Saturday, October 8, 2011

Nauru calls for closure of Pacific high seas enclaves to longline fishing

At the Technical and Compliance Committee meeting of the WCPFC this week, Nauru has asked for serious consideration to be given to closing high seas pockets in the Western Pacific to longline fishing. Currently these areas are closed only to purse-seine fishing.

This is the high seas pocket that Nauru is proposing should be closed to all tuna fishing

The WCPFC (Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission) is the intergovernmental body that is responsible for managing the high seas of the region, and provides a forum for fishing countries and fishing grounds-owning countries to meet and agree region-wide precautionary limits on tuna fishing.

CEO of Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority, Charleston Deiye, is skeptical of claims that flag states are completely in control of their longliners operating in the high seas pocket bordering the Nauru zone. "The vast majority of these longliners do not have an observer aboard, and since we gained access to the WCPFC vessel monitoring system (VMS) for the 100 nautical mile high seas "buffer area" outside the Nauru exclusive economic zone, we have seen that there are many longliners operating just outside the limits of Nauru jurisdiction. In some cases they are entering our zone for brief periods in the middle of movements that looks suspiciously like fishing patterns".

The Commission is not yet in a position to control the activities of these vessels. "We saw at this WCPFC TCC meeting that flag states will go to great lengths to avoid any agreement that restricts their 'freedom to fish' on the high seas, particularly in the inconclusive discussion on what action these vessels should take if their automatic location communicators fail", Mr Deiye said. "We want to see the Commission given full powers to control fishing on the high seas of the region, but until that day comes the only effective protection is to entirely close the high seas pocket that borders the Nauru zone".

"It is not as if they will not be able to fish", he continued. "After all they are fishing for highly migratory species - the fish will come to them. And it is not even as if the high seas are the best fishing grounds. We would prefer that they do their fishing in areas where their activities can be monitored and subject to the effective rule of law".

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