3 Dec 2013

Conservation concerned disscussions on overfishing are being held in private

5:49 pm on 3 December 2013

A United States-based conservation group says it is gravely concerned that negotiations on overfishing of bigeye tuna are taking place behind closed doors.

All 17 Pacific island members of the Pew Charitable Trust, which are represented at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Cairns, Australia, are backing a measure to reduce tuna catches.

The director of global tuna conservation for Pew, Amanda Nickson told Beverley Tse about the urgent need to address overfishing in the Pacific.

AMANDA NICKSON: Pacific bluefin is now at only 3.6% of its unfished levels and there needs to be urgent action taken to ensure that a management plan is put in place that will help that species to rebuild. Second, bigeye tuna, which has been subject to overfishing for the past 10 years, needs a measure put in place to end that overfishing by 2018. This is particularly important as there has been some scientific advice provided to the commission for the last 10 years telling them that this overfishing is occurring. These negotiations have started towards a management measure that would encompass, we hope, steps to end overfishing of bigeye, but it's of grave concern to us that those negotiations have immediately been taken into a small working group that is allowing only one observer who is not allowed to speak and not allowed to report back. So essentially they have become fairly closed door negotiations and lacking in the transparency that we would expect to see out of a body like this.

BEVERLEY TSE: What are some of the obstacles to reaching these targets?

AN: Well, I think, obviously, there are implications for all of the different countries concerned in the fishery in terms of coming together and it is a process that largely happens via consensus decision-making. So it can take some time and discussion for all of those countries to be able to put their contributions to developing conservation methods on the table. I think the more important issue here is these countries have all signed up to this convention and agreed to fish in this area, knowing exactly what the responsibilities they are taking on are. And there can be no excuse for decisions that allow continued overfishing of certain species or continued destructive fishing in the face of very clear scientific advice and in the face of the responsibility that they have taken on. This is the world's largest tuna fishery and these governments need to come together and ensure that they manage it appropriately and sustainably.

BT: There's been calls in the past to reduce tuna catches and to step up measures to combat illegal fishing, and those have failed. What needs to be done this time around to try and fulfil these objectives?

AN: I think it really is a situation where we're looking at political will as a driving factor. The countries need to come together and agree to take action and not make excuses for that action. In the case of illegal fishing there are two very clear proposals that the commission can make at this meeting that will be strong steps forward.

Amanda Nickson says the Pew Charitable Trust is also calling for the preservation of silky sharks and an agreement on tracking devices to be attached to fishing vessels.