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Pacific: Regional meeting to cut overfishing offers disappointing results

At the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the main controversial issue was to find measures to reduce the overfishing of bigeye tuna.

Scientists say bigeye tuna stocks are at record low levels, although some fishing nations say that they are unwilling to limit their fishing effort any further. A Greenpeace Pacific representative highlighted that, last year, there were 3,600 longline vessels registered to fish in the Pacific over half of the global longline fleet as well as 297 large industrial purse seine vessels: This is a record for the Pacific, he said. The WCPFC Fisheries Yearbook shows that China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US together catch 80% of overfished bigeye in the region.

The executive director of the WCPFC admitted that there are too many purse seiners, but "this can be worked out by appealing to the distant water nations' economic goals: the benefit to the distant water fleets and to the Pacific is to have profitable fleets, and you don't have profitable fleets if you have too many boats in there."

Costs also affect the fleets' profitability. Prior to the meeting, the Pacific ACP countries' Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) said that foreign fishing nations must compensate them financially for their conservation burden i.e. their work to manage sustainable tuna fisheries. For example, PNA estimated that their 3-month ban on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) means that they lose US$60 million a year therefore, "the PNA will only impose a longer FAD ban if foreign fishing nations pay US$15 million per month of FAD ban to us to financially compensate us for the conservation burden of this extra measure," emphasised the PNA director.