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Forum debates fisheries management

At the Pacific Islands Forum, regional leaders adopted a new agreement to strengthen enforcement and surveillance over the region’s fisheries. In a ceremony during last month’s meeting in Palau, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully signed the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA), while Samoa and Vanuatu ratified their signature. With 11 countries already signed on to the treaty and three previous ratifications (Cook Islands, Nauru and Palau), the agreement now enters into force for the countries that have ratified it. The NTSA is an amendment to the 1992 Niue Treaty on Cooperation in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement, and will allow Forum countries to share powers over surveillance of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and fisheries enforcement.

It also approves the sharing of fisheries data and intelligence between countries, to improve law enforcement over illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. The agreement comes as the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) moves to develop new management schemes for southern albacore, a prolific species of tuna that is mostly targeted by long line fishing fleets. Meeting in Tokelau last July, Forum fisheries ministers agreed to develop a proposal for the next Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting, setting catch limits for the entire stock of albacore and placing a limit on the high seas albacore fishery.

In Palau, FFA director James Movick stressed that proposals on albacore management under the Atafu Declaration were similar to existing schemes for other tuna such as bigeye and skipjack. “These measures for albacore are based on similar principles,” he said. “Members have rights, and in asserting those rights collectively as the Pacific islands coastal states, we then require the other members of the WCPFC to adopt measures that are compatible with those that we have adopted in our zone.” In Palau, regional technical agencies received new funding pledges, with New Zealand announcing NZ$66 million (US$55.813m) for regional fisheries over five years and an additional $4 million (US$3.382m) for the FFA, while Australia added A$23.5 million (US$21.715m) over four years for the FFA and Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

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