Tuna Commission gets tough on Bluefin overfishing

by Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara | 7 December 2016 | News

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.