Emotional scenes flare at Tuna negotiations

Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) Chair, Jenny Baldwin speaking at the press conference. Photo: LISA WILLIAMS LAHARI

By Pita Ligaiula in Manila, Philippines

MANILA,  December 2: 8.45am (PACNEWS): There were emotional scenes yesterday at special meeting on tropical tuna in the lead up to next week’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

Pacific nations including the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Tokelau put the case that they should not have to take on a disproportionate financial burden as a result of measures to conserve tuna.

The current measure for tropical tunas includes Skipjack, Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna. It expires at the end of this month.

A draft bridging measure for tropical Tunas was under discussion at a second Intersessional meeting to progress negotiations.

According to the founding document of the WCPFC the special needs of small island states must be taken into account by Distant Water Fishing nations (DWFNs) as they work with members of the Forum Fisheries Agencies (FFA) try to achieve measures that are fair and sustainable for the stocks.

Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) Chair, Australian Jenny Baldwin said emotional scenes flared up at the Tuna Commission meeting countries such as Tuvalu explained how the closure of FADS is impacting on their domestic economy.

“At times it has been (emotional),” she conceded.

“The Pacific island states have actually been called on to come up with some concrete examples of the ‘disproportionate burdens’ they share in terms of the FAD closures that currently exists in the measuresas it stands.

“Currently fishing on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) is prohibited for four months of the year, resulting in loss of income for countries in the eastern part of the Western Pacific, where FAD fishing is an important fishing method.

“So the idea of FAD closures and the closure of the high seas to FADS is a very controversial issue going on in the discussion at the moment and how that is borne by the likes of Tuvalu is quite dramatic in terms of how its perceived in their domestic economy.

“Those are the sort of things that are actually coming out and being discussed and trying to get an understanding because not all DWFN completely comprehend the impact that those particular measures are having on those smaller island developing states,” Baldwin told a briefing with journalists in Manila.

The FFC chair is still optimistic members of the DWFNs and Forum member countries will reach a compromise that is beneficial to both parties in the long-term but it is likely to be a long hard road.

“At this stage there is quite a way to go in terms of reaching a compromise, there’s quite significant polar views about how we might achieve a measure that is going to be equal and fair and sustainable for the stocks,” Ms Baldwin said

“This is a very significant conservation and management measure for the Commission and FFA members and we have undertaken substantial work and consultation throughout the year and now in Manila we continue to seek avenues to deliver a fit for purpose measure.”

At an earlier meeting this week the 17 nations of the FFA agreed on a collective position to take to WCPFC.

“We are looking for a measure for tropical tuna addresses the issue of ‘disproportionate burden’ so that we can achieve a fair balance for all members. A measure that achieves sustainability to ensure that overfishing is not occurring on any of three tropical tuna stocks and none is overfished,” Ms Balwin said.

“We want acknowledged the application of zone-based management and accompanying measures and we want to achieve progress on the issue of high seas limits purse seine efforts limits.

MS Baldwin said the FFA wants to work strategically with other member of the WCPFC so that we can find a middle ground.

“(FFA) members will continue  to work together to try and achieve positive outcomes for the work of this commission particularly the special requirements  for developing states around compliance that includes monitoring control and surveillance, by catch management, scientific research and analysis   and the implementation in  particular harvest  strategy for the key stocks into the future,” Ms Baldwin added.

Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General James Movick says Forum members have made their position known on what they want adopted at the WCPFC on ‘disproportionate burden’.






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