MAJURO — Pacific islands fisheries officials have a big agenda for this week’s Technical and Compliance Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting that opened in Majuro Wednesday.
But for many of the smaller islands, no issue is more pressing than the lack of capacity to ensure their islands are complying with an increasing load of fisheries management requirements, said Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Director Glen Joseph in the lead up to the meeting that started Wednesday and continues through next Tuesday in Majuro.
The Technical and Compliance Committee or TCC addresses a range of tuna management issues. Recommendations of the TCC feed into the WCPFC’s annual meeting in December, being held in Hawaii this year. Pacific island fisheries officials met most of last week leading up to Wednesday’s opening to prepare for the talks. Tuesday featured a one-day meeting of the intercessional working group on a compliance monitoring scheme and next Wednesday is a one-day meeting of the FAD management options intercessional working group.
Joseph said he and other Forum Fisheries Agency or FFA members want the WCPFC to take up the issue of “capacity” in the islands as part of the overall compliance scheme. “We are dealing with 40 measures, 10 resolutions and related rules for the WCPFC that we need to comply with,” Joseph said. “It’s a problem of (not having) a level playing field,” he said. “We lack the capacity of other (developed) nations around the table.”
In addition to this concern, Joseph highlighted three additional issues high on the agenda of FFA nations:
- • Tuna transshipment on the high seas. While purse seiners fishing in the region largely transship in port where catches are monitored, a large volume of long line catch transshipment is conducted on the high seas. This means important catch data is not monitored, leaving serious gaps in stock assessments.
- • Observer safety. Fine-tuning an observer safety measure adopted by the WCPFC in 2016 is essential, he said. “We need more implementation to ensure observer safety,” Joseph said. “There is still a problem with treatment of observers (on vessels).”
- • Illegal, unreported and unregulated or IUU fishing. “The overarching concern is illegal fishing, but IUU includes ocean pollution, observer treatment, transnational crime, smuggling of goods,” Joseph said. “Everything comes under IUU.”
The TCC meeting that continues through Tuesday is one of two major committees of the WCPFC. The other is the Scientific Committee. Both meet in the lead up to the WCPFC annual meeting, where conservation and management measures are considered by the more than 30-member nations.