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.
Bigeye, yellowfin, South Pacific albacore, and skipjack tuna are all reported to be in healthy condition, according to a 2018 stock assessment announced this week during the 16th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
The stock-assessment report of the Pacific Community (SPC) stated that the estimate of the total tuna catch in the WCPFC Convention Area for 2018 is 2,790,859 metric tons (MT), which represents 81% of the total Pacific Ocean catch of 3,443,174 MT, and 54% of the global tuna catch, which was 5,172,543 MT.
According to SPC’s overview of the tuna fisheries paper, the total estimated value of the tuna catch in the convention area increased by 1% to US$6.01 billion (€5.47 billion) in 2018.
The value of the purse-seine catch is US$3.26 billion (€2.9 billion), accounting for 54% of the total value of the tuna catch. The value of the longline fishery increased 16% to US$1.72 billion (€1.5 billion), accounting for 29% of the total value of the tuna catch.
WCPFC Executive Director Feleti Teo said, in his opening statement at the meeting on 5 December, that the region has high levels of tuna production. He said the region’s key commercial tuna stocks of bigeye, skipjack, albacore, and yellowfin were “assessed to have been managed and maintained above agreed sustainable levels”.
Teo added that, compared to other ocean regions, the tuna stocks in the region are not overfished.
Graham Pilling, director of the Oceanic Fisheries Program at the Pacific Community, added in a media release that conservation measures have contributed to the sustainability of the Pacific tuna stock.
“The healthy status of WCPO tuna stocks is attributed to the management of the fishery through the WCPFC process and its members, including the key roles played by the Pacific island member-countries and subregional fisheries agencies including the Fisheries Forum Agency [FFA] and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement [PNA],” Pilling said.
Despite the positive assessment, Teo said that the tuna commission should continue with its collective conservation efforts and not “to be complacent and to be less vigilant”.
But the Pacific Community also pointed out that there are still challenges such as the state of certain Western Central Pacific Ocean billfish and shark stocks that need to be addressed by the Commission. It said they are in need of urgent attention.
Economic impacts resulting from the recent decline in the price of skipjack tuna also poses a challenge in the region. Skipjack prices have fallen below US$1,000 (€900) per MT for the first time in a number of years.
But the WCPFC is developing and implementing harvest strategies for key tuna stocks to address the challenges, WCPFC Chair Jung-re Riley Kim said.
“I am very grateful to SPC for their significant contribution to providing science and data inputs into the important harvest strategy work of the commission, and their innovative efforts and initiatives to engage with cooperating members, cooperating non-members and participating territories, and contribute to building their capacity in terms of harvest strategy,” Kim said in a release.
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”.
At WCPFC16 … FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen (left), FFC Chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan (centre) and PNA Chief Executive Mr Ludwig Kumoru. Photo: F. Tauafiafi.
Optimism on the push to adopt the climate-change resolution tabled by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
PNA supports climate resolution and calls for agreement to maritime boundaries.
The Tuna Commission negotiations enter the final day today with the Pacific country bloc optimistic of good outcomes on its priority issues.
The Director-General of FFA, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said, “We are feeling very positive at this stage. We are feeling confident, but you never know until the last day.”
Top of the priority list is the push to adopt a climate-change resolution that was tabled on the first day. Signs are encouraging as questions on the text initially focused on actions by members and the Secretariat, and have been successfully navigated in accordance with the mandate of the WCPFC. The formal discussions take place today.
Chair for the Pacific’s Forum Fisheries Committee, Mr Eugene Pangelinan, said, “I am a bit more optimistic than what I was on the very first day.”
“The initial discussions were somewhat concerning, but this is a negotiation and if we are to get an agreement we will need to exercise some flexibility. Given the Convention and the objectives of the WCPFC (Tuna Commission) and what we’re trying to achieve, this is turning out much better than I thought.”
Alignment with COP25 climate change outcomes
Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said of the big emitters and other member countries from outside the Pacific, that “they have been consulted here by our members and have been supportive of this resolution”.
“It has come down to drafting, making sure that what is included doesn’t undermine any national positions being put forward at the COP25 climate-change meeting in Madrid, Spain. So there is a real big effort to get this resolution through.”
Mr Pangelinan said that, if there agreement were reached on a final resolution today, “that would be a great outcome for FFA members in terms of getting special attention within the WCPFC effort about climate-change issues, and fisheries in particular”.
It will also support further development of the science in the area, allowing the Tuna Commission to make informed decisions on the impacts of climate change and how the it can respond to those impacts.
The members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) fully support the resolution and the need to address the impacts of sea-level rise on the maritime boundaries of Pacific countries.
