Tuna Workshops Boost Effort for Management of Pacific Island Fisheries

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is scheduled to meet in December in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, to negotiate a new tropical tuna measure, covering key tuna stocks of skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye.

The meeting comes in the wake of an informal meeting in September of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) and the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority, (MIMRA), who met at WCPFC headquarters in Pohnpei, Micronesia, to discuss longline fishery management components of the WCPFC.

Workshop participants included individuals from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA), other Pacific Island Countries, the United States, Taiwan and South Korea.

The workshop was the third one held this year by the council and MIMRA on longline provisions with the WCPFC’s marquee tropical tuna measure, which expires at the end of 2023. Nearly 60% of global tuna supply is covered under the WCPFC’s tropical tuna measure.

The WPRFMC report released on Monday, Oct. 9, said that the latest 2023 Pacific Community stock assessment for bigeye tuna showed that under recent catch levels, as well as greater levels of exploitation, the bigeye tuna stock is projected to increase.

During the workshop, staff discussed projections that forecast stock biomass depletion levels and associated risks of breaching biomass sustainability limits under varying longline catch and purse seine effort scenarios.

The bottom line, according to the council, is that there’ s still room to increase longline catches and allow some decreases in purse seine fish aggregating device closures, while still meeting WCPFC conservation objectives.

The United States’ existing bigeye longline limit is caught in its entirety by the Hawaii-based longline fishery and is reached every year by October, but often earlier. The U.S. longline limit is based on a single year (2004) as its baseline and has never been commensurate with the Hawaii longline limited entry permitted fishery’s capacity.