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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Another fisheries commission throws the science overboard
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) today over-rode the advice of its science committee and rejected the recommendations of its chair in choosing only minor reductions in catch for bigeye and yellowfin tuna and watering down or deferring most measures for achieving reduced catches.
The decision comes just a fortnight after the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) both also rejected their own scientists pleas for significant cuts to catches in the face of collapsing or falling tuna populations.
Catch reduction of less than seven per cent for 2009
Measures adopted by the WCPFC will see a catch reduction of less than seven per cent for 2009 on WWF estimations, well down on a recommendation of a 30 percent cut which it was conceded would still not have eliminated overfishing.
Important management measures ignored
Among the discarded, delayed or reduced measures were high seas fishing closures, restrictions on gear types, and important initiatives to better record and verify catches and crack down on rampant illegal fishing.
It is an especially galling rebuff for WCPFC chair Glenn Hurry, who earlier this year chaired the independent review of ICCAT that found that bodys management of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery "an international disgrace".
WWF commends Mr Hurry, also Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, for his efforts worldwide to promote scientifically based fisheries management.
Increasing demand for bigeye and yellowfin tuna
"Disappearing, collapsing and declining bluefin tuna fisheries world wide for the high value sushi market are increasing demand for bigeye and yellowfin tuna," said WWFS Peter Trott, who attended the Pusan meeting.
"What we are seeing now is an international tragedy where the failure of one fishery adds to the pressure on others, while some fisheries nations use their weight to subvert virtually the entire international system for long term sustainable fisheries management."
Catastrophic impacts on the viability of fishers and coastal communities
WCPFC's failures will have severe impacts on Pacific island states where foreign fishing fleets are having catastrophic impacts on the viability of their fishers and coastal communities, a point underlined at the meeting when Papua New Guinea announced its intention of denying access to its waters for fishing vessels from nations not subscribing to high seas closures.
Impacts in the Coral Triangle
Tuna strategy leader for WWF's Coral Triangle Program, Dr Jose Ingles, said the failure of the WCPFC to introduce measures to ensure the sustainability of tuna fisheries was alarming for the Coral Triangle region, where 120 million people depend on fisheries for food and livelihoods.
"In the equatorial Pacific we can see the crash coming and a block of major fishing nations seem determined to fish their way into it," said Dr Ingles. "The implications are disastrous. Communities in the Coral Triangle, including the Pacific, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, face a very uncertain future," said Dr Ingles.
Notes to editors:
* The WCPFC, ICCAT and IATTC are parts of a worldwide system of regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) originally established under the framework of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
* They generally include their own apparatus for collecting information on fisheries and fish stocks and providing scientifically based management recommendations, but decisions are generally taken by member fishing states who then have responsibility for implementing them. While there have historically been instances of political pressure being exerted on the scientific process it is primarily in the decision-making and implementation processes that the global RFMO system is failing.
* In 2006 the WCPFCs scientists estimated that overfishing of bigeye tuna, on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List as vulnerable since 1996, was occurring in the western and central Pacific, with a high probability it had been occurring since 1997. They also warned that urgent action needed to be taken on overfishing of yellowfin tuna in the region.
* In 2006, WCPFCs scientific committee recommended a 15% reduction in Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna fishing mortality (broadly equivalent to catch). The Commission instead continued with the status quo. Just 2 years later, scientists doubled their recommendation for catch reduction to 30%. In addition, the scientists state that a 30% reduction is a minimum level and that additional cuts may be necessary to end overfishing.
* www.panda.org/tuna, particularly the chronology Timeline of a Fishery Failure, details the failure of ICCAT to fulfil its mission to deliver a long term sustainable bluefin tuna fishery.
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