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Tuna fisheries management issues: The stumbling block in EU–Pacific EPA negotiations

September 12, 2013

In a recent article, Islands Business comments on the EUPacific negotiations deadlock, making a link with the European Parliament initiative to define a comprehensive EU fishery strategy in the Pacific, which seeks to confirm the EU refusal to grant any more market access concessions unless their boats are allowed to fish in the Pacific waters. Islands Business estimates that, by initiating this report, the EU has hit back hard at Pacific ACP (PACP) states for refusing to negotiate fisheries conservation measures at their recent negotiations for a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that ended in Brussels in July.

During the last EPA negotiation session, it was reported that progress was made on a number of topics, such as market access offers, rules of origin and SPS measures, but the chapter on fishery became a roadblock. A member of the Pacific ACP negotiating team advised that the EC made recommendations to amend a fisheries treaty dealing with the Vessel Days Scheme (VDS). PACP negotiators made it clear the EPA is a trade agreement and not a fisheries treaty, therefore, any changes to the VDS should be discussed in the relevant forum the Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA) not the EPA. No date has been set yet for the next round of negotiations, although the PACP states informed the EC that the EPA negotiations should be concluded before the end of the year, as directed by the PACP leaders.

Meanwhile, a report presented at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Scientific Committee underlined that tuna catches in the region hit record levels in 2012, coinciding with record global market prices. Thanks to this, PACP country members of the PNA experienced record levels of revenue from tuna caught in their waters up from US$60 million in 2010 to over US$240 million in 2012.

But this booming development alarms environmental groups. Greenpeace stated that there are too many industrial fishing vessels plundering the Pacific at 297 purse seine vessels, this is an all-time high, driving the 2012 record tuna catch. A Greenpeace representative argues that despite countries agreeing five years ago to reduce fishing pressure, limit the most destructive fishing methods, stop fishing in critical ocean areas, and allow tuna stocks to recover, the opposite has happened. She said it would be possible to keep profits in the region by removing foreign boats from the industry, especially those with track records of unsustainable practices.