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WCPFC Committee Wants Stricter Rules & More Tuna Observers

If it is up to the Compliance Committee of the WCPFC there will be soon stricter rules introduced in the Western Pacific ocean in regard to tuna fishing – both by purse seiners as by longliners.

At the Fifth Regular Session of the Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC5) of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Pohnpei this week, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members advanced recommendations to increase effectiveness of fisheries management in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

The Technical and Compliance Committee of WCPFC makes recommendations to the annual meeting of the Commission, to be held in this year in December in French Polynesia.

Outcomes from the meeting include:

BETTER ACCESS TO HIGH SEAS FISHERIES DATA
Agreement was reached on rules for accessing data on high seas fisheries held by the Commission for monitoring, control or surveillance purposes. FFA members achieved their objective of being able to view, on the Vessel Monitoring System, up to 100 nautical miles of high seas waters adjacent to their
EEZ and for all Members to be able monitor the high seas pockets to prevent illegal fishing.

NEW RESTRICTIONS FOR PURSE SEINERS TRANSSHIPMENT AT SEA
Currently, purse seine vessels are banned from transshipping at sea and must come into ports. This allows Pacific Island states to verify the volume, size of fish caught and their species.

High seas longline fishing vessels, on the other hand, have been freely transshipping without regulation.

At the meeting, delegates came close to concluding a conservation and management measure proposed by the Marshall Islands to regulate transshipment on the high seas.  The proposal focuses on improving the monitoring and reporting of transshipment as well as introducing new restrictions to encourage further transshipment in port.

HEAVIER PUNISHMENTS FOR ILLEGAL FISHING:
Tonga received strong support for its proposal to review the severity of punishment of illegal fishing vessels. Specifically, Tonga’s proposal was that a fishing vessel that breaches national laws could
not be taken off the WCPFC illegal fishing black list until the country where the offence occurred was satisfied with the resolution of the case.

This follows successful resolution of Tonga's bid to seek adequate prosecution for illegal fishing by a vessel found fishing in its waters last year.

100% OBSERVER COVERAGE FROM 1ST JAN 2010
The meeting discussed the need to create hundreds of trained observers to meet the WCPFC conservation and management measure requiring 100% observer coverage on all purse seine fishing vessels from 1 January 2010. The meeting heard that about 200 observers had been trained byPacific island countries for the Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) closure period in 2009. Most of the deployed observers were from the FFA observer program.