Western Pacific island states taking back control of their fisheries



Posted on 27 April 2010  | 
Local fishermen with tuna catch Sulu Sea, Philippines
Local fishermen with tuna catch Sulu Sea, Philippines
© Jürgen FREUND / WWF-CanonEnlarge
Brussels, Belgium: A group of western Pacific nations is showing the way in making major fisheries both environmentally and economically sustainable, WWF said today as the world’s leading seafood fair opened in Brussels, Belgium.

It was announced today that the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu had submitted a key element of their shared tuna fisheries for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification – the highest and most extensive sustainability certification available.

The application, which will cover about half of the total tuna catch for the area, breaks new ground in the number of national parties involved, the size of the fishery involved and the area of sea covered
It follows a string of other recent substantial steps by the nations, who together are Parties to the 1983 Nauru Agreement on terms and conditions for tuna purse seine fishing in the region.

“These eight nations are to be commended for the lead they are taking on sustainable fishing issues,” said WWF International Director General James Leape.

“We are seeing – and strongly support – Western Pacific fisheries conservation measures that are world firsts, such as the closure of high seas pockets between their economic zones, controls on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and 100% observer coverage for purse seine fishing vessels.

“We are also seeing innovative economic measures to ensure that these countries reap more of the benefit from fishing in their waters, including the introduction of competitive bidding for fishing rights, crewing agreements and moves to bring tuna processing into the region.”

The waters to be covered by these measures and the new certification application substantially overlap with WWF priority areas of the Coral Triangle and South West Pacific and will influence tuna management over much larger areas of the Pacific and potentially Indian Oceans.

“We are encouraged by new initiatives by neighbouring nations such as Indonesia, which recently imposed a moratorium on new licences for purse seine fishing and trawlers,” Mr Leape said. “The whole region, moving together, has the potential to take the global effort to make fisheries sustainable to a whole new level.”

About half the global purse seine tuna fleet is active in the waters controlled by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.

The MSC evaluation will only assess skipjack tuna caught in purse seine fisheries in “free swimming” unassociated sets, a fishing technique that yields the lowest likelihood of catching other overfished species such as juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tunas. This distinct section of the fishery catches approximately 560,000 tonnes of skipjack tuna per year in the Western and Central Pacific with no recourse to Fish Aggregating Devices, floating platforms to which high seas fish are attracted.

The PNA nations also have introduced some of the toughest bycatch rules for dolphins, sharks and turtles.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), co-founded in 1997 by WWF and Unilever, then the world's largest buyer of seafood, rewards sustainable and well-managed fisheries with its distinctive blue eco-label.

The MSC, an independent non-profit organisation, has developed an environmental standard for sustainable fishing in co-operation with NGOs, scientists and the fishing industry. In order to be certified, qualifying fisheries must prove to an independent assessment team that their fishery is well managed and that fish stocks are healthy.

“This assessment is an important development in the history of the MSC and I am pleased to see the eight PNA states move this fishery into MSC full assessment so shortly after their announcement of intention earlier this year,” said Chris Ninnes, Deputy Chief Executive of the MSC.

“If the assessment process finds the fishery meets the MSC standard, about half of the skipjack tuna caught from the Western and Central Pacific, will be eligible to bear the MSC ecolabel. This would be a significant milestone towards satisfying some of the demand for credible, certified sustainable skipjack tuna for the canned market.

“I wish this fishery every success with their assessment.”

For further information:
Phil Dickie, WWF International News Editor, +41 79 703 1952, pdickie@wwfint.org

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

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Local fishermen with tuna catch Sulu Sea, Philippines
Local fishermen with tuna catch Sulu Sea, Philippines
© Jürgen FREUND / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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