Tuna buzz builds for Pacific nations to 12th WCPFC.

18th Nov 2015, FFA HQ, Honiara SOLOMON ISLANDS – South Pacific Albacore, High Seas and IUU fishing, Target and Limit Reference Points and Harvest Strategies linked to the Pacific’s Future of Fisheries Roadmap are just some of the tuna buzzwords as the region heads to the annual general session for the regional tuna commission, the WCPFC.

Also known as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the WCPFC brings the 17 member nations of the Forum Fisheries Agency, FFA to the negotiating and reporting table with the world’s major fishing nations. Following a series of technical, compliance and science meetings throughout the year, the WCPFC members, cooperating non-members, and observers, come together every December to track developments, updates and emerging trends in the Pacific tuna fishery. More importantly, they are charged with setting rules or Conservation and Management Measures for sustainable tuna fishing.

Filling 16 of the 26 full-member seats at the table, FFA members form the largest regional bloc of the WCPFC. The FFA members also feature the tropical tuna group of eight—the Parties to the Nauru Agreement and Tokelau, and the emerging southern albacore oriented Tokelau Arrangement group of eleven nations – all keen to achieve new momentum for regional and economic benefits from the USD5.8 billion-dollar fishery.

“Pacific positions on a range of focus issues for FFA members have been pitched, clarified and developed further during our preparatory meets held in Honiara last month.  The willingness of our members to maintain regional solidarity on such difficult issues, and to find ways to reach that common position in ways that accommodate their national aspirations is always inspiring,” says FFA’s team leader to the annual WCPFC meetings, Deputy Director General Wez Norris.

Pacific positions heading into the 12th WCPFC from Dec 3-8, were tabled and discussed during the 11th FFA Management Options Consultation followed by the 96th Forum Fisheries Committee meetings held in the last week of October.

“Significant progress was made in clarifying and strengthening positions on the establishment of more robust management approaches through reference points and harvest strategies, further scrutiny on the degree to which WCPFC members live up to their obligations, management of high seas fisheries and reform of the albacore and tropical tuna fisheries ”   says Norris.

Commending the outcomes of the MOC 11 and FFC 96, FFA Director General James Movick noted the strong commitment and quality of input from country officials who had attended all meetings at the FFA Conference centre.

“The FFA secretariat and our Members are mindful of the upcoming program for WCPFC 12, when a record 16 days of back to back meetings are scheduled. With that in mind, I want to thank all officials who attended for their strong and quality attendance at our regional preparatory meetings. It’s a credit to the priority they give to the issues, and a good sign for future of fisheries roadmap implementation,” he says.

DG Movick says the MOC meeting in 2015 was “especially important, given we are just over a month out from the Forum Leaders endorsement of the Future of Fisheries Roadmap, which now plays a key role in shaping our priorities and our engagement with other stakeholders in the fishery”.

Key items on the 2015 MOC 11 agenda which went to the 96th FFC session, and will shape the Pacific voice to WCPFC 12 in Bali include:

PRIORITY FOR: SOUTH PACIFIC ALBACORE-- FFA members aim to reign in catch and effort levels in the south Pacific albacore fishery, after concerns raised by the latest SPC stock assessment which suggests the fishery is far more fragile than previously assessed. SPC predicts fishing at current levels has a high risk (20%) of pushing albacore stocks over the edge in the next 20 years. FFA members are backing a measure aimed at setting Target and Limit Reference points for south Pacific albacore. They will also push for urgent management reform and develop harvest strategies for this stock.

FFA members are also seeking to revise the current WCPFC Conservation and Management Measure on South Pacific Albacore, which is now five years old and requires urgent updating and review based on the latest WCPFC Scientific Committee advice.

SECOND TIME-ROUND: SKIPJACK TUNA- Noting the critical importance of skipjack tuna stock to global tuna markets as well as small scale, artisanal and subsistence fisheries, Pacific nations are also proposing a CMM to set a Target Reference Point for Skipjack tuna towards the development of a harvest strategy to ensure the effective management and sustainable use of this stock.  The draft was developed by the PNA and is now going forward with the full support of all 17 FFA members in response to the WCPFC's own Scientific Committee advice supporting adoption of a TRP and harvest control rules.  A similar proposal was presented last year but was not adopted and has been revised taking into account the feedback at the Samoa meeting last December.  

STEPPING UP: HARVEST STRATEGY--Pacific nations are keen to build on gains made during the last WCPFC in Samoa, where the commission set itself a work plan goal for adopting or refining harvest strategies for skipjack, bigeye, yellowfin, South Pacific albacore, Pacific Bluefin and northern albacore tuna by the December 2015 meeting. The FFA proposal provides for the key WCPO stocks. Management objectives, reference points, risk levels, monitoring and evaluation strategies and harvest control rules are a key part of this proposal in accordance with the Pacific Future of Fisheries Roadmap for Sustainable Fisheries.

FIGHTING IUU: HIGH SEAS—FFA members remain concerned over Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fishing in high seas pockets and are renewing their call for additional measures to increase monitoring and control of vessels fishing in High Seas that are surrounded by Pacific EEZs. Their renewed call comes as the 2015 regional operation “Kurukuru”, administered by the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre, was successful in detecting and filming two vessels in the high seas pocket north of the Solomon Islands EEZ that were not reporting to any Vessel Monitoring System, and in one case was not listed on any regional vessel list.

FOCUS REQUIRED: TROPICAL TUNA --Pacific nations are keen to strengthen the existing Conservation and Management Measure 2014-01 for bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna (also called the Tropical Tuna Measure). From deployment of Fish Aggregate Devices to high seas and bycatch issues and catch and effort data, the scope of the TTM is broad and requires more strategic focus across the range of issues identified. FFA members have been pleased to see Korea and China providing operational level catch and effort data covering longline fisheries for both countries as well as purse seine fisheries for Korea.  Critical to this discussion will be securing real action from the Commission to address the disproportionate burden that the current measures place on several FFA Small Island Developing States in contravention of the Commission’s own Convention.

IMPROVING REPORTING: COMPLIANCE MONITORING SCHEME--FFA members have seen the benefits of Compliance monitoring work and remain firmly committed to the WCPFC Compliance Monitoring Scheme, which assesses whether each Commission member is actually meeting its obligations under agreed rules. Proposed changes are aimed at ensuring the CMS runs more smoothly and promotes or expedites compliance, and allows SIDS to address capacity issues with CMS processes.

TARGETTING IUU: PORT BASED MEASURES--Pacific nations are proposing a CMM on Port Based initiatives to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU Fishing. The measure sets out a range of actions for Port based standards including inspection procedures and minimum training standards for Inspectors leading port-based work that take into account FFA members needs and capabilities.--ENDS

More details on http://www.ffa.int/node/1608