Fri, Aug 11, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Global effort essential to put a halt to overfishing

By Gordon Houlden

Some people believe that being separated by an ocean leaves peoples far apart. For Canada and Taiwan, the ocean happens to bring us closer together.

The world's oceans, and the fish that live within them, are matters of key concern for both Canada and Taiwan. Taiwan has one of the world's largest tuna fishing fleets, and Canada's fishing industry has long been a staple for the economies of our coastal communities.

Unfortunately, the oceans and high seas fisheries that have provided us with so much have not always been cared for properly in return. Today, many fish stocks around the world are either fully exploited or overexploited. If we want future generations to benefit from this resource, we have a duty to stop overfishing and care for the ecosystems that sustain these fish.

Most countries face similar problems in trying to end over-fishing. These include addressing overcapacity in fishing fleets, and preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It is only natural for us to learn from one another and find ways to work in unison to meet common goals. To achieve our goals, we need to work together and deliver concrete results.

Last month, Canada was pleased to take part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Fisheries Working Group and an associated workshop held in Kaohsiung. The title of this workshop was, appropriately enough, "Sharing Experience in Managing Fishing Capacity."

The subsequent working group meeting in Kaohsiung provided an opportunity for participants to move further toward the goal of ending overfishing. It also allowed us to build on the Bali Plan of Action developed during the 2nd APEC ocean-related ministerial meeting held in Bali, Indonesia, last September.

The Bali plan outlines priorities for action in three key areas: balancing conservation and sustainable use; providing for sustainable economic benefits from the oceans; and enabling sustainable development of coastal communities.

This action plan is international in scope and requires a combination of local, regional and global efforts to see it succeed. The role of regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) is key.

The international community is increasingly frustrated by continued overfishing and the resulting depletion of fish stocks, which is occurring, in part, under the watch of RFMOs. Fishing entities around the world must work more effectively through RFMOs to sustainably manage fisheries on the high seas. Canada and Taiwan, for instance, share a responsibility for strengthening and following the fisheries management rules established by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the Western and Central Pacific Tuna Commission when fishing our tuna quotas.

As a result of decisions taken by ICCAT at last year's annual meeting, the Taiwanese fishing fleet has had to make some significant adjustments. Canada, which has had to undertake its own painful adjustments, and other countries are fully aware of the efforts that the Taiwanese government and fishing industry are making to reduce its fleet size and fishing effort, and to ensure that Taiwanese vessels do not engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities. We are encouraged by these efforts and the growing awareness of fishing stakeholders around the world that the international rules for high seas fisheries must be respected.

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