Fisheries’ chance to ‘get it right’

Workers unload tuna stock in Lami, Suva, Fiji. Picture: FT FILE

RAROTONGA, 16 MAY 2018 (COOK ISLANDS NEWS) – The Western and Central Pacific region is in a good position to put measures in place to ensure a robust tuna stock for the future.

Alfred “Bubba” Cook, World Wide Fund for Nature’s Western and Central Pacific tuna programme manager, says these measures will help the region to proactively address some of the issues that other regions have failed to address.

Cook said the state of tuna stock in the Pacific was “actually quite good”, adding this robust stock provided the region with the last best chance to get things right.

“The resources are robust, all the stock are in the green zone and we have a chance to actually get management right so that we don’t end up in a situation like other places around the world where they have to talk about recovery and have seen the stock collapse. They have seen the economic consequences when the stock collapse,” Cook said.

“We are actually in a really good position here to put in measures to proactively address some of the issues that other regions have been unsuccessful in addressing.”

Cook said among other things, putting in management measures that were not subject to political interference was important.

For instance, he said the use of harvest strategies or harvest control rules based on a particular benchmark takes the issues out of the political spectrum and puts it in the scientific and actual policy and management perspective.

In taking the politics out of the issue, Cook said the region could have a process that actually responds to the biological and economic conditions in fisheries.

“When you get some of the politics out of fisheries – you will never get all of them out, you can actually see better management of our fisheries.”

Cook, who was in Rarotonga last week to attend the 106th Officials Forum Fisheries Committee Meeting at the Edgewater Resort and Spa in Arorangi as an observer, was pleased with the discussions that took place.

He said the five-day forum was successful in moving and progressing some of the issues that the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) faced in managing fisheries in the region.

“As observers, we have the opportunity to work at national level as well as at the regional level. For the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, we provide analysis and sometimes help prepare proposals that ultimately go before the various bodies to try and address some issues.

“As observers, we are effectively part of this process where we are able to contribute and we appreciate that opportunity.”

Cook also praised the FFA for its role in the regional fisheries, adding the agency had an explicit interest in maintaining the sustainability of the tuna stock.