WCPO tuna fisheries soon to be managed by the whole ecosystem

by Claire Heath | 4 February 2021 | News

School of tuna. Photo: Fabien Forget, ISSF.

If the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and its members have it their way, they will soon be managing tuna and other migratory fish in their region by taking into account the needs of the whole ecosystem, and not just the fish.

Their ecosystem approach would encompass the effects of climate change. 

FFA and other regional fisheries organisations of the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) have already begun to take an ecosystem-wide approach to managing stocks of tuna and other commercially valuable migratory fish. Coastal fisheries, too, are increasingly being managed in a holistic way that encompasses whole ecosystems.

FFA and its partners are seeking funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to make the approach mainstream so that it becomes integral to national and regional fisheries policies, operations and scientific research.

The Deputy Director-General of FFA, Mr Matt Hooper, said that taking a whole-ecosystem approach to the threat of climate change would help the states of the WCPO to ensure secure supplies of local food and economic wellbeing.

He said an “enormous amount of work” had gone into developing the project.

“It was heartening to see the member countries contributing along with our partners and industry,” Mr Hooper said.

The project would build on the two blocks of work funded by the Pacific Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2). This funding will end in June. OFMP2 supports the 14 small island developing states (SIDS) of the WCPO to implement and enforce global, regional and subregional rules and policies that conserve populations of tuna and other commercially important fish. 

The basis of the new project would be two outputs from OFMP2, a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and a Strategic Action Programme that builds on the TDA.

The main objectives of the project are to:

  • strengthen ways of managing the marine ecosystem and the life it supports
  • strengthen scientific monitoring, which will allow fisheries managers to make better-informed decisions on how to protect the ecosystem while sustainably harvesting some of its resources
  • build the capacity of local people to manage the ecosystem within the area that is governed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

FFA is leading the development of the project, which will involve the 14 SIDS (all of which are members of FFA): Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshal Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. FFA is working closely with other organisations that will be involved, including the Pacific Community (SPC), the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office (PNAO), the Pacific Island Tuna Industry AssociationWWF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).