Pacific countries gather to plan for the future of oceanic fisheries management

by Madeleine Stirrat | 24 October 2019 | News

HONIARA, 24 October 2019 – The 14 member states of the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) gathered on Tuesday to plan for the final year of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) initiative. During the 7th Global Environment Facility (GEF) Steering Committee meeting, participants reflected on project’s achievements during the year and made plans for the future.

FFA representatives talked final targets for the OFMP2 project before it wraps up in 2020. Next year, the project will focus on limits and allocations for tropical tuna on purse seine and longline vessels, longline electronic monitoring, and transhipment review. 

Solomon Islands crew quantifying transhipments from a Taiwanese longliner. Photo: Francisco Blaha.

Project Manager, Hugh Walton said one of the main concerns for the next phase of the project was high seas management.

“Deep Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs), particularly China and Taiwan, want to retain that right for the high seas transhipment.

“They have to be able to prove economic disadvantage […] it’s not documented, and it’s not tested, so it’s a huge loophole and we’re trying to close it.”

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office CEO, Ludwig Kumoru, also emphasised that the project could only move forward with long-term high seas allocations in place. Current allocations ensure that available resources are equitably distributed between fisheries who target the same species outside country Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

Mere Lakeba, Director of Fisheries, Fiji said that catering to countries’ individual needs was important moving forward. Hugh Walton, OFMPII coordinator said that this would be a priority.

“In preparing the last proposal, the OMFP sent consultants to each country and produced a template of situational analyses of what was going on in each country to identify national priorities.

“There is no one size fits all, and we would not aspire to a one size fits all approach,” Walton said.

Walton also spoke of project successes including the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and the resulting Strategic Action Programme (SAP) produced by Professor David Vousden of Rhodes University.

The TDA and SAP have shed light on the current challenges for the management of Pacific EEZs, and presented Pacific countries with the steps that can be taken to mitigate the issues.

The report put root causes of current fisheries issues down to a lack of high seas compliance, climate change impacts, and pollution from coastal and inland activities.

It also notes a positive: migratory tuna stocks are currently at sustainable levels due to the management and efforts of Pacific fisheries over the last 20 years.

All 14 member states have sent letters of endorsement for the Project Implementation Form (PIF). The PIF was submitted to the GEF on October 11, and outlines plans for continuing OFMP2 activities. A detailed proposal for the next phase of the project is planned for June 2020.