Islander runs for top tuna job

A former deputy secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum is the only Pacific islander to be shortlisted for the top job at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Feleti Teo, who recently concluded a two-term stint as DSG at the Suva-based Forum Secretariat, is up against significant competition from four shortlisted candidates, all of whom have heavyweight fisheries experience on their resumes.

Teo is no stranger to the fisheries world, having headed the Forum Fisheries Agency for two terms. But his strength will be in his long-term experience at the head of regional agencies and being the lone Pacific island representative on the shortlist. The Tuna Commission executive director is a key post for island and distant water fishing nations alike. The Commission was established by a treaty that went into effect in 2004 with the mandate of regulating and monitoring fishing on the high seas in the central and western Pacific Ocean.

In the ensuing 10 years, bigeye tuna is now on the “overfished” list and yellowfin tuna is being fished at its upper limits of sustainability, while the number of vessels filling their holds with tuna and the sophistication of fishing technology continue increasing every year. Sustainability of bigeye and yellowfin stocks are looming as the major battleground for the WCPFC, which holds its annual meeting from 1-5 December in Apia, Samoa.

The WCPFC is under pressure at its December meeting in Samoa to agree to deep cuts in fishing effort for bigeye and yellowfin to bring catch volumes down to sustainable levels. But the WCPFC has danced around the issue for several years, approving measures that have fallen far short of what is needed to sustain Pacific tuna stocks. “If we want a train wreck instead of a sustainable fishery, we should keep going the way we are now,” Glenn Hurry, the recently departed WCPFC executive director, said in July.

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