Team WCPFC pleased with 2016 outcomes

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EXECUTIVES of the Pacific Tuna Commission have expressed satisfaction over the level of discussions and the outcomes that have been reached at its annual general meeting.
This comes after years of meetings from which the Pacific has left disappointed.
Chairwoman Rhea Moss Christian said at a press conference held at the conclusion of the 13th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission said the highlights were the adoption of the measures on observer safety this year.
Ms Christian said the measure was important and had been adopted by consensus adding it had given the commission the much needed motivation and pride that it had needed.
It is the first time the commission had introduced the concept of small working groups, a move which was Ms Moss-Chritian’s initiative.
Ms Moss-Chritian said the small working groups had enabled thorough discussions and the excellent progress on outcomes including the harvest strategy elements, despite the complexity of the framework, a view that was widely endorsed by both fishing nations and the Pacific.
Ms Moss-Chriistian said another key outcome was the forced reconvening of the Northern Committee during the course of the meeting last week.
This unprecedented action forced Japan and other members of that committee to go and look for more effective ways to halt overfishing of critically-low stocks of Pacific Bluefin tuna.
Ms Moss-Christian said this undoubtedly would have signalled to the distant water fishing nations (DWFN) that the commission as a whole would be taking … a closer look at the status of the Bluefin stock, and the recommendations it puts forward for adoption.
“What has happened this week sets a new tone for the way forward on how the commission addresses fish stocks that are overfished or are in a critical state,” the chair said.
WCPFC Feleti Teo said it had been a long week with the discussions on the last day of the meeting being quite tense and testing for all participants.
He said the discussions on observer topic could have provided challenges for the commission had it not been agreed to by members, in turn reflecting negatively on the work that had been done over the course of the week.
However, he is pleased it turned out well.
He said the secretariat of the commission was pleased that there were now clear directions it was getting from the commission pertaining that lies ahead for it.
In this regard its strategic plan would be key going forward.
He said while this was not one of the measures that had been adopted, the importance of having this document had been noticed among members of the commission.
“It will take time to get a common platform on which the commission would agree to the key objectives and priorities but what was agreed to was that further discussions needed to undertaken, the members need to be more involved,” he said.
Despite this the CEO said work will continue on the plan and on the important business of securing the future of the region’s tuna stocks.
“I am reasonably happy in terms of the discussions held this week ..especially the steps taken by the commission in subscribing to the new approach on harvest strategy towards the fisheries management,” Mr Teo said.–ENDS

Deaths of PNG fisheries observers hastens new safety rules

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Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13

FOR the first time observers can go to work knowing there is help if ever they fall sick or are harassed or intimated by crew members while out at sea. There is a safety net onshore to help them.
The urgency for action had been heightened by the deaths of the five observers in the last six years.
They are Wesley Talia, Larry Gavin, Charlie Lasisi of Papua New Guinea , Usaia Masibalavu from Fiji and Keith David from the United States of America who died in their line of duty, reportedly under fishy circumstances
The historic decision giving this effect, was made by the Pacific Tuna Commission also known as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, at the closure of its annual meeting which ended in Nadi, Fiji last Friday.
The adoption of this measure by the commission now means the nations providing the observers, the flag state of the boat on which they serve and the coastal state in which they are fishing are obliged to assist.
It came down to the wire and the measure would have been lost with one distant water fishing nation (DWFN) refusing to budge on the matter.
However, the united front put up by the Pacific Islands and their decision to ask for a vote on the issue prompted a last-minute announcement by Japan agreeing to this resolution.
The role of Observers has become extremely important for not just scientists in ascertaining the stock levels of the fishery but for compliance.
That make it also very dangerous, with more of the information they collect being used by authorities for investigations and prosecution of non-compliance
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Western and Central Pacific Tuna program manager ,Alfed Bubba Cook, who has been a staunch advocate on issues of observer safety, said getting the measure across the line was a huge accomplishment.
Mr Cook credited all those who had been involved, particularly the Pacific Island Forum Fishing Agency (FFA) who had demanded the vote on that issue adding it was symbolic in that it sent a strong message to the DWFN, that they won’t be pushed around on matters that are important to them.
However, he said it regrettable that people had to die for this measure to gain traction.
“You would think that issue of human health and safety would not require negotiations or require coercion to get people to agree to the protection of people serving them,” Mr Cook said.
Mr Cook said had urged in his remarks soon after the adoption of the measure by the commission had said this be applied across all tuna regional fisheries management organisations as well.
Japan has a two-year exemption from the measure.
FFA’s director general James Movick said while it was a tough process and he had commended the commission, Japan and the Pacific Islands who had been unwavering in standing for the rights of those who are in the front of the region’s oceanic fishery.
Chief executive officer of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Ludwig Kumoru also lauded this achievement stating it was a huge step forward for the industry.–ENDS

