Call for control of longline fishing on high seas

The Pacific has called for the control of longline fishing on the high seas at the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting currently underway in Manila.

The Western and Central Pacific Ocean is the source of about 2.8 million metric tons of tuna valued at US$5.3 billion, representing 79 percent of the aggregate catch in the entire Pacific Ocean and 56 percent of the global tuna catch.

WCPFC is a regional fisheries-management organisation that governs fishing activities, particularly of tuna, in the high seas or waters that do not belong to any country.

Delegates from American Samoa at the meeting are Director of Marine and Wildlife Resources Vaamua Henry Sesepasara and Archie Taotasi Soliai of StarKist Samoa.  Joe Hamby of Tri Marine International, owners of Samoa Tuna Processors is also attending.

PacNews quotes Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General, James Movick saying although there has been an improvement in the data that has been collected from vessels operating in the High Seas there clearly is not sufficient or robust controls over the High Seas longline fleet activity.

“The other aspects of Highseas that need to be considered carefully is the control of longline fishing on the High Seas which is a flag-based measure (one that is based around rights of the nationality of the fishing vessel)at the present time.  And although there has been an improvement in the data that has been collected from vessels operating in the High Seas there clearly is not sufficient or robust controls over the High Seas longline fleet activity.

Photo: Forum Fisheries Agency

“And it is important as the Longline fleet is the major source of bigeye (tuna) mortality,” Movick said

Movick said , “On the purse seine side we’re able to have 100% observer coverage, much more verification of catches etc…Unfortunately at the present time we don’t have a similarly high degree of confidence in the data we’re receiving from High Seas activities targeting the big bigeye tuna and the longline fishery.

“There needs to be better control over the Longline fishery in the High Seas,” Movick told regional journalists in a media briefing in Manila.

Although it has been difficult getting data off longline boats and putting independent fisheries observers on board, Movick said the task is possible to achieve.