Far Seas Fishing Countries Are Pressed to Change

Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) adopted measures to address with special requirements of Small Island Developing States and Territories (SIDs) in relation to the conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Convention Area at its regular meeting held in Dec. 2013.

The Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean clearly states that WCPFC shall give full recognition to the positions of islands countries, for which Tuna resource is an important base of their economic developments and food security, and accepts the special requirements for SIDs.  However, those points had been laid out only as in principles, and WCPFC had not made any positive action to implement measures to meet with the requirements of SIDs.

Through this adaptation, WCPFC members are now required to address to the special requirements of the SIDs comprehensively and specifically.  This should gather much attention as it drives changes on far seas tuna fishery by the developed countries.

Key points of the new measures adopted are WCPFC members to cooperate 1) to enhance capacity for conservation and management of fisheries by SIDS and 2) to increase further development of tuna fisheries and related industries of SIDs The targets to improve and raise capabilities of SIDs to improve management include gathering of statistics of catch data, analysis, and training of experts on stock assessment.

This is meaningful for all member countries because those measures will result in to improve resource management capability of WCPFC and to secure sustainable use of resources.  On the other hand, supports for development of tuna fishery by SIDs extend their fishing operations into the high seas have different meaning.

Such cooperation would be made by developed far seas fishing countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and S. Korea.  However, implementing such supports to SIDs would certainly bring about impacts to their own far seas fisheries so that the developed far seas fishing countries need to extend their cooperation while considering the future of their own fisheries.

The following statement in the measure makes member countries to keep aware of the impacts clearly.  “WCPFC member countries make effort so that SIDs’ Tuna fishery makes at least 50% of the total catch and value of highly migratory fish stock in the western and central Pacific Ocean.  To achieve the goal, developed countries make supportive investments and corporation to SIDs.”

This contains detailed objectives. The objective, for example, includes “maintaining and increasing employment opportunities for people in SIDs”, “promotion of landing, trans-shipment, and processing of the products in SIDs,” and “promotion of purchase of fishing equipments and supplies.”

In addition, the statement draws “developed members shall endeavor to take appropriate action to eliminate barriers to trade in fish and fisheries products.

Moreover, developed countries are required to report to WCPFC how they implement the measures every year, and the WCPFC reviews the progresses.  The system has a mechanism not to leave the adopted measures as simply as an object to be focused on.  Since the progress is reviewed every year, it would be just a matter of time that the objectives are to become binding requirements.

The trend to develop tuna fishery of SIDs is to be strengthened further on the background of ever-increasing desires from SIDs, and there seems to be no avenue left open to escape from the trend.  Developed countries should cope with a challenge to reduce their excessive fishing effort but to increase that of SIDs. There are limited options left for developed countries to choose.

Going under such progress, it seems that far seas tuna fishery by developed countries cannot help but to be changed.  Some countries have been shifting their operation from large long-line vessels to smaller vessels, and they appear to do so as considering the trend pushed by SIDs.

(This is a translation from a column in Minato Fisheries Daily of Japan.)


Australia Postpones Stereo Video Usage

In mid. Oct., the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) decided to increase the total Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) quota for 2014 to 12,449 tons, up by 13% year on year, at its annual meeting in Adelaide, Australia.  The 2014 TAC is based on an advice from the Scientific Committee.  This certainly shows a fruitful result of strict catch managements implemented so far.  If the stock recovery is confirmed, there could be possibility to further ease of fishing management, and that would be a good news for a fishing industry.

In order to assess the stock condition of SBT, it is essential to improve accuracy of catch data submitted by tuna farming industr in Australia.  The country takes 42% or 5,151 tons out of the total quota, and majority of the catch is for farming.

SBT caught for farming is kept alive in a net and put into farming cages.  The number of fish caught and the total weight are not counted accurately but are estimated based upon the sample catch regime.

This method makes stock assessment uncertain.  This sample-based estimation also causes a doubt if the fishery management is practiced rigorously.  In case of Japan, the Fisheries Agency (JFA) has established a strict management system.  Length and weight of each SBT caught is individually measured and weighed on board, and fishermen are obligated to record such data into their catch reports.  Further more, landing ports are designated, and at such ports, agents of the JFA verify the SBT and the catch reports.

Scientists are claiming that stereo video cameras make it possible to precisely count the numbers and weights of SBT put into the cages.  It also improves quota management for farming fishery which currently remains opaque.

