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Violations On WCPFC Tuna Ban May Lead To New Regulations

The main issues on the agenda for the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC) 5th meeting completed last week were the activities of observers who were placed on purse seine fishing vessels operating in the western and central Pacific ocean (WCPO) in August and September to monitor the prohibition of fishing on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).

Observers were recruited from the Pacific Islands region to monitor implementation of this Measure. Two hundred and fourteen vessels qualified for inclusion in the Regional Observer Program (ROP). Of these, 49 decided not to fish and instead schedule normal maintenance in port. This resulted in 165 vessels fishing through the closure on the basis that they were required to confine their fishing operations to free swimming schools.

Reports presented to the TCC indicated that while most vessels had followed this rule there were several reports of violations. As a consequence, the TCC recommended supplementary information be prepared for further consideration of these incidents for the annual session in Papeete in December using information acquired as part of the de-briefing process for observers.

According to the Commission's report, toe of the important issues considered by the TCC was the arrangements that need to be put in place to process the data and information that will be generated by the ROP. In 2010 purse seiners are subject to 100% observer coverage.  This will require sufficient observers to cover approximately 2.200 individual trips which will generate large volumes of observer information. In addition, by June 2012, flag States are required to achieve 5% coverage on their longline vessels operating beyond national jurisdiction in the Convention Area.

A major decision of the TCC was the recommendation that the Commission adopt new rules and procedures for the use, protection and dissemination of data for the purposes of surveillance and enforcement on the high seas and the use of scientific data for scientific purposes. These rules had been developed over a period of 20 months by the Commission's Ad Hoc Task Group for Data chaired by Holly Koehler of the USA and addresses dissemination and confidentiality of data, among other things.

More than 140 representatives from 36 countries participated in the TCC meeting which started on Monday 28th of September and lasted until Tuesday, October 6th.