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By Pita Ligaiula in Waikiki, Hawaii
Pacific nations attending this week’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) are on a mission to persuade members to set a target reference point for albacore tuna – the most important tuna for southerly Pacific countries – and to thwart any increase in catches of tropical tuna.
Pacific Ministers and inter-governmental bodies such at the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) have the backing of the WCPFC Chair in these aims and praise from environment groups for their new level of solidarity.
Outgoing WCPFC Chair Rhea Moss-Christian, said one of her priorities before leaving the post is to see through the agreement on Albacore tuna is adopted. Albacore is a temperate tuna important to countries such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
The adoption of a new Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure at last year’s WCPFC was designed to ensure skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks are maintained at recent average levels and capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.
“We are expecting heavy discussions on the tropical tuna this year,” Rhea Moss-Christian told Pacific reporters in Honolulu.
Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO Ludwig Kumoru says their priorities at WCPFC this week is to support Forum Fisheries Agency members on the issue.
“Our stance will support the FFA members …. We don't have any stand-alone strong views. Our views are the same as FFA so we will just be supporting FFA members. One other position we don't want changed is the FFA position of the tropical tuna measure. We don’t want it diluted. Our bottom line is we stick to the same that we had agreed to. We are not going to see any change on the tropical tuna measures,’ said Kumoru.
Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said they will take precautionary approach in their work on the measure.
“Our position is to not weaken the tropical tuna measure, we would like to maintain the strength of that measure,” Dr Tupou-Roosen explained.
The United States has put in a proposal to increase its bigeye tuna catch limit for its Hawaii-based longline fleet, based on a new system of rewards for the much higher level of scrutiny that fleet maintains from independent fisheries observers.
Dave Gershman from PEW Trust said his organisation is optimistic members of the WCPFC and Distant Water Fishing nations (DWFNs) will come into an agreement on the Tuna measures.
“Well I think we have to continue to have discussions. Continue to have frank and honest discussions.
“I think there’s an opportunity now with bigeye not being overfished, not experiencing overfishing, there’s an opportunity to really take a step back and think about what the Commission and its members want out of the big-eye fishery and what are the measures that are going to be most appropriate at achieving those goals.
WWF’s Bubba Cook heaped praise on the FFA and PNA for their co-operation and their commitment to advance the need of the regions interest in the WCPFC talks.
“I find very encouraging going into this meeting is what appears to be the increased solidarity between the FFA and the PNA, this week showing the common interest among the two groups bodes well for decision making.
“When you have both of those organisations and the combined power that they bring to the table with the unified voice, that can have a huge impact on how decisions are made at this process and so i think what appears to be an increased level of cooperation between the two organisations is a welcome signal in the WCPFC process,” said Cook.
The WCPFC meeting begins today and will end on Friday.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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