Zeming calls for action to protect pacific high seas

Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Mao Zeming has joined his colleagues in the pacific region in voicing concern about uncontrolled fishing in the “high seas”.

High Seas are pockets or corridors outside of the exclusive economic zones of countries in the region, which are targeted for tuna by fishing boats from Asia and the US who consider fishing in the zones two expensive.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) based in Federated State of Micronesia is the body responsible for the management and conservation of tuna in the 17 Forum Fisheries Agency member countries.

At the 13th WCPFC meeting in Fiji last week, Ministers from the region expressed concern about the lack of an effective plan and strategy to control tuna fishing in their waters.

They wanted the Commission to concentrate on managing the high seas, while each member country worry about management measures in its own zone.

“The lack of prudent action by the Commission on the High Seas is a serious concern. This failure places a burden on Small Island Developing States, and hinders us maximizing the full potential of our fisheries,” Mr Zeming said when delivering the country statement for PNG.

“This highlights the continued failure of all of us gathered here. As a member, PNG calls on the Commission to ensure that appropriate and effective mechanisms are developed to protect our most valuable resource.”

Minister Zeming said the Commission should focus on the effective management of tuna in the high seas while each country develop its own conservation measure for its EEZ.

The pacific is home to 70% of the world’s tuna, but falling stock has led to concerns about the effectiveness of management and conservation measures employed by various bodies in the region.

PNG is one of 8 countries that are Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), which sells fishing access to US and Asian fleets using the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), introduced in 2009 to replace the quota scheme.

The VDS has seen revenue to the PNA member countries rise sharply in the last three years, with revenue to PNG rising from K80 million in 2009 to K400 million in 2015.

But the US and other fishing fleets consider the VDS very expensive, and are seeking more access to the high seas.

Concerns were raised during discussions this week that the WCPFC does not even know how many boats are fishing in the High Seas.

The Commission is expected to come up with a quota for each party and management plan for the high seas during this meeting, which ends on Friday.

Freddy Mou