13 Dec 2013

PNA says it is now up to Pacific Island nations to take action to reduce tuna catches

5:01 pm on 13 December 2013

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement says it's now up to Pacific Island nations to take action on managing their fisheries, following a disappointing outcome at the tenth annual Tuna Commission meeting.

The commercial manager for the PNA believes the meeting failed to reach a consensus on cutbacks in fishing because of opposing priorities between distant water fishing nations and Pacific Island countries.

Maurice Brownjohn told Beverley Tse what the next steps could be to cutback on tuna catches.

MAURICE BROWNJOHN: You have large industrialised nations that seem to put access to more fishing grounds and more resources and more effort ahead of conservation and management, meanwhile the island nations are putting conservation and management up front and having to give ground in order to get any resolution at all.

BEVERLEY TSE: So are you saying that those nations are just hungry for money and they don't care about the conservation or the sustainability of fishing?

MB: I'm not saying they're hungry for money. I'm saying they're pursuing their commercial interests in our resource.

BT: What are those countries who are opposed to reducing catches?

MB: Well, we saw the European Union moving to cement their effort levels for the last couple of years, which are actually way in excess of the 2008 agreed effort limits. We saw the US trying to cement their efforts in the high seas and also exemptions for the Hawaiian longline industry, whereas meanwhile the Pacific Island nations are the only ones making any effort in their zones by way of FAD measures and so on. So it seems to be a little bit disproportionate. It looks like the island nations are totally behind conservation and management and the others are just out to protect their commercial interests in our region, both in the high seas and to the detriment of our in zone measures.

BT: What would you like to see happen in the next 12 months just leading up to the next meeting?

MB: I think what's happened this year is probably the worst commission meeting I've seen. Really now it's back into the hands of the islands to just take action themselves because clearly there's not going to be consenus amongst the industrialised nations who are just looking for more and more fishing opportunities.

BT: And what do you think those Pacific Island countries should be doing?

MB: Well, they can do things in their EEZs and demand compatibility in the adjacent high seas.

BT: So is that something that PNA can be involved with?

MB: Well, if you look at the history of the commission, most of the commission measures relating to tuna have been ultimately PNA decisions, such as the 100% observers, the catch retention, the FAD closures and then the effort controls and so on. So really I think it's back now to the island nations to take substantive actions to cement or protect the resources. We can't just have open-ended fishing going on, particularly when it's to the detriment of the economic livelihood of the island nations and sustainability of the resource.

Maurice Brownjohn says the PNA will be assessing the outcomes of the Tuna Commission meeting before it decides what action it can take.