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WCPFC steps forward to tackle PS over fishing capacity

Nowadays, catch by purse-seiners (PS) are increasing rapidly along with ever increasing fishing capacity and they currently catch 60% of the world Tuna and Skipjack. Purse-seiners in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean caught 993,000 tons in 1991, and it had grown to 1,543,000 tons in 2011, according to data released by the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Purse-seine fishery with FADs brings serious impacts on fish stocks, especially on juveniles. Therefore, strengthening FADs regulations becomes also an important issue on tuna resources management. (The catch by longline was 154,900 tons and 266,900 tons in the same year, respectively. The number of large scale longliners is not increased by OPRT members’ voluntary joint efforts. )

In fact, the scientific committee of the WCPFC has determined that bigeye stock is subject to overfishing and that yellowfin stocks are currently being fished at capacity and adoption of limits on fishing skipjack should be considered.

To sustainably utilize tuna stock, the international community has asked for addressing excessive fishing capacity, especially of purse-seiners for a long time. However, countermeasures are making slow progress. There was once an international agreement to freeze the capacity of large-scale purse-seiners of developed countries at the joint tuna RFMOs meeting held in 2011,but no effective countermeasure have been implemented. Rather, the capacity is reported to keep increasing further along with new vessel constructions.

Amid such circumstances, in addition to the management measures for bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna for 2014-2017, the WCPFC adopted a remarkable measure to forthrightly tackle the issue at its 10th regular meeting closed on Dec. 6th in Cairns, Australia. Namely, “developed countries shall jointly develop a scheme to jointly reduce the capacity of large scale purse seine vessels to the level of 31 December 2012 and submit to the next regular meeting.” Moreover, they also agreed on a principle to decrease the number of their vessels when the number in developing island countries increases,” a participant of the WCPFC meeting reported.

Obviously, developed countries have a key to see whether or not such a scheme can become effective. All developed countries should tolerate pains and stop increasing the number and reduce their fishing capacities. If they succeed in this effort, the international community will be able to see some improvements on its long-standing issue.

In addition, the achievement at the WCPFC can affect other regional tuna fishery management organizations. Much is expected for the next regular meeting of the WCPFC.