CCSBT has been discussing on introduction of this video for a long time, and Australia finally committed at the 2012 annual meeting to implement it from this year.
However, Australia announced to postpone it at the annual meeting this year.  Along with the change of the government, “Australia explained that the newly elected  government was concerned that unautomated stereo video monitoring would impose an excessive regulatory and financial burden on the industry. The government had therefore decided to postpone the implementation of stereo video monitoring until an automated solution coulld be developed,” a disclosed report noted.  Japan and New Zealand expressed dissent against it but failed to reverse the Australia’s stand.

It might not be meaningful to discuss if this excuse by Australia is right or wrong.  Rather, it draws a doubt on the stand taken by Australia, disregarding the promise committed by a result of long lasted discussion. 

In 2009, paying out of the national treasury, Japan scrapped 87 long-liners in order to abide with her commitment to reduce quotas of SBT, Bigeye in Central and Western Pacific Ocean, and Bluefin in East Atlantic Ocean.  It certainly was heavy economic burdens on the nation, but more burdens were imposed upon fishermen and fishery industries that had no other choice but to terminate their fishing activities.

However, Japan implemented what it committed with each international tuna fisheries management organization.  Being as a responsible nation, Japanese industries also committed themselves, along with the government, to take stifling heavy economic and social burdens.

An international society was disappointed with the stand taken by Australia against this stereo video monitoring issue.  Australia as a responsible fisheries management nation, should implement her commitment to regain the international trusts without any delay.

(This is a translation from Minato Fisheries Daily of Japan)


On-Board Observers Can Be Robotized?

The Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) require all tuna fishing vessels to carry observers on-board to watch their fishing operations.  In Sept., the Association of Professional Observers (APO, headquartered in the U.S.A.) and an environmental conservation group jointly called on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), urging to take the measures to improve working conditions and to secure safety of observers.

Fisheries observers play a critical role in ensuring the sustainability of fisheries resources for the future generations through the extensive information they collect on the harvest of fish stocks, including impacts on marine habitat and sensitive bycatch species,” the APO said. 

The APO further stated as a concrete example that “They also perform an extremely important monitoring function that helps deter and prosecute IUU fishing. Six tuna purse-seiners operated in the Pacific Ocean were charged for violation of regulations imposed by the WCPFC.  The evidence provided by the observers was the decisive factor that helped to conclude the final judgments and heavy fines against the vessel owners, and the fishing masters of the vessels were imposed.”

The observers involved in the recent prosecution should be commended for their courage and commitment to the resource. However, coming forward to testify against the IUU fishing vessels they were working on could have been a great personal risk,” APO said.  “Faced with deployments on board of fishing vessels that last weeks or even months, these observers are potentially subject to bribes, harassment, threats, intimidation, and even injury or death at the hands of captains and crew who fail to appreciate and to respect the observers monitoring and oversight role.”

To utilize finite resource sustainably, it is necessary for fishing managers to properly control the fishery and to work to prevent illegal fishing activities.  It also highlights the necessity of monitoring by observers.  Along with it, it may be unavoidable to increase the costs.  However, it should also be unavoidable to eliminate conflicts and emotional entanglement between crews and observers because an observer is also a human being.

Is it appropriate to keep depending on observers for monitoring?  I cannot help but doubt it. We may have to start developing new technology to robotize monitoring operations instead of by human being.  Such thoughts came up to me when I read about the earnest request forwarded by the APO.

Actually, new technology is being developed for a vehicle to travel to destinations by itself without any human touch.  It should also be possible to develop a robot observer.  In addition, limiting the monitoring function of the robot observers and combining it to catch reports which each vessel submits, effects of monitoring can actually be more improved.
(This is a translation from Minato Fisheries Daily of Japan.)  
Seafood Ecolabel and Tuna

Seafood Eco-label aims to ensure the sustainability of seafood through consumers' purchase decision. Many eco-labels compete with one another, asserting their own advantages.

It is an acceptable intent to promote sustainably managed fisheries through eco-label scheme, but it is inappropriate to apply the scheme to all fisheries. It is quite clear if we take tuna as an example. Highly migratory tuna is caught in many countries through various fishing methods. Even if a specific tuna fishery is certified as an eco-label candidate, the sustainability of this specific tuna resource can not be secured if other tuna fisheries do not observe the required international management measures for the specific tuna.

