WCPFC meet ends- more work to do

by Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara | 9 December 2016 | News

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