6 Apr 2012

PNA remains in driver's seat on Western and Central Pacific fishery conservation

3:20 pm on 6 April 2012

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission has defended its work on tuna conservation following criticism from the head of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.

Last week's Commission meeting in Guam ended without any progress on a number of PNA proposals, such as measures against overfishing of bigeye tuna and extending the ban on Fish Aggregating Devices, or FADs.

Johnny Blades reports:


Despite the lobbying of the PNA countries, the ban on FADs has not been extended to four months from three.

The Commission has also decided to reopen some areas of high seas to fishing which was disappointing to the PNA which had instigated the closure of high seas in 2010 to counter illegal fishing and increase revenue to Pacific countries.

The Commission's executive director Glenn Hurry admits the current measures aren't adequate but there's no agreement on developing new measures to achieve targets such as the 30 percent reduction in the bigeye tuna catch.

"We didn't get a hard measure on it at this meeting. We've retained the three-month closure of Fish Aggregating Devices and there's an encouragement for the fishing industry in general to fish away from Big Eye (tuna). But mainly what we've agreed to do is roll over the provisions from 2008: not increase long-line fishing, and not increase purse seining over and above what it is, and then come back with a more developed measure for our meeting in the Philippines at the end of this year."

The PNA's chief executive, Transform Aqorau, suggests the influence of large commercial fishing interests on governments at the Commission is hampering progress towards conservation and management of tuna.

Glenn Hurry finds the comment unhelpful.

There's always been self-interest from member countries from commissions. Be you Australia, New Zealand, Japan or a Pacific Island country, you're tending to try and protect your own interests as well as protecting those of the stock. But the PNA are part of the Commission, everybody's in this together and it's kind of odd that people beat up on the Commission failing to do things when everybody's a member of this process.

With the emergence of the PNA in the last four or five years, and its attempt to drive more benefits from the fishery to the islands, there's been great change in the industry.

Radio New Zealand International's correspondent in Majuro, Giff Johnson, says that there is much resistance to change among fishing companies and governments from distant fishing nations.

PNA is ultimately in the driver's seat because the eight PNA countries, provided they stick together, they control where most of the tuna is caught. So the distant water fishing countries have to do business with PNA and if PNA says this is what the price is, for example this year the price of a fishing day has gone up to five thousand dollars minimum and that's like at least double and almost triple what the going rate was just two or three years ago; so there are huge changes happening and at some point the distant water fishing nations are just going to be brought on board.

The PNA's Commercial Manager, Maurice Brownjohn, says the organisation has done more than just ensure more Pacific participation in economic benefits from the fishery.

If it wasn't for PNA, there would be no conservation and management measures in this region and probably the state of our stocks would be the same as it is in other regions where no one takes responsibilities. So in the region the fact that the fishery is in the economic zones of the islands means that we can and we have taken responsibility. What has changed in the last couple of years is a shift away from capacity measures where the distant water countries saw it almost as a perceived right that they could fish our waters as foreign vessels to the Vessel Day Scheme which has put the control in our hands where we're seeing more economic benefits.