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Longline And Purse Seine Both Need To Sacrifice In Pacific Australia, November 7, 13

The WCPFC meeting in Cairns next month will see Pacific Island countries and distant water fishing nations debate tough new proposals to restrict fishing quotas. One of the major issues will be which sector, longline or purse seine, will have to make the biggest sacrifices for the dwindling Pacific bigeye and yellowfin stocks.

The WCPFC has warned that negotiations will not be easy due to pressure to maintain the tuna stocks in the Pacific impact on fisheries and small Pacific economies.

The Deputy Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency, Wez Norris, talked to Radio New Zealand and told reporter Alex Perrottet all parties need to cut down to what scientists say are unsustainable practices.

Wez Norris: Streamlining is always going to be very difficult in this situation. Because the management environment is so complex, both technically and politically, there is always going to be a complexity of the management arrangements that are required to gain the agreement that they need to in this international meeting.

Alex Perrottet: Do you think there’s a different standard that should be applied to the distant water fishing nations and the Pacific? There’s an issue when the fish has been taken to market somewhere else. Should there be more stringent regulations on them and should they be made to agree at this upcoming meeting to abide by them more strictly?

This is the critical issue and it’s one of the reasons why agreement is very difficult to reach in an organization like WCPSC. The fisheries are of such critical importance to the Pacific Island countries that they do demand very high standards and they do demand a very high degree of co-operation from developed states that are fishing in the region. There are some very good examples of where that co-operation has worked very well and there are other examples of where we need to increase it. And the long-line fishery on the high seas is a good example of the latter. We do need to step up the standards that the flag states are holding their vessels to in terms of providing information, reporting, and not undertaking some activities that can support illegal fishing, like [Indistinct] shipment on the high seas.

One of the things that the parties to the Nauru Agreement were proposing to this upcoming meeting is to again restrict the weight limits on those long-line fisheries, such as the Honolulu one. In response, the Americans are saying ’Hang on. We’re not really fishing in the juvenile stock area. We’re fishing more outside those zones’. And this is going to make us close by July when at the end of the day we’re just servicing Hawaii, which is a local market. What’s your view on that proposal by the PNA countries to limit it again?

The scientific advice is very clear, that quite significant reductions in fishing mortality for big-eye are required to bring it to maximum sustainable levels. The scientific advice that’s been received by the commission also says quite clearly that management measures need to apply across all facets of the fishery. So it needs to apply to the purse-seine fishery, which is taking juvenile fish as a by-catch. It also needs to apply to the long-line fishery which is targeting adult fish for the high-value sashimi market. So that’s the proposal that the PNA members have put forward, together with Japan. And those measures do come at quite significant cost to the PNA members themselves, so there is certainly a recognition that there’s got to be gain in this for everybody if we’re going to achieve the objective we’ve set for ourselves.

There is an argument, however, as well, that fish aggregation devices more easily affect the juvenile stock because they’re attracting all types of fish and they’re also in breeding grounds. So, again, there’s another difficulty in comparing the different types of fishing methods.

In an international fishery, it’s very easy for each group of stakeholders to point the finger at each other. It’s easy for the purse-seine type countries to say ’Well, it’s the long-liners that are out there catching too much and you need to catch less’. And it’s easy for the long-line interests to say, ’You’re killing all the juveniles before we get a chance to catch them’. And that’s what we come down to - the fact that everybody needs to take measures. And we are looking at this integrated package of measures that apply to person and to long-line.