Fisheries expert hurries off with stern warning

Tuna depletion rate death threat to industry

Majuro — Glenn Hurry is the first of two important and long-term fisheries management officials to be leaving regional posts over the next six months. Hurry, after four years as executive director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and a previous five years as its chairman, departs his Pohnpei base in August to head back to his Australian home. Dr. Transform Aqorau leaves his post as CEO for the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) in early 2015.

During his tenure and in his last days on the job, Hurry has taken every opportunity to warn island leaders and fisheries industry officials about a looming crisis in tuna stocks—but almost no one is paying attention. “If we want a train wreck instead of a sustainable fishery, we should keep going the way we are now,” said Hurry in midJuly as he prepared to make a final plea to Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Palau before leaving his post. Hurry operates in a low-key manner and is well-liked in fisheries circles for his ability to work with the wide-range of people involved in the fishery.

But his message to the region is anything but low-key. Tuna fishermen caught a record 2.6 million tonnes of fish in 2012. Hurry said this extraordinary catch level reflected “an increased number of vessels fishing harder than they have ever fished before, fishing more efficiently with better technology, and deploying more sets than in previous years. What we now see from the 2012 fishing data is more boats in the fishery, higher overall catches, smaller fish sizes, and the lowest ever levels of fisheries biomass for these tuna stocks.”

In a 15-minute talk to Forum Leaders meeting in Majuro last year, Hurry delivered an unmistakable message: Islands must take the lead to reduce fishing effort in the region to maintain the fishery’s sustainability. Hurry’s presentation didn’t merit even a single mention in the Leaders’ communiqué, indicating, perhaps, the lack of interest in the issue at the Forum officials level. Undaunted, Hurry went to the Forum in Palau at the end of July to make his pitch one last time. The challenge, he says, is that everyone is making so much money—PNA countries have quadrupled their income in four years, and are set to increase it further in 2015 as fishing day fees increase 33 per cent, while the industry has reaped record profits—there is little incentive to conserve.

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