“While the Commission made some progress in determining timelines for developing long-term management strategies, it is of great concern that member governments left this meeting with no agreement on how to end the continued overfishing of Pacific bluefin and bigeye tunas,” said Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“Despite scientific advice, and a determined effort by the Commission Chair to overcome this impasse, members have effectively permitted the further decline of these two species. After another year with no action, the sustainability of the world’s largest tuna fishing grounds remains in question.”
“The amount of time members spent this week negotiating the future of bigeye tuna, with no resulting management outcomes to end overfishing, has prevented discussions on other important measures that would protect declining shark populations and help enforcement agencies curtail illegal fishing, such as adopting minimum standards for port controls.”
Bigeye overfishing & FADs
Commission members did not agree on any new measures to end overfishing of bigeye tuna. That means there will be no reduction in bigeye catches and no limit to the number of fish aggregating devices (FADs) that vessels can deploy The region’s bigeye population is overfished and is at just 16 percent of unfished levels and current measures have not worked.
Commission members broadly acknowledged the dire state of Pacific bluefin tuna but did not direct the Northern Committee to do anything more to reverse declines. The population is at just 4 percent of unfished levels and scientists warn that the numbers will continue to drop until 2018 under current measures.
The Commission agreed to a work plan for developing harvest strategies for most of the region’s commercially fished tuna stocks. Last year the commission committed to developing and implementing a six-part harvest strategy approach for each of the key tuna fisheries, or stocks.
For skipjack tuna, the Commission agreed to a target reference point of 0.50 SB0. This follows scientific advice, is precautionary, and equivalent to about twice the biomass needed to provide maximum sustainable yield. A target reference point identifies the ideal level of fishing for a stock.
Ending illegal fishing
Commission members failed to adopt minimum standards to guide countries in the implementation of port controls. This is the sixth year in a row that Commission members were unable to adopt minimum standards for port controls. Port State Measures are cost-effective tools to monitor compliance with management arrangements and to prevent illegally caught fish from entering the market.
In addition, Commission members will continue to allow at-sea transshipments for longline vessels. Transshipment at sea—transferring a vessel’s catch to another ship— provides opportunities for those fishing illegally to avoid reporting catch and to launder their illicit catch.
Members did agree, however, to update the Commission’s vessel monitoring system (VMS) standards for reporting appropriately to the Secretariat. If specific VMS unit types prove problematic with meeting the new standards, these unit types would have to be phased out of service within three years.