Republished from Radio New Zealand, 12 December 2017

The 26 nations that govern the world’s biggest fishery left it to the last minute to agree to new rules for three economically crucial tropical tuna species – skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye.

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A hooked yellowfin tuna fish. Photo: ftlaudgirl/123RF

PacNews reports the adoption of a new tropical tuna Bridging Measure at three o’clock in the morning on the last day of the meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission was greeted with applause after days of gruelling negotiations.

It is being hailed as a success for Commission Chair Rhea Moss-Christian.

Other measures approved by the Commission include action to address plastic marine pollution and to boost the capacity of Pacific nations to step up the fight against illegal fishing with more vessel inspections in their ports.

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Photo: mtaira/123RF

The meeting failed to reach agreement on measures for albacore tuna, proposed by Pacific countries, but did agree to prioritise albacore at next year’s meeting.

The Tropical Tuna Measure, which regulates a catch worth $US4.5 billion, is a three-year agreement.

It is designed to ensure skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks are maintained at recent average levels and capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.

Rhea Moss Christian, Chair of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Nadi, Fiji WCPFC meeting 2016.

Rhea Moss Christian, Chair of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Nadi, Fiji WCPFC meeting 2016. Photo: RNZI/Monical Miller

“For this Commission to come away from this meeting without having a measure in place would have been a disgrace,” Rhea Moss-Christian told journalists after the decision.

Many distant water nations played a role in the final outcome but Ms Moss-Christian and the Forum Fisheries Agency highlighted the role of Japan, in particular.