Japan does not support US big-eye proposal at Tuna Commission

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Japan believes that the US proposal to increase its bigeye catch limit is not fair.

The proposal would reward countries for better than minimum observer coverage on their longline vessels and for banning transshipment of fish. Transshipment is well-known as a key risk area for misreporting on fish catches and for potentially other illicit activities such as trafficking people or drugs.

FFA Members including Tonga have expressed strong concerns regarding the US proposal.

Head of Japan’s delegation to the Tuna Commission in Honolulu Mr Shingo Ota told Pacific Editors Japan does not like the US proposal as there are many other factors to be taken into account.

In the case of Japan, he said, they have been providing catch support which is a fundamental basis of stock assessment, therefore this scientific contribution should be appreciated.

The view from Japan is US is picking up only limited factors which are in favour of their operations and it is unfair. The United States has acknowledged it will be the only country eligible to benefit.

Ota also denied suggestions made in the US proposal that observer coverage on the Japanese fleet has gone down in the past year. He said the US figures are misleading and wrong. Ota emphasised that Japan is actually implementing its requirement for a minimum of 5% coverage.

He said while some of the fleets had little bit less than 5%, others had more than 5%.

On observers, Japan said it had had some unfortunate incidents in the past. Sometimes observers get depressed and they really want to return to port. Therefore, the fishing vessel had to quit fishing operations. Ota said Japan is working on this issue and that’s why electronic monitoring would be one of the solutions.

Pacific countries have proposed that this year’s Tuna Commission pass a resolution in supporting better working conditions for crew and observers working in the tuna fleets of all member countries.

Ina letter to the Commission the FFA Chair, Tepaeru Herrmann said: “The issue of poor labour conditions and mistreatment of workers on fishing vessels is vitally important, both to the Pacific and across the globe. Not only is the reputation of the WCPO fishery threatened by this, but our own citizens are at risk of being subjected to deplorable working conditions,”.

Ota said while Japan was very much supportive of the idea it the questioned if the Tuna Commission is best placed to handle this issue.

“The International Labor Organisation has a convention which deals with exactly the same topic so I think it would be natural to ask the members to ratify the Convention rather than discussing this issue at WCPFC,” Ota said

Japan fears the resolution, which is non-binding, might lead on to a push for binding labour standards.

It is easier to accept if it is a non-binding resolution, but what comes next is the question,”  Ota said. ……ENDS

Japan speaks out on ‘unfair’ US proposal

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Japan said that the United States proposal to that the Tuna Commission increase its catch-quota on for bigeye tuna is “unfair,”

“I think the US is picking up only limited factors which are in favour of their operations. So, I think it is unfair,” the Head of Delegation for Japan Shingo Ota told reporters at the Tuna Commission meeting.

Pacific nations and other members of the WCPFC are locked in tense discussions over the future of the tropical tuna fishery which includes bigeye tuna as well as skipjack and yellowfin.

WCPFC’s current members are Japan, Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, the European Community, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Japan, Kiribati,Korea, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Tonga, Tuvalu, the United States of America, and Vanuatu.

Ota was quick to criticise the US proposal, joining other Pacific nations in resisting any increase in the quota: “We don’t like it. 

“Their proposal is if a country has better observer coverage and does not conduct transshipment they can receive more allocation,” Ota said.

The US is seeking a higher catch limit for bigeye tuna by its Hawaii-based longline fishing fleet.

In its proposal, Washington highlights the significant levels of monitoring and control it maintains in the fishery, outperforming other members of the Commission.

The US points out that while large longline fleets are maintained by Japan, Korea and Taiwan have failed to meet the Commission’s minimum requirement of placing independent fisheries observers on 5 per cent of their vessels the Hawaii-based US fleet does better.

 Figures included in the proposal show the US fleet has achieved observer coverage of about 20 per cent in its deep-set fishery and 100% in its shallow-set fishery.

But Japan said the figures cited in the U.S proposal that suggest observer coverage on the Japanese fleet has gone down in the past year are “misleading.”

“Actually, the U.S figures are not correct and we are actually implementing 5% coverage. In some of the fleets a little bit less than 5% but some of the fleets are more than 5%,” Ota stated. 

