Denarau, Fiji 6 December 2016: Concern over the “disproportionate burden” placed on small islands by some conservation management initiatives was highlighted repeatedly by members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) during the first two days of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) now meeting in Fiji. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the region was also a focus of PNA member comments.

   PNA member nations made the point that Article 30 of the WCPFC Convention spells out the obligation of members to consider the disproportionate burden that management measures place on small island developing states. Island representatives said this needed to be an over-riding guideline for all of the Commission’s discussions, not simply a one-off agenda item.

   “The Marshall Islands is concerned about developed nation proposals being made without consulting with small island developing states (SIDS) — but which will affect SIDS,” said Alfred Alfred, Jr., the Marshall Islands Minister of Fisheries.

   “We have serious concerns about the special requirements fund,” said FSM Executive Director of Fisheries Eugene Pangelinan. “We need all members to live up to the membership requirement to assist SIDS.” The fund is intended to assist small island members of the WCPFC with meeting implementation requirements of conservation management measures adopted by the Commission.

   “Assistance needs to be provided for SIDS to execute their obligations,” Mr. Pangelinan said.

   “This is not a stand-alone issue,” said Marshall Islands Fisheries Director Glen Joseph. “It is about SIDS participation in the WCPFC. It is not a level playing field for SIDS.” He urged the WCPFC to consider making contributions to the fund mandatory for members.

   PNA group Chairperson and head of Kiribati delegation Sonia Schutz-Russell said it was essential that all proposals are subjected to evaluation for disproportionate burden on SIDS. Otherwise, these are not complying with Commission requirements.

   Tuvalu Fisheries Minister Puakena Boreham an example of how “disproporniate burden” impacts a small island nation. She said that while Tuvalu enforced a four-month moratorium on use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) as part of a WCPFC conservation management measure to conserve bigeye tuna stocks, other WCPFC coastal states failed to impose the FAD closure in their waters, and distant water fishing nation longline vessels did not deliver the bigeye catch reductions they committed to. “Not only that, but one of our developed country members has blatantly exceeded its bigeye longline catch limits to the tune of over 2,000 tons,” she said. “This is ten times the amount of bigeye that the fourth month FAD closure is estimated to conserve in Tuvalu.”

   Because fishing without use of FADs is significantly less productive in Tuvalu waters, the four-month FAD ban has a negative economic impact on Tuvalu, where fisheries accounts for over 50 percent of all government revenues, said Minister Boreham.

   Federated States of Micronesia officials called for action to stem illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the region. “IUU is a grave concern for the Federated States of Micronesia,” said Suzanne Lowe-Gallen, Chief of Compliance and Technical Projects for the FSM. “It is an international obligation to fight IUU.”

   The unregulated “blue boats” from Vietnam “require serious attention and action,” she said. Nine blue boats illegally fishing in FSM waters have been arrested during the past three years. Surveillance and arrests of these boats has cost the FSM over $200,000, said Ms. Lowe-Gallen.

   In an effort to improve control and management of the longline fishing industry, Solomon Islands Fisheries Undersecretary Ferral Lasi said the Solomons will implement the longline vessel day scheme starting January 1, 2017 as part of a PNA initiative. He said the VDS management tool will be complemented with electronic reporting of catch data to improve management of the industry.