PORT MORESBY – The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is taking a step towards prioritising climate-change considerations in its policy.
It has adopted a Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) resolution to consider impacts of climate change on tuna stocks, food security and livelihoods.
The resolution was adopted on the final day of the annual Tuna Commission meeting.
Under the resolution, the Commission will consider climate change when developing conservation and management measures (CMMs), and support more investigation of the issue by the organisation’s scientists.
The Director-General of the FFA, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said it established a “solid foundation for a more urgent approach to the threat of climate change”.
Although the resolution is not binding, she said the Tuna Commission acknowledged that climate change would impact fisheries.
FFA chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan said the adoption of the resolution by the Commission sent a “powerful message globally that it is stepping up to the challenge”.
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.
Access to and competition over natural resources has been one of the most common triggers for conflict. Throughout the centuries, countries and communities have fought over productive agricultural land, trade routes, spices, textiles, opium, and oil, to name just a few. But the battle over one natural resource—fish—has long been overlooked. As trends in the global fish industry increasingly mirror the conflict-ridden oil sector, fish may become the newest addition to the list of resources driving geopolitical competition. There are five parallels between oil and fish that call for increasing the sustainability of the fishing industry, or we might find ourselves facing what U.S. Coast Guard Captain Jay Caputo has called “a global fish war.”
Similarly, roughly 60 percent of the world’s tuna is caught in one geographic region, the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. As such, the Pacific could be the Middle East of tuna, where hungry nations compete for the valuable resource. Conflict over fish can already be found in South and Northeast Asia, Central and South America, as well as in African waters.
A Tool for Political Power
From the Arab oil embargoes in the 1970s, to Russia shutting off gas supplies to its enemies in the 2010s, energy is increasing wielded as a geopolitical weapon. For example, Moscow used its “petro-power” to provide heavily subsidized energy to Ukraine when it was led by Russia-leaning President Kuchma. Under Western-friendly President Yushchenko, Russia disrupted supplies and imposed punitive price increases.
Decades of politics and posturing in the Arabian Gulf continue to focus on oil. Following the resurgence of disagreements between the United States and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, the Trump Administration re-imposed sanctions and moved to end oil shipments from Iran. Last weekend, Iran conducted military exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, which carries an estimated 20 percent of the oil traded worldwide, to demonstrate its ability to block the critical waterway.
Similarly, as one of the world’s most valuable fish species, tuna’s concentration in the Pacific has made sovereignty of those waters, and access to those fish, extremely valuable. With 22 small island states and territories within the Western and Central Pacific region alone, overfishing and squabbling over access and fishing rights is common. Political control of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which was created via an international agreement to manage the region’s fisheries, is highly sought after, and equity among members is a constant concern.
China, a member of the WCPFC and the most fish-dependent country in the world, uses its fishing fleet, according to the Department of Defense, as a third arm of its navy. In its 2017 annual report to Congress on military developments in China, the Pentagon stated that “China is building a state-owned fishing fleet for its maritime militia force in the South China Sea.” By sending its fishing fleet into disputed waters, China can use those vessels as an excuse to deploy its Coast Guard cutters to defend the “helpless” fishing vessels. China has threatened war if any other nation, including the United States, attempts to bar them from the surrounding waters. It is not a stretch to think that the Chinese strategy of leading with its fishing fleet will be implemented in other rich fishing regions, like the Pacific.
A Finite Resource
While the global supply of proved oil reserves is projected to meet global demand through the middle of this century, oil is a finite fossil resource that cannot be replenished, which makes it unlikely that our dependence on oil can be sustained over the long term. Similarly, while fish are technically a renewable resource, their future is precarious. Nearly 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited or overexploited, and some scientists estimate that in 30 years there may be little or no seafood available.
While fish production, largely driven by aquaculture, is expected to increase 17 percentby 2025, it won’t keep up with demand, which is projected to increase by 21 percent. At the same time, external forces like climate change are pressuring global fisheries. And while ramping up aquaculture could help address the global fish shortage, it is not necessarily sustainable and faces some serious challenges. While it is unlikely that we are down to the last fish, within a foreseeable future, wild-caught fish could become a thing of the past.
A Critical Commodity
Oil is the world’s most traded commodity and its primary fuel, supplying 33 percent of all of our energy. Furthermore, the strong global economy and growing world population are expected to increase the demand for oil in the coming years. Petrochemicals are integralin everything from lipstick to electronics to aspirin; oil byproducts are used in the production of plastics, lubricants, waxes, pesticides, and fertilizers. In 2015, the oil and gas industry supported 10.3 million jobs and contributed more than $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy alone.
Similarly, one billion people currently depend on fish to meet their nutritional needs—and this number will grow as the population does, especially in developing parts of the world. Fish is the world’s most highly traded food commodity. In addition to the roughly 100 million tonnes that are consumed for food each year, fish also provide fish oil, glue, animal feed, and fertilizer, and play a growing role in biomedical research. Even without counting aquaculture, marine fisheries provide approximately 260 million jobs worldwide. If the sector collapses due to unsustainable and illegal fishing practices, it will have calamitous consequences for societies around the world.
