Disappointing Outcomes At The Last WCPFC Meeting
April 24, 2012
As you perhaps have seen already in the news, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting took place last month in Guam, from March 26th to 30th. This important meeting had the purpose of deciding rules for the fishing of tuna throughout the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest tuna fishery, producing 50% of the global tuna supply. Decisions by the WCPFC have to be taken on the basis of consensus.

T he main topic for the meeting in the WCPFC was the conservation and management measures for skipjack and the by-catch species, more specifically the impact on bigeye tuna stocks. The main bigeye fishery being the high seas based long line fishery over which PNA has no say.

The PNA FAD closures in zones have had the biggest positive conservation impact, and the potential to bring the stock back to the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), by reducing incidental juvenile mortality. PNA expects the foreign high seas long line fleets to also contribute meaningfully as they tend to be the beneficiaries of this stock, Today’s situation is that bigeye tuna is still overfished, [yellowfin being fished towards the limit and skipjack is still well on the green side.

Unfortunately, despite clear advice from the Commission’s scientific committee that immediate measures were required to address overfishing of bigeye tuna, the Commission couldn’t agree how members should distribute the “burden of conservation”, so no new conservation was put in place to replace the previous time limited measure.

PNA suggested that the influence of large commercial fishing interests on their own governments at the Commission is not contributing to avoid overfishing of bigeye tuna and meanwhile PNA carry the burden through extending the ban on Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD’s), yet are not the main fishers, beneficiary or consumers of sashimi.

Another setback was that the meeting also decided to lift the tuna fishing ban in the high seas pockets 1 and 2 of the Pacific Ocean. These pockets were previously closed to all purse seine tuna fishing in order to conserve the population of the overfished bigeye tuna in these areas and created a conservation refuge.

Nonetheless, this WCPFC decision does not have an effect in Practice since the PNA or domestic rules prohibit all purse seiners with PNA licenses, from fishing in the high seas pockets in order to maintain conservation measures.

In the strict case of Philippines, there is now an allowance to fish in High Sea Pocket No 1 (in the far west) that was opened up for their group-seine operations. High Sea Pocket No 2 can not be used for their fishing operations.

In exchange for the Philippine fishing access (Pocket No 1), the Philippine government must report its catch and limit the number of fishing vessels to 36. Filipino vessels must also apply for international fishing permits before entering pocket 1 and have a 100% observer on board.
Stay up-to-date on the development of Pacifical MSC Tuna.

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