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Chances On Cap On WCP Skipjack Catch This Year Global, October 2, 13

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), managing 24 different tuna fishing nations across the world’s biggest tuna fishery is urging for an increase in conservation measures to protect the future resources of its waters. This is the third year the commission has pushed for a cap in the catch of skipjack tuna.
The commission is proposing for a further 100,000 ton reduction of skipjack for the ocean region that accounts for at least 50 percent of the global skipjack tuna catch. The reduction could result in a 8-10% drop in WCP skipjack landings, and also affect by-catches of yellowfin and bigeye. Final negotiations between the Pacific Island countries will take place at the WCPFC in Cairns, Australia, in December.

Prof. Glenn Hurry, Executive Director of the WCPFC

Jemma Garrett from Radio Australia interviewed Glenn Hurry, Executive Director of the WCPFC:
Garret: China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, Europe and the Philippines are all big players in the Pacific tuna fishery.
They are supposed to work with the Pacific Island nations that own much of the fishery through the Central and Western Pacific Fisheries Commission to protect the stocks.

Previous failure to agree on catch limits has resulted in the fishery being managed under a weak interim agreement.

For the past five days, officials have been working to come with a new conservation measure before a full Tuna commission meeting, in Cairns, in December.
Glenn Hurry, says there is still a long way to go before agreement can be reached.

Hurry: We need a 30 percent reduction in the catch of bigeye tuna and we have tried for the last 2 years to get that and we have been unsuccessful. So this will be the third year we have tried and we really do need to cap the catch of skipjack tuna this year, so another 100,000 ton reduction in the catch of skipjack. Even though we had more vessels in the fishery, fishing harder than they have ever fished before, so the effort levels are up but the catch of skipjack is down, so we need to find a way of capping the catch of skipjack and also reining in the catch of yellowfin tuna, as well. So there are three species that are the bulk of this fishery and we have got all of them a point where we need to begin to restrict catch on them. I don’t think we’ve got an option we have to make a decision in Cairns.

One of the crucial decisions will be on capping the number of vessels - not easy with a rash of new boats under construction in shipyards across Asia.

In the past decade the Pacific, especially the 8 nations that are Parties to the Nauru Agreement, have put a huge effort into surveillance of fish catches and into improving economic returns to the Pacific countries.

The distant water fishing nations have acknowleged some of the problems in the fishery but are baulking at cutting the catch.

Glenn Hurry again.
We’ve got quite a distance between the parties in what they are likely to agree to.
The large purse seine vessels take most of the catch and are making good profits. Why is it turning out to be so hard to come up with a conservation measure?
I think that is a real issue in it. The profits in this are substantial at the moment which is leading to the construction of new vessels but also the level of payment to the Pacific Islanders. Access fees has gone up a lot too. About 6 years ago when the Parties to the Nauru Agreement brought in the Vessel Day Scheme a day was worth about $900 a day. They have now got a floor price of $6500 a day and they are selling for $7,000 to $7,500 a day, and I think that return will increase over time. So there is a lot of money now coming in to Pacific Island countries from fishing. There is also a lot of money going into the companies and while people are making substantial profits they don’t necessarily want to reduce them but the problem is unless you reduce now you run into long term sustainability problems and you will be forced to lower your catches later on. Sensible decisions now will save us a lot of problems further down the track.

How urgent is it that the meeting in Cairns comes up with a new measure?

I think it is fundamental to us moving forward, Jemima. I don’t think there is any option for us but to prove our credentials and make a decision on these tropical tunas.
That may not be easy.

The move to extend the ban on fish aggregating devices is facing opposition from fishing nations that fear for the profitability of their fleet and from Pacific countries demanding $15 million a month as compensation for lost income.

Longline fleets say they have already made the 30% cut to the catch of bigeye tuna and should not have to take another hit.