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Survival at stake

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

THE survival of the Pacific's domestic tuna longline fishery is at stake without more effective management of fishing in the High Seas — those areas outside of the waters of the region's 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones.

Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) executive officer John Maefiti says the fishery is a shadow of what was once a viable and attractive industry because the regional body that sets the rules for fishing has failed to control a "massive" increase in High Seas fishing by distant water fishing nations, especially by Taiwan and China.

"The industry has been trying to adapt to the tough conditions of the past few years. If we keep going this way, boats will be tied up and companies closed down," he says.

Mr Maefiti presented the industry's concerns to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), better known as the Tuna Commission, at its 14th annual meeting in Manila, Philippines on Monday.

The commission brings together the resource owners — the Pacific Island states — with the distant water fishing nations to set rules, usually by consensus, that address the conservation and management of tuna fisheries.

The differing interests of the parties make it hard to agree on effective measures. More than 60 per cent of the global catch of albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tunas come from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). In 2015 the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) island nation's longline fleets catch in the WCPO was worth around $US436 million ($F907m).

Mr Maefiti said the commission continues to fail to respond to the dire conditions of the Southern longline fishery impacting the domestic fishing industry of the Pacific Island states.

"Nobody can deny the perilous commercial state of this fishery. Catch rates simply cannot support current costs, leaving many companies just barely surviving," he said at the commission meeting.

The Southern longline fishery is the part of the fishery that is south of 10 degrees south of the equator in the WCPFC Convention Area.

Mr Maefiti said the domestic industry generates critical revenue for Pacific Island states and employs thousands of people in the region.

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