Need to control longline fishing on the high seas
The Western and Central Pacific Ocean is the source of about 2.8 million metric tons of tuna valued at US$5.3 billion, representing 79 percent of the aggregate catch in the entire Pacific Ocean and 56 percent of the global tuna catch.
WCPFC is a regional fisheries-management organisation that governs fishing activities, particularly of tuna, in the high seas or waters that do not belong to any country.
Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General, James Movick says although there has been an improvement in the data that has been collected from vessels operating in the High Seas there clearly is not sufficient or robust controls over the High Seas longline fleet activity.
“The other aspects of High seas that need to be considered carefully is the control of Longline fishing on the High Seas which is a flag-based measure (one that is based around rights of the nationality of the fishing vessel)at the present time. And although there has been an improvement in the data that has been collected from vessels operating in the High Seas there clearly is not sufficient or robust controls over the High Seas longline fleet activity.
“And it is important as the Longline fleet is the major source of bigeye (tuna) mortality,” Movick said
“Whereas on the purse seine side we’re able to have 100% observer coverage, much more verification of catches etc…Unfortunately at the present time we don’t have a similarly high degree of confidence in the data we’re receiving from High Seas activities targeting the big bigeye tuna and the longline fishery.
There needs to be better control over the Longline fishery in the High Seas,” Movick told regional journalists in a media briefing in Manila.
Although it has been difficult getting data off longline boats and putting independent fisheries observers on board, Movick said the task is possible to achieve.
“I think we can achieve it. We’re experimenting. We have trials underway and the commission itself is seeking to develop standards for e-monitoring and e-reporting and work quite well in other fisheries around the world,” Movick said.
“So we’re looking to see how we can adapt those for operating conditions in the Pacific so we should see a higher degree of monitoring capability for these boats. I don’t think it is an impossible task.
Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO, Ludwig Kumoru said, with the way PNA is implementing the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) for the longline fleet, having reliable data will be achievable within 5-years.
“First of all we need to get it done within our (200-mile exclusive economic) zones, then and only then can we look to extend it to the High Seas. But again, when it comes to the High Seas we’ll going to need the whole grouping – but its easier to do it within zones. And that’s the importance of ‘zone-based management’ because we can make the decision and just carry on,” said Kumoru.
Movick said: “The point is, we’ve always taken the principle in the Pacific that this resource belongs primarily to us – the countries from whose EEZs the vast bulk of this fish is caught.
“And with all our management responsibilities, we should also be able to have a degree of management say in the High Seas as well.
“So as a matter of equity, right from the very beginning we’ve always said that countries of the Pacific, SIDS, should also be able to benefit from the entire fishery and participate in the entire fishery given their development aspirations, given their different geographical placement etc, relative to where the main fishing activity takes place. But that’s not been something that this commission has been able to address up until now.
“What we’re saying is this aspect of the commission does need to be addressed because this resource is one that is being taken care of by all the Pacific island countries who have worked strenuously over the last 30+ years since the establishment of the 3rd Law of the Sea (Conference), working collectively to ensure that this resource is the most robust and well managed tuna fishery in the world. It’s a burden that’s been placed on all of us so we need to recognise that, and give shape to everybody’s different aspirations, rights and everything to the resource,” said Movick.
The WCPFC’s annual meetings are aimed at protecting highly migratory fish stocks with rules known as conservation and management measures.
Note This article was written by Pita Ligaiula, of Pacific Islands News Association, who is attending the 14th annual session of the WCPFC in Manila, Philipines. Pita is a member of the WWF-Pacific CSO delegation, which is an accredited observer of the Tuna Commission.