Majuro, Marshall Islands 25 November 2016: The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission needs to focus on controlling fishing on the high seas when the multi-national body meets for its annual meeting in Fiji next month, said the head of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement fisheries bloc.

   “The Tuna Commission (WCPFC) needs to be concerned with non-compliance with fishing rules on the high seas,” said Ludwig Kumoru, PNA CEO, on the eve of the WCPFC annual meeting December 5-9 in Nadi.

   A main concern of the island resource owners is the current state of largely uncontrolled longline fishing on the high seas, said Kumoru. “We need the WCPFC to focus on its core mandate, which is regulating fishing on the high seas,” he said. “Currently there is virtually no control on longline fishing, most of which takes place on the high seas.”

   He said a ban on transshipment of tuna at sea and requiring fishing boats to offload in port — a proposed requirement for longline vessels — has been discussed repeatedly at the WCPFC without action. “This would go a long way to controlling fishing on the high seas,” Mr. Kumoru said. He added that this would help establish data on the number of longliners active in the region, and improve the availability of catch data needed by scientists to assess the condition of tuna stocks.

   Mr. Kumoru said PNA is now implementing a vessel day scheme for longliners as has been successfully used to manage the purse seine fishery. But enforcing rules on the high seas is critical to the long-term health of the fishery, he said.

   Other key areas for the PNA during the WCPFC annual meeting include:

   • Purse seine fishing control on the high seas. “We need effort control for purse seiners on the high seas,” he said. “Like PNA’s fishing day limits for purse seiners in our exclusive economic zones, we need fishing day limits for high seas fishing.”

   • Establishing a harvest control measure for skipjack tuna. Mr. Kumoru said PNA supports focusing on skipjack, and then addressing harvest control measures for other species. “If we tie two or more species together, we won’t get a result,” he said.

   • Management of fish aggregating devices (FADs). PNA does not support expanding the existing three-month FAD closure within PNA zones, which Mr. Kumoru said “is already hurting PNA nations because some of their countries’ revenue is dependent on vessels fishing on FADs.” For some countries, fisheries revenue now accounts for over 50 percent of their national budgets. “If we add another month of FAD closure inside PNA zones, it will cause a disproportionate burden on the islands,” he said. “The Tuna Commission should focus on controlling FADS on the high seas,” he said, adding the PNA is looking forward to seeing the WCPFC’s previously endorsed ban on use of FADs on the high seas become operational in 2017.

   • Control of capacity. There are various ways in which distant water fishing nations have attempted to prevent island countries from increasing the number of locally owned purse seiners engaged in fishing, he said. Over recent years, limits on the number of fishing boats were imposed and island countries were told they couldn’t have additional vessels. “It’s about control of the fishery,” he said. “They don’t want us to fish.” The PNA “will never agree to capacity control over vessels,” he said, and will continue to actively engage in expanding its presence in the fishery.

   • Rebuilding bigeye tuna stocks. PNA has supported conservation measures at the WCPFC in recent years for bigeye, which is over-fished. “We are looking to support a conservation measure at the WCPFC meeting to rebuild bigeye stocks,” said Mr. Kumoru.