15 Nov 2009

South Pacific fisheries treaty adopted

6:31 am on 15 November 2009

Fisheries negotiators in Auckland have formally adopted a deep sea treaty which creates the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management organisation.

It could be three years before the treaty is fully signed and ratified.

Delegates from 27 countries have been in Auckland this week to set up the organisation, which spans the seas from Western Australia to Chile and Peru.

They agreed on a framework for the treaty, which will apply outside the South Pacific countries' exclusive economic zones.

The organisation's primary aim is to stop the destruction of valuable and over-fished species. The treaty includes species not covered by already established tuna commissions.

Discussions stalled for a time on ways to stop the overfishing of species such as jack mackerel and orange roughy until such time as the treaty comes in to force.

Gerard van Bohemen of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was New Zealand's lead negotiator and says Russia, Peru and China were among countries resisting moves to set catch allocations in the lag time before the treaty takes effect.

However, Mr van Bohemen says agreement was reached on all matters on Saturday afternoon.

"We've adopted the text of the convention establishing this new organisation, and in so doing we put in place the basic arrangements for the new organisation - both institutional and rule setting."

Mr van Bohemen said it was a very significant achievement, given the difficult issues the negotiators had to confront.

The Seafood Industry Council says it believes major players, including Russia and China, will keep to their word on interim catch limits before the new treaty takes effect.

Cath Wallace of the Environment and Conservation Organisations said allocations must be set to avoid ecology disturbance and serious stock declines.