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Pacific tuna longline fisheries. (Photo: YouTube/GreenpeaceVideo)

High-sea closure non-negotiable, PNA insists

  (MARSHALL ISLANDS, 3/14/2012)

With just two weeks until fishing nations and Pacific Islands meet at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) said it will not bow to pressure to open the high seas to foreign fishing.

Each year the WCPFC brings together the Pacific Island countries, Asian nations, US, the European Union (EU) and other foreign fishers to meet and decide rules for fishing of tuna throughout the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest tuna fishery, supplying 50 per cent of the global tuna supply. This year the Commission must decide on a conservation and management measure for tuna at its annual meeting from 26-30 March at the Hyatt Regency in Guam.

Overfishing of bigeye tuna, a popular sashimi fish, caught by longline fishing and as bycatch in purse seine fishing, is a problem in the region despite healthy levels of other tunas such as skipjack tuna (commonly used for canned tuna).

Science indicates that the PNA’s closure of high sea areas bordering their national waters had a significant effect in reducing bigeye tuna catch, in conjunction with other measures (such as controls on Fish Aggregating Devices or FADs).

PNA Director Dr Transform Aqorau said: “In 2008, PNA decided to close high seas to foreign fishing vessels, a move that was a world first, leading the way in conservation. The WCPFC members also supported this high sea closure that year. While recently, some members have been talking about reopening the high seas, this is a vital part of PNA’s conservation and management of tuna. The PNA high sea closure is non-negotiable.”

“Fishing nations should know that no matter what happens at the WCPFC, the high seas around PNA countries will remain closed. Rather than pressurizing us to reduce our conservation and management standards, the PNA is calling on the distant water fishing nations to increase their standards by taking voluntary conservation and management measures this year at WCPFC.”

The PNA are eight countries that cooperate to manage tuna - Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

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