PITIA Press Release, July 2019 – The Pacific Island Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) held its AGM over two days recently in Nadi, Fiji.

PITIA has been constituted since 2005 and is supported by an Executive Officer based in Suva, Fiji. PITIA provides a voice for the domestic longline, purse seine, pole and line, and processing facilities into the wider policy and fishery management systems development across the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

PITIA makes inputs into Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) processes on annual basis, and participates in all the key meetings of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

PITIA is supported by its members and gets assistance from the European Union via the Pacific Island European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) via FFA and, for the last four years, by the FFA’s Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) which is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) via the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Attendees at the AGM spent considerable time discussing priority concerns for industry in 2019, and matters that industry would like addressed at the WCPFC meeting in 2019. Time was also spent discussing the sustainability of the organisation and funding for the core function of paying the Executive Officer.

Those attending the meeting agreed that, given the importance of the challenges faced in the management and sustainability of the WCPO tuna fishery, there was a need for PITIA to promote higher levels of visibility regarding the importance of the role of the organisation and the networks already in place for PITIA to represent the interests of domestic industry into regional processes. It was also noted that national fishing associations represent both domestic and foreign domestic based vessels.

The meeting was addressed by Bill Holden of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), noting the MCS decision to align the Harvest Control Rules condition requirement across all MSC-certified tuna fisheries in the WCPFC.

They advised that there was an urgent need to ensure that the WCPFC stayed on track with the timelines in place for Harvest Control Rules under WCPFC CMM 2014-06.

The meeting was advised that there would be a firm deadline for the adoption of Harvest Control Rules for the four key tuna species at the WCPFC by end of 2021, and noted that if this condition was not met, it would result in the suspension of the region’s MSC-certified fisheries in 2022.

Noting the dependence of some key fisheries on the MSC premiums, the meeting strongly voiced the view that this matter be properly addressed at WCPFC.

PITIA Chair Brett Haywood, from Fiji, said: “We consider this matter to be a key priority for WCPFC, not just for our members but for all of the region’s certified fisheries.”

He further noted: “The MSC premium is fundamental to the economics of our longline fisheries and we simply cannot risk losing the certification.”

The meeting considered and “endorsed” the 2019 WCPFC priorities recently identified by Pacific fisheries ministers when they met in Pohnpei, FSM. These were listed as: sustaining zone-based management, adopting high seas catch limits and allocations, reviewing the transhipment measure, more active participation on the challenge of eliminating inequitable fisheries subsidies, and advancing a plan for the adoption of an electronic monitoring (EM) strategy.

In regard to the last, Mr Haywood added that there were a number of challenges for industry in regard to application and cost recovery, and ensuring EM viewing was risk-based.

“The current EM rollout programs are focused on the domestic fleets who are, in the main, compliant operators. The focus of EM needs to be on the high seas fleets as these are the more at-risk fleets” he said.

“We also need to ensure that the costs of EM are not overburdening for vessels, as this could encourage some licensed ‘in zone’ operators to relocate their effort to the high seas.”

The meeting attendees also noted the increasing need to focus on marine pollution and the disposal of plastic waste at sea. For some members, vessels are required to return all potentially polluting waste to ports for disposal. However, other than the difficultly of enforcing the MARPOL convention, it is a real challenge to apply pollution-prohibition compliance on the high seas.

“What happens to the plastic strapping and lining of the tuna longline bait boxes for vessels on the high seas?” Mr Haywood asked. “This matter needs to be properly addressed at WCPFC.”

The meeting also viewed a presentation on the recent work that has been done on the climate change impacts on Pacific tuna fisheries.

It strongly endorsed the recent suggestion that, in view of the last Forum Leaders’ instruction to more strongly address climate change impacts on tuna fisheries, and to help set the stage for bringing “climate justice” into the range of arguments for better consideration of SIDS fisheries interests and disproportionate burdens at WCPFC, that it might be useful to consider proposing a resolution to WCPFC for climate-change linkages to be considered or addressed in WCPFC measures.