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Ecuador’s Right To Fish In The WCP In Hands Of USA

Ecuador was granted with a cooperating non-member (CNM) status in the last Western Central Pacific Tuna Commission (WCPFC) meeting, which took place in Busan (South Korea) from 8 to 12 of December. This status allows the South-American country to fish for tuna within the Commission’s Convention Area.

According to Ecuador officials, this was the second consecutive year that the country submitted an application for CNM status. At this moment, there are seven vessels licensed to operate by some WCPFC Members and about 10 more vessels fishing in international waters: “Ecuadorian vessels do not fish permanently in the Central Pacific, but rather move in and out from the Eastern Pacific”, completed the official statement.

However, the WCPFC released a document stating that Ecuador’s CNM status for 2009 hangs upon satisfactory resolution of the U.S. concerns over the necessary information to be provided, related to alleged violations of American’s EEZ by Ecuadorian fleet.

“If Ecuador does not provide all requested information to the satisfaction of the United States by 15 February 2009, its cooperating non-member status will be null and void” stated the WCPFC official document.

Nevertheless, the Commission offers Ecuador an alternative in case the U.S.’s concerns are not addressed in time. Kiribati’s exemption that allows the country to license fishing vessels from non-CCMs will expire in the same day as Ecuador’s deadline, February 15th 2009 – CCMs are the Members, Cooperating Non-Members and Participating Territories of the WCPFC.

In case Ecuador’s CNM status becomes null and void, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru – Western Pacific small islands – will be given an exemption to allow seven vessels from Ecuador to fish in their national waters. However, those vessels are not authorized to fish on the high seas of the Convention Area.

“In addition, this exemption is granted with the understanding that no other Ecuadorian-flagged vessels will fish on the high seas of the convention area. Such activities will be considered as undermining the intent and effectiveness of WCPFC conservation and management measures”, WCPFC completed.

If the U.S. accepts Ecuador as a CNM status, the country will be submitted to high seas boarding inspections regularly. The WCPFC is still waiting for Ecuador’s catch and effort data to calculate purse seine days limit on high seas for 2009, also considering the new measures agreed in the last meeting for bigeye and yellowfin conservation.

If data is not provided, Ecuador shall not fish on the high seas of the WCPFC’s Convention Area in 2009.

According to the WCPFC, Ecuador committed to provide all the data requested, to comply with the management measures established and to have Observers onboard Ecuadorian flagged vessels during all trips to the WCPO high seas and EEZs.