High seas transhipments of tuna targeted for action

Categories @WCPFC15, Media releases, NewsPosted on

Honolulu 13 December 2018 — Pacific Island fisheries leaders want the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to effectively address a serious management gap in the tuna fishery: high seas tuna transshipments.

  The existing Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) measure governing transshipment was adopted in 2009 and is intended for review next year. 

  Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, including the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) bloc, want to see a WCPFC review process that is comprehensive and results in significant strengthening of the current measure.

   Ina letter last month to WCPFC Executive Director Feleti Teo, Forum Fisheries Committee Chairperson Tepaeru Herrmann expressed the concern of FFA members that insufficient regulation, monitoring and reporting of tuna transshipment, particularly on the high seas, was contributing to distort the reporting of catches.

  Ms. Herrmann said the current system of unmonitored transshipments on the high seas also exposed WCPFC members, cooperating non-members and participating territories (known as CCMs), and the wider Pacific region, to increased risks of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and transnational criminal activity.    

   Subject to not infringing on the right of CCMs to regulate transshipment occurring in areas under national jurisdiction, the WCPFC has a responsibility to effectively regulate transshipment activities to address these risks, she said.

  The aim of FFA members is to see all transshipments in the WCPFC area occurring in port. The FFA’s position is consistent with Article 29 of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention which provides that “the members of the Commission shall encourage their vessels, to the extent practicable, to conduct transshipment in port.”

  The PNA already requires all purse seine vessels operating in their waters to transship tuna in ports, which allows for monitoring of catch and other compliance measures to be enforced. PNA is also gearing to implement a ban on high seas bunkering for fishing vessels by fuel tankers beginning in2020. Currently, however, only a fraction of longline vessels transship their tuna catches in the ports of FFA members.  

   The current level and regulation of high seas transshipment activity is inconsistent with the objective of the WCPF Convention, said FFA Director General Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen and PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru in comments Thursday during the ongoing annual meeting of the WCPFC in Honolulu.

   Under the current WCPFC measure, there is to be no transshipment on the high seas except where a CCM has determined it is impracticable for its vessels to operate without being able to transship on the high seas. The measure requires CCMs to inform the WCPFC of any of their vessels transshipping on the high seas.

   The WCPFC measure requires a declaration prior to transshipping on the high seas, and a report after the operation is completed. A Final Compliance Monitoring Review report,which will address compliance with these and other provisions of the measure,is to be issued as part of the review of the 2009 measure scheduled for next year.

    The basis for approving high seas transshipments is that prohibition would cause significant economic hardship to vessels. This would be assessed in terms of the costs incurred and if in-port transshipment would require the vessel to make significant and substantial changes to its historical mode of operation as a result of the prohibition of transshipment on the high seas.

   “There is no proper mechanism for review of the transshipment justification and there is a shortfall in compliance with WCPFC reporting provisions,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.“This situation is untenable and results in high risks that catch data is not accurately and effectively reported.”

  She said FFA members are anxious to see the review of this 2009 transshipment conservation and management measure undertaken with diligence and a focus on compliance.

   She also noted the initiatives of many members to roll out electronic monitoring systems on longline vessels as a means of improving coverage for a sector of the Pacific tuna fishery that is currently not well monitored.

   “In2013, FFA facilitated the first electronic monitoring trials for longline vessels in the region in collaboration with SPC and industry. This trial coupled electronic systems with human observers to compare data in the context of WCPFC observer requirements,” she said.

More recently, four members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement — Palau, FSM, Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands — have engaged in a trial of electronic monitoring of longline vessels,using video cameras and training fisheries officers to use software programs to evaluate the film collected on longline vessels.

   “We need an outcome from this review (of the high seas transshipment measure) that properly addresses the reporting risks and results in the receipt of timely,complete and well-documented data from transshipment activity,” said Mr. Kumoru.

“Our position is to move as quickly as possible to a complete ban of all high seas transshipment. PNA already requires all purse seiners to transship their catch in port. We think all transshipments should take place in ports in our region. In-port transshipment generates economic benefits for our members as well as eliminating IUU and other risks inherent in unmonitored high seas transshipments.”

For more information on the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, contact Mr. Ludwig Kumoru, CEO, PNA Office, on email: ludwig@pnatuna.com,or ring PNA media coordinator Giff Johnson at (808) 699-1690 to arrange interviews with the PNA CEO.

For more information on the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, contact FFA media coordinator Donna Hoarder on email:donna,hoarder@ffa.int.

FFA lauds improved process of high seas fishing policymaking at WCPFC14

Categories @WCPFC14, FFA Media Fellows past eventsPosted on

Wez Norris (FFA) talks about, for the first time, looking at opportunities and rights on the high seas for fishery fleets, at the 14th Regular Session of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.