A Growing Illicit Economy
While the value of crude oil production alone is a staggering $1.7 trillion, nearly $133 billion (or about 8 percent) ends up in the black market every year. The illegal petroleum trade undercuts business, undermines governments, and damages the environment. The perpetrators are increasingly connected to transnational organized-crime syndicates and terrorist organizations. For example, ISIS made as much as $3 million a day after it took control of oil production capacity in Syria and Iraq.
The seafood industry is significantly smaller, with nearly $150 billion in sales each year. But illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is valued at up to $36 billion a year—or about 25 percent of the legal market. Like oil, transnational criminal organizations exploit fish to fund their other activities: Mexican drug cartels, for example, diversify their income by trafficking in the totoaba fish, whose swim bladders sell for $20,000 per kilogram.
In the highly elastic illicit market, fishing vessels are used to traffic illegal drugs, arms, and even humans. Criminals can leverage their existing assets, especially boats, to move goods illegally through well-established global supply chains. In 2016, the U.S. Navy confiscated 1,500 Kalashnikov rifles, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and 21 machine guns from a small fishing craft in the Arabian Sea smuggling arms from Iran to Yemen. The former U.S. commander of the Fifth Fleet, Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, said “out-of-work fishermen” were moving all sorts of illegal goods throughout the region. And the U.S. Coast Guard recently seized more than 17,000 pounds of cocaine, worth nearly $260 million, from four fishing boats off the coasts of Central and South America. As fish stocks continue to decline, fishermen will find it increasingly attractive to use their vessels to smuggle illegal goods.
Clearly, there are significant differences between oil and fish, and how nations and non-state actors leverage them as tools of economics and power. However, the gap is not as wide as policymakers and the public may think. Today, the United States spends very little—about $800-900 million depending how you count—on fisheries management and law enforcement. The U.S. military spends upwards of $60 billion per year to maintain a military presence in the Persian Gulf alone, in part to protect access to its oil resources. As the strategic value of fish continues to rise, the management and security of the fishing industry deserves more political attention and smarter policies to ensure a more sustainable and secure future.
Johan Bergenas is the Senior Director of Public Policy at Vulcan Inc, the organization led by Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen.
4 Dec 2017, WCPFC14, Manila— Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) attending the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) have called for the ban of transshipment of tuna on the high seas.
This practice, which occurs out-of-sight of land in areas of ocean beyond the control Pacific governments are able to assert in their 200-mile exclusive economic zones, allows vessels fishing illegally to evade monitoring and enforcement measures, offload their cargo, and resume fishing without returning to port.
Global Tuna Conservation Director for PEW Charitable Trusts Amanda Nickson believes transshipment should be banned until there are sufficient controls in place to ensure that it does not operate as a loophole for Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) activities.
“We always hope that the Commission meetings will take up the issue of transshipment and continue to discuss and improve the situation,” Nickson said.
“Our position remains very clearly that transshipment at sea should be banned until there are sufficient controls in place to ensure that we don’t have it operating as a loophole for IUU activities.
“At this point I don’t see that we’re seeing a great deal of political will to address the issue as we would like but we certainly hope to see improved discussion,” Nickson told regional media in Manila.
Jamie Gibbon, Officer for Global Tuna Conservation (GTC) at PEW said 52 percent of longliners operating in the WCPFC have authorisation to transship, without any clear guidelines.
“One of the biggest issues in the region is that WCPFC initially envisioned transshipment as a rare occasion; that basically it will only occur at sea if that was the only way that a fishing industry could operate.
“Unfortunately, because WCPFC has not formalised the guidelines like they were supposed to, they basically rubber stamp any request for longliners to transship.
“So at this point, 52% of longliners operating in the WCPFC have the authorisation to transship. And that is not what the WCPFC envisioned when they put these regulations in place.
“One of the other issues is independent Observer reports are often not submitted to the Secretariat. Last year (2016) there were approximately 900 at sea transshipments, only one observer report made it to the Secretariat,” said Gibbon.
“I think it’s important that the Commission looks at the whole process. Who is transshipping, what are they transshipping, what’s getting reported? Is that report audited? Is there enough information out there? Right now we feel like transshipment is a black hole of information.
“There is no central repository for all that information it’s almost impossible for authorities to cross check information. So we really can’t tell you exactly what’s going on and that’s the biggest issue,” he said.
Gibbon said the issue requires regional cooperation from all relevant authorities; the he observer programs making sure that their observer reports are submitted both to the national, sub-regional and the WCPFC secretariat.
“Its going to take those authorities working together to cross check between the catch reports of the fishing vessels, the transshipment reports of what actually is transferred and then also the landing reports and making sure that all that information make sense,” explained Gibbon.
