Pacific Islands at Tuna Commission call for tighter controls on fishing

PAPEETE, TAHITI, FRENCH POLYNESIA, 7 DECEMBER 2009: Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members are calling for tighter controls on fishing at the 6th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting which opened today.


 Pacific Island countries are the owners of the last remaining healthy tuna stocks in the world and manage a marine area of 30 million square kilometres, supported with technical support and services from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

Regional fisheries management in the Pacific Islands region includes several measures to control illegal fishing such as the creation of a Vessel Monitoring System to track electronically track fishing vessels, a Regional Observer Programme to put independent observers on fishing vessels to report on fishing practices and Regional Surveillance Operations to survey vast tracks of ocean by pooling surveillance equipment and capabilities of many countries.

This year Pacific Islands are presenting to the WCPFC ideas to tighten controls on illegal fishing such as:
• Change the rules to ensure prosecutions and penalties for illegal vessels are to the satisfaction of the state where the vessel committed the offences (this follows the experience of Tonga last year which argued at WCPFC that Taiwan’s penalties for a vessel found fishing illegally in Tongan waters was not adequate – instead Taiwan agreed to pay the fine imposed by Tonga).
• Make provisions so countries where ships are flagged are responsible for making sure they are on the WCPFC Register.
• Amend the WCPFC Conservation and Management Measure on Swordfish including making more effective the so-called ‘penalty clause’ which stipulates that a country that catches over its limit one year must make up for it the following year by taking a cut in their allowable catch.

Pacific Islands have been at the forefront of developing innovative measures to manage fishing including the establishment of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and its rules to cut fishing of bigeye tuna (subject to overfishing), put fishing observers on board fishing vessels, establish a high seas vessel monitoring system, close some high seas pockets and introduce measures on sharks, seabirds and turtles.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is a decision making body for management of tuna fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. Conservation and management measures (CMMs) of the Commission are legally binding and apply to all WCPFC members and the Western and Central Pacific Ocean which was the source of 54% of the world's tuna catch in 2007.

Members of the WCPFC are Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Community, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu. Also at the WCPFC are participating territories including American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna.

Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Council Brendan Pasisi from Niue said: “We come to this meeting as custodians of the tuna resource and our interest is in sustainable fishing for the benefits for Pacific Islanders. We also seek to make sure the rights and interests of small island developing states are respected by the Commission as we sit together with fishing nations and discuss the fisheries management rules for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.”

For more information about these issues: Factsheets about WCPFC:
Illegal fishing and controls in Pacific Islands region:
Brief about Pacific Islands region: