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Lack of Progress on Tuna Talks Regretted

Economics Politics

GLOBAL - The European Commission hasa issued a statement of regret over the inability of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to agree on a new and effective approach to managing tropical tunas at its 7th annual meeting in Honolulu from 6 to 10 December.

The current arrangement, which focuses on limiting the period during which Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) can be used, has proved unable to protect these vulnerable stocks. Scientific advice points to the need to implement much stronger conservation measures, in particular for bigeye tuna, where a 30% reduction in fishing mortality is needed.

During the meeting, the EU proposed a new approach based on a full closure of the purse seine fishery for three months each year. Unlike the FADs closure, this system would be straightforward to implement, applicable throughout the WCPFC Convention area, and easy to control and monitor.

It would also be fair and balanced, as it would not apply either to artisanal fisheries or to the developing fleets of small island states.

Unfortunately, this proposal failed to find support for 2011, and has instead been packaged together with a number of other proposals for intersessional consideration during the year to come.

The EU also backed a call by Japan to freeze capacity immediately in these fisheries until new management measures could be agreed, but negotiations to this end were derailed by the Pacific Island Countries (PICs), who instead supported a proposal by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to close the rest of the high seas area still open to fishery, in particular the so-called Eastern High Seas pocket. Along with other WCPFC Parties, the EU could not support this approach, as scientists have advised that it will not achieve any significant reduction in fishing mortality.

In fact, such a closure would only serve to displace even more fishing effort into the EEZs and archipelagic waters of the PNA countries, where catches are already at a record high and which are precisely the areas where juvenile tunas concentrate. The Commission regrets the other parties' lack of commitment to sustainability and science-based management, which is evident in their unwillingness to address urgently the loopholes in the existing conservation measures for these stocks.

Where other stocks were concerned, the EU supported the science-based proposals by the PNA countries to ban setting on whale sharks, and by Australia to ban setting on cetaceans, but consensus on these measures was blocked by the Asian members of WCPFC.

Meanwhile, the EU's proposals on implementing the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures and on a Catch Documentation Scheme were opposed by the Pacific Island nations, and now remain on the table for further consideration by WCPFC Members.

The EU will continue to work to empower the WCPFC to implement effective conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific, for the WCPFC is the only forum that can bring together coastal states and fishing nations to assume joint responsibility for the stocks that they share.