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.)