By ILIESA TORA in MANILA
MANILA, Phillipines – December 3: 3.37pm (Nuku’alofa Times): This year’s 14th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission here in Manila opened this morning with calls challenging members who will deliberate on the best practices for tuna and fisheries management in the region.
Current Chairlady Ms Rhea Christian-Moss challenged members and delegates on what type of legacy they would want to leave behind for their people now and in the future, while delivering her opening statement at the Phillipines International Convention Centre.
Phillipines Secretary for Agriculture Emmanuel Pinol said he was hopeful that the meeting would agree by consensus on conservation and management measures (CMMS) for tuna stocks in the region.
Fiji’s Minister for Fisheries Hon Semi Koroilavesau did not miss the target also, calling on the commission to make hard decisions in regards to high seas fishing and the continuation of monitoring programs on all fishing vessels.
Delivering her statement as chair Ms Christian-Moss said the commission members need to remind themselves about the type of legacy they would want to leave behind.
“Legacy is the act of transmitting something meaningful from one generation to another. Legacy is a foundation principle in public policy and entirely relevant to the work of this multilateral Commission,” she said.
“Each year, when we congregate at these annual sessions, we are tasked with developing tuna management mechanisms that will accommodate present conditions, while also building for the future.
“What we build – good or bad – will be our legacy.”
Ms Christian-Moss said commission members and delegates attending the meeting are custodians of tuna management not only for their own generation but for future generations as well.
She said that imposes a responsibility on them to develop outcomes that do more than address immediate challenges.
That challenge includes taking a longer-term view, which she added, is hard.
“It’s always easier to focus on decisions that will work for now,” she said.
“But to accept short-term solutions is to abrogate our responsibility as custodians. When we put off making hard decisions, the process only gets more complex for those who follow us.”
Ms Christian-Moss said she was hopeful that despite the individual sets of specific interests that the members would want to protect, the meeting would achieve consensus.
“And consensus doesn’t mean that some CCMs get all of what they want and others get just a little,” she said.
“Consensus means general agreement. In other words, what can we all live with, given we need to compromise with other stakeholders in the Commission?
“In this forum, solutions come in the form of compromises. Our job is to focus more on solutions and less on problems. Continuing known problems because it’s too hard to work through differences serves no one’s interest.”
The WCPFC manages the world’s largest tuna fishery and that imposes an enormous obligation on the commission.
She reminded the members of the achievements at the Nadi meeting last year.
“We tackled all elements of the Harvest Strategy and held productive discussions to progress it for the first time on the Commission agenda. That work continues here,” she said.
“We addressed the need to strengthen our management of bycatch species, particularly sharks, and agreed to a process that will underpin a comprehensive management approach. That work continues here.
“We have been working intersessionally over the last several months on a process to improve the Commission’s Compliance Monitoring Scheme. The CMS is still a relatively new initiative in the life of our Commission but we have been steadily taking steps forward. That work also continues here.
“On tuna management, the Northern Committee members have committed this year to recommendations to improve the status of Pacific bluefin tuna and we will hear those later in the week.
“We held a productive one-day meeting in early October on the management of South Pacific albacore and the southern longline fishery and we clarified our objectives. We will continue to discuss management of that fishery this week and will look to build on those shared understandings.
“Finally, we have been working over the last 12-18 months to develop a more robust, streamlined tropical tuna measure. We are constantly learning more about this fishery and the recently positive bigeye stock assessment is a good example of how the science keeps advancing.”
In his keynote address at the meeting the Phillipines Secretary for Agriculture Mr Pinol highlighted the work that his ministry has been able to do, especially in their efforts to conserve fisheries and marine resources of future generations.
He said his government is hopeful that the commission would be able to develop conservation and management measures for tuna stocks and other migratory fish.
“CMMS are considered highly binding by WCPFC member states…these are aimed at curbing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, protecting particular marine and bird species, and addressing various problems in high seas fisheries,” he said.
Mr Pinol told the meeting that he had recommended to his head of state that a particular area of his country’s fishing waters be conserved for future generations.
He said this was critical to ensure that Filipinos do not run out of marine and fisheries resources in future.
The Western and Central Pacific Ocean was the source of about 2.8 million metric tons of tuna, valued at 5.3 billion US dollars in 2016.
That is 79% of the entire catch in the Pacific and 56% of the total global tuna catch.
Mr Pinol said his country contributes an annual catch of 248,000 metric tons.
He added that the Phillipine government will continue to work closely with the WCPFC in ensuring that tuna fisheries is managed well for the benefit of all its members.
In giving his country’s statement Fijian Minister Koroilavesau said the Fijian government wants to see the observers program continued on all fishing vessels in the region and a bolder statement made on high seas fishing.
He said Fiji has seen the benefit of having observers on fishing vessels and that helps in the gathering of key information that would help decision makers on the management of tuna stocks in the region.
He called on the commission to take hard decisions on high seas fishing, adding that regional countries need to get a fair share of the takings from tuna fisheries.
The meeting continued throughout the day today and into the coming week.
Meanwhile, Tonga is being represented at the meeting by the Chief Executive Officer for Fisheries Dr. Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi and a delegation.
There is no ministerial representation for the Kingdom at the meeting.
Tonga is a member of the WCPFC.
Around 700 delegates from about 30 countries are meeting here.
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