The Chief Executive of PNA, Mr Ludwig Kumoru, said, “Climate change affects all of our members. Issues such as maritime boundaries come into play when you talk about climate change. For PNA, one of the issues that is not mentioned specifically is sea-level rise and how it affects the EEZ boundaries.”
The major potential impact of changes to maritime boundaries are economic.
“They would lose their economic means,” Mr Kumoru said. “That is why we are making sure that, through FFA, through the region, it goes through to the United Nations, that our boundaries are agreed. Then even if the Pacific islands disappear their boundaries are there and they still get money [earned] from within those boundaries.
“So, from that point of view and all other issues with climate change, PNA supports the climate change resolution.”
Other Pacific priorities on the table are:
skipjack target reference point (TRP), the revision of which is still to be agreed
high-seas limits and allocation
mobulid rays conservation and management measure (CMM)
Compliance Monitoring Scheme
The 16th annual meeting of WCPFC is expected to close today, Wednesday, 11 December.
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.
FFC Chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan, left, and FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, right, at Sir John Guise Stadium, Port Moresby, for the 16th Tuna Commission meeting.
The 24 countries and territories of the Pacific are united behind a call for a Climate Change resolution to come out of the 16th meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC16) taking place in Papua New Guinea.
“Climate change is a top priority for us,” said Mr Eugene Pangelinan, Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) and Head of Delegation for Federated States of Micronesia.
“The [FFA] membership are calling for strong action by the Tuna Commission, specifically looking at food recognition of the impacts of climate change on our fisheries, on our food security, and livelihoods.
He said science has already started to show some of the impacts of climate change, such as “the distribution of fish stocks moving more towards the east as years go on. So there is direct scientific information that tells us something is happening to our fish stocks.”
the Forum Fisheries Agency, given the importance that ministers have placed on
addressing and advocating for more attention to climate change in particular,
in terms of its impacts on fisheries. How do we address that here at the
Commission,” he said.
our emphasis here [at the Tuna Commission] is a starting point. This is a
resolution, it is not binding. It is just to start that conversation within the
WCPFC but most importantly, FFA and all the developed countries sitting around
the table need to understand that climate change is happening for us and as
ministers highlighted, we need to start that process here and a resolution
always starts that discussion.”
He agrees it could turn out to be a very costly activity, “but we have to have that conversation. So we are putting ourselves up in front but we invite our colleagues to come in and help us have that discussion.”
FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen emphasised that, “While a resolution is non-binding, it will serve to focus attention on this important area, and whilst we refine the specific actions that can be taken by this Commission. Then we can move into binding measures.”
The resolution was introduced yesterday, and preliminary feedback asking questions including the mandate of this Commission on the topic of climate have been received.
“But our members are committed – our leaders have been clear – that this is the greatest threat to our security, and to our well-being and health as Pacific islanders, so there’s a really strong push from our members to persevere with this,” Dr Tupou-Roosen confirmed.
“It’s early days to tell where we are at with this. But we are so privileged to have key advocates such as the Hon. Minister from Fiji, the Hon. Minister from Tuvalu, and others in the room who will be able to help us get this through.”
Modeling from the Pacific Community indicates that as a result of climate change, tuna stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean will move east. It will mean more difficulty in monitoring and managing the fisheries, and the total tuna business opportunities are likely decline in the second half of this century.
To date, the tuna catch has been increasing, especially for domestic fleets. According to the Pacific Community, the amount of tuna caught in the Pacific fishery has doubled in the past 25 years, from 1.4 million tonnes in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2014. While large foreign fishing vessels dominate the catch, the percentage caught by domestic fleets is increasing substantially, and 550,000 t of tuna was caught by Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) in 2014.
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.
Yellowfin tuna … stocks of this and other species are a focus of FFA’s platform at WCPFC16. Photo: WWF
PORT MORESBY, 4 December 2019 – Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members have developed a comprehensive list of priorities for the 16th meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC16), including climate change as a central plank.
The meeting opens in Port Moresby tomorrow, 5 December.
Forum Fisheries Committee Chair Eugene Pangelinan, of the Federated States of Micronesia, commended FFA members for their strong commitment and solidarity in preparing for WCPFC16, before listing the priorities for FFA Members which include progress on target reference points for key tuna stocks, tightening up monitoring of transshipment on the high seas, improving the process for reviewing compliance with measures, and making progress on high seas limits and management of longline fisheries.
FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said FFA members are calling on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to take stronger action on climate change.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and the impact on Pacific Island countries is particularly threatening, given that tuna fisheries provide significant economic, social and cultural benefits,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.
“FFA is asking for increased attention by Commission scientists on the implications of climate change for the region’s tuna stocks, and consideration of what conservation and management measures (CMMs) can be put in place to reduce the carbon footprint of both Commission activities and fishing in Pacific waters managed by the Commission.
