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By Pita Ligaiula in Waikiki, Hawaii
The executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) believes the creation of the Science-Management dialogue is best vehicle to expedite the implementation of the Tuna harvest strategy work plan which aims to ensure sustainability for the world’s biggest fishery.
Feleti Teo used his address at the opening the 15th WCPFC meeting currently underway in Honolulu to call on member nations to agree to establish the new mechanism. It is one of three priorities he identified for the week-long meeting.
Harvest strategies aim to take the crisis management out of fisheries decisions by setting rules in advance to trigger remedial action should stocks drop below a critical level. But setting the rules is a difficult process which requires fisheries managers to have a good understanding of the latest science.
“Since I assumed this role almost four years ago, it coincided with the adoption of the work plan for the adoption of harvest strategies. Over that period, I have witnessed first-hand the challenges the commission encountered in progressing …the work plan.
“Admittedly it's highly technical and complex work and I'm convinced like others that the setting of the commission week is not ideal for transacting harvest strategy work.
“So I'm hoping that the commission during this week can progress the suggestion for a science management dialogue arrangement and agree on its terms of reference as the best vehicle to expedite the implementation of the harvest strategy workplan,” Teo told WCPFC delegates.
Member-countries are expected to continue discussions on harvest strategies which will provide comprehensive plans for keeping bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and albacore tuna stocks in the Pacific Ocean in a healthy state.
Teo said before this meeting, negotiation work had also been done through working groups on the Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS).
“There’s been a lot of work that has gone into the recent review the Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS) and so as efforts to develop a new measure,’ Teo said moving on to another priority.
“I know there remain some fundamental differences and some key aspects of the draft new measure for the CMS but we also know as a fact that the current measure which operates the Compliance Monitoring Scheme will lapse at the end of this month.
“Not wanting to speak to those differences in the negotiation of the measure, I would simply like to plead with members of the commission that there's a lot at stake if the commission compliance monitoring scheme ceases to function after this month because of lack of agreement on the measure that will allow continuation of the scheme to function and operate beyond this year,” Teo stressed.
He also told members the need for the organisation to have a proper planning document.
“I wish to highlight the need for a planning document for the commission. Admittedly this has become my favourite issue when I first took up the role of your executive director. Admittedly I never worked for an organisation that does not have a strong strategic plan or a corporate value document of some sort.
“So when I took up this role I was quite vocal in advocating for the utility of such a document and the need for the organisation to have such a document to guide its future work.
I'm hoping through the course of the week especially your discussions around the draft corporate plan under the suite of measurement issues will provide some impetus for a robust strategic planning discussion,” Teo said.
WCPFC chair Rhea Moss-Christian, in her opening remarks emphasised her desire to see members reach a common understanding on the need for sustainable development of the tuna resources of the region.
“The importance of fishing responsibly, the importance of effective enforcement, and the need for effective cooperation between us. Those were our founding motivations as a collective and from which we must draw inspiration from this week in our deliberations.
This year’s WCPFC is taking place in the same conference centre in Honolulu where the Convention which brought the organisation into being, was first opened for signature 18 years ago.
“We remind our gathering of these origins to ensure that we do not lose sight of the understandings and commitments upon which we individually and collectively established this Commission, and to ensure that we elevate our efforts this week through strong collaboration and the spirit of cooperation which has brought us this far.
She said their tenacity and dedication that has assisted members to work through complex negotiations which have delivered some successful outcomes, such as the well-balanced Tropical Tuna Measure and the much-needed Observer Safety Measure.
“This is currently a well-balanced measure which we all worked very hard to develop and adopt. Therefore, our position is to maintain the strength of this measure and not weaken the delicate balance in its existing provisions”.
This will be the fourth successive year that Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members have proposed a Target Reference Point for albacore tuna.
“We look forward to your continued leadership at this meeting to help us address remaining gaps in our fisheries management framework, such as the priority issue of adopting a Target Reference Point for South Pacific albacore,’ Moss-Christian told delegates.
“It is critical we adopt a TRP for South Pacific albacore so that we can start to manage this fishery. We are pleased to see that you have made this adoption of a TRP your highest priority for this meeting. A TRP for South Pacific albacore goes to the heart of our work as a body - the sustainable development of the fishery, fishing responsibly and the need for effective cooperation between us.
On Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS), Moss-Christian said the current measure does not work.
“FFA Members are seeking to adopt a new CMS CMM that is effective, efficient, fair and helps CCMs to improve compliance,” she said.
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