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By Pita Ligaiula in Waikiki, Hawaii
Proposals on important measures for albacore tuna – the most important tuna for temperate Pacific countries - are expected to be prioritised by Pacific nations at this year’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii next week.
Last year the meeting in Manila, Philippines, failed to reach agreement on Albacore tuna.
Albacore is vital to countries such as Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and other members of the Tokelau Arrangement.
Because large quantities of albacore are also caught in international waters, the Pacific fishing industry will only be profitable if the WCPFC sets strong fishing rules.
A target reference point (TRP) - an ideal stock level from which future decision-making takes its cue – is the starting point for all rule-making.
The WCPFC has committed to set a TRP for Albacore at this meeting.
Tropical tuna species - skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye - will also be high on the agenda.
The 26 nations that govern the world’s biggest fishery left it to the last minute to agree to new rules for the three economically crucial tropical tuna species at last year’s WCPFC meeting.
The adoption of a new Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure was designed to ensure skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks are maintained at recent average levels and capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.
The Tropical Tuna Measure, which regulates a catch worth billions of dollars, is a three-year agreement but some of its provisions are due to expire this year.
With the latest science easing concern about fish numbers there is expected to be a push by distant water fishing nations to increase their catch.
Pacific nations are also expected to step up the fight against Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
WCPFC has committed to approve a new conservation measure to protect sharks.
After last year’s tense late night meeting the WCPFC praised the 27 nations for staying the course to agree on the Tropical Tuna Measure and the highlighted the role of Japan, in particular to broker deals and work in the margins to reach consensus at last year’s meeting in Manila.
Commission Chair Rhea Moss-Christian started looking to the future.
“My goals for 2018 are to secure the south pacific albacore management framework including the target reference point, which is important to a number of the South Pacific, members, and to give a comprehensive management plan in place for sharks and manta rays,” she said in late 2017.
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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