Harvest Control rules, reference points and MCS on the menu for Pacific nations ahead of annual Tuna meet

 Wednesday 30th November 2016 

Tokatoka, NADI, FIJI ISLANDS –Pacific nations managing the world’s biggest tuna fishery are going through a long list of proposals at their final round of preparatory sessions in Nadi this week before they meet with the big fishing nations on December 5th.

 The 101st session of the Forum Fisheries Committee, chaired by Vanuatu, opened Monday 28th November at the Tokatoka Hotel Conference Centre to prepare for the upcoming 13th session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, WCPFC.

  WCPFC 13 will look at a substantive list including those from the Pacific focused around improving ways to roll out a Harvest Strategy Approach aimed at better management measures covering regional tuna stocks - Bigeye, Yellowfin, Albacore and Skipjack. Fisheries Officials from the 17 member nations of the Forum Fisheries Agency are spending this week working through the detail and discussing strategic engagement on each proposed measure they have tabled.

 While FFA members are firmly committed to the Harvest Strategy Approach, they are fully aware that comprehensive harvest strategies for all the key tuna species will take a number of years. So FFA members are turning their minds to putting in place strong interim arrangements for tropical tuna stocks as well as albacore that will stay in place until full harvest strategies are complete.

 “Forum Fisheries members have been working throughout the year to deliver the proposed Conservation and Management Measures aimed, as always, at ensuring a viable and sustainable tuna fishery where the science, rules and enforcement are in play,” says Director General Movick. “One of our key focusses has been preparing for the development of new Tropical Tuna measure to replace the existing measure that expires at the end of 2017.”

 Observer safety proposed as a CMM by the US at WCPFC12, has also been highlighted as a key concern for the FFA bloc, who gave the issue of the safety and welfare of Fisheries Observers high priority during their July Ministerial in Vanuatu. “Building from the Bali sessions, our Ministers and leaders have given us a clear message – these are our people and they must be afforded safe and harmonious working conditions.  While we thank the US for their efforts to date in the draft CMM on Observer Safety they have tabled, we have a number of outstanding issues and concerns.  We look forward to working with others to support adoption at the Commission table.”

Proposals from the 17-country FFA bloc to the WCPFC13 cover:

 Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore- Establishment of a Target Reference Point for the stock to provide an agreed target for management of the fishery. Citing the SPC science showing that continued current fishing levels will result in further decline of the stock, FFA members say reductions in catch and effort are necessary to ensure a healthy stock and profitable albacore fishery. Another proposal by FFA members seeks to separate South Pacific Albacore from the proposed new Tropical Tuna CMM and create a standalone albacore CMM that limits the total catch of albacore.

 Rules for High Seas areas –Backed up by the findings of the Pacific IUU report, FFA members are back with revisions to a proposal tabled at WCPFC12 seeking better fisheries management for the six High Seas areas in the WCPO. Fisheries management on the high seas of the WCPFC is one of the highest responsibilities of the Commission, as per article 8.4 of its founding convention. The proposed High Seas Areas CMM aims to strengthen the management of the Longline fishery and complement the rules for purse seine vessels covering transhipment at sea, and the PNA licensing condition preventing licensed vessels from fishing in the two western high seas pockets.

 Harvest Strategy Levels of risk (interim) FFA members propose this measure to provide a ‘starting point’ for the acceptable levels of risk of breaching limit reference points for yellowfin, skipjack and south Pacific albacore. It’s a highly technical element of the harvest strategy approach, but is necessary to guide further work on the Harvest Strategy Workplan adopted by the WCPFC last year, and is aimed at helping Commission members decide how it will design harvest control rules and set target reference points.

 Enhanced Port-based Monitoring, Control and Surveillance: FFA members are building on their 2015 proposal and flagging a revised version seeking enhanced port based MCS Initiatives to assist with procedures and capacity of Pacific nations to meet their obligations as Port States. The proposal also targets IUU- hoping to nab fish traceability and documentation gaps aboard licensed vessels dodging the rules for reporting.

 “There is little doubt amongst the Pacific nations that getting any proposal over the line involves focussed, strategic engagement with an ability to recognise opportunities and read shifting positions. This is the annual negotiation meeting upon which the future of the pacific Tuna fishery rests, and FFA members remain committed to ensuring meaningful outcomes. Achieving that remains a major challenge.”—ENDS

 For Editors: The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, WCPFC brings the 17 member nations of the Forum Fisheries Agency, FFA to the negotiating and reporting table with the world’s major fishing nations. Following a series of technical, compliance and science meetings throughout the year, the WCPFC members, cooperating non-members, and observers, come together every December to track developments, updates and emerging trends in the Pacific tuna fishery. More importantly, they are charged with setting rules or Conservation and Management Measures for sustainable tuna fishing.

 Filling 16 of the 26 full-member seats at the table, FFA members form the largest regional bloc of the WCPFC. The FFA members also feature the tropical tuna group of eight—the Parties to the Nauru Agreement and Tokelau, and the emerging southern albacore oriented Tokelau Arrangement group of eleven nations – all keen to achieve new momentum for regional and economic benefits from the USD5.8 billion-dollar fishery.