“Our members are proposing a resolution on Climate Change.”
Enhanced consultation between the WCPFC and small island developing states (SIDS) is also a key agenda item for FFA this year.
Mr Pangelinan said that FFA would be pushing in Port Moresby for Commission members to consult more comprehensively with SIDS when proposing new measures.
“Unfortunately, some measures have been presented to the Commission with inadequate assessments of the potential impacts on SIDS. For example, any measure that has significant implementation requirements should be informed by direct consultation with small island developing states,” he said
Mr Pangelinan and Dr Tupou-Roosen concluded by expressing thanks on behalf of FFA to Papua New Guinea for hosting this year’s Commission meeting.
Further details about key issues for FFA Members at WCPFC16 are in the attached below in the media backgrounder.
Media enquiries: Mr Tevita Tupou, +675 7333 9945
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. www.ffa.int
Media backgrounder: Summary of key FFA agenda items for WCPFC16
Following are details of FFA’s key priorities at WCPFC16.
The FFC Chair and the FFA Director-General will be available for brief media conferences or interviews during the Commission meeting, as time permits. Please direct requests to Mr Tevita Tupou on +675 7333 9945 or by email to email@example.com.
1. Climate change
Tuna fisheries are a critical resource for many Pacific Island countries, providing essential social and economic benefits. The impacts of climate change are particularly severe in the Pacific and place at great risk the benefits of the region’s tuna fisheries for small island developing states (SIDS).
FFA members are therefore calling on the WCPFC to collectively take stronger action on climate change, and will introduce resolution DP04 seeking that the Commission:
Fully recognise the impacts of climate change, in particular on the fisheries, food security and livelihoods of small island developing states and territories.
Take into account in its deliberations, including in the development of conservation and management measures, the impacts of climate change on target stocks, non-target species, and species belonging to the same ecosystem or dependent or associated with the target stocks.
Estimate the carbon footprint of fishing and related activities in the Convention Area for fish stocks managed by the Commission and develop appropriate measures to reduce such footprint.
Develop options such as carbon offsets to decrease the collective carbon footprint of CCMs and the WCPFC Secretariat associated with meetings of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies.
2. Tuna measures
The skipjack target reference point (TRP) is due for review at WCPFC16. FFA members support the Scientific Committee recommendation that the review be informed by the latest stock assessment. This indicates that a spawning biomass depletion ratio of 42% will achieve roughly the same fishery outcomes as the 50% TRP was projected to achieve when it was adopted in 2015.
Therefore, our recommendation is that the Commission adopt a 42% TRP, which is consistent with the level of fishing and the status of the skipjack stock in 2012.
Bigeye and yellowfin tuna
WCPFC16 is due to agree TRPs for yellowfin and bigeye tuna, which will be important in terms of implementing harvest strategies.
FFA members want to maintain bigeye and yellowfin stocks at levels that will create a very low risk of breaching the limit reference points (LRPs), consistent with the UN Fish Stocks Agreement guidelines. They also want modest increases in stock levels, to support ongoing economic management of the purse-seine fishery and to facilitate development opportunities for the SIDS’ longline fisheries.
In the absence of agreement on new TRPs, FFA feels strongly that the current objectives in the Tropical Tuna Measure for Yellowfin and Bigeye must be maintained. We also believe the economic, social and biological implications of the TRPs must be carefully considered, including their interaction with the TRP for skipjack tuna.
Reaching agreement on these TRPs at WCPFC16 is a challenging task, given the diverse objectives of Commission members. If consensus isn’t possible, WCPFC16 needs to clearly identify any further technical work required to support a decision in 2020, and capacity building to ensure all Commission members understand the implications of harvest strategy elements.
South West Pacific swordfish
FFA will encourage WCPFC16 to support advice from the Scientific Committee that current conservation and management measures for Swordfish (CMM 2009-03) need to be strengthened.
North Pacific swordfish and North Pacific albacore tuna appear to be in relatively good shape, but the Pacific bluefin stock level remains a problem, and this risks the reputation of the WCPFC when the health of other stocks demonstrates good management.
South Pacific Albacore work plan
FFA is seeking renewed focus on the work to build the South Pacific albacore fishery to the TRP agreed in 2018.
FFA has taken the lead in revising the South Pacific Albacore Roadmap work plan, to focus on setting an overall hard limit and on the split of the overall hard limit between the high seas and the exclusive economic zones (EEZs).
The other priority is to ensure that the new measure for South Pacific albacore recognise zone-based management (ZBM), EEZ limits, data collection, and reporting requirements.
