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Rules to manage the ghosts of South Pacific fish?

Rules to manage the ghosts of South Pacific fish?

Delegates from more than 25 countries in Auckland negotiating the final stages of a treaty to manage fishing in the high seas of the South Pacific, may fail their first credibility test before the week is out, says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, if they do not urgently cut fishing of Jack Mackerel in the Eastern Pacific, and impose agreed catch limits. If they do not cut catch limits now, then their rules will be for the management of the ghosts of fish, the fish will be gone before their treaty takes effect, says Cath Wallace, a senior resource economist and co-chair of ECO.

The negotiations are for the final stages of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) which is designed to set up a management regime to govern fishing in the South Pacific for non-tuna fisheries. The main fisheries in question are the Jack Mackerel fisheries in the Eastern South Pacific and the orange roughy fisheries beyond Australia and New Zealand in the Western Pacific.

“The Scientific Committee of the fledgling South Pacific organisation has given delegates unequivocal advice that the loss of Jack Mackerel fish to fishing must reduce and is well above what the stocks can take. The scientists have given the decision makers a clear message that there must be cuts. Environmental groups and others are alarmed that instead of agreeing to curb catch and fishing effort, instead some countries are blocking effective measures and instead a whole lot of extra fishing boats plan to fish. There is a rush by countries to try to stack up a fishing and catch history in order to make future claims to fishing entitlements. Peru has even passed a law allowing boats already known to be illegal fishers to fish in their name. It is an attempt to stack up a catch history to gain future allocations.

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This is the classic “race to fish” that is the basis of the tragedy of fisheries, and the some of very people who are sitting there designing the rules for fisheries management in the future in the high seas South Pacific are obstructing the introduction of immediate catch limits to protect the very fish stocks they want to have a future share of.

The European Commission, Peru, Korea, China and Russia are blocking the introduction of catch limits or effective measures.
A list circulating in the conference corridors of the intended expansion of fishing vessels fishing in the South Pacific would be enough to wipe out far more than the available fish stocks of jack mackerel.

“It is likely that the SPRFMO agreement negotiations will be concluded and a text opened to the international community for the SPRFMO treaty but the jack mackerel will be gone by the time the treaty takes effect if the huge influx of fishing effort is allowed, and catch limits are blocked.

“Getting an agreement for SPRFMO is a really important thing, but if the fish have already gone it will only manage ghosts, said Cath Wallace.


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