Victory for the Pacific as Japan gives way on tuna boat observer safety

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By Rita N-Tudia, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13

In an extraordinary show of strength Pacific island countries forced their bigger global tuna fishery counterparts in the Tuna Commission (WCPFC) to agree on safety measures for their observers on tuna fishing vessels.
Five observers have died or been murdered at sea in the past 6 years while providing regional scientists and compliance officials with the information they need to ensure the sustainability of tuna stocks.
The new measures were nearly lost as Japan refused to join the consensus, despite a week of talks.
As discussions hit barriers late on Friday, members were ready to take an unprecedented move and put the issue to vote.
Almost all 17 Pacific Forum nations made individual and emotional statements to the plenary session about the risks their citizens face to keep the fishery sustainable.
A final statement by the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Alfred (Bubba) Cook, a personal friend of an observer who lost his life in suspicious circumstances last year, left the room in silence.
Shortly afterwards a call from Tokyo cleared the way for approval of the new measures, which include a clause releasing Japan from having to comply for two years.
“It was a huge accomplishment to get the observer safety measure across the line,” Bubba Cook told journalists shortly after the meeting ended.
“I think that is a huge step symbolically. What they (FFA nations) have equivalently done is performed a ‘haka’ in front of the Distant Water Fishing Nations and they let them know that they are not going to be pushed around on the issues that they think are important to them and I think that’s a very very important symbolic step. “Cook said.
Mr Cook said the decision has more significance than just the win on safety.
“This is about Pacific Islands flexing their muscles and saying this is ours and we are going to protect it,” he said
At a press briefing WCPFC Executive Director Feleti Teo acknowledged the challenges in deliberations and the risk to the future standing of the commission.
“I think the observer safety discussions could have provided some difficult challenges for the commission and it could have reflected quite negatively on the work that the commission did this week. But it all turned good in the end,” Teo said.

Signing of tuna treaty with US, makes way for future development of Vanuatu tuna fishery industry

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By Rita N.Tudia, PacificMedia@WCPFC13

Vanuatu has today signed a six-year extension to a tuna treaty with the United States paving the way for future project development in the country’s tuna fishery industry.

The US Pacific Tuna Treaty was signed by the Acting Director General for Foreign Affairs Basil Yvon on behalf of the Government of Vanuatu at the margins of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission 13th annual meeting in Nadi, Fiji.

Yvon said there has been an increase in Project Development Funds as part of the arrangement with the US.

“With the increase in PDF funds we can fund more fisheries-related projects in the country as part of the development of our fisheries. So this is one of the economic benefits that we are getting out of this Treaty,” Yvon said.

There is not much activity from the US tuna fleet within Vanuatu’s 200 mile Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ).

However, Vanuatu and other FFA members benefit from access fees and aid provided by the Treaty.

The package which comes into effect on January 1, 2017 is worth about US$70million.

Most of the tuna catches in the Vanuatu zone are by domestic and locally based foreign vessels.




PNG signs tuna Treaty with US, hopes cordial relationship continues under Trump

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By Rita N-Tudia, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13

