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“EU Pacific Tuna Strategy Based On False Data”

Despite objections and claims of utilizing false data, European Parliament’s report on the “Comprehensive European Fisheries Strategy In the Pacific Region” was accepted by a vast majority of MEPs. The report will be used to negotiate with the Western and Central Pacific area for a long-term fisheries strategy. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat accused the strategy of being “based on inaccurate information” and said it was extremely disappointed that the PACP region was not consulted.”

The focus of the EU program will be on improving coordination of EU policies, multiplying mutual benefits and raising the EU’s profile in this strategic area, which holds over 50% of the world’s largest tuna stocks.

The original proposals of the strategy were objected by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in saying: “There are elements of the proposed strategy that are positive and which should be promoted. Unfortunately there are also certain negative aspects which could have been avoided had the PACP region been consulted on the strategy, particularly given its wide ranging implications for conservation and management measures, trade and development in the PACP region.”

Despite the opposition, the report on the comprehensive program was adopted in full by a huge majority in the European Parliament. The strategy will aim to form an integral part of the EU’s new approach to form relations with Pacific countries.

The accusation of inaccuracies from the Pacific region are referred to by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) on behalf of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Secretariat as the contracted science and data service provider. It explains the misinformation in the strategy given by rapporteur, Carmen Fraga Estevez as follows: “We understand that the ‘days fished in PNA waters’ in this graph has been obtained from Table 1 [reference ‘PNA EEZ – Total’; to be read with the footnotes in this table] in the information paper WCPFC-TCC8-2012/IP04 AttB_rev1 (16 September 2012), which we prepared for the Eighth Regular Session of the WCPFC technical and compliance committee (TCC8) held in Pohnpei, FSM (27 September- 2 October 2012).”

“The intention of this graph appears to be to compare the ‘days fished in PNA waters’ (obtained from raised logsheet data) with the ‘VDS allocated days in PNA waters’ but there is a major flaw in this comparison since the ‘days fished in PNA waters’ also includes the days fished in archipelagic waters and territorial seas, and the effort of the US purse seine fleet (fishing under the US Multilateral Treaty) and the Pacific Islands flagged vessels fishing under the FSM Arrangement, which by definition are excluded in the ‘VDS allocated days in the PNA waters’ (i.e. the TAE = ‘Total Allowable Effort’).”

“Further, we understand that US purse seine fleet effort should not be included in the compilation of “days fished” under the PNA VDS until June 2013, and so the TAE should include the US purse seine effort from 2014 onwards only.”

According to the Pacific region the misinformation has been provided by the writer of the report,  Carmen Fraga Estévez, and a “lack of consultation has resulted in gross inaccuracies” and “that the strategy has consequently been developed on inaccurate information.” The region particularly points to the aforementioned chart in the appendixes of the report. Pacific fears are that future EU policy decisions will continue to be based on this false data, which inaccurately overstates days fished within the PNA region.

Gesine Meissner, parliament’s ALDE group shadow rapporteur commented: “I welcomed the initiative as it is part of a significant change in EU fisheries policy. In my mind the external dimension of EU fisheries policy should be based on three pillars: sustainability, partnership and a realistic approach that the EU fleet is only one player out there. Our boats cannot change the whole story but should be fishing according to high standards and be setting an example for others. If we are serious about changing the fish stock situation then we have to work together with China, Russia, the USA and Japan.” 

The Pacific region said in a letter to the European Parliament; “Both sides have missed an opportunity to ensure that the strategy contributes to the strengthening of relations between the EU and the PACPS.”

From the EU’s perspectives its main objectives are to promote the social and economic development of the region through adaptations to climate change and external trade and in turn promote sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources. This will mean implementing transparent fisheries management which is one of the main problems in the high seas areas within the Western Central Pacific, due to the lack of agreement among the large tuna fishing nations, such as the EU, USA, Japan and China within the RFMO.

The fight against IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing practices is also one of the main concerns of parliament and a major issue in the Pacific region.

According to the Pacific region, the EU’s concern over IUU fishing is exaggerated. The letter reacted by emphasizing controls in the region: “In the purse seine fishery all vessels are on a register, there is 100 percent Vessels Monitoring Scheme (VMS), 100 percent observer coverage and compulsory in port transshipment.”

Despite the Pacific region’s request for the submission of the report to be deferred and the vote by MEPs to be delayed so that they could first consult European stakeholders, just eleven days after the objection letter was sent by the Pacific region, the European Parliament voted in favor of the adoption of the Pacific strategy, ignoring its request.

Maurice Ponga, of the parliament’s DEVE committee, said: “What is also really important and remarkable, is the fact that the Pacific is a ‘particular’ region, in the sense that amidst this Ocean, there are ‘European ambassadors’- embodied by the overseas countries and territories, such as New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, French Polynesia and Pitcairn.

“These overseas countries and territories, which are members of the European family, have a major role to play in the promotion and defense of European values and principles as far as fisheries are concerned. Their expertise and know-how should be used by the EU to enhance its influence in the region.”

Ulrike Rodust, of the parliament’s S&D group, reacted: “For me this is the main yardstick when deciding whether to subsidize EU fishermen's access to third country waters. If we adhere to our principles, the presence of Union flagged ships can be beneficial. But, we need to be aware that this does not come automatically. Obviously, overfishing by Europeans is as bad as overfishing by any other nation.”

“We have overfished our own waters in the past and things are only improving slowly. When fishing in other countries waters we bear a huge responsibility not to export our own problems.”