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FFA to build on gains made from Cairns Tuna summit

FFA says it will build on gains made from Cairns Tuna summit as Samoa prepares to host WCPFC 2014.


FFA HQ, Honiara, SOLOMON ISLANDS –The Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency, FFA, is preparing a work program aimed at ensuring its 17 member nations stay on top of the gains made at this month’s Cairns Tuna summit.

Despite a mixed bag of results for a range of draft measures tabled by the Pacific, including frustration and disappointment over a watered-down CMM on Tropical Tuna, in the list of measures confirmed this week in a circular from the Tuna Commission, there were some wins for the Pacific.

These included the adoption of two new Conservation and Management Measures (CMMs). They aim to ensure the Commission enacts its responsibilities to Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and territories, and how to account for the impact of disproportionate burden.

“The much debated Tropical Tuna Measure also represents a milestone. While the measure in its current form isn’t going to address concerns of overfishing, it signals a new willingness from a developed Commission member to engage with the Pacific nations on management measures, and we encourage more of this collaboration from other members of the commission,” says FFA Director General James Movick.

“We welcome the gains made, and thank other WCPFC members for recognising these issues as important for the future of the Pacific fishery,” he says. “However, of great concern is the continued practice of a small number of delegations that use this meeting as an opportunity to simply entrench and expand the commercial opportunities for their own fleets, often at the expense of SIDS sustainable development and therefore in contravention with the Convention and their own foreign policies”.

“All the working groups, lobbying and rewording of texts took exhaustive caucusing and preparation, and with the gains made, we still had to watch as other measures we had worked so hard towards, didn’t make it. The challenge moving forward will be ensuring those hard-won gains and concessions made this month, will be examined in the next 12 months until we meet in Samoa.”

The FFA commitment to maintain momentum comes as the Pohnpei-based WCPFC has begun circulating the list of new measures sealed in the closing minutes of the five-day 10th WCPFC in Cairns on December 6.

Assistance and support to the FFA member countries from technical officials takes up a substantial amount of the agency work-plan throughout the year, and culminates in pre-WCPFC meetings which are aimed at ensuring Pacific delegations enter the annual events with the best possible preparation. But proposed WCPFC 10 measures from the Pacific aimed at strengthening conservation and management rules for tropical tuna and giving more attention to the challenges of SIDs and disproportionate burden were either substantially weakened or, in the case of new measures for albacore and closing off Eastern high Seas pockets to fishing, defeated.

“Pacific delegations went into Cairns 2013 ready to engage in an exhaustive process of caucusing, negotiating, shifting positions and working groups. Many versions of drafts and proposed texts on the Conservation and Management Measures were shared, and I must congratulate those who tirelessly led the way in this regard,” says Movick.

“Because of the weakened position of those Conservation and Management Measures which we were able to get past the line, the need to address the lost opportunities is still there. We expect the same issues and challenges to confront us come December 2014, when we hope being in Samoa will bring home to non-Pacific Tuna Commission members the realities we are trying so hard to address. The opportunities lost will only become more difficult to deal with given the way in which support for some of the CMMs we tabled relied on modifications that basically lessened their value.”

It was hoped that with the early tabling of measures by PNA, FFA and other members at the Cairns meeting, the intense preparation by FFA members at the table would make the most of the sense of opportunity to achieve significant and historic results for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean area. The outcomes revealed a mixed bag of results:

GAINS
The unsung star of WCPFC was the Republic of the Marshall Islands who led, maintained and kept up a tireless pressure from FFA members’ right into the closing minutes of the Cairns summit. The result was two measures, which will go a long way towards ensuring the WCPFC meets its founding promise in Article 30 of the WCPF Convention on Disproportionate burden and the Special requirements of SIDS and Territories (CMM 2013-07). The challenges facing developing Pacific nations come in for more attention in Criteria for the consideration of Conservation and Management proposals (CMM 2013-06). FFA members also met with success in strengthening daily catch and effort reporting (CMM 2013-05) aimed at providing operational data in a timely manner.

Tropical Tuna Measure (CMM 2013-01) – For FFA members, this was the most significant, hard-won and difficult measure of WCPFC 2013. Tabled by PNA, Japan, Philippines and Tokelau, this measure took up the bulk of working group discussions, amendments and negotiations. In the end, the meeting reached consensus but still fell far short of what was initially proposed. It also does not yet achieve the requirement to mitigate disproportionate burden from this measure on SIDs, and is contingent on this issue being addressed in 2014.

FFA members and other Tuna Commission members supported three USA proposals covering Reporting Standards and procedures for WCPFC Fishing vessels (CMM 2013-03), Unique Vessel Identifiers (UVI) (CMM 2013-04) to strengthen surveillance work and reporting, and a Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMM 2013-02).

LOST OPPORTUNITIES
Amongst the measures that Forum Fisheries ministers wanted to see happen, but which didn’t make it past the line from Commission members, the FFA proposals looking for a comeback at WCPFC 11 include one covering South Pacific Albacore. FFA members were disappointed in their bid seeking a one-year amendment to the current South Pacific Albacore CMM that would prevent an increase in catches, particularly on the high seas while catch limits for members EEZs are developed. Concerns over stock decline and the economic viability of domestic fleets facing falling catches and subsidised fleets will fuel efforts for a more comprehensive measure.

A proposal to reduce the impact of tuna fishing operations on shark stocks, some of which are at critical levels, was also defeated by several delegations more intent on protecting the practices of their fleets than achieving conservation outcomes.

The going also got tough for a draft Port State Measure from FFA members aimed at bringing in better controls for Port States to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

High hopes turned to disappointment for the Cook Islands, who championed the FFA draft measure hoping to close fishing and transhipment activity in the Eastern High Seas Pocket. The Cooks eventually withdrew this measure from the table, after a working group process and efforts to close the Eastern High Seas Pocket to all fishing activities clearly became too contentious for members to agree. Monitoring and surveillance of the EHSP, enclosed by the Cook Islands, Kiribati, and French Polynesia, has shown grounds for concern over IUU fishing and high levels of non-compliance with Commission measures.

ends

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