Friday, December 4, 2015

Pacific Tuna Meeting Focuses on Skipjack, Bigeye stocks, and Observers – FSM

Kolonia, FSM 29 November 2015— Conservation and Management measures aimed at ensuring a healthy future for the bigeye and skipjack tuna species in Pacific waters are high on the priority list for the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) delegation to the Pacific’s annual report card meeting on Tuna- the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Head of Delegation of the FSM, Executive Director of NORMA Eugene Pangelinan, stated the need to take critical action on effective measures that FSM is prepared to push past decision-making by consensus, also encouraging Commission members to vote on the skipjack issue.

The FSM delegation to the 12th Annual Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the WCPFC, left Pohnpei on November 21 headed to Bali, Indonesia for a marathon series of technical meetings and negotiations on tuna fisheries. Based on a disappointing outcome for FSM and other Pacific delegates at the 11th WCPFC in Samoa last December, Director Pangelinan had reservations on what can be achieved in the WCPFC 12. Through this important meeting of fisheries policy makers, Director Pangelinan hopes to see the Commission adopt a revised conservation and management measure to reduce juvenile bigeye mortality.

“It’s important to adopt new measures for the “uncontrolled and irresponsible” fishing led by long-line operations on the high seas. “Compliance with existing measures has been nothing but a disappointment and is weakening our ability to reach our goal to deliver a sustainable fishery,” he said.

Director Pangelinan expects WCPFC12 to be challenged to adopt a Target Reference Point (TRP) for skipjack fisheries, dominated by purse seiners in waters of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). “If there is opposition to PNA’s proposal for a TRP on skipjack, then we will push for a vote to get it adopted. It is fundamentally important that this WCPFC12 gets behind the PNA push for this target reference point measure. The skipjack fishery is too important for us to not manage well and if we are to ensure its long-term sustainability, we must start with a TRP in place. Anything less will be irresponsible on our part”.

Director Pangelinan encouraged that the FSM’s national position should not be alone taking up its role in ensuring the adoption of the Skipjack TRP measure at the Tuna Commission meeting. “Guarding against over-investment in the fishery and the gradual decline in the stock is important for FSM, and also, in light of FSMs place within the PNA and FFA, my delegation and I are going to do our best to bring as many of our member nations to the same page. We are here to work hard to come to an agreement but we cannot let the issue of consensus work against us. If we have to go to a vote on the issue to overcome inaction on issues that require urgent action, then let’s do so.”

Also important to FSM at the 12th session was the safety of fisheries observers on foreign fishing vessels.

“For too long now observers have been threatened, intimidated and mistreated on fishing vessels and this has to stop if these boats want to operate in our waters.” Noting the moves by FSM to improve law enforcement and the safety of observers at sea faced with difficult working environments, he noted the need for the Commission to get behind this issue, “but we will take our own measures and move forward on this. FSM observers are our eyes and ears out there. We must protect them and we will hold flag states responsible for ensuring their welfare and safety”, said Director Pangelinan.

The FSM delegation includes NORMA staff Limanman Helgenberger, Chief of Management and Development, and Justino Helgen, Acting Chief of Compliance. In addition, members of Congress, in particular the Chair of the Committee on Resources and Development Hon. David Panuelo, Vice-Chair Hon. Alik Alik, Congressmen Hon. Victor Gouland and Hon. Robson Romolow and staff attorney Alik Jackson are part of the FSM delegation to the 12th WCPFC. The FSM fishing industry will also be present to observe the meetings.

The WCPFC headquarters, hosted in Pohnpei, manages the tuna stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The PNA, hosted in Majuro, is a group of eight Pacific Island Countries, namely FSM, Palau, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu, leading the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), and purse seining activity in their EEZs. The FFA, hosted in Honiara, is the 17-member nation Pacific bloc within the WCPFC, and was established by Forum Leaders in 1978 to strengthen national capacity and regional cooperation in managing the Pacific’s shared resource—tuna.

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