Limits planned on Pacific albacore fishery
Pacific nations to outline plans to place limits on the region's albacore tuna fishery.
Pacific nations are taking a plan to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission that they hope will restore the health of their albacore tuna fisheries.
The Deputy Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency, Wez Norris, told Don Wiseman about the poor state of the fishery and the Pacific's desire to do something about it.
WEZ NORRIS: The albacore fishery has been a source of quite significant concern for quite a while. It's a little bit of an unusual situation. From a biological sustainability perspective, albacore is actually quite healthy. But the fishery has been depleted to an extent that there is no economic viability for fishing vessels anymore. And that's particularly hurting the domestic fleets that operate in the South Pacific. So we've been working on a framework to try and introduce limits that will in the first instance prevent further expansion of the fishery and then move it back down towards areas where there is sufficient catch rates to support economically viable domestic fleets.
DON WISEMAN: So what, are we talking about a long period each year, or perhaps several years when there is no fishing of albacore. What's going to happen?
WN: Well the albacore fishery is very seasonal, but what we have noticed over the last few years is that the season is getting shorter and shorter, and this is because the catch rates have been declining. What it means is the only vessels that can actually make a go of the albacore fishery either have to be incredibly efficient in the way that they operate or need to be receiving some sort of subsidy from their flag state.
DW: By that you mean Chinese vessels?
WN: Yes, the Chinese fleet has undergone a very significant expansion in the last few years and these vessels sort of have the best of both worlds. They are very efficient vessels, they have a high level of fishing effort and also they receive various subsidies particularly on their operating costs like fuel.
DW: The Pacific Islands countries want to see what, a ban on fishing of albacore by distant water nations?
WN: What we are really trying to promote is a partnership approach. The fishery has expanded to the extent that it is, and we are looking for ways that we can bring it back down so that everyone can get mutual benefit from it. The Pacific Island countries don't have the catching capacity to make out of the fishery in their own right, and so we're looking for opportunities to set economically viable limits in place and then look for ways that we can cooperate with flag states such as China and Chinese Taipei to make the most of those limits.
DW: What are the nature of the limits likely to be?
WN: What we are looking at doing, and this is quite an exciting development literally in the last few weeks is to put in place limits in the Exclusive Economic Zones of the Pacific Island countries that they control, so a limit that they hold and then they can attract either domestic vessels or foreign vessels to come in and catch those vessels. And we want to complement that with limits on the high seas that each flag state would control. Again we are looking for a degree of cooperation so that we can stitch up those types of areas in ways that don't necessarily put anyone out of place in the short term.
DW: These are ideas that the FFA will take to the Tuna Commission later this year?
WN: Yeah, that's right. We have been working together developing up this package of measures, and also working with other coastal states in the region particularly New Caledonia, French Polynesia and American Samoa to try and put forward a package that is really going to make a difference. As I say this is a situation that has been worsening for several years now, and I think everybody agrees that something needs to be done and we are looking to find the solution that will get it done.
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