WCPFC meet ends- more work to do

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Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13

The outcomes of this year’s tuna Commission (WCPFC) were not as ‘spectacular’ as members including the region’s two largest fisheries blocs-the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA) and Parties to the Naru Agreement (PNA) had hoped for, nevertheless positive.
In press conferences the FFA director general James Movick and PNA chief executive officer Ludwig Kumoru said the only success stories were the adoption of the measures on observer safety and the forced reconvening of the Northern Committee.
Jubilation about success on safety measures and a recognition that this year’s fisheries negotiation were more successful than the past two years when Pacific nation as felt they walked away with nothing did not overcome disappointment at the glacial pace of change on other issues.
Mr Movick he was disappointed by the lack of traction on measures to address the Bluefin tuna stock which have been overfished and now down to an all-time low of 2.6 per-cent the unfished biomass levels.
Nevertheless Mr Movick said some small steps had been made.
“While we did not quite get what we were looking for, we have wording in the measure or in the outcome, which clearly indicates to the Northern Committee the expectation in some of the criteria by which the rest of the commission will be looking to their seeking an improvement on the measures they are proposing for the Bluefin stock.”
Mr Kumoru, also agreed the biggest gain was the measures on observer safety.
He said PNA was also happy with the outcomes for skipjack tuna in particular in terms of the harvest control strategy, adding this is indicative of how well the Vessel Day Agreement (VDA) was working resulting in this fishery being well managed.
Skipjack is the most important canning tuna in the Pacific.
Mr Kumoru said the disappointments for PNA were the Northern Committees handling of the Bluefin stock, and the issue on transparency whereby the EU has been insisting to be privy to the agreements that the Pacific had with its bilateral partners.
“It is not something that will be easy for us members to agree to,” he said.
The growing concerns of environmentalists over the state of the ocean fisheries was summed up by Dr Cat Dory from Greenpeace who was disappointed not enough had been done by the commission to prevent further depletion of the Bluefin or Bigeye tuna.
Dr Dory said there were some great protection measures that had been put on the table to protect other oceanic species including sharks and it was disappointing that they did not make it over the line on the final day of the meeting.
She said fishing will continue to increase. “There are far too many boats on the water and with the changes that come with climate change where all life has some uncertainties,” she feared that taking baby steps is not going to be fast enough for the life the commission was seeking to protect.
“That is the role of the commission to ensure that fisheries and healthy marine eco-systems and that is currently not happening,” she said.
Dave Gershman from PEW Charitable Trust reiterated earlier calls by environmentalists for a two-year moratorium on fishing for Bluefin.
He acknowledged this was a last-resort measure but one he said is now necessary.
“Overall we made some excellent progress on the harvest strategy elements, it’s quite a complex framework, and members were committed in putting in the time to move the issues forward. I am pleased with that outcome, adopted a mreasure of observer safety this year and that was an extremely positive outcome. It was adopted by consensus and gave everyone the motivation and pride the commission needed at this point in time.”
“On Pacific Bluefin tuna, the Northern Committee reconvened, and came back with some additional recommendations that the commission accepted. In doing that the commission also requested that the northern committee do the work it was set up to do.”–ENDS

Can deep sea mining and lucrative tuna fisheries co-exist?

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By Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara, Pacific Media@WCPFC13
THE Pacific’s two largest fisheries blocs-the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA) and Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are treating the issue of deep sea mine cautiously.

Pacific waters are home to the world’s largest fishery currently accounting for around 56 per percent of the global supply of tuna.

The dilemma the region faces is that those same waters will also be hosting the world’s first ever copper-gold project.

Papua New Guinea heavily relies on its extraction industry and the progress of the Solwara 1 project, now under development in its territorial waters, will mean added revenue to its national coffers while also much needed foreign exchange.

Nautilus has already been granted the Environment Permit and Mining Lease required for resource development at this site. It has indicated plans to grow its tenement holdings in the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters also in Solomon Islands, Tonga as well as other locations in the Western Pacific.

PNA chief executive officer (CEO) Ludwig Kumoru said he considered deep-sea mining to be a lot
more than the one or the deep sea mining,” said Mr Kumoru.

This is because the proposed seafloor mining operations would be done at 1,600 meters beneath the surface, well away from the 200 meter level, which is where the tuna live and breed.

However, he said the eight-member group recognised that being the first of its kind there are questions and different circumstances in different locations. However, land mines still pose more risk. “Worse is the tailings that come through the rivers from land-based mines and into the sea, that to me will affect the fish to head the PNA.

“But it depends on the sites, in other places it may be different, there may be a lot of strong under current which could move the cloud (plumes) up (to the 200m mark) or the way they move the minerals up, then there is going to be problem,” Mr Kumoru said.

Forum Fisheries Agency director general James Movick said the FFA has urged those countries participating or engaging in deep sea mineral mining exploration and mining take into account the local conditions and act on a strong precautionary principle.

“That really has to be the fundamental principle in which they operate,” the DG said.

PNA’s commercial advisor Maurice Brownjohn in an earlier interview stressed the importance of countries getting together and setting region-wide minimum terms and conditions for mining.

It is this mechanism that has allowed the PNA countries to boost their returns from fishing by more than 400 per cent in five years.

Mr Brownjohn said all mining should meet environmental standards and mining products must come into port and be landed and cleared with 3rd party verification of the quantity and quality.

These conditions reduce the opportunity for cheating and provide jobs.

If companies are not prepared to meet the conditions Mr Brownjohn said they should be given their marching orders.

“If you (the companies) are not prepared to do so, go to the Atlantic. Then we can have some tangible benefits, otherwise there will be lots of promises but very little delivery,” he said.



Tuna Commission gets tough on Bluefin overfishing

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By Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara, Pacific Media@WCPFC13

A PROPOSAL for a Moratorium on the fishing of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna will be supported by the CEO of the PNA (Parties to the Naru Agreement) bloc, if progress is not made at this year’s Tuna Commission meeting taking place in Fiji.

PNA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ludwig Kumoru was commenting on the failure of the Tuna Commission’s northern committee to make adequate recommendations to address the critical state of the Pacific Bluefin fishery.

Conservation groups including the Pew Charitable trust have been calling for urgent action to protect Bluefin including a moratorium on fishing until the stocks recover.

The 2016 stock assessment for Pacific Bluefin tuna confirmed the continued low stock levels of this fishery with the spawning biomass now at an all-time low level of 2.6 percent of unfished levels.

In response, the Northern Committee, at its September meeting in Japan had recommended taking up a harvest strategy and catch limits- but not to be negotiated until next year.

The meeting of the Tuna Commission (WCPFC) in Nadi has taken the unusual step of ordering the northern committee to reconvene to consider more effective management measures.

Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) director general James Morvick said he is happy with the reconvening of the Northern Committee because its failure to address the Pacific Bluefin issue is damaging the WCPFC’s reputation.

“The failure of the Northern Committee to address the Pacific Blue fin issue effectively brings the WCPFC mission into disrepute and this is something that the Pacific Island party have no role in because committee was constituted as a separate entity for the Blue Fin,” he said.

“We are basically demanding that they take action and as a result the very frank and open discussion (that led to the order to reconvene) is a very encouraging sign,” he told journalists yesterday.

Environmentalist have argued that not enough was being done by the Western and Central Pacific Commission to address this issue and that that they would have no option but to call for a moratorium on fishing of this tuna species.

“I will go with that (a moratorium) because if you have seen the signs, Bluefin are overfished and they have been a number of warnings before that something has to be done to restore the stock,” Mr Kumora told Pacific Journalists.
Meanwhile the WCPFC goes into day four of the negotiations at Denarau, today (Thursday).
Mr Morvick said some small steps had been made on the discussions in progress between the Pacific Island countries and the Distant Water Fishing Nations.

Mr Movick said there was optimism that some progress would be made on the important issue of risk management in setting targets for fish stocks.

He said small, incremental steps being made would serve as a foundation for next year’s decisions on one of PNG’s and the Paciifc’s top priorities: a new the tropical tuna management measure covering 3 valuable species skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye.


Tuna Commission urged to act to protect observers

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By Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara, Pacific Media@WCPFC13

THE job of observers posted on tuna boats has become increasingly dangerous as they have come to play a more important role in efforts to boost sustainability of fish stocks.
There are about 800 observers, deployed on purse seine and long-line fishing vessels across the Pacific.
After incidents of intimidation and harassment, disappearances at sea and the murder of two Papua New Guinean observers over the past few years observer wellbeing is expected to be a priority when the 13th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) gets underway in Nadi, Fiji this week.
Deputy director of the Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA) Wes Norris told visiting journalists from the Pacific, these workers are subjected to harsh working conditions in the course of collating very important scientific data.
Mr Norris said the information obtained is usually for investigations and prosecution thus, exposing the them to a range of issues including intimidation, corruption and bribery.
One of the issues that will be dealt with is that of insurance. The FFA is keen to see observers properly covered with health and life insurance if they suffer accidents or illness at sea.
It is a matter of respect for workers who are the eyes and ears of science and law enforcement in the region’s valuable fisheries.
“We need to take them very seriously because what they collect (data) is absolutely crucial and we rely on the information very heavily, Mr Norris said.
“We have been given very clear instructions by the Pacific fisheries ministers to look after them.”
The FFA is not relying solely on the WCPFC for action.
As a result of incidents brought to the attention of authorities reforms have been put in place this year.
Mr Norris said FFA, as a provider of observers, has devised an emergency response plan in the event urgent word is received from one of these workers.
Responses range from liaising with the boat owner to ordering the master of the vessel to bring the vessel into port immediately to face compliance action.
As well as the FFA reforms Mr Norris said a holistic region-wide approach is needed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of observers.
“We see a strong need for the commission to have specific rules in place for flag states and fishing companies to take specific actions as a way of protecting the interest of our observers. This is a measure that the US has prepared on behalf of the commission that is on the table” Mr Norris said.
Views differ among stakeholders in the fishery but Mr Norris said is still hopeful progress will be made.