Speaking at the WCPFC14 plenary in Manila, Fiji’s Fisheries Minister Semi Koroilavesau said the need to “control efforts in the high seas” has not been successfully addressed.
“Such inaction of the commission is negatively contributing to over- capacity in the high seas resulting in low catches in zone. We do not want to see this to continue as our fishery may all collapse under the pressure that is being forcefully exerted upon us by Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs),” said Koroilavesau in Fiji’s opening country statement.–ENDS
Seven fishing companies benefited from the Tuna Support Fund (TSF) when Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum distributed about $3.2 million to them on October 7.
The TSF was setup in 2014 to mainly provide funding assistance to fishing companies that are locally owned and also controlled. The fund was created to assist these companies to raise their financial capacity to compete with foreign fishing companies that receive large subsidies from foreign Governments. To start the fund, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said six cent per litre of bunker fuel levy was imposed of which 4 cents was transferred to the TSF account.
The issue of distributing the funds went on for two years and they finally came up with a formula (See: Box). Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it was critically important for people to understand that fishing companies faced a lot of competition.
“The fishing industry is getting very restrictive because fish stocks are no longer as much as it uses to be,” he said. Moreover, there are more companies competing, more foreign companies that received subsidies, which resulted in local companies finding it difficult to compete with them.
The fishing business was prone to a number of anomalies, wherein some of them were engaged in corruption or misrepresentation of facts or not necessarily providing the right information both to the Fishing Industry Association and to the Ministry of Fisheries, Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum said.
TUNA SUPPORT FUND RECIPIENTS
Hangton Pacific Company Ltd
Hou Fisheries Ltd
Sea Quest Fiji Ltd
Solander Pacific Ltd
Solander Viti Ltd
The Fiji Fish Marketing Group Ltd
Trying to allocate the funds was a long process, mentioned Mr Sayed-Khaiyum. From the Government’s perspective, he said there was need to support local companies, especially when they operated in an environment which was not just competitive but was also sometimes detrimental to the security of the Fijian companies. “It’s a tough business,” he said and stated that in the South Pacific, Fiji was the only country with a domestic Tuna Industry.
Reacting to the initiative, the Fiji Fish Marketing Group Ltd executive chairman Grahame Southwick acknowledged the initiative from the Government. He said; “The funds might not solve all their problems but it gives the necessary support at this particular time when they really in need.
The industry is suffering from many aspects, some of it is local but many are foreign basis and is not within the control of Fiji.” The aid from the government was a relief for the local companies.
“This gives us a bit of breathing space. We are happy now; this will take us through to the next critical years as we try and solve other problems,” he added.
Mr Southwick explained how some of them with experience of over 30 years in the fishing business had travelled through the tough road and listing the two main problems faced by the industry.
For the past 10-15 years, over fishing has been going on in the Pacific and within Fiji.
“The overfishing that is going on in the Pacific is devastating, the controls within Fiji waters are quite strong but it can be a little bit better,” he added.
This was because there were too many licenses offered within the Fiji group, which was within the powers of Fiji to fix and we working towards tying to fix that problem. The other issue, which was of concern, was the foreign fleet fishing around Fiji on our perimeters, which was not sustainable.
“Just too many boats fishing in the high seas surrounding us preventing fish from coming into Fiji,” he said.
“We can’t stop them from fishing. Before the situation can improve, the regional over fishing and the fleet has to be slashed by at least 50 per cent.
These are long term problems, and for us companies to get through the next five to 10 years, it is going to be extremely difficult,” added Mr Southwick.
He also felt that these were problems that were not solved easily or quickly, and needed a few years of recovery.
He commented that it was a matter of trying to retain the skills, market, captains, engineers, knowledge and everything in the phase of major loses by the industry.
“Some of these generations of the fishing companies are not going to be around to see the recovery.
“It is going to be a long time before private business people can look into fishing industries and say; ‘oh this is a good industry to invest in’.”
The TSF has been a blessing for the local shipping companies in the fishing space. This support is necessary so that local companies can get through this period so that in 10 – 15 years time all is not lost.
“If the industry fails, we will lose all our skills and market. The Fishing Industry must survive,” stressed Mr Southwick.
“The training, skills, engineers, the captains, fishermen, processing workers has to be reserved for the next five to 10 years down the trail.
“It is very close to failing and if it fails now, there is no future for this industry,” he added.
At the same time, it was also important to ensure that the companies receiving the funds were compliant with various regulatory requirements. And were above board in their dealings. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said that there are fishing companies that don’t necessarily do the right thing.
For number of years, a lot of fishing companies hid behind different companies to hide their shareholding.
For instance, he mentioned how some fishing companies had stolen letterheads and made representations on different letterheads to the Fishing Industries and to the Ministry of Fisheries.
It is for this reason that only companies that were genuinely impacted benefited from the TSF.