Impacts of 2018 Tuna Commission measures on Pacific island fisheries

WCPFC Chair Rhea Moss-Christian far left
Fatu Tauafiafi

By Fatu Tauafiafi

“When you look at the measure [Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure] there’s a series of very strong concessions that FFA members as a group gave to achieve consensus.” Ms Jenny Baldwin, Chair, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC).

Each year millions of tonnes of tuna are caught in the oceans of Pacific island nations.

As Pacific Islanders we know tuna is important for our economies, our culture and our future, but with so much of that mind-boggling quantity of fish caught over the horizon by foreign fishing vessels, do we realise the scale of what is at stake and how easy it would be for the Pacific to lose its hard-won tuna gains?

With tuna over-exploited elsewhere in the world, the major fishing nations – China, Japan, South Korea, The United States, Europe and more – are increasingly wanting to fish in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO).

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), popularly known simply as the ‘Tuna Commission’, is the body set up to make sure the fishing rules are fair by bringing those powerful distant water fishing nations (DWFN) together with Pacific countries in a consensus decision-making process.

The 14th session of the Tuna Commission (WCPFC14) held in December 2017, adopted important measures governing tuna fishing activities for 2018 in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. It is the world’s largest fishery producing nearly 60 per cent of the globe’s entire tuna harvest with a catch value estimated at US$4.7billion in 2015.

A few hours after its conclusion, Commission Chair, Ms Rhea Moss-Christian told Pacific journalists covering the event as part of the #Tunanomics initiative, “WCPFC14 has been a particularly successful meeting in terms of agreeing a range of measures and initiatives that will ensure ongoing environmental and commercial sustainability of tuna management in the western and central Pacific fishery.”

Tuna Commission Chair, Ms Rhea Moss-Christian facing up to #Tunanomics Pacific media after the successful conclusion of WCPFC14 negotiations.

It could so easily not have been so, as negotiators battled until 2:45am beyond the last day of the meeting to reach agreement.

The most important decision endorsed by the Commission’s 28-member countries was agreement on a ‘Bridging Measure’ for Tropical Tunas [big eye, skipjack and yellow fin], the largest commercial harvesting activity in the WCPO fishery.

“Negotiating a new measure such as this is an extremely complex process, so it has been gratifying to see Commission Members cooperating so well to produce a measure that will ensure responsible tropical tuna fishing management into 2018 and beyond,” said Ms Moss-Christian.

“What we have achieved is a balanced measure that aims to protect the national and commercial interests of all Members, from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to large fishing nations, while also being sustainable.”

The tropical tuna and other measures endorsed by the Commission, become legally binding this month (February 2018, 60 days after adoption on 8 December 2017), and took on extra significance earlier this year when a study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that depletion of global fish stocks has reached a tipping point. That approximately 60 per cent of the world’s assessed fish stocks are fully exploited and 31 percent is over-fished.

For the Commission’s largest bloc, the 21 Pacific island countries and territories; a sustainable WCPO fishery is not only important for jobs and economy, it is their bulk source of nutrition; protector and provider of climate change resilience, and the ocean that defines their cultural heritage and identity.

The commercial importance of the Pacific bloc to the Commission together with each individual Pacific country’s high reliance on its marine resources are underscored by two broad facts.

Firstly, the majority of the WCPO’s tuna harvest (1.4million of 2.6million tonnes) takes place in their collective waters so it directly impacts their economies (government revenue, employment and

exports), development (education, health, transport, policing and security, human rights etc.) and the potential to further develop their fisheries industry.

In 2015, fisheries contributed: US$453million to the region’s GDP; generated US$571million benefit to the balance of payments in the form of net exports; paid US$46million to 23,000 national employees; contributed US$54million to government revenue in the form of license revenue and other payments; and spent US$120million on the purchase of locally produced goods and services.

As individual countries, Tokelau’s fisheries contributed more than 60 per cent of total government revenues in 2016. In Kiribati and Tuvalu it is even higher at 80 and 90 per cent.

Secondly, the fact their environment; traditional ways of living; and food security is wholly dependent on marine and fishery resources. If the fish go or the waters get polluted or suffer a shipping disaster or reefs plundered, they would be in serious trouble as there are few other alternatives at their disposal. This vulnerability is exacerbated by the increased frequency and of more destructive natural disasters now resulting the human-induced impacts of climate change.

