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Bigeye tuna caught on a longline. (Photo: Greenpeace)

WCPFC meeting stirs dissatisfaction

Monday, December 08, 2014, 22:10 (GMT + 9)

Several non-government organisations as well as members of the Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA) have shown dissatisfaction at the results of the Western and Central Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) 11th session in Samoa.

Greenpeace New Zealand considers tuna traders and investors must ensure Pacific tuna fisheries sustainability, given the WCPFC’s “failure to do so.”

According to the NGO, Government representatives meeting in Samoa showed their inability to reach agreement over urgently needed rules to halt declines and give tuna stocks time to recover from overfishing.

“In the absence of any real action at this week’s WCPFC talkfest, the market end of the supply chain must step up and use their influence to ensure both they and Pacific tuna have a future,” pointed out Lagi Toribau of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

“If members represent only their industrial fishing interest, the WCPFC cannot function. Bigeye tuna are overfished, albacore fisheries are no longer profitable, and yellowfin and even skipjack tuna are starting to buckle under the strain of a fishery out of control. What was their response? Five days of talk and no real action,” added Toribau.

Greenpeace representatives complained that no new rules were added to the WCPFC’s tropical tuna conservation and management measure, despite last year’s record high catch of bigeye tuna by purse seiners using FADs, and the latest stock assessment revealing overfishing has driven the stock down to just 16 per cent.

The NGO also voiced concern about the lack of consensus that also thwarted attempts to stop the demise of the region’s albacore fisheries.

“The failure at WCPFC has left Pacific Islands’ albacore fisheries dead in the water,” claimed Toribau. “Last year, despite the declining stock driving Pacific fleets out of business, China’s delegation declared that its industries wanted to build up to one hundred more longline vessels to target South Pacific albacore. Under the pressure of its distant water fishing industry, the Chinese government this year refused to accept limits on this fishery.”

Given these issues, Greenpeace turns its attention to the markets. “International tuna brands should ensure their suppliers are not involved in driving Pacific fisheries collapse, or partner with distant-water fishing powers that are expanding their longline fleets or plundering bigeye with the use of FADs – all the while blocking conservation rules from being adopted”.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also voiced dissatisfaction at the result of the meeting in Samoa, The Diplomat informed.

“This intentional disregard of international law and regulations through refusal to provide operational level data from these countries must end and, therefore, must be addressed by the Commission at its upcoming WCPFC meeting as an urgent priority,” read a WWF statement.

Meanwhile, newspaper sources stressed journalists were not allowed to attend the the last session of the meeting, which, they consider, “could only spell trouble for the outcome of the negotiations.”

These sources reported that commission members from the Distant Water fishing Nations (DWFN) have blocked any moves by Pacific coastal states to introduce newer measures to control fishing of bigeye tuna and the use of fish aggregating devices in the high seas.

It was noted that in response to this blockage, members of the Parties of the PNA may force DWFN to adopt these tougher fishing measures in the high seas as a condition to buying fishing days in their own 200 mile exclusive economic zones.

Members of the WCPFC include the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Australia, Canada, and China, as well as small island states such as Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, Kiribati, and the Cook Islands.

Related article:

- WCPFC11 addresses Pacific bluefin tuna protection

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