To conser ve and manage tuna resources for sustainability, all related countries and industries utilizing the resources need to cooperate to implement managing measures, and only by doing so, effective result should be attained. The sustainability is not attained through partial efforts by a single tuna fishing country or tuna fishing industry. This is why the Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) is established in each ocean and takes responsibility on conservation and management of tuna resources.

Furthermore, tuna caught by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fisher y should be kept out from all markets of the world all together. IUU fishery undermines the management measures implemented by the RFMOs and disturbs stock sustainability. Even if only a part of markets in the world keep out such illegal products, IUU fisher y can use the markets without any regulations to eliminate IUU products. Then, it is impossible to eliminate IUU fishery completely.

The use of seafood eco-label is left in the hands of distributors; therefore it is impossible to keep out all IUU tuna out of the world markets all together by the ecolabel. On the other hand, the RFMO identifies an IUU fishing nation when such country does not implement the management measures adopted by the RFMO. Then, the harvests by such country can be kept out of the markets of the world. If this mechanism is definitely functional, the sustainability of tuna resources can be secured.

The problem occurs when the RFMO loses or weakens its management capacity. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) was once held in doubt with regard to its capability to manage Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, but it has successfully recovered its capability by implementing strict management measures.

Currently, the management capability of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is in question. Due to the difference of opinions between the distant water fishing countries and coastal island countries, the WCPFC has failed to stop overfishing of bigeye tuna stock.

At the upcoming annual meeting in December, the WCPFC needs to adopt an effective management plan to secure sustainable tuna resources in the areas it manages, while overcoming the difference of opinions among member countries. (This is an excerpt from the article in
Minato Fisheries Daily.)


Wave seeking “High Seas Governance” is rising.

In Jun. 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development called Rio+20 took place in Rio de Janeiro.  Over 40,000 participants were joined from governments, business enterprises, and non-governmental organizations from 188 countries across the world and adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) regarding to environmental conservation, poverty eradication, etc.  Regarding to the Oceanic sector, High Seas Alliance (HSA) took this meeting as an opportunity to promote their activities while focusing onto high seas management.  Its goal is to have a legally binding international agreement to manage high seas.

HSA’s members include most of the world’s leading environmental conservation groups such as Greenpeace, The Pew Environment Group, and WWF, and the members seem to be increasing even now.  In addition, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the largest global conservation network which includes more than 200 governments, is also a member of the HSA.  As a result, it becomes a substantially powerful pressure group.

HSA claims that it facilitates international cooperation in order to establish high seas protected areas and to strengthen high seas governance Then, why do they make campaign for high seas, especially?  The answer is indicated in their claim.  According to HSA, “High sea areas make up nearly 50% of the surface of the Earth and include some of the most environmentally important, critically threatened and least protected ecosystems on our planet.” 
As for the current management of high seas, “regional and sectoral management mechanisms have failed.  The existing framework of governance is not fit for the purpose,” it mentioned.  In addition, it claims that making an international High Seas Biodiversity Agreement is the only way to address the issue.  It would be difficult to oppose against its claim when seeing the current situation of Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission which “is now facing difficulty to address the overfishing capacity in the region..
However, HSA’s “high seas protected areas” includes an idea to ban fishing activities in the areas completely.  For tuna fishery which pursues highly migratory species swimming high seas freely, it might mean the denial of fishing activities. 

Global environment conservation” and “maintaining biological diversity” are important for the future, but we should not forget another global issue for the future how we can secure food, given the world population is foreseen to increase from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. Setting protected areas which would unreasonably block sustainable use of food resources can not be simply justified under such situation. As a consequence, the only solution is to find a way to solve both issues.

HSA urges an international society and government to begin negotiation immediately to establish a new binding agreement.  Hereafter, their movement for “high seas management” may become a big wave and surge to high seas fishing countries and industries.  It is difficult for them to escape from surging waves which has an agenda of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in its context.  They need to face it seriously and pull through it.  To do so, it is at least essential for Regional Fishing Management Organizations to improve and to exert its management capacity.  In short, RFMOs need to be turned into truly responsible and capable organizations.  It is obviously important for them to implement effective stock management measures. Moreover, from now on, it will be necessary for them to dedicate their energy to measures for oceanic environmental conservation as well as for biological diversity.

(This is a translation from the article published by Minato Fisheries Daily of Japan.)


Overcapacity--WCPFC Must Overcome

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is going to hold a working group meeting Aug. 27-30th in Tokyo in order to develop a draft for a multi-year management program to be implemented between 2014 and 2017. The program will be established at the WCPFC annual meeting in December.

