the catch of tuna is crucial for sustainably managing these valuable species.
Where do FADs end up?
Our research, published in Environmental Research Communications and Scientific Reports, used a regional FAD tracking program and fishing data submitted by Pacific countries, in combination with numerical ocean models and simulations of virtual FADs, to work out how FADs travel on ocean currents during and after their use.
In general, FADs are first deployed by fishers in the eastern and central Pacific. They then drift west with the prevailing currents into the core industrial tropical tuna fishing zones along the equator.
We found equatorial countries such as Kiribati have a high number of FADs moving through their waters, with a significant amount washing up on their shores. Our research showed these high numbers are primarily due to the locations in which FADs are deployed by fishing companies.
In contrast, Tuvalu, which is situated on the edge of the equatorial current divergence zone, also sees a high density of FADs and beaching. But this appears to be an area that generally aggregates FADs regardless of where they are deployed.
Unsurprisingly, many FADs end up beaching in countries at the western edge of the core fishing grounds, having drifted from different areas of the Pacific as far away as Ecuador. This concentration in the west means reefs along the edge of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are particularly vulnerable, with currents apparently forcing FADs towards these coasts more than other countries in the region.
Overall, our studies estimate that between 1,500 and 2,200 FADs drifting through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean wash up on beaches each year. This is likely to be an underestimate, as the tracking devices on many FADs are remotely deactivated as they leave fishing zones.
Using computer simulations, we also found that a significant number of FADs are deployed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, left to drift so they have time to aggregate tuna, and subsequently fished on in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This complicates matters as the eastern Pacific is managed by an entirely different fishery Commission with its own set of fisheries management strategies and programmes.
Growing human populations and climate change are increasing pressure on small island nations. FAD fishing is very important to their economic and food security, allowing access to the wealth of the ocean’s abundance.
We need to safeguard these resources, with effective management around the number and location of FAD deployments, more research on their impact on tuna and bycatch populations, the use of biodegradable FADs, or effective recovery programs to remove old FADs from the ocean at the end of their slow journeys across the Pacific.
Environmentalists want to stop Japan’s plans to discharge what they say is more than a million tonnes of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.
A Greenpeace nuclear specialist, Shaun Burnie, said a nuclear water crisis at the Fukushima Plant had been worsened by technical failures.
He said flawed decision-making behind the plans was driven by cost-cutting from the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company.
Mr Burnie called on Pacific countries to stop Japan’s plans, given the need to protect the environment, regional communities and the fishing industry.
“Any nation that requires or is active in the Pacific on environmental issues, whether it’s economic, whether it’s fisheries.
“We’ve done so much damage to our oceans – from climate change, from nuclear weapons testing by France and the United States.
“The Japanese Government can make a decision in managing this waste without threatening the environment.
“And if they hear voices from around the Pacific saying that it’s not acceptable, that certainly can have an effect.”
Dr Tanaka Noriko from the Japanese Embassy in Wellington denied the Greenpeace report.
He said tests carried out on the nuclear water last year had shown a value below the detection rate.
But Greenpeace maintains the government and TEPCO must reassess their options for the long-term management of the highly contaminated water at Fukushima.
Mr Burnie said “the only viable option is the long-term storage of this water in robust steel tanks over at least the next century, and the parallel development of water processing technology”.
He said the government and TEPCO had set an objective of “solving” the radioactive water crisis by 2020, which was never credible.
“TEPCO has finally admitted that its technology has failed to reduce levels of strontium, and other hazardous radioactivity, to below regulatory limits.
“Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out.
“We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organization and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds,” said Mr Burnie.