By Pita Ligaiula in Da Nang, Vietnam

A candidate from the Northern Pacific in the Micronesian subregion is the first woman appointed to be the executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

Rhea Moss-Christian from Marshall Islands is the new director of the Commission beating fellow Pacific islander and candidate from Cook Islands Dr Lara Manarangi-Trott for the position.

She will take over from March next year when outgoing executive director Tuvaluan Feleti Teo steps down from the position

PACNEWS was told the two were shortlisted and interviewed Tuesday at the margins of the WCPFC19 meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam.

A formal announcement is expected later today when Tuna Commission members return from their field trip around Da Nang City.

The Executive Director is appointed for a term of four years and may be re-appointed for a further term of four years.

The Executive Director is appointed by the 26 member governments of the WCPFC to head its Secretariat, which is headquartered in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)

Rhea Moss-Christian is no stranger to the Tuna Commission as she made history as the first woman to chair the Pacific Tuna Commission, a body which brings together all the big fishing nations from Europe, Asia and North America with developing Pacific nations.

She served a two-year term as chair.

The woman from a small island nation takes on the cause of protecting the world’s tuna stocks against bigger countries and interests – a role that has earned her global respect.

At 47, Christian had spent more than half her life working with tuna and other marine resources. Her work in fisheries started more than 20 years ago, but her career began during the time the WCPFC Convention was being negotiated in the 1990’s. The convention eventually gave birth to the commission.

Straight from school she helped the Marshall Islands government during the regional fisheries meetings and the United Nations negotiations as the they struggled with other Pacific countries to establish a body that would bring sustainable management to the last healthy fishery resources.

WCPFC membership includes all the nations that fish in the Western and Central Pacific and the resource-owning island states. The aim of the commission is to put fishing for tuna and other species that range widely across the ocean on an economically and environmentally sustainable footing.

Fishing is a cut-throat industry powerful nation involved have not been willing to act even when tuna stocks drop to critical levels.

The way the commission is set up, everyone has to agree to measures, or they will not be agreed. The challenge is to help members meet their interests.