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WWF: Coral Triangle Can Help Pacific Nations Raise Price Of Tuna

Asia Pacific fishing nations could use the presence of tuna spawning grounds to negotiate better prices and fairer fishing arrangements with foreign fishing nations, WWF said yesterday.

The proposal was put forward as ministers started meeting in the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby this week to finalize a plan to protect marine environments and food security in the Coral Triangle region, covering waters between Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Pacific.

The area provides spawning grounds and migratory routes for tuna caught in the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans, which make up around 70 per cent of the world’s tuna catch.

“The region’s spawning grounds are essential to the world’s multi-billion dollar tuna industry and the world should be prepared to support their protection and effective management,” said Dr Lida Pet Soede, leader of WWF’s Coral Triangle Program.

“This can help Coral Triangle countries negotiate fairer prices and fairer fishing arrangements with non-Coral Triangle nations, who also fish in these waters.”

Dr Pet Soede said it was fitting the final meeting be held in Papua New Guinea as PNG has taken a leading role in efforts to bring more sustainability to the region’s tuna fisheries, which are critical to the food security of millions.

Managing Director of Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority, Sylvester Pokajam, warned of a collapse of the big eye tuna fishery unless fishing nations operating in the Coral Triangle introduced measures to make the fishery more sustainable.

“We can see a crash coming for tuna and this will be disastrous for many coastal communities in the Coral Triangle, where millions of people depend on healthy tuna stocks for food and livelihoods,” Mr. Pokajam said.

“Here in PNG we have introduced fishing measures within our own zones in an effort to address the issue of overfishing, in particular where it comes to overfishing big eye tuna, but the success of these measures depends entirely on the willingness of other non-Coral Triangle nations to introduce similar measures.”

Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste collectively make up the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI), introduced by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the APEC leaders’ meeting in September 2007.

This week’s meeting is the final ministerial forum before Coral Triangle leaders gather in Manado, Indonesia on May 15 to announce details of a plan to protect marine ecosystems and food security in the region.

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission will meet in Bali at the end of this month to consider among other things a set of recommendations by its scientific committee to reduce fishing pressure on yellowfin tuna, which it says is likely to have reached an overfished state.

The World Ocean Conference and the Coral Triangle Initiative Summit will be held from May 11 to 15 in Manado, Indonesia, and are expected to result in the Manado Ocean Declaration, a definitive statement on oceans and climate change.

“With climate change threatening to alter habitats in the region, it is even more critical to manage marine ecosystems for the ongoing food security of the region and for the survival of many species that depend on the Coral Triangle’s unique marine environment,” said Dr Pet Soede.