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By Pita Ligaiula in Waikiki, Hawaii
Fiji is the latest country to push the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)to adopt a target reference point for South Pacific Albacore before the meeting wraps up this week.
The 17 members of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are advocating strongly for strengthened Conservation and Management Measures (CMM’s) and also pushing to advance several priority issues including the Tropical Tuna Measure and adoption of a Target Reference Point (TRP) for the South Pacific Albacore tuna stock.
For the past three years this matter has been deferred under pressure from Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) interests in the southern longline fishery.
Fiji’s delegate Meli Raicebe reminded the Commission that WCPFC has on its books a binding decision to adopt a target reference point for South Pacific Albacore this year.
“Every year we give a lengthy explanation of our TRP proposal, trying to anticipate and answer all the questions that we know will be asked. And for every question we answer, a new question is raised. Usually a question that we answered the previous year.
“This year we would like to ask a question of other CCMs (member nations).The question is: what do you expect will be the likely result of taking no effective management action and the impact this will have on South Pacific small island developing states? I think you already know the answer and we are simply not prepared to see this happen. I don’t need to go into detail on the FFA proposal – it has been in front of the Commission for three years now,” Raicebe stressed.
He said FFA members are determined that WCPFC needs to follow through on this to help bring the fishery back into economic health.
“Enough to say that is based on the best scientific advice and seeks to start this Commission on the path towards effectively managing this stock in a way that will provide economic benefits to all participants in this fishery.
We thank those CCMs that have already engaged with us on our proposal and we look forward to the cooperation of all WCPFC members to ensure it is passed this year,” Raicebe emphasised.
Fiji is the latest country in the region to seek concrete action taken for the adoption of the Target Reference Point.
FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou Roosen said they are keen to see progress on rules governing the albacore tuna fishery.
“So, it is critical that as a start, as a first step that we adopt this target reference point. And it is just a first step on a long journey that we will have with our partners, our fishing partners, to develop a harvest strategy around that fishery.
“With the albacore fishery, what we are looking for with the adoption of that Target reference point, is to get to a point where we can be economically viable, despite the high operating costs or the low fish prices. But even in those low troughs, or low peaks that we are able still able to make a profit. And we see as a critical starting point, the adoption of a target reference point, which is why it is a high priority going into this meeting,” Dr Tupou Roosen said.
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