8 Dec 2016

Pacific Tuna Commission divided on conservation

6:09 pm on 8 December 2016

Conservation and management measures for depleted tuna stocks in the Pacific have polarised the membership of the Pacific Tuna Commission.

Pacific Bluefin

Pacific Bluefin Photo: suppled/WWF

The annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which brings together Pacific countries and distant water fishing nations, has been going all this week in Nadi, Fiji.

Its executive director Feleti Teo said it was proving extremely difficult to reach a consensus on protecting depleted tuna stocks.

For bigeye tuna the main contention is between longliners, which target adult bigeye tuna, and purse seiners which catch juvenile bigeye tuna, that tend to school with their target species skipjack tuna.

Greenpeace activists prepare to board illegal fishing vessel Shuen De Ching No 888. The Rainbow Warrior travels in the Pacific to expose out of control tuna fisheries. Tuna fishing has been linked to shark finning, overfishing and human rights abuses.
9 Sep, 2015

Greenpeace activists prepare to board illegal fishing vessel Shuen De Ching No 888. Photo: Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

This is particularly so when purse seiners set their nets around fish aggregating devices.

Longliners have set catch limits but Feleti Teo says there have been assertions that some countries have not been adhering to them.

Management of the impact of purse seiners on Bigeye is done by banning them from fishing on FADs for several months a year but the effectiveness of this practice is disputed and any increase on banned months has been rejected by small island countries.

A 128kg blue-fin tuna is displayed at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market .

A 128kg blue-fin tuna is displayed at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market. Photo: STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP

With bluefin tuna, the more perilously depeleted of the two stocks, management is exclusively controlled by a sub-group within the Commission called the Northern Committee.

It is made up of countries located above 20 degrees north latitude, essentially Asian member countries, which have been accused of a complete failure to manage the stock.

The Commission itself has come under fire and has been accused of not reining in the distant water fishing nations.

Executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Feleti Te'o at the opening of its annual meeting in Fiji, December 2016.

Executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Feleti Te'o at the opening of its annual meeting in Fiji, December 2016. Photo: Monica Miller

But Feleti Teo says tuna stocks in the region would be in an even worse state with out the Commission.

"If we didn't have the Commission it would be a free-for-all on the high seas but that has changed now. And it will continually change as we strengthen and enhance the management measures on the high seas. But it is a difficult platform to get agreement on. We are dealing with 40 countries with totally diverging interests. So it is not an easy task to get agreement," Feleti Teo said

Mr Teo said the Pacific Tuna Commission has actually done very well when compared to other Tuna Commissions around the world but he conceded there was always room for improvement.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission wraps up tomorrow.

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