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WCPFC Making Slow Progress On Bigeye Catch Restrictions

The sweeping changes that the NGO’s are hoping for, to effectively address the overfishing of bigeye tuna in the Pacific Ocean, are making slow progress. Environmental groups have their fingers crossed for positive developments to reduce bigeye catch in the region, but have also been focusing on increased transparency of the WCPFC in its annual meeting this week in Cairns, Australia. 

Alfred Cook, WWF’s Western Central Pacific Tuna Program Officer told “The primary concerns are that despite repeated attempts to address the overfishing problem on bigeye tuna, there continues to be overfishing of an overfished stock. While the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) are making at least, so far in this meeting, some progress, it is very incremental. There is not a whole lot of confidence there will be sweeping changes that will effectively address the problem.”

He also stressed: “Another issue is increasing concerns about the level of transparency in the Commission, a slow erosion of transparency. It certainly has been an impact on NGO’s and IGO’s as they are not allowed into some of these meetings. We made an intervention on it today as it is something that worries all of the NGO community.”

Cook explained that the intervention has requested for a clear and urgent response as what many were seeing as a disturbing move towards a complete lack of transparency in the WCPFC.

In being asked about an ideal outcome of the meeting, Cook said: “a strong conservation and management measure that places effective limits on bigeye tuna harvests, whether that is through FAD set limits or an overall FAD closure. This most importantly needs to be decided among the fishing industry that is affected.”

He stressed that it wasn’t just bigeye tuna stock that concerns were arising about. “While that is the most critical one, we are also concerned about the economic viability of the South Pacific albacore fishery and the potential for yellowfin to reach a point of being overfished. This could then impact the skipjack fishery further.”

The ongoing WCPFC annual meeting in Cairns is due to finish at the end of this week. Cook outlined: “There hasn’t been entirely encouraging progress, but there has been some progress so far. Some stakeholders are very entrenched in their positions and are unwilling to compromise, at least initially, and that creates a really difficult position to bargain from when you dig your heels in and refuse to give immediate direction.”

He stressed: “I think everyone needs to come together and take other measures and compromise wherever possible to try and achieve the cuts that are necessary.”