That is why the nine key outcomes agreed by the Commission on 8 December are important to fight the current rate of illegal and unregulated activities threatening the sustainability of the fishery; and by extension safeguard the very existence of these small Pacific nations.

TUNA COMMISSION DECISIONS UNPLUGGED – PART I

So what are the deeper impacts of the Commission’s measures for Pacific islands countries and territories? What did they give up in the negotiations? What were the concessions made by Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFN)? The allocation of rights to fishing on the High Seas, was the Pacific bloc finally recognized? And what do these mean from the lens of the ordinary Pacific weaver, planter and fisher?

Just hours after WCPFC14 concluded, then deputy Director General for the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Mr Wez Norris gave a briefing to Pacific media covering the congress. He highlighted:

  • all Pacific nations made concessions,
  • Japan’s role in the negotiations was critical. With help from a few Pacific countries especially Tokelau, Japan was able “to broker deals, make arrangements” in the margins of the negotiations that led to the successful outcomes at WCPFC14, especially the hotly contested Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure (TTM).
  • for the first time, a concrete move by Commission members on the issue of High Seas fishing rights and allocation for the Pacific islands bloc.
  • the failure in the Albacore tuna negotiations that came with a silver lining,
  • lifting the 12-month ban on FAD fishing in the High Seas unraveled all the gains by the Pacific bloc implemented in 2017, and
  • the relaxation of catch limits could come with significant opportunity costs for many FFA membersin the future
Mr Wez Norris at the post-WCPFC14 media briefing.

“I think every single Pacific country gave up something or gave up measures that come at cost but also provide potential for future benefit,” said Mr Norris.

But at the end of the day the reality of “the Tropical Tuna Measure (TTM) that was agreed was a relaxation.”

This means more tuna will be caught. Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) which have a higher accidental catch of vulnerable bigeye – were a particular talking point, especially the FAD closure rules which ban FAD-fishing during certain months of the year.

“Everybody that was subject to a limit under the old measure will benefit from this current measure,” Mr Norris said.

“Everybody who had some sort of restriction has less of a restriction now. The High Seas FAD closure was relaxed, the EEZ FAD closure was relaxed, the long line catch limit was relaxed. And that applies to FFA members as well. They will all enjoy the benefits of increased economic efficiency of the fishing fleets that they license or flag.”

However, he sounded a warning about possible future repercussions for FFA members.

“Our big concern at the FFA secretariat is that the concessions FFA members gave to developed fishing fleets may come back to bite us in the future in terms of the need to take cuts in the future or in terms of increased difficulty to develop our own fishing fleets and our own fishing industries.”

Before unplugging more 2018 outcomes, it is worthwhile to familiarize readers new to the Tuna negotiations with a few WCPO fishery basics and Pacific islands context.

FOR DUMMIES: WCPO FISHERY BACKGROUND AND PACIFIC ISLANDS CONTEXT

The WCPO share of the global catch of albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tunas increased from 50% in 2006 to 58% in 2014. In 2015 the total WCPO catch of these species was 2.7million tonnes with an approximate value of US$2.2billion. It means that 57% of the world’s total tuna harvest of 4.7million tonnes is caught in the Pacific.

The WCPO fishery. FFA Members EEZ (dark blue) with western High Seas pockets (light green)

Purse Seine Fishery

The catch by sleek modern purse seine fishing vessels is the largest. The WCPO purse seine fishery catch is predominantly based in the waters of FFA member countries. In 2015 it was around 1.3million tonnes, 72% of the total WCPO purse seine catch, and valued at around US$1.7billion.

Historically, between 2006 and 2015 the purse seine catch in the waters of FFA members has varied between 63% and 85% of the WCPO purse seine catch.

For Pacific nations this matters: as they reap rich benefits from fishing within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) but none from fishing immediately outside those areas in the High Seas. The proportion of in-EEZ fishing increased dramatically from 2009 to 2010 (from 65% to 82%) as a result of the closure of the western high seas pockets to fishing. However, catch in the high seas in 2015 almost doubled that in 2014, and more than trebled that between 2010 and 2013 as some fleets increased their High Seas fishing likely, at least in part, in response to the increasing fees charged by Pacific members of the PNA group for access to their exclusive economic zones.

The eight Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) plus Tokelau control the largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery in the world, because they control most of the waters in which the tuna are found. For skipjack, the most commonly canned tuna, around 50% of the global supply is harvested in the waters of PNA members.

