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By Rita N-Tudia, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13
Enforcing high seas fishing rules should be the top priority for the body responsible for protecting the Pacific’s valuable tuna.
The CEO of one of the region’s most important Pacific fisheries blocs – the Parties to the Nauru Agreement – issued a stern call to members of the Western Central and Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to end uncontrolled fishing on the high seas.
The WCPFC brings the Pacific resource owners together with global fishing powers to set rules in the world’s biggest fishery.
PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said the commission has to focus on the high seas and not be distracted by looking at fishing in Pacific nation’s 200-mile EEZs (Economic Exclusive Zones) where they (the WCPFC) have no right.
“They should be focusing on the high seas. And the other thing for PNA is we have to get this harvest control strategy on skipjack. If we can get it through then that’s good, “Kumoru said at a briefing with Pacific journalists in Nadi on Friday.
There is no control on longline fishing and very little accurate information on the number of longline vessels fishing in the high seas.
The Tuna Commission (WCPFC) is the largest source of tuna supplying over 70% of the world’s tuna for Distant Water Fishing Nations.
According to a Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency report, in 2014, the estimated value of the longline production of 269,000 tonnes was $1.7 billion
Longline fishing vessels often fish illegally in the high seas.
These vessels do not have to pay for a licence or be under any strict rules causing a huge economic loss for the Pacific.
FFA Deputy Director General Wez Norris said they need to continue to push the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to continually strengthen the management of the high seas fisheries.
“We have a couple of specific proposals on the table to move towards that this year,” he said.
One proposal includes reducing the limits that apply to purse-seining and managing them in a more fair and equitable way
Another proposal creates high seas special management areas covering areas completely surrounded or almost surrounded by EEZs.
Norris said a huge concentration of vessels are found fishing right on the border of EEZs and FFA sees that as a priority for management reform.
According to Norris, emphasis on enforcing high seas fishing measures comes from the specific push through the Future of Fisheries Roadmap to increase restrictions on high seas fishing.
The Future of Fisheries Roadmap was endorsed by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their annual meeting in 2015.
(Deadline – to upload tonight)