Pacific solidarity gets a boost at Tuna Commission negotiation
By PITA LIGAIULA in Manila
MANILA, Phillipines – December 4: 2.45pm (PACNEWS): The region’s two peak bodies representing Pacific nations’ fisheries interests pledged to maintain their solidarity at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) underway in Manila.
This came just a day after reports surfaced that Solomon Islands has withdrawn from the regional agreement to protect albacore tuna, known as the Tokelau Arrangement.
“One of the things we do want to emphasise is that within the region, the fisheries organisations (the ForumFisheries Agency andthe Parties to the Nauru Agreement) are working closely together,” FFA Director General James Movick told journalists during a joint briefing for journalists with PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru.
That solidarity includes the Pacific community with their Oceanic Fisheries Programme, Mr Movick said.
“The purpose of us being here jointly is to highlight the fact that the region has a great deal of commitment to maintaining regional solidarity in the positions that we take in the Commission – so we are here representing that,” Mr Movick said as Kumoru nodded in agreement.
Prior to the Commission meeting some Pacific countries including Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu have come together as a separate grouping, called the Non-PNA group, to put up proposals to WCPFC.
On the issue of non-PNA being formed, Mr Movick said it was a sensitive matter.
“Its very sensitive. But first and foremost we have to find some common ground within all of us, PNA/nonPNA, and so see how we can address the issue from there,” he said.
All the sensitive issues come together in negotiations for the new Tropical Tuna Measure which will set the rules for fishing on crucial commercial species Skipjack, Bigeye, and Yellowfinand on allocation of rights to high seas fishing.
The issue is complicated because it involves conflicting interests not just in the Pacific but with the powerful distant water fishing nationswho claim historic rights to the high seas.
Boats from the purse seine and longline fishing fleets also have conflicting interests.
“The US has put up a proposal. Also Japan. There have been a number of different proposals that have been around,” Mr Movick said.
To maintain solidarity some proposals from Pacific nations of all three groupings (FFA, PNA and non-PNA) have been withdrawn in favour of more discussion.
“The various proposals from a number of Pacific island countries have been withdrawn while we go through a process of further consultation,” he said.
“We..need to take account of the development aspirations of other Pacific smaller SIDS that do not have Tuna fisheries at the present time, and find a way to allocate them rights in the High Seas as well.
“I think that’s a principle that’s been agreed by all FFA members. It’s a question of how we put that together. And it was a bit premature to try and put something forward for this commission meeting.
“We have however, agreed to FFA convening a meeting of our members next year in order to address this specific issue.”
In the meantime, late yesterday, the Chair of WCPFC Rhea Moss-Christian presented text for a new draft Tropical Tuna Measure to the Manila Commission meeting.
It attempts to incorporate the views of all parties but delegates from all sides acknowledge there is a long way to go to find agreement.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to analyse that in detail,” Mr Movick told journalists.
“Certainly we will be doing so. It’s fundamental to the Pacific position that we’ve taken consistently since the advent of the commission – that we have rights in the high seas – all members have rights in the High Seas that these are simply not to be allocated only on the basis of actual fishing effort.
“That’s what we need to give effect to because that hasn’t been done in the commission to this point.
“Our support … for the Tropical Tuna Measure is contingent on the commission accepting that a process for allocating access and allocation in the High Seas will be part of the Commission’s measure to be reviewed and considered in 2019.
“Its an orderly way to do it but we do recognize there are interests and concerns from all our members to be sure they have fair and equitable access to High Seas resources.
“That should be prioritised for the small SIDS of the Pacific within whose zone 85% of this tuna is caught, including Philippines and Indonesia, rather than DWFNs if necessary.”
The meeting continued today at the Phillipines International Convention Centre.
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