Sapporo, Japan – Members of the Northern Committee (NC)* of the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission  (WCPFC) meeting on Monday next week urgently need to commit to a rigorous recovery plan to address the collapse of Pacific Bluefin tuna stocks. They should also agree on catch limits for tuna weighing less than 30kg, warns WWF.Pacific Bluefin tuna is one of the most valuable fisheries in the Northern Pacific Ocean, supporting a billion dollar industry that sustains the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and contributes to economic growth and social development in the region.

“We are deeply concerned about the fact that Pacific Bluefin tuna breeding stock have declined from their unfished levels by more than 96 percent,” said Dr Aiko Yamauchi, WWF-Japan Head of Fishery and Seafood Project.  “Around 90% of the fishing take is now young fish that have not yet reproduced. It is clear that Pacific Bluefin tuna management in the Pacific is totally inadequate to preserve the tuna stock.”

In September last year, the nine member countries who participated in the Northern Committee (NC) of the WCPFC* took some first steps to protect Pacific Bluefin, in accepting scientific advice to halve the fishing catch of juvenile tuna, a prized but beleaguered fish. The NC further agreed that fishing nations must establish a catch documentation system.

WWF strongly supports catch reduction for juvenile tuna under 30kg but the real urgency is for the WCPFC and its sister body IATTC* to adopt a rigorous, long-term Pacific-wide recovery plan for Pacific Bluefin Tuna with robust harvest control rules and effective mechanisms to cut fishing effort when limits and reference points are being approached.

Japan, the United States and South Korea are the major countries fishing Pacific Bluefin, while the main, dominating consumption market is Japan.

“In case NC fails to agree on robust long-term recovery plan, which should include at least a 20% recovery target for the spawning stock biomass (SSB) size before fishing can take place, fishing Pacific Bluefin tuna should be suspended until precautionary, science-based measures are put in place ” said Yamauchi.

Source: WWF – World Wildlife Fund

* The Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) seeks to address problems in the management of high seas fisheries resulting from unregulated fishing, over-capitalization, excessive fleet capacity, vessel re-flagging to escape controls, insufficiently selective gear, unreliable databases and insufficient multilateral cooperation in respect to conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks. Members of the WCPFC include Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, The United States of America, Vanuatu.  The Northern Committee is a subsidiary body of the WCPFC which provides management recommendations for the stock distribution in the northern Pacific on tuna or tuna-like species including Pacific bluefin tuna, North pacific albacore, North pacific swordfish.  Member countries are: Japan, South Korea, China, The United States, Canada, Philippines, Cook Island, Vanuatu, Chinese Taipei.

* The IATTC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The members of the IATTC are: Belize, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, European Union, France, Guatemala, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, ChineseTaipei, United States, Vanuatu, Venezuela.

 

* Reference point: a benchmark value that helps managers decide how the fishery is performing and is based on an indicator such as fishery stock size or the level of fishing.

A limit reference point is the minimum stock size that can be allowed or level of fishing effort that cannot be exceeded without putting the resource in danger.

A target reference point is the specific fishery stock size or level of fishing effort that ensures a fishery provides optimum benefits.

* A harvest control rule is the pre-agreed management action taken in response to changes in the fishery and/or changes in abundance status in relation to reference points.

The adoption of harvest control rules is a key aspect of modern fisheries management and is also a requirement of important eco-label certification programs such as the Marine Stewardship Council.