DENARAU, FIJI-– After a week of talks the Pacific Tuna Commission has failed to take any action to protect albacore – one of the four commercially important tuna species.
New data over the past couple of years, showing the stock is declining and is less economically sustainable than previously thought prompted Pacific nations including Solomon Islands to come together to form a new pact, known as the Tokelau arrangement to protect albacore.
Those countries, with the backing of the Forum Fisheries Agency made action on albacore a top priority but fishing nations, who benefit from the fishery were not interested.
The result was a split and disappointing discussions.
The Pacific nations had asked the Tuna Commission to take the first step in establishing a harvest strategy for albacore – the setting of an ideal level for stocks – known as a Target Reference Point (TRP).
Wez Norris, Deputy Director of the FFA said albacore is a species that the 12 nations of the Tokealau Arrangement were keen to see discussions progress but that they turned out to be “very disappointing”.
“It seems very clear that there’s no support from the commission as a whole to move towards this,” he told Pacific media
Mr Norris said China and Taiwan had particular areas of concern with what Solomon Isalnds and other Pacific nations were proposing.
We’re very frustrated about this,” he said.
When asked if there’s no resolution, and how the Tokelau Arrangement countries will react, Mr Norris said;
“Internally, it won’t change our priority which will continue to setting the appropriate limits for the Tokelau Arrangement Parties’ waters.
“And work on this catch management arrangement so they can start to exert more control on the fishery. But it’s really indicative of a hamstrung situation because there is a lot of catch and effort in the high seas that the coastal states don’t have the leverage over compared to say, the Purse Seine fishery”.
While Pacific countries set fishing rules in their own 200-miles exclusive economic zones in the high seas they rely on the Tuna Commission (WCPFC).
Mr Norris said Pacific countries really require the WCPFC to act.
“What it means is that we’re back to the drawing board in some respects in terms of finding better ways to engage with DWFNs that are fishing on the high seas to see how we can identify arrangements to work together,” he said
But beyond albacore the Pacific made more headway on its priorities.
Bigeye tuna has declined to below the point regarded as critical.
The Tuna Commission made the first step to help bigeye recover by deciding to work on a plan to have numbers back to their target reference point in the next ten years.–ENDS