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Pacific priorities at halfway stage of 16th Tuna Commission Annual Meeting
9:15 pm GMT+12, 08/12/2019, Papua New Guinea

By Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi Port Moresby, PNG

At the midway point of the Tuna Commission meeting in Papua New Guinea, Pacific members are generally pleased with progress made on their priority issues. But there is still a long way to go when the Commission negotiations reconvene today.

The reality is that the WCPFC is always a complex negotiation with several different proposals being negotiated at the same time according to Matthew Hooper, Deputy Director General, FFA. 

“Often there are trade-offs to be made, with countries willing to compromise on certain things if they get what they want in other parts of the negotiation. For this reason, it can be hard to predict how things are going to end up at the end of the meeting.”

Below is the midway state of play on Pacific priorities as provided by the FFA Secretariat.

 Climate Change resolution

FFA members are pushing hard for agreement to the Resolution on Climate Change that they put forward at the start of the meeting. While some of the elements of the proposed Resolution will likely change, we are hopeful that a Resolution will be passed that will start the Commission off on making concrete efforts to respond to the impacts of climate change.

Skipjack Target Reference Point (TRP) - Revision is still to be agreed

 Discussions on the TRP for skipjack tuna are proving difficult. While most WCPFC members support FFA members’ call for the TRP to be adjusted to reflect the new scientific model that was used for the latest stock assessment, not all members are ready to agree to this yet. This is another issue that is not likely to be resolved till later in the meeting.

 High Seas Limits and Allocation

There is general agreement to the proposal from FFA members for the WCPFC to hold a two-day workshop to discuss high seas limits and a framework for allocating those limits.  The Terms of Reference for this workshop still have to be discussed but we are hopeful that agreement will be reached so that the Commission can tackle this difficult issue in 2020. 


The Transhipment Intersessional Working Group, co-chaired by RMI and US, has made some good progress and a study will get underway early next year to identify weaknesses in the existing measure. 

Mobulid Rays Conservation and Management Measure (CMM)

FFA members' proposed draft conservation measure for Mobulid Rays (such as Manta Rays) has been well received and Palau is coordinating comments from other members. A revised version of the measure will likely be posted on Monday morning for a further round of comments from other members.

 Compliance Monitoring Scheme

 FFA members’ proposal to reform the WCPFC Compliance Monitoring Scheme is being discussed in a small working group. And even more intensive discussions are progressing in the margins of that meeting. This will be one of the hardest issues to reach agreement on, given the different approach taken by some other WCPFC members but we are encouraged by the willingness to work together to try and achieve a compromise that focuses compliance monitoring on the implementation of measures by members rather than delving into the detail of individual cases involving fishing vessels that are the better dealt with through other mechanisms.

 South Pacific Albacore

 FFA members have taken the lead in reinvigorating the South Pacific Albacore Roadmap discussions with a focus on moving the stock towards the Target Reference Point agreed in Honolulu last December. And putting in place a new measure that recognises the EEZ limits of FFA members and also puts limits on fishing in the high seas. A small working group will meet on Monday morning to start informal discussions, under the leadership of Fiji.

 Harvest Strategy

 Discussions on the Harvest Strategy Approach to fisheries management have been a big feature of this meeting. This is a complex, very science-focussed, approach and, while FFA members support the approach, we have identified a clear need for further capacity building among members so that everyone understands the implications of the decisions that are required to move this work forward. It has been clear that many other WCPFC members are also struggling to understand the complexities and so this work will continue but at a slower and more deliberate pace.


Top of the list is the Pacific call to adopt the Climate Change resolution. Pacific countries and delegations with Ministerial representations have been active in garnering support for the proposal.

“FFA members call on the WCPFC, as a collective body made up of all its member countries, to take stronger action on climate change and we look forward to discussing our proposals further with members at this meeting,” said Mr Eugene Pangelinan, Chair for the Forum Fisheries Committee.

It is a conversation that is relevant for all members he added “This is not just a Pacific issue necessarily; it is a fishing issue that we are all a part of and we have to do our parts together.”

Niue’s Associate Minister for Natural Resources, Hon Esa Sharon-Mona Ainuu called on the Commission to adopt the FFA resolution during her formal address at the first session of the meeting.

“Climate change is an existential threat to our region, and directly threatens our livelihoods, security and wellbeing,” she said.

Tuvalu’s minister for Fisheries and Trade, Minute Taupo emphasised at a press conference, “Climate change is not a problem that Tuvalu has caused – but we are going to suffer its effects. We suggest that the current global arrangements are changed to prevent this injustice.”

The climate change resolution is non-binding. Its main purpose is providing an entry point into the Commission space to allow formal discussions to take place.

“It will serve to focus attention on this important area whilst we refine the specific actions that can be taken by this Commission – then we can collectively begin work on binding measures,” explained Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director General, FFA.


 According to FFC Chair, Eugene Pangelinan, Pacific leaders have pronounced Zone-Based management as the mainstream fisheries management program to rights within Pacific waters. "Therefore, we already have well established zone-based limits within the EEZs that have been recognised by the Commission.”

The conversation FFA members are looking to have on “allocation" is in relation to the High Seas: about the current effort on the High Seas and how they, as Small Island Developing States (SIDS), will have a fair share.

Pangelinan re-iterated the issue for discussion is purely about “high seas allocation” and that the conversation was bedded down in WCPFC14 in Manila 2017. At WCPFC16, he said it is time to discuss what is the best way to approach the issue and make sure there is a fair and equitable distribution of those ‘allocation’ rights to the High Seas.  

 As SIDS, the High Seas are in their back yards, and they want access to develop it just as the Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFN) have done for many years.

 Pacific members would like to see "agreed approach - a process” out of the WCPFC16 conversation said Pangelinan.

“2020 will be an important year for us, that’s when the Tropical Tuna Measure (TTM) will expire and we will need to make sure that in 2020 we have that process well set. We are advocating a 2-day workshop to tackle High Seas allocations because it’s fundamental to agreeing to a future TTM.”

 The 16th Annual Meeting of WCPFC will reconvene at 9am today, 9 December and is expected to close its proceedings on Wednesday, 11 December.

Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F Tauafiafi’s participation and coverage at the WCPFC16 was made possible by the Forum Fisheries Agency, Pew Charitable Trusts, and GEF OFMP2 project.

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