3. High seas limits
High seas limits and allocation are also a focus for FFA this year. FFA is providing perspectives to the Commission on the provisions of CMM 2018-01 that commit to limits and an allocation framework for the purse seine and longline fisheries in the high seas. FFA members will promote agreement on a process for 2020 for advancing negotiations on high seas limits, with a view to reaching an agreement at WCPFC17.
FFA members will promote agreement on a process for 2020 for advancing negotiations on high seas limits, with a view to reaching an agreement at WCPFC17.
4. Compliance monitoring scheme
FFA members have worked hard with other Commission members over the last several years in the review of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme. Of high priority in the reform of the scheme is the way in which the Commission reviews the performance of members in implementing their monitoring and enforcement obligations at the national level. FFA members support the Commission’s role in identifying and targeting systemic issues with the implementation of obligations by Commission members and moving away from reviewing and assessing the actions of individual vessels. The core purpose of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme is to review the actions of flag states in respect of their vessel activities, and not of the individual vessels themselves. This approach is taken with a view to promoting and supporting compliance by all members as the foundation for achieving Commission management objectives.
FFA members remain concerned about the lack of effective monitoring of transhipment on the high seas, particularly by large-scale freezer longline vessels. This constitutes a significant gap in our ability to monitor and verify longline catches on the high seas, and we consider it to be a high priority issue for the Commission’s work to stamp out illegal fishing.
The FFA is seeking finalisation of the Transhipment Intersessional Working Group’s 2020 work plan, with a focus on identifying gaps in the current measure and defining measures to close those gaps.
Our members will advocate at WCPFC16 for adequate resources for this important work.
6. Harvest strategy
FFA is seeking more detailed economic analyses to support the harvest strategy work plan as it enters a complex stage at WCPFC16. FFA’s position is what while the work plan should be ambitious, it must also be realistic and there is a need for capacity building for SIDS and other Commission members to ensure they fully understand the harvest strategy work and its implications.
One of the key issues before the Commission will be targets for multiple species and how these might be achieved (e.g. harvest-control rules). FFA notes that SC15 endorsed a hierarchical approach for multi-species considerations. Members want further time to consider the implications of this, noting that it is likely to involve changes to the structure of the work plan.
7. Consultation with SIDS
FFA members are concerned about the lack of consultation with SIDS by some WCPFC member nations when proposing new measures to the Commission.
Some measures have been presented to the Commission with inadequate assessments of the potential impacts on SIDS, including implementation costs where additional investment will be required. Impact assessments require consultation and this must take place well in advance of Commission meetings when new proposals are being considered
On another issue, FFA members look forward to receiving the WCPFC Secretariat’s report on the first year of the Strategic Investment Plan.FFA members express appreciation for the voluntary contributions from Australia, Canada, Korea and the United States to the Special Requirements Fund.
8. Electronic reporting and monitoring
FFA views the Electronic Reporting (ER) and Electronic Monitoring (EM) Working Group as extremely important, particularly for the longline fishery where the reporting record of many vessels is poor and independent verification of vessel reporting through observer courage is struggling to reach 5%.
As standards and procedures for ER for both operational catch and observers have now been agreed for two years, FFA believes a date should be set for 100% electronic reporting by all active vessels on the Record of Fishing Vessels (RFV), and by all observers.
We note that many FFA members are implementing ER for fishing within their EEZs, and propose that ER be implemented for all fishing on the high seas by the start of the 2022 fishing year.
The next step is to recommend Commission-wide minimum standards for electronic monitoring (EM). The work that done this year on reviewing data requirements and sources and determining priority gaps, should enable the Working Group to progress this task in 2020.
Mobulid ray measure
FFA members are putting forward a proposal for a new measure to prevent targeted fishing and retention, and promote the safe release, of mobulid rays such as manta rays when they are caught by WCPFC fisheries.
10. Charter Notification Scheme
As CMM 2016-05 expires this year, FFA members propose a roll-over of the measure for a further two years. The Charter Notification Scheme is an essential component of WCPFC’s fisheries management framework and facilitates SIDS’ participation in fisheries. For example, chartering provides a mechanism for SIDS to develop their own commercial tuna fisheries in an incremental manner without requiring an unaffordable initial capital investment.
11. Harmful fisheries subsidies
FFA members reiterate the call by Pacific fisheries ministers at the 16th FFC Ministerial Meeting in June 2019 for negotiations to be completed on a new WTO agreement to prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies.
These subsidies can contribute to economic losses in the fisheries sector and distort global fish markets, with serious impacts on food security and livelihoods, particularly in SIDS.
We support the ministers’ view that any outcome should not unnecessarily constrain the ability of SIDS to develop their tuna fisheries and that appropriate differential treatment for SIDS should be an integral part of these negotiations.
The following acronyms will be in common use during WCPFC16.