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Tuna Companies Sign WWF Pledge On WCPFC

As the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) begins in Cairns, WWF calls for effective and decisive action to ensure efficient measures to end overfishing of tuna are implemented.

“The viability of the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery should not be at risk because of short term economic interests. Without drastic measures, we could see the collapse of the bigeye tuna stock in the next few years, which will have direct impacts on other important tuna fisheries,” said Alfred Cook, WWF´s Western Central Pacific Tuna Program Officer. “WWF calls on the Commission to follow scientific recommendations to substantially reduce the bigeye tuna catch,” said Cook.

According to a WWF press release, over the last years, the environmental group has continuously been calling upon the WCPFC to adopt effective fisheries management measures including firm limits on the number of fishing vessels and reductions in the reliance on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). Despite precipitous declines in the bigeye, yellowfin, and albacore tuna stocks, according to WWF, the measures implemented by WCPFC have been insufficient and too late. This is especially the case with bigeye tuna, a favored sushi species, where the stock is overfished and experiencing continued overfishing.
The Director of global tuna conservation for Pew Charitable Trust, Amanda Nickson, says that the Commission has been receiving scientific advice over the past ten years showing overfishing is occurring in the region. She said: “Pacific bluefin is now at only 3.6 percent of its unfished levels and there needs to be urgent action taken to ensure that a management plan is put in place that will help that species rebuild. Second is bigeye tuna which has been subject to overfishing for the past ten years, needs a measure put in place to end that overfishing by 2018.”

WWF feels that too many vessels and, in particular, increasing distant water fleets fishing for too few fish constitutes one of the central problems contributing to overfishing in the region. Despite repeated calls to reduce the number of vessels fishing for tuna in the region, the number of vessels continues to increase, with at least 45 more purse seiners currently under construction in Asian shipyards and expected to join 297 fishing boats already operating in the region, setting an all-time high. In a press release, WWF stressed that this excess of fishing capacity will undoubtedly lead to additional sustainability problems in the region.

The environmental group outlined that the problem of overcapacity is not limited to the purse seine sector. Rapidly increasing capacity in the longline fishery from several distant water fishing nations is creating similar problems in the albacore tuna fishery. WWF stated that while the albacore stock is not in the same dire condition as the bigeye tuna stock, the albacore population has plummeted over the last decade, making it less economical to operate and throwing the domestic small island state fisheries into turmoil.
Greenpeace stated: “This is the 10th meeting of the Commission and it is time that its members stop ignoring the science and put strong precautionary measures in place to ensure overfishing is halted and that the number of vessels in the fishery is urgently capped and capacity reduced.”

The WWF press release, however, expressed some positive momentum. WWF has engaged a large group of responsible buyers, harvesters, processors, and traders, in making a pledge to the WCFPC Commission to support well-planned and designed tuna fishery improvement and conservation initiatives to sustain livelihoods, minimize environmental impacts and supply the world with responsibly-managed, high quality tuna through certification according to the MSC standards. The world community, including the markets that purchase tuna from the region, are demanding the WCPFC take action. WWF and others are hoping that, despite the pessimism, the WCPFC will take decisive and effective measures to conserve the region’s important tuna stocks this year.