PITIA and Tonga stand up for local tuna industry

PITIA Executive Officer John Maefiti

Pita Ligaiula – PAC NEWS

The Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) stood up for the struggling Tongan fishing industry today when it urged the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC15) to make a decision on Target Reference Point and a Harvest Control Rule for Southern Albacore tuna.
The most recent assessment of fish numbers in the southern albacore found albacore is not overfished or experiencing overfishing.
But Executive Officer of PITIA, John Maefiti told commission members, including the powerful fishing nations, that nobody can deny the perilous state of this fishery.
Maefiti said catch rates simply cannot support current costs, leaving many companies on the brink of financial failure.
Maefiti expressed a deep concern of their member countries over the continuous failure of the Tuna Commission in its mandate to respond effectively to dire conditions in the WCPO South Pacific Albacore fishery.
PITIA strongly encouraged WCPFC 15 to come to agreement on the harvest strategy elements that WCPFC committed to in its Harvest Strategy Workplan in 2014.
He said it is fortunate that the Southern Pacific Albacore is biologically healthy, but the key to economic viability of a fishery is the catch per unit of effort. PITIA has observed a continually declining catch per unit effort over several years, diminishing what was once a robust and attractive fishery to a shadow of itself.
PITIA told delegates that the inability of the WCPFC to control a massive increase in High Seas fishing effort is a sad indictment about the Commission’s ability to manage the fisheries under its charge. According to Maefiti, WCPFC must take heed of the Management advice and implications contained in recommendations from the Commission’s recent Scientific Committee meeting.
The PITIA told the Commission Southern Pacific albacore is a critical fishery for the Pacific nations, their fishing industry, their communities, their people and their livelihoods and well-being.
The call by PITIA for WCPFC to make a decision in its Honolulu meeting to ensure the long-term commercial viability and sustainability of the southern longline fishery was also emphasized by the Tonga’s Fisheries Minister.
Honourable Semisi Fakahau in his statement delivered yesterday made a call for WCPFC to agree at this meeting for a stronger and more effective fisheries management arrangements for migratory tuna stocks and other species as Tonga wants to see an adoption of the Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore in Honolulu……..ENDS