WWF calls for firm limits on tuna fisheries to address overfishing
“The implementation of these measures represents the foundation of a sustainably-managed fishery. If pragmatic management measures such as putting limits on tuna fisheries via reference points and harvest control measures are not soon applied, tuna fisheries in the Pacific will face continued declines resulting in substantial negative impacts on our fishing communities and marine ecosystem.“ said Alfred Cook, Western Central Pacific Tuna Programme Officer, WWF´s Smart Fishing Initiative.
WWF calls upon the WCPFC to specifically adopt specific reference points and harvest control rules for tuna fisheries in the Western and Central pacific region (see note to the editor), tools that have demonstrated to be successful in managing fisheries sustainably. Implementing these measures would allow managers to act swiftly and efficiently under a pre-agreed standard to ensure that harvests do not exceed acceptable limits, ensuring the sustainability of the resource and the consistent supply of fish to our markets.
“Currently, tuna fisheries in this region are subject to management measures imposed on a relatively opportunistic basis under a consensus-based system, subject to many competing interests and values, including a broad range of competing interests that often lead to decisions that maximize short-term economic interests at the expense of long-term productivity and sustainability that further leads to overfishing,” said Cook.
The implementation of limits known as “reference points” provide benchmarks around which management measures are standardized and allow for explicit, decisive action to occur in the presence of sound scientific information. If harvests approach a reference point, the WCPFC must take explicit action defined by harvest control rules to prevent adverse consequences such as overfishing.
“It really is a very simple, concrete and feasible concept. If you are approaching a designated limit that could result in harm to the fishery, you take action to prevent that from happening. Right now, the WCPFC doesn’t really have a mechanism to do that in a timely and efficient way,” said Cook.
Once reference points and harvest control rules are in place, they will prevent the bureaucratic paralysis that the WCPFC often encounters due to the annual horse trading and ad hoc rules of the current process. The politics of the WCPFC process can often hinder decisive and sound decision-making regarding the sustainability of tuna fisheries. Implementation of these measures would prevent essential action from being held hostage over the political concerns of a single member state by providing clear, objective, and scientific measures that constitute pre-agreed standards for taking explicit, science-based action on fisheries conservation.
Also the private sector stands to gain from implementing these measures from a market perspective. Reference points and harvest control rules are part of the conditions to be able to enter the certification process of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), currently the best available certification scheme in the market that awards sustainably-managed fisheries.
“Our ultimate goal is to put a halt to overfishing, to ensure our fish stocks remain in a healthy state so that there is sustainable supply of fish to our markets. We strongly encourage certifying tuna fisheries according to the MSC programme,” said Cook.
Towards this end, WWF and a large group of responsible buyers, harvesters, processors, and traders, are making a pledge to the WCFPC Commission to support well-planned and designed tuna fishery improvement and conservation initiatives to sustain livelihoods, minimise environmental impacts and supply the world with responsibly-managed, high quality tuna through certification according to the MSC standards.