Key fisheries meetings outcomes – US Treaty, Billfish Committee and SPRFMO

NADI, FIJI & HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS OCTOBER 2009: FFA participated in a number of key meetings this month, outcomes from which are detailed below.

US TREATY
The regional headquarters of FFA, Honiara, Solomon Islands, hosted the Special Pacific Islands Parties Internal Meeting on 28 October and the 1st Renegotiation Session of the Multilateral Treaty on Fisheries Between Certain Governments of the Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America (commonly referred to as the "US Treaty") from 29-30 October 2009.

Initial exchange of views and discussions were positive. The Pacific Island Parties and the US expressed a shared interest in renegotiation on three key elements - licensing arrangements including financial and economic aspects, the fishing opportunities available to US flagged vessels and the duration of an extension of the Treaty arrangements which are due to expire in June 2013.

The US Treaty first started in 1987 and it has been renewed on two occasions, with the last renewal in 2003 and to run for 10 years until 2013. The US Treaty enables US purse seine fishing vessels to fish in the waters of the 16 Pacific Island Parties which are: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The Pacific Island Parties and the US have also agreed that they continue the renegotiation based on an established timetable that aims to complete the renegotiation by March 2012, one year before the actual expiry of the current Treaty arrangement. 

BILLFISH COMMITTEE – SC-SPTBF

The FFC Sub-Committee on South Pacific Tuna and Billfish Fisheries (SC-SPTBF) has been considering short and long term management objectives and options for the longline fisheries targeting albacore, swordfish and striped marlin. SC-SPTBF met in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on 27 & 31 October 2009 and agreed:
•    To include other contributing factors such as economics and oceanography in analyses of South Pacific Albacore Tuna, Swordfish and Striped Marlin conservation and management measures        
•    To progress quantitative analyses on stock contraction (e.g. Bigeye Tuna) and impact of illegal fishing
•    To recommend to FFC and WCPFC give high priority to a research program and stock assessment of swordfish, particularly the South-Central Pacific Swordfish Stock Assessment (not formally assessed at this stage)
•    To propose amendments to the WCPFC Swordfish Conservation and Management Measure (CMM2008-05) including to maintain current catch limits
•         To progress current work on the South Pacific Albacore and Swordfish Plan  including suggested improvements identified by the Committee.

Chair Peter Graham of the Cook Islands, thanked delegates for their participation and inputs. He also announced that following past decisions, Fiji will be the new chair for the group when Cook Islands concludes its chairmanship role in May 2010.

SOUTH PACIFIC REGIONAL FISHERIES MANAGEMENT ORGANISATION – SPRFMO

A regional workshop on the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management was held in Nadi, Fiji from 21-23 October to prepare FFA members for future SPRFMO consultations. Although the workshop was sought by the Forum Fisheries Committee, it supports Forum Leaders decisions made since 2005 calling for the development of an appropriate legal framework to manage deep sea bottom trawling to protect biodiversity in the high seas. International negotiations are being held on this body intended to apply to straddling and discrete high seas fisheries (such as jack mackerel and orange roughy) and associated ecosystems of the South Pacific. The northern boundary of the area of governance of the proposed body is yet to be determined. More information on this potential organisation can be found on http://www.southpacificrfmo.org/background-information/

FFA participants in this regional workshop recommended:
•    cooperation and coordination between Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, SPRFMO and other relevant organisations including the streamlining of meeting schedules
•    amendments to the draft agreement to fully recognise the special requirements of small island developing states including participation in fishing activity
•    that the northern boundary of the area to be covered by the proposed body include all high seas areas adjacent to the national waters of FFA members
•    FFA and SPC continue to provide technical and other assistance to FFA members involved in the international negotiations and the future work of the SPRFMO.

The eighth international consultation on the establishment of the South Pacific RFMO will be held from 8-14 November 2009 in Auckland, New Zealand.