Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nauru slams interpretation of Future of Pacific Fisheries Report

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has just issued a corporate press release publicising the presentation to its governing council this week of a study on the Future of Pacific Fisheries. This study was  commissioned by SPC and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and carried out by consultants with the assistance of an independent steering committee and group of experts in consultation with Pacific Island specialists.

Although the study was published earlier in the year and presented to the SPC Heads of Fisheries, the Forum Fisheries Committee and the Pacific Islands Forum meetings, this was the first time that it had been presented to the SPC's Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations.

The SPC press release on this event has since received wide coverage in the regional and international press.
Mr. Charleston Deiye the CEO of The Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority, said today "We have welcomed “the future of fisheries” study report, but we have to clarify generalizations and apparent misconceptions expressed in the recent media coverage - perceptions that suggest there is a regional problem and an inability of Pacific Island Nations to manage resources".

Most media coverage was based on excerpts of the SPC press release, which was titled “Fisheries face collapse without strategic action”. This press release by the SPC said in its introduction: "A major study of the future of pacific island fisheries indicates that, without concerted strategic action now, fisheries across the region face collapse within the next 25 years”.

Mr Deiye explained that one of the aims of the overall SPC/FFA Future of Fisheries Study is actually to present three scenarios for the future – “worst - if current systems don’t work”, “business as usual” and “best, if we take additional actions”. The report is essentially about identifying the actions that will need to be taken to avoid the worst case scenario in 25 years time when populations are projected to double and fishery resources - particularly coastal fishery resources - will face depletion if existing and proposed governance regimes do not work.

Mr. Deiye pointed out that the "Pacific Islands fisheries, especially artisanal and commercial tuna fisheries of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement*, are today some of the most sustainably-managed and healthy tuna fisheries in the world. There are limits not only on catch, but on effort, and with active participation by coastal states as well as distant water fishing nations through a regional convention - the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention - that fully takes into account the provisions of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement." 

"This is especially so in Nauru and in all the 8 PNA Party Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), which produce almost 30% of global canning tuna  from well managed tuna stocks. We have progressive domestic and regional management regimes including: 100% VMS coverage, 100% coverage by on-board observers, tuna catch retention, high seas and other area closures, FAD bans, effort controls [VDS], in port transshipping, etc. This we understand is not the case in most other high seas tuna RFMOs outside of our region."

He said: “the small island states in the Pacific also benefit from a very active system of independent regional support for their EEZ fisheries management. The PNA Office, FFA and the SPC Oceanic Fisheries Programme all help to operationalise different aspects of regional fisheries conservation and management measures, and to maintain tight monitoring and control of the tuna fishing activities in our waters. We also get substantial support from third parties, particularly in surveillance.” 

"It worries me", stated Mr. Deiye, "when such positive achievements by these small vulnerable island economies are presented in such a negative light by media. Of course, things may be a lot worse in 25 years time if everything we are doing and planning falls apart. “But we are not expecting that everything falls apart!”

Mr. Deiye said “I have every confidence in the ability of my own Authority and the administrations of my neighboring island countries, and our leaders, to keep these tuna fisheries fully sustainable for the future. It would be a disaster for island people if we didn’t. Sustainable tuna resources are the mainstay of many of our economies."

"I want to also point out that the western tropical Pacific purse-seine fishery is an in-zone rather than a high seas fishery. It is not like most of the tuna fisheries in other oceans. It is already subject to the rule of law. We don't have to hope and pray that we will be allowed to develop high seas governance mechanisms through the WCPFC in order to protect our tuna stocks. We already have regionally-harmonised in-zone governance mechanisms, thanks to the Nauru Agreement and supported by the work of the FFA and the SPC Oceanic Fisheries Programme.”

Trolling for tuna in the Pacific dawn

* The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are the Governments of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu

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