PNG goes the next step on the US Tuna Treaty

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By Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara, Pacific Media@WCPFC13

Papua New Guinea has again congratulated the United States and Pacific Island Parties to the 28-year old South Pacific Tuna Treaty for successfully negotiating amendments to the pact.
PNG Ambassador Lucy Bogari was speaking in Nadi, Fiji as three more countries including PNG signed on to the amendments and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will allow fishing access for the next six years.
A larger signing ceremony took place in Nadi, Fiji, on Saturday and while PNG was represented at this event by the deputy director of the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) Philip Polon he had only initialled the changes.
During years of tense negotiations to achieve the amendments PNG at one stage became so frustrated it pulled out of talks.
At the beginning of this year the rift over tuna relations hit a new low when the US failed to pay for its agreed fishing days and issued a formal notice of intention to withdraw from the Treaty.
“We would like to recognise that this is an instrument that truly marks the relationship we have between the United States of America and the Pacific Island Parties,” Ms Bogari told representatives from the US, the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Island Parties and the media in Nadi.
We in the Pacific are very keen to see that the relationship that we have enjoyed with the US over the years, Ms Bogari said
“PNG continues to also ask that the rule of law and the regulatory arrangements that we have in place for the fisheries is followed by all parties, Ms Bogari said.
The amendments and MOU encompasses access fees and aid to the 17 member states of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and across the Pacific is worth about US$70million.
The PNG government’s endorsement of the MOU which is a bridging mechanism which allows the US to fish in the Pacific waters pending the full ratification of the re-negotiated 30 year old deal came only yesterday.
It the seven long years of negotiations.
“This is an important treaty for the Pacific Island Party and PNG in its capacity as depository,” Ms Bogari said
“And as the depository we look forward to playing our role in ensuring that the instruments or whatever it needs to formalise the rescinding of the (US) withdrawal takes place and we look forward to the continuing relationship in that regard.
Ms Bogari also congratulated the US on its successful election of the superpower’s new president and affirmed the Pacific’s keenness to see the continuation of what she said has been a cordial relationship.
Meanwhile, two other countries had also signed off on the MOU and they were Niue-represented by the head of the delegation Josie Tamate and Tuvalu’s newly appointed Minister for fisheries Dr Puakena Boreham.
Both representatives in their respective remarks marking this important event had also pledge their government’s support.

Innovative small-scale tuna canning coming to PNG

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By Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara, Pacific Media@WCPFC13
A mini-canning unit small enough to fit on a kitchen table is set to provide jobs for families and small businesses in PNG.
The secretariat of the 8-nation fishery bloc the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) came up with the idea of mini-canning as a way to minimise waste of by-catch from purse seine fishing.
The PNA has been conducting training for people from government and private sector in its member states on how to use the micro-canning units.
A company called KMI Enterprise in Majuro, Marshall Islands-which is the biggest transhipment port in the world- has already started manufacturing this product.
PNA plans to extend this venture into its other member states including Papua New Guinea, where it will help with food security and import replacement, as well as jobs.
PNA’s commercial advisor Maurice Brownjohn said Papua New Guinea is the next country to receive training.
Around 1000 cans of the PNA’s Skipjack Christmas pack have been sent to Nadi, Fiji ahead of the 13th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
Four PNA staff will be giving delegates to the WCPFC the opportunity to taste the product which differs from industrially processed canned fish.
This is because each can is packed with fresh raw tuna rather than cooked tuna. Added to that is bit of water, salt and a dash of virgin coconut oil. The fish is then cooked using a domestic pressure cooker.
“The product is safe as it has been done safely and to the highest sterility standards set in Australia,” Mr Brownjohn said.
He said when the mini-cannery was introduced they were using skipjack, yellow fin and rainbow runner but added that the same could be done using mackerel and trochus meat as well.
PNA has already distributed samples of the product along with a brochure to explain the back ground of the project, along with a brochure to a number of embassies and officials.