SI champions rejection of WCPFC ‘unfair’ tuna proposals

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Under Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) Ferral Lasi, singing the revived US Tuna Treaty. Photo: Ronald Toito’ona

Solomon Islands has been instrumental in the Pacific Islands’ rejection of a number of proposal by distant water fishing nations, including those of the European Union (EU), United States of America (USA)and Japan during the recent Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) annual meeting in Fiji.

Solomon Islands Head of Delegation and Under Secretary of Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources,FerralLasi was a stout proponent in rejecting the distant water fishing nations’ proposals, including attempts to get extra fishing days, prevent expansion of Pacific countries domestic fleets and get access to trade information on the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS).

Mr Lasi made this clear during the plenary session on Friday when he objected on behalf of PNA and all Forum Fisheries Agency members to a proposal by Japan to limit purse seine fishing capacity by putting a cap on number of purse seine fishing vessels in the fishery.

He said thatis simply a move to protect existing distant water fishing fleets.

PNA reports that a proposal submitted by the EU as a “conservation and management measure on fisheries access agreements information” to increase transparency of fisheries access agreements would have required the filing with the WCPFC of detailed access agreement information by all Commission members that allow foreign-flagged fishing fleets to fish in their waters for species managed by the Commission.

Solomon Islands Head of Delegation FerralLasi told the WCPFC plenary that Forum Fisheries Agency members did not support the EU proposal, which also had support of the United States.

Mr Lasi said FFA members object to the proposal not because they fear transparency but are already adequately transparent.

“We provide transparency to the Commission in a number of ways,” he said.

“We do this through the provision of operational data on all the tuna fishing that occurs within our EEZs, through our publicly available laws and harmonized minimum terms and conditions, through practices that do not allow us to license vessels that are not in good standing on the FFA Register and on the WCPFC Record of Fishing Vessels, through sub-regional instruments like the PNA Third Implementing Arrangement, and through other provisions that go above and beyond the level of transparency offered by several other (Commission members).”

“Fundamentally, the proposal is anti-competitive,” he said. “There is a long history in this region of distant water fishing states using their economic and political powers to protect the commercial interests of their fleets, including colluding to undermine the interests of FFA Small Island Developing State members.”

He said the consequences of the EU proposal “would strengthen the position of distant water fleets in the process of bidding to secure commercial access to FFA member waters, particularly those of us who have competitive tender processes either in operation or in the process of development.”

Attempts by distant water fishing nations to gain access to commercial details of fishing day sales by PNA members has been an ongoing issue.

An independent review of PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) issued last year said the benefits to PNA members of providing this information to distant water fishing nations “are not obvious.”

Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO Ludwig Kumoru said if the proposal moved forward, it would undermine the commercial interests of member states.

“We have nothing to gain by making trade information available to distant water fishing countries,” Mr Kumoru said, which would only have given distant water fishing fleets an unfair competitive advantage in negotiating fishing access agreements.

“It appears that VDS partners have little if anything to gain by making trade information available to the distant water fishing companies and nations,” the 2015 VDS review said, adding:

“The European Union has a long history of using its powers to protect the commercial interests of its fishing industry in distant waters worldwide,” he added.