By Viola Ulakai, Pacific Media@WCPFC13
As the tuna Commission enters its final day of discussions in Nadi the Forum fisheries agency has expressed deep disappointment about the outcome on albacore tuna – the species most important to Tonga.
Albacore tuna stocks have dropped to a level which makes it uneconomic for the local industry to fish.
Foreign boats, especially those from China that receive fuel subsidies that the Pacific boats do not get, are still viable.
For the past decade they have been driving the Pacific fleet out of business.
Tonga and other FFA countries asked the Tuna Commission to set a target catch for albacore as the first step towards a harvest strategy that would put the fishery back on an economically sustainable footing.
Speaking to journalists last night the Deputy Director of the FFA Wez Norris described discussion on albacore as ‘very disappointing’.
“It seems very clear that there’s no support from the commission as a whole to move towards this,” he said.
China and Taiwan in particular had concerns about the Pacific countries proposals.
“We are very frustrated about this,” Mr Norris said.
But the Pacific will continue with its own plans to put the fishery on a better footing using the pact known as the Tokelau arrangement, to which Tonga is member.
If there is no resolution of differences on albacore on the last day of the Commission Mr Norris said Pacific countries will continue with their plans to set appropriate fishing limits for the waters of the Tokelau Arrangement Parties’ and work on a catch management arrangements.
The aim of this is for the Pacific countries to come together to exert more control on the fishery.
However, Mr Norris said it is a problematic situation as a lot of catch and fishing effort for albacore takes place in the high seas where the Pacific does not have control.
Tonga’s Director of Fisheries Dr Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi reinforced the statement made by the FFA Deputy Director General.
He said albacore is a stock that requires management by the WCPFC – the only body that has the power to make to set fishing rules in the high seas.
Mr Norris said the Pacific countries are also disappointed about lack of progress with talks to improve safety conditions for people who work as independent observers on fishing boats but that other issues of importance for the region were progressing quite nicely.
The FFA is pleased with discussions on a timeframe for rebuilding bigeye tuna stocks.
Bigeye is over fished and there’s a need to set a target for when to solve it.
Mr Norris said the text on bigeye hasn’t been formally adopted yet but there seemed to be pretty good agreement around the table that the Tuna commission will implement a ten-year time frame.
It is quite complex because you have got a huge number of countries sitting around the table and they all have slightly different interests, or markedly different interests,” Mr Norris said.
As a result coming up with a list of objectives that adequately covers the concerns of all countries is quite a long process, he said.