6 Dec 2004

Meeting in FSM hopes to thrash out final details of Tuna Commission

6:47 am on 6 December 2004

Twenty nine countries are meeting in the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia, Pohnpei, to hash out final details for the launching of a new Tuna Commission.

The organisation will, for the first time, regulate and manage tuna fishing on the high seas.

The organiser of the meetings this week, Bernard Thoulag, says the major function of the Tuna Commission is to set a global limit on tuna fishing outside the exclusive economic zones of Pacific island nations.

The Pacific's tuna resource accounts for 40 percent of the world's total, and is worth an estimated $2 billion annually to the Asian and American fleets that ply the region.

But scientists agree that big eye tuna is already being over-fished, and yellowfin tuna - which is in huge demand for sashimi markets in Asia, Europe and the United States - is at its maximum sustainable catch levels.

In addition to the hundreds of currently licensed fishing vessels from Asia and the U.S., dozens more from the European Union, the Russian Federation and South America are eyeing the fishery.

Mr Thoulag says there are already big concerns about unlicensed vessels fishing illegally" in the region.