The 19th Regular Session of the WCPFC offers an opportunity to further develop fisheries policies which continue to protect tuna stocks and other species in the Pacific Ocean. It’s important that these are developed with increasing awareness of small-scale fisheries and developing states, whilst incorporating an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.
Key challenges for tuna fisheries management policy adjustments relate to the complexity of improving current policies in line with scientific advice updates, while equitably meeting the needs of developing states and all fisheries simultaneously. All major tuna stocks in the Pacific Ocean are not currently overfished, nor experiencing overfishing. It is nonetheless important that Harvest Control Rules and Management Procedures are put in place to ensure that sustainable fisheries management can be maintained following previously agreed adjustments that deal with changing stock conditions over time.
Some aspects of comprehensive monitoring, control and surveillance are currently lacking in the WCPFC. For example, human observer coverage in some fleets was compromised due the COVID-19 Pandemic. Reduced observer coverage means that there is less independent catch data available to help accurately inform stock assessments and effective conservation management measures. Electronic monitoring systems do provide some benefits, but they should not be seen as a flawless replacement of human observers.
The WCPFC is discussing a draft measure aimed at improving the safety, security and well-being of fisher crews, including the effective protection of their human and labour rights. The WCPFC therefore has a unique opportunity to lead other RFMOs by example through ensuring this measure provides additional protections for the most vulnerable in the sector, and guaranteeing adequate safeguards are put in place that protect the human rights of fishers.
IPNLF recognise and support the importance and urgency of this work. Consequently, alongside aligned partners, we have proposed the following enhancements are made to the measure in development;
Recent scientific advice from the WCPFC Scientific Committee states that both the oceanic whitetip shark and the silky shark are experiencing overfishing. Longline gears with wire leaders or specific ”shark lines” are a significant contributor or shark bycatch among Pacific fisheries.