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Pacific's healthy tuna stocks opens door to sustainable management

Four key tuna stocks in western and central Pacific are in a healthy state.

This was the results of the latest tuna stock status assessments, announced during the 16th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (W.C.P.F.C.) meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

“It is globally significant as the Western and Central Pacific region accounts for 54 per cent of the global tuna catch,” states a joint media released by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Pacific Community.

The Pacific Community (S.P.C.), the contracted science services provider of the W.C.P.F.C. – which is the Regional organisation for Fisheries conservation and management for the Pacific –  estimated the total tuna catch in the W.C.P.F.C. Convention Area for 2018 at 2,790,859 tonnes - which marks a small drop from the record high of 2,885,044 tonnes recorded in 2014.  

“The total tuna catch in the W.C.P.F.C. Convention Area for 2018 represented 81 per cent of the total Pacific Ocean catch (3,443,174 tonnes), and 54 per cent of the global tuna catch (the global tuna catch estimate for 2018 being 5,172,543 tonnes).

According to the W.C.P.F.C.’s Executive Director Feleti Teo, the region has had all of its key commercial tuna stocks of bigeye, skipjack, south Pacific albacore and yellowfin tuna assessed to have been managed and maintained above agreed sustainable levels. 

“This accomplishment is not matched by any other regional ocean in the world,” he said.

“A sustainably-managed, healthy fishery is fundamental to both the food security and the revenue generated from the most important natural resource of Pacific Island countries and territories,” says Dr. Graham Pilling, the S.P.C. Director (Oceanic Fisheries Programme).

“The healthy status of W.C.P.O. tuna stocks is attributed to the management of the fishery through the W.C.P.F.C. process and its members, including the key roles played by the Pacific Island member countries and subregional fisheries agencies including the Fisheries Forum Agency (F.F.A.) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (P.N.A.),” he added.

However, such an accomplishment can make parties complacent and less vigilant in the collective conservation efforts, the conference in Port Moresby heard. 

While the Western Central of Pacific Ocean (W.C.P.O.) tuna stocks are currently healthy, there remains other challenges such as certain W.C.P.O. billfish and shark stocks are in need of urgent attention.

There are also other challenges, such as the economic impacts resulting from the recent decline in the price of skipjack tuna, which has fallen below US$1,000/MT for the first time in a number of years. 

To avoid complacency and to address these challenges, the W.C.P.F.C. is focused on developing and implementing harvest strategies for the key tuna stocks. 

The harvest strategies work of the W.C.P.F.C. is focused on achieving long-term fishery objectives, such as improving economic performance while ensuring stock sustainability.

“I am very grateful to S.P.C. for their significant contribution to providing science and data inputs into the important Harvest Strategy work of the Commission, and their innovative efforts and initiatives to engage with cooperating members, cooperating non-members and participating territories and contribute to building their capacity in terms of harvest strategy,” said Jung-re Riley Kim, chair of the W.C.P.F.C.

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