Published 7 Dec 2017

Dire warning for Pacific’s domestic albacore fishery

Categories @WCPFC14, NewsPosted on

The survival of the Pacific’s domestic tuna longline fishery is at stake without more effective management of fishing in the High Seas – those areas outside of the waters of the region’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones.

Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) Executive Officer John Maefiti says the fishery is a shadow of what was once a viable and attractive industry because the regional body that sets the rules for fishing has failed to control a “massive” increase in High Seas fishing by distant water fishing nations, especially by Taiwan and China.

“The industry has been trying to adapt to the tough conditions of the past few years. If we keep going this way, boats will be tied up and companies closed down,” he says.

PITIA Executive Officer John Maefiti at a briefing with the Pacific media team at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila.

PITIA is supported by the GEF Oceanic Fisheries Management Project 2.

Maefiti presented the industry’s concerns to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), better known as the Tuna Commission, at its 14th annual meeting in Manila, Philippines today. The Commission brings together the resource owners – the Pacific Island states – with the distant water fishing nations to set rules, usually by consensus, that address the conservation and management of tuna fisheries. The differing interests of the parties make it hard to agree on effective measures. More than 60 per cent of the global catch of albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tunas come from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). In 2015 the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) island nation’s longline fleets catch in the WCPO was worth around US$436 million.

Maefiti said the Commission continues to fail to respond to the dire conditions of the Southern longline fishery impacting the domestic fishing industry of the Pacific Island states.

“Nobody can deny the perilous commercial state of this fishery.  Catch rates simply cannot support current costs, leaving many companies just barely surviving,” he said at the Commission meeting.

The Southern longline fishery is the part of the fishery that is south of 10 degrees south of the equator in the WCPFC Convention Area.

Maefiti said the domestic industry generates critical revenue for Pacific Island states and employs thousands of people in the region.

PITIA’s position echoed Samoa’s statement at the opening of the week-long Commission meeting on Sunday. Samoa’s Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Lopao’o Natanielu Mu’a told the Commission that its domestic longline fleet has struggled to survive poor economic conditions as a result of prolonged reduction in catch rates for South Pacific Albacore.

“This deteriorating situation had resulted in the need to change the norms of operation for our tuna industry to mitigate the poor economic conditions or otherwise risk a shutdown altogether of our domestic tuna fishery.

“We have seen both a general decline in catch rates and vulnerable levels of spawning biomass for this stock over the years,” said Mu’a.

Samoa is concerned that the scientific assessment of South Pacific Albacore suggests stocks are declining and that there is a 17 per cent chance that stocks could drop below the critical 20 per cent of pre-fishing levels in the next 12 months.

“The deteriorating status of the South Pacific Albacore must not be allowed to continue and the Commission is obligated to implement management measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of this resource.”

Briefing Pacific Islands media in Manila, Maefiti said PITIA members are also calling for the Commission to come to an agreement on a harvest strategy for South Pacific Albacore, which will set a target reference point (TRP), and develop a harvest control rules to give effect to the strategy. The TRP is the optimal fish stock level for sustainable fishing.

“The catch rate is falling due mainly to the distant-water fishing nations fishing on the High Seas, especially Taiwan and China,” he says.

He told the Commission that its inability to control High Seas fishing effort is a sad indictment on its ability to manage the fisheries under its charge.

“This is a critically important fishery for our fishing industry and PITIA strongly urges the WCPFC to make a decision to ensure the long term commercial viability and sustainability of our Southern long line fishery.”

Representatives of Fiji’s and Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) domestic industry also shared their concern with Pacific media.

Fabian Chow, Treasurer of PNG’s Fishing Industry Association said the long-term vision for growing the domestic industry was being handicapped by changes in policies driven by fiscal pressures and short-term thinking.

“Our members are hurting out there. They are generating red ink.”

Chow said the industry has had its successes, and can grow if there is investment.

“You don’t imagine what a tuna cannery means to a small province, how it can transform the hopes and aspirations of those people,” said Chow.

In addition to concerns for the longline fishery, Maefiti said it was disappointing for PITIA and its members to see the Solomon Islands withdraw its support of the Tokelau Arrangement which aims to set limits for albacore catch in the region.

“We were putting our hopes on the Pacific Island states to fight in solidarity for the fishery. Its not looking good for the industry,” he said.

“We have to stay together so that we can have more leverage in these negotiations. The sustainability of this resource is very important for the Pacific Island states. We have to show the world that we are together in this.”

Maefiti said more transparency around the Commission meeting is needed to ensure that the people of the region know what decisions are being made. He said it was up to civil society organisations and the media to help the people of the Pacific understand the challenges and the potential benefits of sustainable fishing for their economic development and future generations.

Maefiti says he was encouraged by the coverage provided by the PACNEWS/Forum Fisheries Agency Pacific media team.

“We need to inform our people about what’s happening in there. All the policies we put in place should benefit the people. This is a publicly-owned resource.”