Another fisheries commission fails the tuna test



Posted on 11 December 2010  | 
Honolulu, Hawaii: The Commission responsible for managing tuna resources in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean has yet again failed to take any effective action to reduce the decline of valuable big eye and yellowfin tuna.

The failure, just weeks after the Atlantic tuna commission made only cosmetic cuts to Mediterranean bluefin tuna catch quotas, adding to increasing scepticism that the global system of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) can prevent the unsustainable plunder of the world’s oceans.

The week long Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) annual meeting in Hawaii saw strong interventions from Japan and the EU on the urgent need to freeze fishing capacity of purse seine super fleets and fishing pressure on the most stressed tuna stocks, moves that won support from the US and some other powerful fishing states.

But the WCPFC ultimately stuck to the familiar course of throwing overboard the scientific advice, rejecting its own Scientific Committee’s recommendation of an immediate 29 per cent reduction in the big eye tuna catch.

“Once again we see the WCPFC failing to hear their own scientific advice and condemning the region’s most stressed tuna stocks to another year of overfishing,” said Peter Trott, Fisheries Program Manager with WWF-Australia.

“I have never seen such strong support from the big fishing nations on the need to reduce pressure on big eye and other stressed stocks but this was still not enough to make any real progress on halting the decline of these species.”

"absurd" conservation measure for striped marlin

There were some positives to emerge from the meeting, most significantly agreement to develop a shark research plan and introduce greater monitoring and reporting of shark catches. A conservation measure was also adopted for heavily fished Northern Bluefin tuna.

And the Commission agreed to finally go ahead with an independent review of its own performance, a commitment originally made years ago.

“This level of agreement on shark catch has been one of only a few progressive steps taken at this year’s meeting and we hope it will help better inform, and stop the decline of key shark species within the region,” Mr Trott said.

But the credibility of the WCPFC was further undermined with an absurd conservation measure for overfished striped marlin that according to the Commission’s scientific advisor will allow the catch to increase.

“This level of agreement on shark catches has been one of only a few progressive steps taken at this years meeting and we hope it will help better inform, and stop the decline of key shark species within the region,” Mr Trott said.

“The WCPFC meeting in Hawaii demonstrated that its most powerful fishing members are ringing the alarm bells of the regions tuna stocks, calling out for urgent action on its most critical issues,” Mr Trott said.

“Unfortunately the Commission still lacks the teeth required to meet its responsibilities in terms of conservation and sustainability.”

WWF is advocating consideration of new rights- basedmanagement frameworks, cuts to fishing effort from the industrial purse seine sector, care over initiatives that could largely have the effect of displacing rather than reducing fishing effort.

“Most importantly however, the WCPFC should take heed of its contribution to the failures of global fishing regulation and be prepared to set the example in terms of following the scientific advice,” Mr Trott said.


For more information: Peter Trott, Fisheries Program Manager, WWF-Australia, +61 437 960 812, ptrott@wwf.org.au


Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) inside tuna pen, La Paz, Mexico. This is the world's only value-added Yellowfin tuna operation.
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF Enlarge

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