Honiara, 21 December 2020 – Pacific Island countries have worked with fishing nations to secure crucial protection measures next year for an industry worth over US$1 billion to local economies and employing around 24,000, following global meetings last week. 

Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said the virtual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) had ensured key management measures were rolled over to secure the fishery for the coming year.

“FFA member countries went into this virtual meeting with a clear set of priorities. The most important was ensuring we rolled over the flagship Tropical Tuna Measure for another year to ensure there was not a management vacuum while a new measure is negotiated in 2021,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.

“Our current measure expires in February 2021. Tuna fisheries are the social and economic lifeblood of many of our Pacific countries and we needed to ensure we had certainty. It was essential to the sustainable management of our tuna stocks that we avoided an outcome similar to recent meetings of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), who failed to reach a consensus on regulations, leaving their fishery unmanaged next year,” she said.

“We are really pleased that we were able to secure this outcome for the western Pacific region.”

The Tropical Tuna Measure regulates the tuna catch in the region and puts in place measures to ensure the amount of fishing effort and catch is kept at sustainable levels.

Forum Fisheries Committee Chair Eugene Pangelinan said virtual meetings were particularly challenging for Pacific members and in-person negotiations were a much more successful option for complex discussions.

“Pacific nations often struggle with poor internet connectivity and, to make matters worse, we frequently must contend with tropical cyclones at this time of year that cause significant disruption to communications. Trying to successfully complete sensitive negotiations under COVID conditions was always going to be more difficult,” said Mr Pangelinan.

“We managed to get key fishing nations to pull back a bit on the horns and accept the fact that this virtual commission meeting is not the time to talk about new measures which may increase bigeye tuna catch or adding fishing days to high-seas purse-seine effort limits,” he said.

“We’ve obviously got a lot of work to do now for 2021. In addition to negotiating a comprehensive tropical tuna measure, we will be looking at measures to ensure best practice approaches to observer safety and to address crew labour conditions and human rights issues at sea. It will be a busy year, but we are confident that this will be achievable, especially if face-to-face meetings can resume at some point next year.”

Pacific-caught fish contribute significantly to the diets of people in other parts of the world, with the Western and Central Pacific Ocean accounting for almost 60% of the global tuna catch, of which more than half is taken in the waters of FFA member countries.

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Media contact: Samantha Mattila, FFA Strategic Communications Manager, email samantha.mattila@ffa.int

About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA assists its 17 member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision-making on tuna management. Find out more here: www.ffa.int.

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About Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission

WCPFC was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPF Convention), which entered into force on 19 June 2004. The WCPFC Convention seeks to address problems in the management of high-seas fisheries resulting from unregulated fishing, over-capitalisation, excessive fleet capacity, vessel re-flagging to escape controls, insufficiently selective gear, unreliable databases, and insufficient multilateral cooperation in respect of conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks. A framework for the participation of fishing entities in the Commission, which legally binds fishing entities to the provisions of the Convention, participation by territories and possessions in the work of the Commission, recognition of special requirements of developing states, and cooperation with other Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) whose respective areas of competence overlap with the WCPFC, reflect the unique geo-political environment in which the Commission operates. Members: Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, and Vanuatu. Participating territories: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, and Wallis and Futuna.