Revenue accruing to PNA has risen from US$60 million annually in 2010 to close to US$500 million in 2016. Central to this success are its zone-based management and Vessel Day Scheme which have been shown to effective in both conservation and economic development. Fishing nations are not so happy with the sharp increase in fees.

Longline Fishery

The WCPO longline fishery, which is made up of many smaller less well-supervised boats, produced between 40% and 48% of the global longline catch of albacore, bigeye and yellowfin over the period 2006 to 2015. The longline fishery accounted for around 11% of the total WCPO catch 10 years ago. Although it has continued a steady decline to current levels of around 9%, the level of catch remained flat, fluctuating between 240,000 and 280,000 tonnes.

A long line fishing vessel sailing into Samoa’s Apia harbour. Photo F. Tauafiafi.

But this is not the case in the waters of FFA member countries where the proportion of the total longline catch has increased from under 30% prior to 2010 to over 38% since 2014.

In 2015, FFA members’ WCPO catch was around 77,000 tonnes, valued at US$436 million. It represents 31% of the total WCPO longline catch.

The longline fishery is particularly important to countries with albacore tuna, such as Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and more.

These countries have got together to improve management of the fishery under an agreement called the Tokelau Arrangement but so far it has been hard to implement. At WCPFC14, the measures proposed by FFA members were not direct management measures. They were not going to immediately cut catch or effort, nor rebuild the economics of the fishery rather, they were a first step in the process towards doing so.

But the negotiations to a Target Reference Point for albacore broke down due to two key areas. The failure of Pacific island countries to agree on in-zone limits that would fit within the overall southern albacore catch limits recommended by scientists. And the unwillingness of fishing nations to cut their catch in the High Seas.

As FFA Director General, Mr James Movick highlighted during a media briefing at WCPF14, the sticking point was China not wanting to cut its effort “by correctly pointing out that in terms of the overall management of the southern albacore, there needs to be measures adopted both In-Zone [inside FFA members EEZ] as well as in the High Seas.”

Although there will be no immediate or significant impacts from the negotiations breakdown, the “Commission does need to step up and start that process [to an Albacore measure], we are a couple of years behind where we would have ideally been,” Mr Norris confirmed at the post-Commission media briefing.

TUNA COMMISSION DECISIONS UNPLUGGED – PART II

Success for the Pacific in tuna negotiations requires sticking together and overcoming often trenchant opposition from fishing nations. Chair for the 17-member Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC), Australia’s Ms Jenny Baldwin rated the Commission’s outcomes as a “mixed result” for Pacific countries.

Chair for FFC, Ms Jenny Baldwin at the post-WCPFC14 media briefing.

There was a “relatively positive outcome…as we did end up with a tropical tuna measure that is going to improve the continued management of the tropical tuna species [bigeye, skipjack and yellow fin] within the WCPFC,” she stated.

“But as FFA members, we are quite disappointed we couldn’t agree to a Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore this year.” But she noted that with the disappointment came a silver lining, “we have got some commitment from most [Tuna Commission] members to have that agreed at next years [2018] WCPFC.”

Mr Norris who accompanied Ms Baldwin to the media briefing added there were other positive outcomes that “we must not lose sight of” such as the marine pollution measure, the Port State Measure, the silver lining in the failed Albacore Target Reference Point negotiations, and for the first time, the Commission agreeing to discuss a specific process for SIDS participation in the high seas fishery.

“The marine pollution measure is a very good first step towards addressing what Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have identified as a critical issue for the Pacific – the amount of plastic waste in the ocean. So that’s a starting point and FFA members are looking forward to ways the Commission can build on that.”

The Port State Measure agreed was an important one he stated.

“The world has been very focused on ports as a mechanism to fight Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing activities.

“This is the first concerted step by the WCPFC [Tuna Commission] to move towards regional action to address that issue.”

On a Target Reference Point for the South Pacific Albacore fishery, “While we are all disappointed on the albacore outcomes, they do represent a far more solid commitment to action than the Commission has ever done before,” said Mr Norris.

“FFA members walked away dissatisfied that we didn’t achieve an Albacore target reference point, that is, we didn’t address a specific measure for improving the management of the stock – the commitment we saw at the end of the day from key fishing states China and Chinese Taipei was far more concrete than we have ever seen before. So that is very encouraging.”

