Tuna Commission begins urgent talks on new fishing rules for the Pacific’s most lucrative tuna species

pacific tunaTuna swimming in the Pacific

By Pita Ligaiula in Manila, Philippines, November 30, 2017 

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) will hold its second Intersessional meeting today to progress the draft bridging measure for tropical Tunas that expires at the end of this month.

This was revealed by Tuna Commission chair Rhea Moss -Christian in a media briefing with Pacific Journalist in Manila.

Tropical tunas include Skipjack, Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna.

In 2015 the catch of these species in the waters of Forum Fisheries Agency countries was worth more US$2 billion.

For some nations tuna income is the main source of revenue paying for vital services such as schools and hospitals.

The WCPFC’s tropical tuna measure sets the rules on how much fish can be caught and whether fishing is sustainable. It also affects how benefits are allocated.

“This year probably the key issue for the Commission is discussing this tropical Tuna measure. The discussions began about 17 months ago and the current tropical tuna measure expires at the end of this month which is why the Commission has been working toward developing a new measure to take its place,” Moss-Christian told journalists Thursday.

“So the commission will be meeting tomorrow (Friday) in a second special session to consider the draft Tuna measure the first one was in Honolulu in August. So that meeting will be taking place tomorrow (Friday) with all the Commission members and will focus on outstanding issues that came out of the Honolulu discussions.

The FFA countries are adamant that zone-based management, which puts Pacific resource-owning nations in the driver’s seat, is preferable to flag-based rights, which are centred on the nation owning the flag flown by fishing vessels.

“Probably the main outstanding issue has to do with is zone-based versus flag-based approaches to fishing management and within those approaches whether exemptions are required,” Moss-Christian said.

Another issue outstanding that Commission members will discuss tomorrow is on vessel capacity limits.

“We also continuing to consider monitoring and verification mechanisms including observer coverage and additional controls on longline transhipment activities and then underpinning all of this is the application of the principal known as ‘disproportionate burden’ which comes from the convention and ensures measures don’t place and undue burden on developing states and territories, so those are key issues that will be discussing beginning tomorrow(today),” she said.

The Forum Fisheries Agency(FFA) in its proposal to the commission re-iterated a key mechanism for managing disproportionate burden is the implementation of zone-based management arrangements to recognise and strengthen coastal State sovereign rights.

It said Pacific Island Leaders have expressed concern about the efforts by some WCPFC member states to undermine the zone-based measures that FFA members have developed in exercise of their sovereign rights under international law.

The FFA has added its voice to the call by Pacific leaders for those countries to withdraw proposals for flag-State based measures.

“We’ve done a lot of work over the last several months essentially to try to bring members views out onto the table to formulate positions and option for members to consider and I expect members to consider those option further and to advance the discussion,” said Moss-Christian.