Three regional organisations provide the basis for managing tuna in the WCPO

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) facilitates regional cooperation to manage the sustainable use of tuna. FFA was established in 1979. It helps member countries manage the fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile (320-km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It also develops the capacity of members to sustainably harvest their fishery resources.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) was established in mid-2004 under the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. It operates across the EEZs and the high seas of all waters in the Convention area.

The WCPF Convention seeks to address problems in managing high-seas fisheries, including those related to catch and harvest. These problems include illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, excessive fleet capacity, insufficiently selective fishing gear, unreliable databases, and insufficient multilateral cooperation to conserve and manage highly migratory fish stock.

The Oceanic Fisheries Programme (OFP) of the Pacific Community (SPC) assists the WCPFC and FFA with catch-and-harvest management of tuna fisheries. It develops and maintains databases and monitoring programs, conducts research, provides advice, and builds the capacity of small island developing states (SIDS).

A sub-regional agreement, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, controls fishing in the EEZs of member countries.

Harvest strategies mean more responsive management of fisheries

The WCPFC has agreed to adopt a harvest strategy recommended by SPC. The strategy will cover all four major tuna species in the region: bigeye, skipjack, South Pacific albacore and yellowfin. It will allow fisheries managers to make decisions about fishing limits more effectively. These should see the Pacific fisheries managed better, so that fish stocks can remain healthy. SPC’s Graham Pilling explains (1.26 mins).

PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme controls amount of fishing

The amount of tuna that can be caught in PNA-controlled waters is governed by two vessel day schemes. One is for purse seining and the other for longlining. The schemes limit how many days vessels can fish in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of PNA member countries each year.

The PNA members manage the rules for fishing effort and fishing licences through the Palau Arrangement of the PNA. Each vessel day scheme is managed by a committee, which meets once a year to consider any changes needed.

Vessels need to register for licences through the PNA Office.

Men on deck of tuna fishing vessel. Photo: Francisco Blaha.
Rules for catching tuna in the WCPO help Pacific Island states to manage tuna and other fish sustainably. Photo: Francisco Blaha.