HIGH SEAS PARTICIPATION FOR PACIFIC SIDS

A surprising and significant highlight for Pacific countries came as a by-product of the Tropical Tuna Measure negotiations – agreement to discuss the development of a ‘process’ to securing High Seas participation rights for Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

At the moment allocation of High Seas fishing rights is based on records of which country has fished there in the past but Pacific countries argue that as tuna-owners they should have rights too.

“I think the outcomes in the TTM in terms of allocation processes are really positive for FFA members and all SIDS,” said Mr Norris.

“For the first time the Commission actually acknowledged the need to go into a specific ‘process’ to look at who has what opportunities, who has rights in the high seas.

“In the past, all of our discussions, and this is consistent with all other regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO) [international organizations formed by countries with fishing interests in an area], have simply been about catch history. Those developed fleets that have been fishing in the region for 50 years get a limit based on what they’ve been doing for the last 50 years.”

Pacific countries have not fully developed their industries and as a result have no ‘High Seas footprint’ and therefore no catch history on which to base catch limits for their participation.

“However, the TTM negotiations was the first acknowledgement that no, we’re going to go through a process where we will sit down and have a look at High Seas participation.”

Special Requirements of Developing States on the Agenda.

Mr Norris emphasized that the language in the TTM specifically refers to Article 30 of the Tuna Commission’s establishing convention, which insists the special requirements of small island developing states be taken into account. Article 30 can be used as the legal basis to force the Commission to live up to its obligations under the UN Fish Stock Agreement to facilitate increased High Seas participation for SIDS.

“The agreement to High Seas allocation is a really large step forward in terms of other Commission members recognizing the needs of SIDS,” continued Mr Norris.

“We have been through this debate many, many times in the WCPFC about Article 30. This is a real tangible way that the Commission can implement it. It is not about development funding; or assistance for meeting participation – it is about actually structuring management measures that will benefit SIDS in the region.”

Mr Norris claimed such an achievement would be of global and historical significance.

“When we go through that process and secure specific rights for developing states on the High Seas that will be a real big achievement in the world of international fisheries.”

But as the prolonged and complex TTM negotiations highlighted; together with the break-down in the Albacore target reference talks, securing High Seas rights and participation will not be easy.

One of the difficult challenges is the opposing position taken by DWFNs and the majority of the Pacific bloc in regards to what management system to adopt for the High Seas.

FLAG STATE VS ZONE BASED MANAGEMENT

The majority of Pacific countries subscribe to ‘Zone-Based’ management while DWFNs are in favour of ‘Flag State’.

There are two fundamental issues at the centre of the debate for Pacific nations: Sovereignty; and future potential to fully develop and exploit their fisheries.

Sovereignty

Who owns the fish? DWFNs promote the belief that because of the highly migratory nature of tuna, it is therefore a commodity of the commons.

Who owns the fish? Mr Ludwig Kumoru answered, “When it [the fish] comes into your waters, it is your fish. But once it crosses your boundary and goes into someone else’s water then it is not your fish.”

Pacific countries’ definition differ slightly and in a very significant way.

“When it [the fish] comes into your waters, it is your fish. But once it crosses your boundary and goes into someone else’s water then it is not your fish,” said Mr Ludwig Kumoru, CEO for PNA. “For the time the fish is within your waters, your rule applies to that fish. How you catch it, how you harvest it. What happens in your zone is up to you.”

That is the basis for PNA’s Zone-Based management approach. It views tuna as a long-term economic platform therefore sustainability underpins their approach to assessing fishing access and participation in their sovereign waters. Aspirations that will not be possible under ‘Flag State’ management, which is based around the national flag of boats already in the fishery and tends to be much more short-term in its thinking.

Potential to develop Pacific fisheries and industry

The other significant factor for Zone-Based management is the fact 85 per cent of the WCPO Purse Seine fishery is harvested in the waters of FFA members. So their emphasis on the longer-term conflicts directly with ‘Flag State’ approach focused on the short-term to maximize catches and revenue.

“That is why zone-based is more effective in this region than in other global regions because we approach management from the viewpoint of the countries whose been impacted rather than the countries whose citizens and boats are engaged and have to regulate themselves,” explained Mr Kumoru.

The key ingredient in the zone-based approach is “the countries in whose waters the fishing is occuring are actually taking the lead to ensure the resource within their EEZs are managed.

