By Bernadette H. Carreon

Manila, Philippines- Critical discussions on tropical tunas, illegal fishing, observer safety and curbing transshipment at sea are expected at this year’s annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) which will be held here from December 3-7.


“This year probably the key issue for the Commission, is discussing (the) Tropical Tuna Measure,” Rhea Moss-Christian, chairperson of the WCPFC, told reporters yesterday.

The Tropical Tuna Measure sets fishing rules and influences how benefits flow for tuna worth more than US$4.4 billion a year.

The current measure, which covers Skipjack, Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna, is due to expire at the end of the year.

Ms Moss-Christian said member countries will continue discussions on harvest strategies. These provide comprehensive plans for keeping tuna stocks in a healthy state as well as pre-agreed responses should fish numbers drop to critical levels.

Pacific Bluefin tuna, which is down to just 2.6 per cent of its pre-fishing stocks, will receive a positive recommendation from the special committee responsible for recommending action on its future, Ms Moss-Christian said.

The safety of independent observers who work aboard fishing boats checking on compliance with fishing rules ‘is priority for commission members’ according to Ms Moss-Christian.

She wants to continue momentum from discussions at last year’s Commission, ensuring measures are in place for protecting observers.

Transhipment of fish at sea has long worried Pacific Island countries trying to crack down on poaching.

“We have some proposal for discussions from some members on the table on how to tighten controls on high seas transshipment,” Ms Moss-Christian said.

“There is definitely strong interest by a number of members to better manage transshipment on the high seas,” she added.

Christian said members of the Commission are building on the “small steps” taken to progress important issues at last year’s Tuna Commission meeting.

“We did achieve some small steps last year, overall, since that meeting we have been trying to tried to build on that momentum and members where members are comfortable and accepting of small gains,” she said.

Christian is hopeful that this year, members will continue with their small steps rather than fall back into the sort of stalemates that have dogged the Commission in the past.

The WCPFC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the world’s biggest fishery.

It has to reconcile the opposing interests of resource-owning nations and the distant water fishing fleet.
The members of the WCPFC are: Australia, Canada, China, Cook Islands, European Community, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, and Vanuatu. [/restrict]