Pacific nations to demand big fishing nations to play fair
Pacific nations will be putting the heat on powerful Asian fishing countries in a bid to preserve fish stocks.
Pacific fishing nations meeting in Samoa this week will be putting the heat on powerful Asian fishing countries in a bid to preserve stocks.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement, as well as conservation groups, are concerned about the levels of tuna, and they say distant nations are not playing by the rules.
Small countries have complained that the limits imposed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission are observed only by the smallest and vulnerable island states.
Alex Perrottet reports.
The Tuna Commission's rules tightly balance the interests of Pacific nations, and fleets from distant countries, both longline vessels and smaller purse seine boats. Conservation groups say overfishing of Bigeye, Skipjack, Yellowfin and Albacore could lead to the planet's largest but dwindling fish reserve depleted beyond revival. The leader or Ulu of Tokelau, Kuresa Nasau, says as a group the Pacific islands have the power to restore albacore stocks.
KURESA NASAU: A healthy fishery contributes to a healthy economy but it also requires a healthy stock. Right now albacore is being fished according to an objective that only supports over capitalised foreign fishing fleets particularly on the high seas.
Kuresa Nasau says if the Tuna Commission agrees, its recent Tokelau Arrangement will establish countries' rights to decide how their zones should be fished and by whom. Australia, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu, Samoa and Tonga have joined Tokelau and Vanuatu in signing the agreement. Then - the allegations of transshipment and false reporting. Huge fleets on the high seas offloading catches at sea onto other boats to avoid registering catches at Pacific ports. The director general of the Forum Fisheries Agency, James Movick, and the CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, Transform Aqorau, say Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan have to be sanctioned this week, for false reporting of their catches. James Movick says the data they provide is not accurate.
JAMES MOVICK: This time if they don't provide the data, what we are saying to the commission is that those countries who do not provide the data are penalised in terms of future allocations in those areas. There's got to be some sort of sanctions so that it hurts to them.
But the Tuna Commission has long been unable to keep all parties happy, despite Pacific nations uniting themselves to petitions. Greenpeace's Oceans Campaigner, Lagi Toribau, says the four countries have refused to give the Commission full access to their operational data and this needs to change.
LAGI TORIBAU: And the fact that they've gone for about eight years without being providing this information I think is a clear indication on the level of influence and pressure that certain parties have in this commission. There's a lot of areas where certain rules only apply to certain fleets and there are certain requirements that only falls onto certain members.
Lagi Toribau says Pacific countries should be able to exercise their own sovereignty inside their own waters. The Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is hosting the meeting in Apia this week, says it's not just about preserving a food source, but also jobs for local fishermen.
TUILAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI: It is important that stronger and more effective fisheries management arrangements for the South Pacific albacore are agreed at this meeting.
Tuvalu says it has compromised its own profits because it has followed the rules. The Fisheries Minister Elisala Pita says the country has only one vessel, and is trying to expand it to two, to service its massive zone in which distant nations harvest 60,000 tonnes of fish each year, but its construction is being blocked by the Commission's rules. The parties are engaged in meetings until Friday.
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