Pacific island leaders satisfied with results of Hawaiian tuna meeting

Categories News, NewsPosted on

Republished from Undercurrent News, 8 April 2019

Pacific Islands fishery leaders are said to be content with the results of last weekend’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Hawaii, US, reports the Herdon Gazette.

Agreements have been made to maintain current tuna catch limits, minimum standards of labor for fishing crews, and increasing the involvement of small island states in the day-to-day business of the WCPFC. 

While the US had initially been planning a push to increase its tuna catch quotas, these were ultimately withdrawn, as the tropical tuna measure remains in place.

An additional two-month prohibition on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by purse seiners on the high seas has been implemented, while limits on the use of FADs for three months from July 1 remain in place.

“FAD closures are an important conservation action that reduces catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna,” Ludwig Kumoru, head of the parties to the Nauru agreement, told the Gazette.

“Maintaining the FAD closures is contributing to sustainably managing our tuna stocks.”

Micronesian leaders unite to combat IUU fishing by 2023

Categories NewsPosted on

Micronesian nations are uniting to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) by 2023 in the Pacific.

At the 19th Micronesia Presidents’ Summit on 21 February, Palau, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Nauru signed a communique supporting a IUU Free Pacific by 2023. This challenge was set up by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).

“It is important to build on the momentum we have at the national and regional level to combat IUU and to give it a goal or a target if you will. Imagine an IUU Free Pacific by 2023,” RMI President Hilda Heine said during the summit in Palau.

“The Marshall Islands seeks your endorsement of this vision and goal, to have Micronesian Leaders support an IUU FREE Pacific by 2023 as an outcome of this important meeting.”

In October at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s Technical and Compliance Committee meeting in Majuro, Marshall Islands President Heine called on Pacific nations to agree to get rid of IUU fishing by 2023.

She urged the leaders of the Micronesian countries to make the same commitments to join the fight against IUU.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said the Micronesian region might be small but it comprises large ocean states which makes it all the more important to band together to deal with environmental degradation, including illegal fishing.

“My friends, I like to refer to our nations as the Large Ocean States. With this title comes great responsibility. Not only must we exploit our marine resources for the benefit of our people, we must protect them for our children and for the world at large,” Remengesau said when he welcomed the leaders in the February Summit.

“We must, therefore, continue to lead the world in creative responses to the environmental degradation that faces our Pacific Ocean through pollution, climate change, over-fishing, illegal fishing and the like. Together we must move forward with initiatives that prevent IUU fishing, that expand our protected areas and places limitations on pollution at every level.”

The Forum Fisheries Agency, in 2016, estimated fish either harvested or transshipped illegally in the Pacific region to be in the order of $600 million with the actual economic loss to FFA Members being around $150 million annually.

Heine, the RMI President, said IUU brings a broader scale of challenges that includes transnational crime, human rights and labour standards, pollution, and marine debris.

In the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Hawaii last year, the resolution on fishing vessel crew labour standards was adopted.

Led by Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, with the support of members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), the resolution is in line with the goal of FFA members to enhance economic benefits to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from employment on board fishing vessels licensed to fish in the exclusive economic zones of FFA members.

Heine said the RMI is working closely with the FFA Secretariat in convening an IUU Colloquium in Majuro before the end of the year.

“The target audience will include National Compliance Officers, to our Fishing partners, both flag states and distant water fishing operators,” said Heine.

She added that with development partners, RMI continues to tap into emerging technology to meet the challenges such as the Persons of Interest project to ensure that “we are not so vessel focused in the way we combat IUU fishing; that we are not just collecting information on vessels’ compliance history but more importantly, we’re also collecting information on persons involved in illegal fishing and sharing this information.”

Tuna experts sceptical of Japanese bluefin tuna proposal

Categories News, NewsPosted on

Tuna experts are sceptical of Japanese government’s impending proposal to seek an increase in fishing quotas for Pacific bluefin.

The Japanese government is reportedly planning to put the proposal to Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) at the Scientific Committee meeting in Busan, Korea later this month.

Their proposal will be made on the grounds that Pacific bluefin tuna stocks are on a recovery track.

However, Jamie Gibbon, the global tuna conservation officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts, says the Pacific bluefin tuna population is still severely depleted, at just 3.3 per cent of its unfished size.

He says overfishing was still occurring – with fishing rates more than twice the maximum sustainable level. Based on the current stock size, Gibbon says they opposed Japan’s proposal to increase catch limits for Pacific bluefin tuna.

“The projections that show future growth in the population are all heavily influenced by the estimate of recent recruitment (the number of new fish in the population in 2016) and that estimate is relatively uncertain, because it is based on just one observation from one source of data,” Gibbon says.

“Because of the depleted status of the population and the uncertainty about the accuracy of the future projections, we are urging members of the WCPFC to maintain the catch limits at the their current levels for at least the next two years, until a full stock assessment can be performed to confirm the results.”

Japan’s move, reports Japanese daily newspaper The Mainichi Shimbun, comes in response to a recent estimate by the International Scientific Committee (ISC) for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean that a provisional target for stock recovery can be achieved with a high probability, even if countries raised their tuna catch quotas.

After overfishing of bluefin tuna, which is a popular fish for sushi and sashimi, the WCPFC set a tentative target to recover stocks of bluefin tuna weighing 30 kilograms or more to 43,000 metric tons by 2024.

The Mainichi Shimbun reports that the ISC estimated that even if countries raised their tuna catch quotas by up to 15 per cent without differentiating between large tuna and small tuna weighing under 30kg, the probability of achieving the provisional target would be 74 per cent.

But Dr John Hampton, chief scientist and deputy director of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems says he feels that the optimistic outlook was overly reliant on just one recent estimate of high recruitment, which was quite uncertain.

“If that estimate changes in the future, then the probability of meeting the recovery target would change,” Dr Hampton says. “In my opinion, it would be premature to increase quotas at this stage. I think we should wait until there is greater certainty regarding the recent high recruitment.”

Dr Hampton says the stock assessment report from the ISC also made the following cautionary statement: “However, it should be recognised that these projection results are strongly influenced by the inclusion of the relatively high, but uncertain recruitment estimate for 2016”.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Gibbon says the 16-year rebuilding plan for Pacific bluefin tuna was in just its first year, adding it was too early to start making changes.

“The members of WCFPC must give the plan time to work, or they threaten the future health of the Pacific bluefin population and the fisheries that depend on it.”