FISHERIES representatives reacted with dismay to the news that training programs in Pacific fisheries may be axed.
According to a statement, at the Pacific Island heads of fisheries meeting convened by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Noumea yesterday, they argued strongly for a continuation of the observer training program.
The statement said observers worked onboard fishing vessels where they took samples of tuna and recorded size, type and catch location.
This is part of a major scientific program to monitor the state of the tuna industry in the Pacific.
SPC's Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division director Mike Batty said the tuna industry was worth $US5billion ($F8.92billion) a year.
"It's a huge industry, and provides employment and a source of income to Pacific nations," he said.
"This at-sea monitoring is vital to keep the tuna industry in good shape. Industry already pays many direct costs of observer placement but it will take time to get them to absorb training costs."
The statement said that before taking up positions onboard ships, observers worked through a rigorous a training program carried out by SPC and funded by donations from New Zealand and the European Union.
It said some funding was due to end this year and another part in 2014. "This threatens the capacity of SPC to offer training, which is a source of concern for delegates to the heads of fisheries meeting," the statement said.
Tonga's Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Forestry and Fisheries director Sione Matoto said the work of collecting samples was important to the tuna industry.
"I would like New Zealand and the EU to continue to provide some support for the training program," he said.
"It provides employment in Tonga, and there are issues of compliance in the tuna industry."
SPC's Observer Development and Support co-ordinator Peter Sharples said there was a great need for consistent observer training that fits into regional data management requirements.
"All the facts and figures are sent through to the SPC head office to create a big picture of what's happening in the tuna industry.
"We have to meet new requirements given by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission," he said.
"We need more observers quickly, but our aim is to help Pacific countries train their own observers."