At the tenth annual Ministerial Forum Fisheries Committee meeting on Atafu Atoll in Tokelau early last month Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General James Movick said progress had been made towards a declaration on conservation measures for southe Pacific albacore tuna to make tuna fisheries more sustainable. He said he hoped to take a unified voice to the Tuna Commission meeting in December. A number of important issues relating to the sustainable fishing of tuna were discussed at the Tokelau meeting and strategies formulated for cooperation in a bid to spread costs of compliance and marketing across member nations.
The Pacific Islands have long realised that, given their small economies and limited individual infrastructure set ups, strength lies in cooperation and pooling resources for the collective wellbeing of the fisheries industry. The sector has seen exemplary cooperation between fishing nations in the form of agreements that have been found to be working well for signatory member nations such as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), to name one.
Countries have also individually and collectively set up conservation zones and set up self-limits on fisheries activities toward bringing greater sustainability in the sector. But there are justified fears that all that good work stands threatened because of the decisions that some of the bigger fishing nations from outside the immediate Pacific Islands region, especially the United States of America have taken later last month, not much after the FFA meeting in Tokelau, which was also attended by New Zealand’s new Ambassador to the Pacific, Shane Jones, who has vast experience in New Zealand fisheries.
Late last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States said that it was considering a ban on recreational and commercial fishing of Pacific Bluefin tuna. Estimates put adult Pacific Bluefin tuna at just about 40,000 in the wild. Alarmingly, this is just about four per cent of the fish’s historic average. It is possible that Bluefin tuna will be added to the government’s list of imperilled species.
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• We Say is compiled and edited by Samisoni Pareti