The annual meeting in 2012 decided to establish the upcoming working group meeting this year. In the report of the 2012 meeting, the WCPFC frankly acknowledged its failure on the Tuna stock management. It said that "since the foundation of the WCPFC, a number of resolutions and Conservation and Management Measures (CMMs) were developed to mitigate the overfishing of bigeye and yellowfin tuna and to limit the growth of fishing capacity in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean and that these measures have been unsuccessful in either restricting the apparent growth of fishing capacity or reducing the fishing mortality of bigeye or juvenile yellowfin tuna."
In addition, it noted clearly the current urgent stock condition, saying that "the Scientific Committee has determined that the bigeye stock is subject to overfishing, and that yellowfin stocks are currently being fished at its capacity, reductions in fishing mortality are required in order to reduce the risks that these stocks will become overfished."

As long as the WCPFC recognized the current situation so severely, I bet the working group meeting can't make the program to be simply a formality with little effectiveness. However, to halt on sharply increasing fishing capacity of large-scale purse-seiners and newly emerging small-scale long-liners as well as limitation of FADs based operation are painful measures for many related fishermen. As such, then, can those measures be smoothly adopted into the new program? As watching how the WCPFC has been performing so far, it seems not to be easy.

The OPRT held its members' meeting regarding these issues in Tokyo with its members in Japan and abroad at the end of June. A member stated that "the tuna fishery in the Central and Western Pacific Ocean will be extinct if the issues keep standing as they are," while others said "unless actions are taken to freeze the number of large-scale purse seiners globally, the increase will never be stopped under agendas of the industrial countries and developing countries. The developing islands countries seemingly desire to develop the tuna fishery by inviting purse-seiners from overseas while developed countries try to justify increasing the number of vessels by taking advantage of such island countries." Such harsh opinions made me recognize the seriousness of the current situation and the depth of these issues.

Even if the working group meeting comes out with highly ef fective program to recover and stabilize the stock condition, will it be adopted as it is at the annual meeting? Especially, under the principle of not to entrench legitimate rights of developing countries, there might be no room left for any people to raise disagreement on such principle. Being as such, at the conclusion of the discussion, the program may become mutilated as it may include measures to approve an exception for island developing counties to increase the number of fishing vessels, which may eventually nullify the effectiveness of the program. I have a deep and endless apprehension over the outcome.

If such exception, regardless of to what extent, is approved, the catch capacity will never effectively be controlled. Even if any small exception is admitted, the new plan needs to show security that it will not harm the effectiveness of catch capacity control. Otherwise, the WCPFC will end up by exposing how incapable it is in managing relevant issues to the world.

Will the WCPFC be able to regenerate its ability as the stock management organization? The working group meeting being held in this month will be a key to see whether or not such revitalization can be attained.

(This is a translation from Minato Fisheries Daily in Japan.)


RFMOs’ efforts needed to effectively control FADs

Aware that approximately half of the global tuna catch comes from fisheries that employ Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), but the information on the exact number of FADs deployed and their locations is generally not shared with fisheries scientists and managers”
Concerned about the impacts from the unconstrained use of FADs including, inter alia, large increases in fishing mortality of juvenile Yellowfin and Bigeye, differences in
sizes and ages of target catch compared with free-school caught tuna, increased difficulty of properly assessing the status of individual tuna populations…”
Above statements are excerpts from the preamble of the resolution adopted by the IUCN in the World Conservation Congress (WCC) held in the Republic Korea, 6-15 September, 2012. It explains the fundamental problem concerning the use of FADs to catch tunas. The resolution called on Tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to establish har vest control rules. It further called on tuna RFMOs and governments to take steps to improve the traceability of tuna catch, as well as to minimize illegal, unregulated and unreported tuna fishing. It goes without saying that the tuna RFMOs and their member governments, being responsible for ensuring sustainable tuna resources and fisheries, should establish rules to control FAD use.
The present situation in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean in terms of FAD use seems to be posing a serious and real problem causing overfishing. Namely, the total fishing days by using FADs increased to 21,500 days in 2011 from 13,032 in 2010 in the region against the introduction of a 3-month period banning the use of FADs. The measures were apparently not effective. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and its member governments are required to give serious attention to such a fact and make their best efforts to introduce more effective measures. Sustainable tuna fisheries in the region would become just a dream unless virtually ef fective measures are implemented. Differences in interests between advanced nations and developing nations should be overridden in dealing with this problem.