Nadi, Fiji 2 December 2016: The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) met Thursday in Nadi to finalize their strategy for the 13th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission annual meeting that opens Monday 5 December at the Sheraton Resort in Denarau, Fiji.
PNA will reiterate its call on the WCPFC to exercise management on the high seas over both longline and purse seine vessels as part of PNA’s push to see the Commission adopt a “harvest control strategy” for tuna and a bridging measure to extend and improve an existing Tropical Tuna Conservation Management Measure that expires at the end of 2017, said PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru following PNA’s strategy session Thursday.
There are numerous areas in which the eight PNA members and Tokelau will be engaging with members of the WCPFC.
“PNA's strategy at the WCPFC is based on the resource rights owners taking control of their fishery to benefit economically and conserve it by ensuring sustainable practices, and pushing the WCPFC to bring the high seas fishery under similar control and sustainable management,” said Mr. Kumoru. While fishing in PNA 200-mile exclusive economic zones is now well-regulated and controlled, the same cannot be said of high seas fishing, he said.
“The longline fishery in our region is out of control,” said Mr. Kumoru. Catch volumes are under-reported and there is little verification by independent observers, in part because of high seas transshipment of tuna. “All this adds up to a poorly managed fishery that needs to be addressed by the WCPFC,” he said. “PNA has pushed in the past, and will continue to lobby for a ban on high seas transshipment of frozen bigeye and increasing over time fisheries observer coverage on longline vessels to 20 percent.”
PNA officials agree it is obvious from recent fishing trends on the high seas that flag state controls are not working. The WCPFC needs to adopt a “hard limit” on the number of fishing days for purse seiners on the high seas, Mr. Kumoru said. Meanwhile, PNA has already begun rolling out a vessel day scheme (VDS) for the longline industry that is similar to its successful VDS that governs the purse seine fishery.
Mr. Kumoru said other key points for PNA include:
• The ongoing non-compliance of several distant water fishing nations with WCPFC requirements for providing operational catch data. Although all island members of the WCPFC provide catch data as required, several distant water fishing nations continue to violate these Commission requirements. The lack of data is serious management gap and is a critical problem for scientists evaluating the status of tuna stocks in the region, Mr. Kumoru said. “The aim is to reduce the burden of data provision by small islands, while getting distant water fishing nations to comply with the rules of membership,” he said.
• PNA will not agree to adding an additional month to the existing three-month fish aggregating device (FAD) moratorium for in-zone fishing because this will cause a disproportionate burden on a number of small islands whose fisheries revenue depends on FAD fishing.
• PNA will not accept “capacity limits” on fishing vessels, which PNA views as an attempt by distant water fishing nations to limit island ownership of vessels and greater participation in the fishery.
“We remain optimistic that the WCPFC will live up to its mandate to enforce effective conservation and management measures for high seas fishing,” said Mr. Kumoru. “Stepping up management of the high seas, agreeing on a harvest control strategy, and extending and improving the Tropical Tuna Conservation Management Measure are essential actions we are looking forward to at next week’s annual meeting.”