Majuro, Marshall Islands 26 December 2017: The CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) sees the outcomes of the annual meeting in Manila earlier this month of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) as mixed.

   PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said there were some good steps forward by the Commission. These included adoption of a Port State Measure which includes arrangements for appropriate inspection of tuna vessels when they come to port. This will close one of the remaining gaps in the Commission’s monitoring and control scheme and is well adapted to the region where many of the major ports are in small island developing states, said Mr. Kumoru.  

   Other positive steps included the adoption of a measure to reduce marine pollution from fishing vessels, including banning discharge of plastic, and the adoption of a rebuilding plan for Pacific Bluefin.

   However, Mr. Kumoru was disappointed in the outcome of the revision of the Tropical Tuna Measure. 

   “This is a key measure for PNA members, most of whom are heavily dependent on tropical tuna fisheries,” Mr. Kumoru said. “Most of the tropical tuna catch is taken in PNA waters but some fishing states fail to respect the rights of PNA members and other resource-owning Pacific Island states and try to use the Commission to protect their fleets instead of protecting the fish.” 

   Scientists provided the Commission with a positive report on the status of the three tropical tuna stocks, especially bigeye tuna, but had specifically advised against measures that would increase fishing for bigeye and yellowfin while additional research is undertaken. 

   Several fishing states insisted on increasing catch limits and opportunities for fishing with fish aggregating devices (FADs), especially on the high seas. “As a result the measure has rightly been criticized as falling short of meeting the standards recommended by the scientific advice,” Mr. Kumoru said. 

   The PNA CEO noted that several of the major elements in Tropical Tuna Measure were only agreed for one year, and so there is still an opportunity to get it right after additional scientific advice is received in 2018. 

  In the meantime, he said, “PNA Members will continue to work on strengthening management arrangements applied in PNA waters, and I call on Commission Members to focus on strengthening management arrangements for the high seas in 2018.”

   PNA continues to push Commission Members to focus on the organization’s primary purpose: management of fishing on the high seas in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Mr. Kumoru made the point that while PNA enforces a “hard limit” on fishing days for purse seiners in PNA waters, there is no such limit for fishing days on the high seas. “We need hard limits for high seas fishing,” he said. Essential to establishing a limit is for the Commission to establish an “allocation process” going forward. “In 2018, the WCPFC must address the allocation process for fishing on the high seas,” he said. “The sooner we address this, the better.”

   Mr. Kumoru emphasized that PNA’s zone-based management of its tuna fisheries has proven effective from both a conservation and economic perspective. He said he looked forward to Commission members improving high seas management, and for the Commission to more effectively address issues of concern in the Tropical Tuna Measure that will be up for review at the end of 2018.