“No other ocean on this planet today have all three stocks of tuna: bigeye, yellow fin, skipjack all in the green [not overfished]. Even the albacore is not in the ‘overfished’ state.”

Mr Kumoru said the reason why the other oceans are not faring well is because they are managed “by their fishing fleets. So I think it is very important in managing the stock that it’s the coastal states taking responsibility.”

The vision behind the PNA’s zone-based system is to greatly expand Pacific islands participation in a fishery where many of them have been bystanders for decades.

Mr Ludwig Kumoru (R) and FFA Director General Mr James Movick (L) briefing Pacific media during WCPFC14 negotiations.

“Right now, we license distant water fishing nations, giving them opportunity to fish in our waters, because coastal states haven’t yet built the capacity to fish. There will come a time when the islands have the capacity to expand fishing in their own zones, and others must be prepared to give way.”

Which is why the agreement at WCPFC14 to relax the longline catch limit for the DWFN fleets will potentially come at significant opportunity cost for many FFA members.

“Allowing existing fleets to increase their level of catch and effort does make a big impact on how difficult it is to develop our own domestic fleets in the future. So I think there were large compromises made all round,” said Mr Norris.

In hindsight, the WCPFC14 negotiations were the first time in history that talks went so far beyond the set finishing time.

It prompted the following comment from Mr Norris, “It has never come down to the wire in terms of timing as much as it did this morning [8 December], but certainly the types of negotiations that we went through over the last week are not new to anyone in the Commission, we’ve had those difficult discussions before.

“At the end of the day we are talking about national interest, we are talking about very significant commercial interest in the private sector so it’s not surprising that it comes down to those fairly pointy discussions.”

Taking all of the above into account, it was the summation by FFC Chair, Ms Baldwin that stood out.

“When you look at the measure [Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure] there’s a series of very strong concessions that FFA members as a group gave to achieve consensus.”

Her statement spotlights the source of Pacific countries’ frustrations at these annual meetings. Although they are the tuna owners, they are the ones that have to make the most concessions, as well as carry a disproportionately heavier burden for the conservation component of the measures agreed to at these annual Tuna Commission meetings.

“They [DWFNs] are here to make profit. It is not their waters so they would rather make money and go develop their own place. They are not coming here to develop the Pacific islands,” emphasized Mr Kumoru.

“In their own EEZs, how much of their [fishery] allocation have they given to other people?,” he asked.

“None of them.

“Because they use all of their allocation in their EEZs. None of their waters are allocated to someone else. And here, they want to use our waters!” shouted Mr Kumoru.

“This is why we are pushed to the corner, this is how people come here, fish here and we have no control. There are opportunities under so many international laws that we cannot fight our way out – this is the message our people back home [weavers, planters and fishers] need to know, to understand what we are up against.”

Ms Jemima Garrett and Ms Lisa Williams-Lahari contributed to this report.

Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F Tauafiafi’s participation and coverage at the WCPFC14 was made possible by the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF, Australia, Japan and GEF OFMP2 project. 

NINE KEY OUTCOMES FROM WCPFC14

  1. Tropical Tunas Bridging Measure

Key features of the new bridging measure for managing tropical tunas include:

  • A three-year agreement, with some 12-month provisions that reflect the need to wait for further scientific stock assessments in 2018. The one-year provisions relate to FAD management in the purse seine fishery, high seas purse seine effort control and bigeye catch limits in the longline fishery.
  • Measures designed to ensure stocks are maintained at recent average levels and capable of producing Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).
  • Recognition for Small Island Developing States of disproportionate burden risks. This recognizes the extra burden or cost placed on resource owning states (usually) as a result of conservation measures eg closing a fishery or FAD fishing has a bigger impact on Pacific nations than on fishing nations, as most fishing nations have many other industries to rely on, and they have the option of fishing elsewhere.
  1. Rebuilding plan and revised Conservation Measure on Pacific Bluefin

The Commission adopted the Conservation and Management Measure developed by the Northern Committee to implement the Harvest Strategy for Pacific Bluefin Tuna Fisheries. It was agreed that CCMs take measures to ensure:

  • Total fishing effort by CCM (Commission Members, Cooperating Non-Members and Participating Territories) vessels fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna north of 20° N shall stay below 2002–2004 annual average levels.
  • All catches of Pacific bluefin tuna less than 30 kg shall be reduced to 50% of the 2002–2004 annual average levels.
  • All catches of Pacific Bluefin tuna 30kg or larger shall not be increased from the 2002-2004 annual average levels.
  1. Updated Harvest Strategy Workplan

The Commission adopted a revised Harvest Strategy work plan that will re-prioritise as needed the annual agenda of the Commission and Scientific Committee to allow sufficient additional time for consideration of harvest strategy issues.

