Complete Failure of Fisheries Commission to Save Pacific Bluefin Tuna but Lifeline for Fisheries Observers
WWF is gravely concerned that the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) failed to agree on protective measures for the heavily depleted stock of the Pacific bluefin tuna.
At the Commission’s annual meeting this week in Fiji, the WPCFC only agreed to delegate this issue to one of its subsidiary bodies, the Northern Committee, for further review and recommendation.
“WWF considers today’s outcome as essentially “a non-action” as the Northern Committee has previously, and notoriously, proven incapable of providing effective management advice," said Bubba Cook, WWF’s Western and Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager.
“If there were ever a fish stock that required urgent, even emergency, protection, the Pacific bluefin stock is it. How low does its population have to go before authorities will take action? Less than a percent?" Cook added.
WWF was greatly concerned about other outcomes of the WCPFC Fiji meeting, including a failure of the body to establish a simple limit known as a target reference point for South Pacific albacore tuna.
While the South Pacific albacore stock is biologically healthy, the stock has continued to decline due to overexploitation driven by a major increase in foreign fishing effort in the region, primarily from heavily subsidised fleets from China.
During the conference, the WCPFC also engaged in a tense discussion regarding the protection of observers working on board fishing vessels in the region. There have been five deaths among fisheries observers over the past six years across the Pacific. Unfortunately, Commission members initially were unable to achieve consensus for the measure, leaving fishery observers potentially at risk and ultimately leading for calls from Pacific Island nations for a vote.
In an unprecedented chain of events, WCPFC Chair, Rhea Moss-Christian confirmed the vote on the measure after it stalled in plenary without reaching consensus due to claimed domestic legislation reasons given by Japan. But WWF and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) made it clear the time for waiting was over.
The strong condemnation from all Pacific members and call for a vote has put the Commission in no doubt that when it comes to the safety of nearly 300 Pacific Observers watching over the tuna fishery: human life can't wait. Under the threat of a vote, Japan returned to the table with the decision to agree to the Observer Safety measure and consensus was reached on a comprehensive observer safety measure.
“This was a success for the safety of fisheries observers not only working in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, but this sets a precedent for all regional fisheries management organisations to adopt comparable measures for the observers that form the heart of the science that informs conservation of our fisheries," said Cook. “Furthermore, this was a tribute to all the fisheries observers, such as Keith Davis (USA) and Usaia Masibalavu (Fiji), who have died over recent years," he added.
Note to editors:
1 The WCPFC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The members of the WCPFC are:
Australia, Canada, China, Cook Islands, European Community, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu
2 The annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) took place in Nadi, Fiji, on December 5-9.
3 The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) is a sub-regional governance body that controls the world's largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery including Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
For more detailed information:
Alfred “Bubba” Cook, WWF Western Central Pacific Ocean Tuna Programme Manager, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: +64 (0) 27 833 0537
Louisa McKerrow, Communications Manager, WWF-New Zealand, Email: email@example.com