WCPFC meet after three years due to COVID-19

Newly appointed Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Feleti Teo

The Executive Director of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Feleti Teo says the Commission was severely challenged to adapt and to adjust to a new working environment dictated by the disruptive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on international travels and modes of transacting businesses.

This week’s WCPFC19 meeting is the first physical meeting of the Commission for the last three years since the dawn of the global pandemic.

The last physical meeting was the annual meeting of the Commission in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in December 2019.

Teo said as delegates gather in Da Nang and plot the way forward for the Commission, it would serve their purpose well, if they take stock of the lessons learnt of the last three years.

“So, what an excitement and thrill to reconnect in person with most delegates and to meet up in person for the first time with colleagues that we only viewed on computer screens and spoken to virtually.

“As your Executive Director, I was full of admiration and marveled at the high level of resilience, adaptability and perseverance of the Commission membership.

“Despite the Commission’s inability to meet physically and the constraints and confinements of virtual meetings, the Commission was able to sustain over the period of three years its routine operations and functionalities as mandated by its founding document, the WCPF Convention,” he said.

Teo said although there were slippages in the achievement of agreed timelines for some of the more technically challenged issues like those associated with the implementation of the Harvest Strategy work plan, the Commission was able to avoid avoidable gaps in its conservation and management regime.

“The Commission continued to undertake its scheduled stock assessments; the Commission was able to sustain and continued the operations of its compliance and monitoring control and surveillance tools and programmes; the Commission was able to sustain the operations of the WCPFC compliance and monitoring scheme and even undertook improvements to it; the Commission was able to negotiate virtually a revised tropical tuna measure in 2021; and the Commission was also able to convene on a trial basis the first virtual science-management dialogue this year to name a few.

“The achievements I just cited, despite the most challenging operational circumstances encountered in the short history of the Commission attest to the unique character of the WCPFC, that I have come to acknowledge and appreciate over my tenure as Executive Director – and that is the Commission’s ability to rise to the occasion and do right for the sustainability of the health of the fish stocks under the purview of the Commission,” says Teo.

Teo steps down in 2023

Meanwhile, WCPFC executive director Feleti Teo has also announced that he is stepping down from the position in March next year.

Teo made the announcement at the opening of the Tuna Commission Meeting (WCPFC 19) in Dan Nang, Vietnam.

“As I would take my discharge from the WCPFC early in the new year, I will do so with fond memories and a sense of self-satisfaction.

“It was eight years ago in Apia, Samoa at WCPFC11 in December 2014 that I was entrusted with the insurmountable responsibility of the Executive Director of the WCPFC. A responsibility I would like to think I carried with all seriousness, and with dignity and humility.

“Now, as I look back, I am very grateful and respectful to having been a very small part of the journey of the WCPFC for the last eight years. As the WCPFC scaled new heights and stood tall amongst the other tuna regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) with many success stories and achievements unmatched by its counterparts in other regional oceans. A moment to treasure and revel in it.

“And I have many, many people to thank for their support to me on that journey.

“But I would resist the urge to do that at this juncture as I still have a huge task to carry out this week which is to support Madam Chair in managing this meeting to its successful conclusion on Saturday. And hopefully, I would have the opportunity at the end of the week to express those thanks and gratitude,” Teo told delegates and participants at WCPFC.

PACNEWS understands there are several applicants jockeying for the role, including two female Pacific Islanders with strong credentials.

“I think it is likely we will see one of those two in the role, but there are some pretty strong politics and personalities at play,” an observer said.

The Cook Islands Government announced last month its support for the candidacy of Dr Lara Manarangi-Trott for the position while former WCPFC chair Rhea Moss-Christian is another women candidate for the job.

The Executive Director is appointed for a term of four years and may be re-appointed for a further term of four years. This decision is expected to be taken at the WCPFC19 this week.

Vietnam to become full member of WCPFC

Vietnam has expressed its desire to become a full member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

The announcement was made by Dr Tran Dinh Luan, Director General of the Directorate of Fisheries of the Government of Vietnam in his keynote address at the Tuna Commission Meeting in Da Nang Monday.

“I would also like to express my hope that Vietnam will actively participate and contribute effectively in the regional management mechanism of WCPFC as a full member of WCPFC. Implement the region’s joint commitment and efforts to strengthen the traceability of Tuna Products, conserve and sustainably develop migratory seafood resources, combat illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing, in compliance with regional and international towards responsible fisheries,” Dr Luan told delegates.

Vietnam is a non-member but cooperating country (CNM) of the WCPFC from 2009 to date.

“Through the WCPFC’s projects, it has created favourable conditions for Vietnam to receive technical support and advanced technology in the exploitation and preservation of Tuna and swordfish.

Dr Luan said the Da Nang meeting is the most important event of the year for the Commission to set out policies and measures to manage the region’s tuna fishery in the following year.

“This is a great opportunity for Vietnam’s fishing industry in general and Tuna fishing, in particular, to integrate deeply with the world’s fisheries, contributing to strengthening cooperation with countries participating in the Fisheries Commission. Pacific Midwest and regional fisheries organisations, and multilateral organisation”.

He said in the first 10 months of 2022 fishery export turnover for Vietnam reached US$9.4 billion.

More than 600 delegates are attending the WCPFC19 in Vietnam.