The crew of a fishing vessel prepares cargo net loads of frozen tuna. Photo: Francisco Blaha/22050322
A management procedure was adopted at the 19th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Da Nang, Vietnam over the weekend but one NGO says it’s “disheartening” the agreement is non-binding.
WCPFC is the governing body that looks after the tuna stocks in the Western and
Central Pacific Ocean which includes Cook Islands waters.
Cook Islands is also one of 26 member countries that are part of the Commission
and had delegates at the conference.
Commission’s annual meeting concluded on Saturday with member states agreeing
to adopt a management procedure for skipjack which is a pre-agreed framework
designed to determine the level for fishing.
The idea is to minimise political negotiations and leave
the decision-making to science which will set the level of fishing. It’s been
the biggest focal point for the WCPFC meeting this year.
It’s the first time a management
procedure has been agreed to for one of the major tuna stocks in the region.
The secretary general of the Pacific
Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen said the
decision was a significant step.
However, Glen Holmes, an officer with Pew
Charitable Trusts, said “while it is a step in the right direction, it is
disheartening that members have not made the agreement binding”.
management of this stock and ensure a stable supply for the market, members
must revisit this decision and agree to realise the full benefit of the
management procedure as soon as possible,” Holmes said.
“The skipjack tuna
population is at a healthy level, but it has become more depleted over time.
The management procedure adopted today has been tested many times by scientists
to account for uncertainty that could affect the skipjack fishery now and in
Tupou-Roosen said given the
uncertainty” that could arise from changes to science and the fishery it was
important to give members time to evaluate it before it became fully
the time this management procedure will run, outcomes will come from it, and it
doesn’t dictate what the harvest strategy will be or what the end management
procedure is because it’s an interim measure.”
Tupou-Roosen said the procedure has been
put in place for five years and will lapse after unless members agree. However,
she added that would not happen and FFA members remained committed to harvest
Tupou-Roosen said she did not have a date
for when she wanted a fully implemented harvest strategy to come into effect.
Meanwhile, the United States and Canada’s
proposal to ban member countries from using both wire trace and shark lines for longline fisheries was successful.
Shark lines are hooks suspended from the
float which sit in shallow water aimed at targeting sharks. Wire trace is used
instead of nylon to connect hooks to the mainline and prevents sharks from
The proposal said based on scientific
recommendations, banning both shark lines and wire leaders could reduce
mortality of the silky and oceanic whitetip sharks by 30.8 and 40.5 per cent
The Cook Islands enacted shark
conservation regulations in its own waters in 2012 and already prohibits the
use of wire leaders.
Caleb Fotheringham in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Fotheringham’s trip was made possible by The Ocean Foundation.