And fisheries managers and tuna officials are concern that some Asian nations are not providing operational catch data essential to accurate stock assessments.
This was highlighted early this week in Suva, Fiji during the second media training organised by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) in association with Pew environment group.
PNA chief executive Dr Transform Aqorau said distant water fishing nations need to take action to reduce catches on the high seas by first providing operational catch data required by their membership in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
“PNA is providing the commission with all catch data from fishing within our waters,” he said.
“The Asian fishing nations need to do the same for their catches on the high seas. The lack of data leaves gaps in the stock assessments and undermines the sustainability of the fishery for everyone because we are forced to make decisions based on incomplete information,” he said.
The PNA boss said the refusal to provide fishing data to regional management authorities is tantamount to illegal fishing.
Another tuna company official suggested that fishing nations that are refusing to provide timely tuna catch data to regional management organisations should be penalised.
Singapore-based managing director of Tri-Marine International, Philip Roberts said tuna monitoring organisations can provide accurate data and if its members don't provide the data, they should be penalised.
Mr Roberts said illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing includes misreporting and under-reporting.
Vessels engaging in illegal fishing have been blacklisted throughout the western and central Pacific and have been forced to pay heavy fines to resume fishing.
“Tuna is of huge importance to Pacific islanders,” said Dr Aqorau.
“It is not only the financial value of the fishery and increasing revenue that the PNA is generating for its members.
“Tuna is the lifeblood of islanders who depend on a healthy fishery for food security.”
PNA has been a leader in implementing conservation measures that have the two-fold impact of maintaining tuna stocks for the long-term and increasing the value of the fishery for the islands by limiting fishing effort, Dr. Aqorau said.
Dr Aqorau also revealed that there was a record of 2.65 million metric tons of tuna was hauled from the Western Pacific in 2012 valued at US$7 billion (K17b) compared to a marginally smaller catch last year.
He said PNA had been a leader in enforcing conservation measures to ensure the tuna fishery remained sustainable in the long-term.
PNA bloc nations – The Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu – control the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery.
Under the theme, “The value and economics of Pacific tuna,” journalists from seven countries engaged in discussion and debate on issues surrounding the industry, including status of tuna stocks, how policies of government and regional fisheries organizations affect the tuna industry, and how PNA management of the purse seine skipjack fishery has resulted in a four-fold increase in revenues flowing to the eight member nations.
By MOFFAT MAMU
In Suva, FIJI