Honolulu 13 December 2018 — Pacific Island fisheries leaders want the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to effectively address a serious management gap in the tuna fishery: high seas tuna transshipments.
The existing Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) measure governing transshipment was adopted in 2009 and is intended for review next year.
Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, including the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) bloc, want to see a WCPFC review process that is comprehensive and results in significant strengthening of the current measure.
In a letter last month to WCPFC Executive Director Feleti Teo, Forum Fisheries Committee Chairperson Tepaeru Herrmann expressed the concern of FFA members that insufficient regulation, monitoring and reporting of tuna transshipment, particularly on the high seas, was contributing to distort the reporting of catches.
Ms. Herrmann said the current system of unmonitored transshipments on the high seas also exposed WCPFC members, cooperating non-members and participating territories (known as CCMs), and the wider Pacific region, to increased risks of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and transnational criminal activity.
Subject to not infringing on the right of CCMs to regulate transshipment occurring in areas under national jurisdiction, the WCPFC has a responsibility to effectively regulate transshipment activities to address these risks, she said.
The aim of FFA members is to see all transshipments in the WCPFC area occurring in port. The FFA’s position is consistent with Article 29 of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention which provides that “the members of the Commission shall encourage their vessels, to the extent practicable, to conduct transshipment in port.”
The PNA already requires all purse seine vessels operating in their waters to transship tuna in ports, which allows for monitoring of catch and other compliance measures to be enforced. PNA is also gearing to implement a ban on high seas bunkering for fishing vessels by fuel tankers beginning in 2020. Currently, however, only a fraction of longline vessels transship their tuna catches in the ports of FFA members.
The current level and regulation of high seas transshipment activity is inconsistent with the objective of the WCPF Convention, said FFA Director General Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen and PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru in comments Thursday during the ongoing annual meeting of the WCPFC in Honolulu.
Under the current WCPFC measure, there is to be no transshipment on the high seas except where a CCM has determined it is impracticable for its vessels to operate without being able to transship on the high seas. The measure requires CCMs to inform the WCPFC of any of their vessels transshipping on the high seas.
The WCPFC measure requires a declaration prior to transshipping on the high seas, and a report after the operation is completed. A Final Compliance Monitoring Review report, which will address compliance with these and other provisions of the measure, is to be issued as part of the review of the 2009 measure scheduled for next year.
The basis for approving high seas transshipments is that prohibition would cause significant economic hardship to vessels. This would be assessed in terms of the costs incurred and if in-port transshipment would require the vessel to make significant and substantial changes to its historical mode of operation as a result of the prohibition of transshipment on the high seas.
“There is no proper mechanism for review of the transshipment justification and there is a shortfall in compliance with WCPFC reporting provisions,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen. “This situation is untenable and results in high risks that catch data is not accurately and effectively reported.”
She said FFA members are anxious to see the review of this 2009 transshipment conservation and management measure undertaken with diligence and a focus on compliance.
She also noted the initiatives of many members to roll out electronic monitoring systems on longline vessels as a means of improving coverage for a sector of the Pacific tuna fishery that is currently not well monitored.
“In 2013, FFA facilitated the first electronic monitoring trials for longline vessels in the region in collaboration with SPC and industry. This trial coupled electronic systems with human observers to compare data in the context of WCPFC observer requirements,” she said. More recently, four members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement — Palau, FSM, Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands — have engaged in a trial of electronic monitoring of longline vessels, using video cameras and training fisheries officers to use software programs to evaluate the film collected on longline vessels.
“We need an outcome from this review (of the high seas transshipment measure) that properly addresses the reporting risks and results in the receipt of timely, complete and well-documented data from transshipment activity,” said Mr. Kumoru. “Our position is to move as quickly as possible to a complete ban of all high seas transshipment. PNA already requires all purse seiners to transship their catch in port. We think all transshipments should take place in ports in our region. In-port transshipment generates economic benefits for our members as well as eliminating IUU and other risks inherent in unmonitored high seas transshipments.”