31 Aug 2016

Tuna operators fear proposal to close off 30% of EEZs

6:50 am on 31 August 2016

A new conservation measure proposing the closure of 30 percent of Exclusive Economic Zones in the Pacific has regional tuna operators concerned.

The American purse seiner Raffaello off-loads tuna in Port Majuro

The American purse seiner Raffaello off-loads tuna in Port Majuro Photo: RNZI GIff Johnson

The proposal known as "Motion 53" will be voted upon by members of the congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at a meeting which begins this week in Hawaii.

It's among a number of proposed resolutions to be presented to the Convention of Biological Diversity, which most Pacific island countries are party to.

Charles Hufflet of the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association, said the conservation group's proposal would be devastating for the region's domestic tuna industry.

"So the concern is the small island nations, who have no voice in the IUCN will suddenly find the IUCN have gone to the Convention of Biological Diversity and said we are going to close off 30 percent of your zone.

"That would collapse the economies of the island states and they are fearful that they have no voice in promoting this," said Mr Hufflet

Mr Hufflet said the measure would also be counter productive to established management practices for the highly migratory pelagic tuna species.

He said it would only protect fish while they were within Marine Protected Areas and allow them to be overfished elsewhere.

Motion 53 urges countries to turn 30 percent of their national waters into Marine Protected Areas in the next 24 years.

The Convention of Biological Diversity is a global agreement signed by 150 countries in 1992.