MAKING sure the tuna fisheries of the Western and Central Pacific remain sustainable is one of the driving aims of Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members heading into WCPFC18 this week.
“As FFA members have continued to highlight throughout this year, Pacific Island people are dependent on the tuna fishery, therefore management action to ensure the sustainability of our stocks is critical,” says FFA’s Director General, Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen.
This coming week is the 18th session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WPCFC) in which FFA Members meet with the wider WCPFC Membership comprising the Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) on the management of the region’s tuna fisheries and associated bycatch. Key decisions in the form of conservation and management measures (CMMs) are discussed, negotiated and agreed at this meeting.
Top of the agenda for WCPFC18 is the negotiation of a revised Tropical Tuna conservation and management measure covering three of the target tuna stocks of the WCPO – skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, last year’s meeting of the WCPFC agreed to rollover the existing measure but this year pressure is mounting to relax some of the existing limits and controls.
“FFA members are taking a cautious approach to changes to the current provisions in the measure, especially noting the uncertainty in the scientific assessments for these stocks. It is important that the careful balance between the interests of Members, that has been struck over many years of considered negotiations, is maintained,” says Dr Tupou-Roosen.
WCPFC18 follows a series of virtual meetings held with FFA members throughout the year. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant the usual face-to-face negotiations and relationship-building have had to move online for the second year.
In pursuing the priorities set by FFC Ministers for WCPFC18, the outcomes sought by FFA Members from this Commission meeting include:
- Taking a precautionary approach to the tropical tuna CMM based on the advice of FFA’s Scientific Committee and maintaining the balance of interests between Members
- Calling for the explicit recognition that longline fishing within FFA Members’ Exclusive Economic Zones are managed through zone-based management not flag-based limits
- Freezing the catch of South Pacific albacore by longline vessels operating on the high seas south of the equator due to ongoing declines in the stock
- Working towards a new CMM to ensure crew safety and address human rights abuses at sea.