United States seeks increase in its tuna catch limit

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Honolulu, Hawaii- The United States is seeking a higher catch limit for bigeye tuna by its Hawaii-based longline fishing fleet at the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) taking place in Honolulu this week.

The move comes as Pacific Island nations through their two main inter-governmental fishing agencies have made it clear they are not willing to increase the total bigeye catch in Pacific waters.

In its proposal to the 27-member rule-setting body, the United States highlights the significant levels of monitoring and control it maintains in the fishery, outperforming other members of the Commission.

,Washington points out that while the large longline fleets maintained by Japan, Korea and Taiwan have failed to meet the Commission’s minimum requirement of placing independent fisheries observers on 5 per cent of their vessels the Hawaii-based US fleet has consistently outperformed minimum requirements.

Figures included in the proposal show the US fleet has achieved observer coverage of about 20 per cent in its deep-set fishery and 100% in its shallow-set fishery.

With ‘essentially no at-sea trans-shipments’ taking place in the fishery the US argues it has been contributing highly certain catch data and other fisheries information, and making an important contribution.

The US proposes that as an incentive for Commission members to provide better quality catch data would be to increase catch limits by 1 per cent on 2018 levels for every 1 per cent of observer coverage achieved over the 5 per cent minimum. They also propose that catch limits should be increased by 10 per cent on 2018 levels for every member that achieves 100 per cent trans-shipment free fishing.

The US proposal admits that under current conditions the its fleets would be the only ones eligible to receive an increase in their catch limits.

It comes as the Science Committee of the WCPFC confirms advice that bigeye tuna is not overfished or experiencing overfishing. 

However, Pacific nations do not want to see an increase in the catch of bigeye.

The CEO of the 8-nation Parties to the Nauru Agreement group Ludwig Kumoru said although the US fishing industry is laudable for its efforts to put in measures to improve monitoring and control of their fishing vessels, the number of observers should not “directly relate to how much fish should I take from the ocean.”

 He said that the amount of observer coverage or number of observers one places on the vessels does not relate to the amount of fish one catches.

“Therefore good reporting should not be used as a condition to increase catch. We should instead concentrate on bringing in conservation measures that actually support sustainable fishing,” he said.

Although he doesn’t agree with the proposal, Kumoru said it will be up to the Commission members to decide on the matter.

“I think we should concentrate on bringing in conservation measures that actually support sustainable fishing.” Kumoru said.

The director General of the 17-nation Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said that although the science says that bigeye tuna looks to be in healthier state than previously thought, they have advised the Commission to maintain current fishing limits and take a precautionary approach.

Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen stressed that the FFA wants to see a strong tropical tuna measure from this week’s Commission meeting which include a healthy bigeye tuna population.

 “I mentioned earlier priorities of FFA members going into this meeting and that is to maintain the strength of the tropical tuna measure and not to weaken the existing provisions,” Dr. Roosen said.

She also commended United States continued cooperation with the Commission’s rules.

“So we are confident that we will reach a successful resolution of the ongoing issue with the US,” she said.

The environmental groups PEW and WWF see the US proposal as an “interesting idea” especially in the context of it being an incentive to fishing nations to improve monitoring control and observer coverage, but believe the Commission should still prioritise the population of the bigeye.

“ We are fully in support of improving observers coverage, we also think that trans-shipment should be banned unless best practices are in place to ensure its verifiable and legal. And we see this incentive system as an interesting idea.  However, the Commission needs to be careful that the overall catch of big-eye does not increase past the scientific advice,” said Dave Gershman, Pew Charitable Trust Global Tuna Conservation Officer.

“If you increase the catch of big-eye through one proposal, you need to kind of reign it in in a different way. If they can structure it in a way where it doesn’t lead to an increase in big-eye catch then that would be the way to go.”

Bubba Cook, WWF Western Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager said: “The US proposal sends a strong statement that if we have greater observer coverage and we’re able to get better refined data on these stocks, we may actually be able to catch more than what we’re catching right now.”

WCPFC chairperson Rhea Moss-Christian said that the US approach is a “relatively new one,” and she cannot determine yet how the Commission members will respond to the proposal.