Media Release: Pacific Island nations holding firm on sustainable fisheries

Pacific Island countries have once again demonstrated their solidarity and commitment to the long-term sustainability of the world’s largest tuna fishery by strongly resisting moves from other nations to relax important conservation measures.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, applauded Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member nations for standing firm against attempts to water down hard-won conservation measures applying in the western and central Pacific Ocean. Minister Ruston chairs the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee on Australia’s behalf.

“The western and central Pacific is the world’s largest tuna fishery and a critical resource underpinning the food security and economies of FFA member nations,” Minister Ruston said.

“FFA members have succeeded in negotiating strong management arrangements for key tuna stocks over the past decade, so it is disappointing that distant water fishing nations pushed to relax these rules at the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) held recently in the Philippines.

“At their earlier annual meeting in Samoa, a very strong mandate was established for FFA members to defend these conservation and sustainability arrangements against several contentious proposals that would have weakened our control of fisheries in our own waters. Preserving and promoting zone-based management measures was one of the successes of regional collaboration at the meeting.

“FFA members will continue to explore management options ahead of the WCPFC commitment to adopt a target reference point for south Pacific albacore in 2018, despite disappointing attempts to block vital progress towards adopting harvest strategies for this stock.

“Regional solidarity has won the day in the face of intense pressure from outside influences and despite a diversity of views on managing the region’s fisheries. Australia stands firm with its fellow FFA nations to ensure the sustainability of this critical resource.”

Minister Ruston said the WCPFC last year adopted new protections for fisheries observers on the front line in regional waters, deployed on fishing vessels and to monitor compliance and collecting vital scientific data.

“These observers carry out their important duties in the face of intimidation, harassment and death threats,” she said.

“I thank all nations for agreeing to fully implement protections for observers. Although improvements have been made for the safety of observers, many of whom are nationals of FFA members, more work must be done. Since the protections were adopted, one observer has been lost at sea while another was rescued, and there are still reports of intimidation and harassment.

“Pacific observer programs have very high standards, including existing codes of conduct and mechanisms for reporting breaches. WCPFC should focus on improving work environments for observers and crew aboard fishing vessels, and FFA members look forward to continuing to work together to address these vital issues in 2018.”

Fast facts:

  • The western and central Pacific Ocean is the largest tuna fishery in the world, providing more than 60 per cent of the world’s tuna.
  • US$2.6 billion of tuna was harvested from FFA member waters in 2016.
  • In the 2015­-16 financial year, Australia caught 6572 tonnes of tuna in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, worth approximately $49 million, making it Australia’s third most valuable fishery.
  • The FFA members are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
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