Pacific problem

Page - January 31, 2007
The Pacific is at a crossroads. One path leads to sustainable and equitable fisheries, a healthy marine environment and stable and prosperous island communities.

Poor management of the tuna fisheries will lead to collapse of the industry and loss of livelihood and food supply for the people of the Pacific.

The other path leads to the collapse of the major tuna fishery and loss of livelihood and food supply for the people of the Pacific.

Unfair fishing

The majority of tuna fishing in the region is being carried out by foreign industrial fishing boats.

These fleets are migrating into the Pacific Region from over fished waters elsewhere in the world - over 70% of the world's fisheries are either being over fished or fished at their maximum level.

These boats often register themselves to countries that do not impose strict requirements on how they conduct their business so as to minimise restrictions on their activities.

Many of these distant water fishing fleets are also supported by governments that provide subsidies to their fishing industries which gives them an economic advantage over fleets from other nations.

These distant governments also often provide aid to the Pacific, which puts Pacific Island nations in a difficult diplomatic position when attempting to tackle issues in relation to the fishing activities of these governments' fleets.

95% of the revenues from the legal tuna fishery go to distant water fishing nations such as Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the European Union and the USA. The financial return to pacific islands nations through access fees and licenses amounts to around 5% of the US$2 billion the catch earns on the market each year.

Poor monitoring     

A major challenge to the sustainability of fisheries in the Pacific region is posed by the limited ability of Pacific Island nations to monitor and regulate fishing activity in pacific waters.

Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (pirate fishing) is likely to be greatly worsening the over fishing problem in the region. Regional fisheries management authorities in other regions have estimated that pirate fishing takes as much as 39% of total catch. Pirate fishing amounts to the theft of fish from Pacific Island governments and law-abiding fishing operators.

No Regulation   

Added to the insidious problem of pirate fishing is the fact that fishing activity in high seas areas is not regulated.

High seas areas lie between the boundaries of Pacific Island nations' waters. There is currently no control over fishing vessel activity in these areas including the amount of fish that they take.

Pacific Island nations with assistance from the Forum Fisheries Agency have been working to respond to the threats to tuna sustainability for some time through a range of legal, managerial and capacity-building initiatives.

The most significant development for fisheries management in the region in recent years has been the establishment of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in December 2004.

This new regional fisheries management organisation is tasked with establishing a management and conservation regime across all the waters of the South Pacific (including the high seas), which should address the regulatory vacuum around much of the fishing effort.