  1. Standards for e-reporting of observer data

Reporting standards for electronic reporting of observer data were adopted. The standards relate to data fields, summaries, activity logs, vessel and gear data, crew and trip-level data and also pollution reports. The standards will enable more effective monitoring and management by enhancing the work of observers in enabling the entry of near real-time observer data directly into the database systems of monitoring and scientific agencies.

  1. Port State Measure to reduce illegal fishing

The Commission adopted a Port State Measure that will strengthen overall port controls to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and support development opportunities for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by reducing the impact of IUU fishing on stocks. The busiest ports in the WCPO fishery area are located in SIDS, imposing the most significant reporting requirements on SIDS. The Measure provides implementation flexibility in that Members will choose which designated ports they notify to WCPFC to come under the provisions of the Measure.

  1. Bycatch mitigation initiatives

Sharks: WCPFC14 agreed to devote significant intersessional resources to resolve longstanding and contentious issues surrounding the conservation and management of sharks. For the first time there will be an Intersessional Working Group – Sharks – which will aim to unify the existing five management measures and build on them to develop a comprehensive management framework.

The IWG-Sharks will be led by Japan but is open to all members (and observer delegations). A list of issues prepared by the Scientific and Compliance committees has been adopted by the Commission, as part of a terms of reference for the IWG-Sharks.

Sea Turtles: WCPFC14 adopted two recommendations for the SC to undertake work that will inform the potential revision of the WCPFC sea turtle CMM. Under the first recommendation, the Scientific Committee (SC) will consider the technical details of a proposal to expand mitigation from shallow set longliners fishing for swordfish to all longliners. Key issues will be whether there are impacts on other bycatch or target species from the proposed expansion. The second adopted recommendation requires the SC to consider whether the WCPFC observer data standards should be modified to collect better data on sea turtle interactions.

Sea Birds: WCPFC14 adopted a new CMM for seabirds that involves minor amendments to the existing seabird CMM. The changes relate to (a) new requirements for tori (bird-scaring) lines to be used on small vessels fishing south of 30 degrees South and (b) to the formats CCMs use to report seabird interactions in annual reports to the Commission.

  1. Conservation and Management Measure on Marine Pollution

This measure involves collective action to reduce the detrimental impact of marine pollution on ocean and coastal environments, wildlife, economies and ecosystems. Under the measure, CCMs will prohibit their fishing vessels operating in the WCPFC Convention Area from discharging any plastics (excluding fishing gear). CCMs will also be encouraged to prohibit their fishing vessels from discharging oil or fuel products, garbage, food waste, domestic waste, incinerator ashes, cooking oil or sewage.

  1. Target Reference Point (TRP) for South Pacific Albacore

The Commission agreed to prioritise the development and adoption of a Target Reference Point for south Pacific albacore through the following actions:

  • CCMs will review available scientific and economic information to decide appropriate goals for the fishery and corresponding candidate target reference points.
  • Regardless of the results of the 2018 stock assessment and the management advice from SC14 to WCPFC15, SC14 will dedicate sufficient time in the Management Issues Theme to develop robust advice to WCPFC15 on candidate target reference points.
  • CCMs will develop TRP proposals and WCPFC 15 will adopt a Target Reference Point for south Pacific albacore, using whatever decision-making means are necessary.
  1. Amendment to the Record of Fishing Vessels (RFV) CMM – Samoa

CMM 2013-10 RFV was amended to support the continued operation of Samoa’s domestic longline fleet that fishes exclusively in Samoa’s EEZ. The amendment will allow this fleet to directly offload to American Samoa instead of landing and containerising fish in Samoa, and then shipping to American Samoa. The current practice is costly, impacting on the economic hardship experienced by Samoa in this fishery as a result of prolonged reductions in catch rates in the albacore fishery.

Location for next WCPFC annual meeting

The next annual meeting of the Commission – WCPFC15 – will be hosted by Federated States of Micronesia and held in Pohnpei from 3-7 December 2018.