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The Cook Islands will host the 13th Regular Session of the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) from August 9-17 at the National Auditorium in Rarotonga.
More than 200 delegates representing over 40 countries are attending the meeting of the Scientific Committee for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fishstocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC-SC13).
The delegates attending the closed meeting include WCPFC members, cooperating non-members, participating territories and observers.
The WCPFC or “Tuna Commission,” is one of several global organisations known as regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) that adopt conservation and management measures (CMMs) for tuna fisheries.
This is the first WCPFC meeting to be hosted by the Cook Islands and the largest Cook Islands delegation at a scientific committee meeting, involving 15 delegates from Ministry of Marine Resources, Crown Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Marae Moana.
The Cook Islands head of delegation, Ministry of Marine Resources’ Senior Fisheries Officer and data manager Marino Wichman said there had been tremendous support by the WCPFC Secretariat and its members for the meeting to be held on Rarotonga.
MMR secretary Ben Ponia said one of the benefits of hosting the meeting on the island was the opportunity to increase representation on the Cook Island delegation and broaden the understanding of the WCPFC processes.
“While the meeting is run according to WCPFC rules and procedures, the host country can take the prerogative to highlight its own national initiatives to the international delegates present. For example, this will be a prime opportunity to highlight the passage of Cook Islands Marine Park Marae Moana legislation and demonstrate how the nation is discharging its responsibilities to sustainable management through initiatives such as the longline fishery quota system.”
Members of WCPFC are parties to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention – an international fisheries agreement that seeks to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks in the RFMO’s fishery area.
The commission coordinates closely with the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), whose 17 members are also member nations of the WCPFC. The Pacific Community (SPC), through its Oceanic Fisheries Programme, maintains another important relationship with the WCPFC, as the commission’s science services provider and data manager.
The SC meets each August ahead of the Regular Session of the Commission in December to ensure that WCPFC has the best available scientific information.
The scientific committee uses the services of expert fisheries scientists and its meeting is attended by scientific and technical representatives.
The commission also has a technical and compliance committee which meets in October each year and coordinates with the scientific committee to ensure consistent advice is provided to the commission.
WCPFC-SC13 has four themes on its agenda: data and statistics; stock assessment; management issues; and ecosystem and bycatch mitigation. Following the opening of the meeting a review of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean fisheries will be presented.
The WCPFC Secretariat is led by Feleti Teo, executive director for the commission.
The commission says a number of challenges are ahead as the increasing global demand for food, in particular, sources of protein, means greater pressure on the ocean’s resources and their ability to reproduce in a sustainable manner.
The fisheries resources of the WCPFC are relatively abundant and are estimated to be worth more than $NZ 6.8 billion annually.
A one-day expo for the delegates to see some of the work of the National Environment Service, Marae Moana, Seabed Minerals Authority and Te Ipukarea Society has also been organised by MMR today outside the Auditorium.
SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS
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