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No Cuts On Purse Seiners Within WCPFC For 2014?

The Pacific purse seine tuna fleet could face no additional cuts within the WCPFC for 2014. Reports have emerged that the current proposal of WCPFC members for the December annual meeting in Cairns, Australia includes no increased limitations on the region’s sizable purse seine tuna fleet. Further restrictions on the bigeye catch of the region’s longline fleet, however, are likely to arise.  

The number of large purse seine vessels fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) area is continuously increasing, threatening to drive the current healthy skipjack and yellowfin populations to unsustainable levels, as well as dramatically over exploiting the region’s bigeye stock. The western and Central Pacific region is the largest bigeye catching area in the world, and in 2010 caught 93,756 tons, a whole 26 percent of the global bigeye tuna catch.

Pew Global Tuna conservation is urging for much needed action to be taken to end overfishing in the Pacific, and has stated that the longer the WCPFC delays measures, the more powerful the cuts will need to be in the future.

Adam Baske, officer of international policy for Pew said: “All of the proposals that have been discussed since the first negotiation in Tokyo (in August) have put forward similar approaches for purse seine fisheries. In all cases, they propose a continuation of the 2013 purse seine measures, which were agreed last year in Manila. Given the increasing size of the fishery and increasing number of FAD sets, this approach seems quite irresponsible.”

He explained that the approach will give cooperating non-members and participation territories (CCMs) the option to either roll-over the four month FAD closure in 2014, or employ a combination of three month FAD closure and FAD set limits.

“We continue to be worried by the reliance on FAD closure as a way to control bigeye catch,” he said. “These have proven to be ineffective, so our hope is that more and more CCMs will get on board with a more sophisticated system for tracking FAD fishing, such as scientifically based FAD set limits and FAD tracking.”

While WCPFC members have agreed that cuts should be introduced gradually for the purse seine fleet, they believe that it is necessary that reductions in longline catches of bigeye should be set across the western and central Pacific to end overfishing. Members have agreed that only longline fleets that comply with all WCPFC rules, and prove that they can fish responsibly, should be permitted to fish for bigeye in the region.

But Pew states it is necessary for both the longline and purse seine fleet in the Pacific to face additional restrictions. In a brief outlining its recommendations to the meeting, it stated: “The Commission must commit to ending overfishing of bigeye tuna by 2018 by adopting a CMM (conservation management measure) for tropical tuna that freezes fishing capacity, caps longline catch, and limits the amount of fishing by purse seiners on FADs to sustainable levels consistent with the advice from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).”

The outcome of these new management measures proposed by WCPFC members will be decided from negotiations at the 10th Regular Session of the Commission will take place at the Convention Centre in Cairns from December, 2 to December, 6.