Refusal to address northern bluefin tuna collapse shows conservation problem
Denarau, Fiji 8 December 2016: The refusal of distant water fishing nations to take any action in the face of the impending collapse of the northern Pacific bluefin tuna fishery demonstrates the intransigence of these fishing nations in the face of overwhelming evidence of the problem, said Parties to the Nauru Agreement CEO Ludwig Kumoru Thursday in Fiji.
Representatives of the Northern Committee reported Wednesday that they recommended taking no action to limit fishing in the northern Pacific bluefin fishery. Representatives of the Forum Fisheries Agency, which includes all members of PNA, strongly criticized this lack of action. In an unprecedented action, the WCPFC directed the Northern Committee to reconvene to address the concern of the Commission that conservation measures be recommended for this fishery.
“This refusal to take action demonstrates clearly who is blocking tuna conservation in the region,” said Mr. Kumoru, who is attending this week’s annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. “Bluefin tuna is fished on the high seas by distant water fishing nations and they are the ones refusing to fix a problem they have caused.”
Scientific studies show northern Pacific bluefin tuna stocks have been depleted to less than three percent of historic levels.
“The Northern Committee has failed,” said New Zealand official John Annala speaking for all FFA members during a plenary session. Eugene Pangelinan, Executive Director of fisheries for the Federated States of Micronesia and FSM delegation head at the WCPFC, told the Commission plenary session earlier this week, “the Northern Committee needs to step up its game.” He said the Commission needed to provide guidance to the Northern Committee because its report was entirely unsatisfactory.
“The northern Pacific bluefin fishery is controlled by distant water fishing nations,” said Mr. Kumoru. “Their refusal to take action in this fishery also highlights the challenge we have in gaining support for conservation management measures on the high seas.”
Mr. Kumoru made the point that fishing inside the 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of PNA members is regulated and well-managed. “But high seas fishing remains largely out of control and urgently needs increased conservation management measures.”
This session of the WCPFC is taking steps that can lead to improved outcomes for sustainability of the tuna fishery in the western and central Pacific Ocean, he said. Mr. Kumoru said, however, that “distant water fishing nations will need to support management measures for the high seas in order for the Pacific tuna fishery to be sustainable for the long-term.”
Note to editors:
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are eight Pacific Island countries that control the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery supplying 50 percent of the world’s skipjack tuna (a popular tuna for canned products). The eight members are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu. Tokelau is a participating partner in implementing the Vessel Day Scheme together with the eight member nations.
PNA has been a champion for marine conservation and management, taking unilateral action to conserve overfished bigeye tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including closures of high seas pockets, seasonal bans on use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD), satellite tracking of boats, in port transshipment, 100 percent observer coverage of purse seiners, closed areas for conservation, mesh size regulations, tuna catch retention requirements, hard limits on fishing effort, prohibitions against targeting whale sharks, shark action plans, and other conservation measures to protect the marine ecosystem.