The 17 members of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) will again be advocating strongly for strengthened Conservation and Management Measures (CMM’s) at next week’s 15th session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meetings to be held in Honolulu from 9-14 December.
Specifically, the FFA will be pushing to advance several priority measures including the Tropical Tuna Measure and adoption of a Target Reference Point (TRP) for the South Pacific Albacore tuna stock.
“Sustained implementation of effective rights-based management by Pacific Islands countries over many years have been instrumental in the sustainable development of our region’s offshore tuna stocks,” said Tepaeru Herrmann, current Chair of Officials of the Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC). “Our collective management of the region’s tuna stocks over many years has promoted sustainability, increased revenues and employment and helped to actively reduce illegal fishing but we cannot be complacent about future sustainability nor ignore the need for improved management of high seas activity in our region.”
High on the list for the FFA is the Tropical Tuna Measure – the flagship management instrument of the Commission which is intended to guarantee the long-term health of the bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tuna stocks upon which many Pacific Island economies depend. FFA members are concerned to ensure that the measure is not weakened by pressure from major fishing nations to increase their share of the catch. “The recent upwards re-evaluation of bigeye tuna stock is no reason to be complacent about future sustainability” stated Matt Hooper, the Deputy Director General of the FFA.
WCPFC has also committed to adopt a Target Reference Point (TRP) for the South Pacific Albacore tuna stock at this year’s meeting. FFA members are determined that WCPFC needs to follow through on this to help bring the fishery back into economic health. “For the past three years this matter has been deferred under pressure from distant water interests in the southern longline fishery” observed Mr Hooper, “We need to agree the TRP at this Commission meeting as a basis for improved management of this important fishery.”
Improved Compliance with Agreed measures
The WCPFC Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS) is an audit-like process where all members sit as a panel to review compliance by each of them with the agreed rules.
FFA Director General Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen recalled “FFA members have consistently generated the majority of substantive conservation and management proposals within the WCPFC during its 15 years of existence. FFA members remain committed to a CMS that is effective, efficient, fair and helps promote and improve compliance.”
FFA will be advocating for the CMS process to be streamlined and focus on ensuring compliance by members with WCPFC measures rather than getting embroiled in the detail of individual vessel level infringements which are dealt with elsewhere in the WCPFC’s processes.
FFA Senior Officials are currently meeting in Honolulu in preparation for next week’s Commission meetings, supported by the FFA Secretariat and the Office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNAO). The FFA will also meet with various delegation’s from Distant Water Fishing Nation’s (DWFN) this week who are also members of the WCPFC as part of building understanding of the issues and working towards consensus.
While FFA member waters cover most of the fishable range of the tropical tuna stocks, the FFA members cannot fully conserve and manage these resources through their own zone-based actions. The annual WCPFC meeting is key to the collective management of fishing for tuna stocks in the whole Western and Central Pacific fishery and for agreeing limits on the exploitation of stocks, particularly in the high seas areas beyond the jurisdiction of FFA members. The Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) will convene in Honolulu the week before the main WCPFC meeting scheduled for 9-14 December to agree its approach to key WCPFC agenda items. Full collaboration and regional solidarity among FFA members, including the PNA member countries who manage the purse seine Vessel Day Scheme, is a key feature of this endeavour.