Tuna nations bid to climate-proof EEZs and other initiatives likely to help Tonga
By Viola Koloamatangi Ulakai
HONOLULU, Hawaii – December 9, 2018: 9pm (TBC): The eight tuna rich nations in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) group are looking into ways of maintaining the current size of their valuable 200-mile exclusive economic zones even if sea-level rise means they lose land to rising sea levels brought on by climate change.
“This is one of the most important things the PNA is going to start looking at,” PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said when briefing Pacific Editors on issues which may arise at the 15th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Honolulu.
“We want to make sure that even if their land disappears that they don’t lose their EEZ,” he said.
The aim of the PNA initiative is to find a way to set permanent boundaries to EEZs now so that in 50 or 100 years’ time, if people have to migrate to other countries due to sea-level rise, they will still be able to benefit from the economic resources such as tuna within their EEZ’s.
Mr Kumoru said the PNA action could indirectly assist non-member Pacific countries, including Tonga.
And he said the PNA will continue to support issues other issues outside fisheries, including damage to the environment, the impact of climate change on the ocean and tuna stocks and human and drug trafficking that could be associated with fishing.
PNA – or Parties to the Nauru Agreement – is a grouping set up to cooperate to manage fisheries of common interest, particularly skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna which are predominantly found in waters to the north of Tonga. The PNA is made up of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu plus Tokelau.
Mr Kumoru said these issues impacted PNA members and non-member countries alike and must be addressed to ensure ongoing improvement and expansion of sustainable fisheries management and commercial opportunities in the Pacific.
He noted consumers of tuna had become more environmentally conscious and want companies supplying their food to be socially accountable.
Mr Kumoru said the PNA is pushing for improved treatment of tuna workers and greater product information for consumers.
The PNA would take responsibility for the environment because it recognized that declining fish stocks was due to a number of issues including the health of the ocean.
Greater regional cooperation by the PNA, Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and Pacific Community (SPC) on the common issue of sea level rise was necessary to protect countries which could lose land through coastal erosion, Mr Kumoru said.
On new membership to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Mr Kumoru said the PNA was opposed to admitting more countries as full member, pointing out that cooperating non-members and observers could still be active participants in the work of the Commission.
WCPFCwhich meets in Honolulu this week sets the fishing rules in the western and central Pacific. It is made up of Pacific countries and Distant Water Fishing Nations such as the United States of America, China and Taiwan.
Mr Kumoru said the current tropical tuna measure approved by the WCPFC a year ago was a well-balanced measure that should be extended and the PNA supported the stance that the existing measure should not be weakened in any way.
This stand would ensure sustainability of tuna stocks.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of Fisheries Dr. Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi said Tonga supports activities implemented to safeguard the livelihood of this major regional source of income.
Mr Halafihi said Tonga was aware of the importance to keep its ocean clean.
The Minister of Fisheries, Hon SemisiFakahau is leading Tonga’s delegation to the WCPFC 15th Convention in Honolulu.
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