Tuna Australia Program Manager, Phil Ravanello, joined the Australian delegation at the 16th annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Port Moresby, PNG recently. The meeting was chaired by Ms Jung-Re Riley Kim replacing outgoing chair Ms Rhea Moss-Christian, who had done an exceptional job over the past few years. The main theme of the meeting was Climate Change.
Many proposals i.e. Conservation Management Measures (CMMs) were put forward, discussed, adopted and rejected at the meeting. An important paper from Australia on future management options for South West Pacific Broadbill Swordfish (BBS) was put forward for consideration. A key element of the paper requested the Commission to task the science provider to assess a range of BBS stock scenarios based on current and future catch. While many elements of Australia’s proposal were supported by most Commission members, there was strong opposition to the proposal. Some countries suggested managing landings would be too difficult for a bycatch species. This is a very disappointing outcome for one of our key target species. Australia, will continue to lead work to strengthen management arrangements for BBS in 2020.
Outcomes from the meeting included the introduction of voluntary de-hooking guidelines for seabirds, which Australia exceeds by a large measure; a CMM on Manta and Devil Rays which has no implications for the ETBF, a revised harvest strategy work plan for tropical tunas, and a road map to guide work in 2020 to manage South Pacific albacore stocks.
Disappointingly, no agreement was reached on target reference points for Yellowfin and Bigeye tuna and Striped Marlin, or revising the Skipjack target reference point in response to the new stock assessment. These will be revisited by the Commission in 2020.
Other items discussed included transshipment, FAD management, purse seining etc. “It was interesting to see how the voting blocs worked together and the amount of negotiation that goes on in the margins to support decision making” said Phil of his observations of the meeting. “Furthermore,it is important to have industry represented at the WCPFC to ensure negotiations reflect industry priorities, and we add value to the process”. The provisional WCPFC meeting outcomes document can be found here