Papua New Guinea hopes the spirit in which a multilateral tuna fisheries deal that it signed with the United States today will continue with the new US administration which comes into office in January, 2017.
PNG High Commissioner to Fiji Lucy Bogari said the South Pacific Tuna Treaty is an instrument that truly marks the relationship between the US and Pacific Island parties.
While commending the US for holding presidential elections, High Commissioner Bogari said PNG is very keen to see the relationship that the US and the Pacific have enjoyed over the years is a longstanding one.
“So under this new incoming administration we hope that this relationship will continue,” she said.
High Commissioner Bogari signed the South Pacific Tuna Treaty at the margins of the Tuna Commission annual meeting in Nadi today.
She added PNG asks that the rule of law and regulatory arrangements that are in place for the fisheries are followed by all parties.
“And we know that this in an informal MOU to set the process in place and as the (Treaty) depository we look forward to playing our role in making sure that instruments whatever needs to formalize the rescinding of the withdrawal takes place and we look forward to the continued relationship in that regard,” High Commissioner Bogari said.
Fourteen of the 16 Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency have signed the Treaty with the United States and Vanuatu and Fiji are expected to sign this week.
At an earlier signing ceremony held last Saturday, FFA Director General James Movick said the arrangement will allow the continuation of the Treaty for another six years.
“It has taken us seven years to reach this point and again this highlights the increasing complexity and the changing nature of this relationship even over the period of this negotiation,” Mr Movick said.
The Treaty which allowed US vessels to fish in the Pacific since 1988 as well as deliver economic assistance to the 16 FFA members from the US Government ran into hurdles in the last seven years.
These came to a head earlier in the year after the US failed to pay for fishing days it had agreed to and issued notice of its intention to formally pull out of the treaty.
US Secretary John Kerry has signed a letter to the FFA officially rescinding Washington’s notice of intention to withdraw.
In June this year, the FFA said the access and aid envelope for its members had been going through increasingly difficult negotiations and interim agreements since the last multi-year agreement ended in 2012.
FFA Deputy DG Wez Norris said the overall package could be worth as much as US70m for 2017 “if the fleet takes up all its available opportunities.”
“By the end of the deal the Treaty will be providing returns of over US14,000 per fishing day …At the start of the negotiation, that amount was somewhere in the vicinity of US2,000 per day, ” Norris said.
The US government aid received by Pacific Island Parties under the treaty will increase from US$18 million per year to US$21 million.
A Memorandum of Understanding, also signed last Saturday, provides a mechanism for the amendments to the Treaty to come into effect from January 1, 2017.

Tuna Commission told to focus on enforcing its high seas fishing rules

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By Rita N-Tudia, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13

Enforcing high seas fishing rules should be the top priority for the body responsible for protecting the Pacific’s valuable tuna.
The CEO of one of the region’s most important Pacific fisheries blocs – the Parties to the Nauru Agreement – issued a stern call to members of the Western Central and Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to end uncontrolled fishing on the high seas.
The WCPFC brings the Pacific resource owners together with global fishing powers to set rules in the world’s biggest fishery.
PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said the commission has to focus on the high seas and not be distracted by looking at fishing in Pacific nation’s 200-mile EEZs (Economic Exclusive Zones) where they (the WCPFC) have no right.
“They should be focusing on the high seas. And the other thing for PNA is we have to get this harvest control strategy on skipjack. If we can get it through then that’s good, “Kumoru said at a briefing with Pacific journalists in Nadi on Friday.
There is no control on longline fishing and very little accurate information on the number of longline vessels fishing in the high seas.
The Tuna Commission (WCPFC) is the largest source of tuna supplying over 70% of the world’s tuna for Distant Water Fishing Nations.
According to a Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency report, in 2014, the estimated value of the longline production of 269,000 tonnes was $1.7 billion
Longline fishing vessels often fish illegally in the high seas.
These vessels do not have to pay for a licence or be under any strict rules causing a huge economic loss for the Pacific.
FFA Deputy Director General Wez Norris said they need to continue to push the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to continually strengthen the management of the high seas fisheries.
“We have a couple of specific proposals on the table to move towards that this year,” he said.
One proposal includes reducing the limits that apply to purse-seining and managing them in a more fair and equitable way
Another proposal creates high seas special management areas covering areas completely surrounded or almost surrounded by EEZs.
Norris said a huge concentration of vessels are found fishing right on the border of EEZs and FFA sees that as a priority for management reform.
According to Norris, emphasis on enforcing high seas fishing measures comes from the specific push through the Future of Fisheries Roadmap to increase restrictions on high seas fishing.
The Future of Fisheries Roadmap was endorsed by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their annual meeting in 2015.

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Understanding the Pacific fisheries roadmap

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Pacific leaders endorsed a new 10 year roadmap for sustainable fisheries at their annual meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in 2015.

What does the roadmap mean to Pacific islanders?

There are four ambitious targets within the 10 year time frame set out by the Leaders of the 16 members of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Leaders want sustainability and they have set reference target of three years for the major stock.

They want to double the value of the catch to the Pacific Islands within the ten year period.

They want to see the doubling of number of people employed in the fisheries sector.

The fourth target is to increase the supply of tuna for domestic consumption in the region by 40,000 tonnes per year by 2024.