Sun, Dec 09, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Sustainable fishing reviewed

DISAPPOINTING CATCH:Greenpeace said the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission failed to achieve effective plans for sustainable resource management

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

The recently concluded Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting has decided on temporary measures to adjust the amount of tuna comprising a sustainable catch and imposed a ban on setting nets on whale sharks.

According to Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency, the meeting reached a conclusion on safeguarding the tuna population in a five-year plan, which is to set temporary measures to manage fishing of bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna and skipjack tuna in the first year and establish a workgroup to plan fish management programs for the following four years.

The total fish catch in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is about 2.4 million tonnes each year, accounting for about 60 percent of the total global catch, the agency said, adding that it is also the most important area for tuna fishing.

The four major tuna species managed by the WCPFC are the bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and albacore tunas, but so far, only the bigeye tuna population is threatened by overfishing. The populations of the other three species are still healthy, so the fish management plans must be carefully established on the basis of scientific research, the agency said.

The one-year temporary management measures included extending the ban on using fish aggregation devices from three months a year to four months. However, if a member nation chooses to ban the usage of aggregation devices for three months a year, it would have to reduce the number of times it spreads the devices by a third, the agency said, adding that Taiwan and South Korea voluntarily agreed to cut longline catch by 2 percent, while China was required to reduce its catch by 10 percent.

The meeting also decided to ban setting nets on whale sharks and required fishing vessels to implement certain measures to avoid harming sea birds while they operate, the agency added.

However, environmental protection group Greenpeace expressed disappointment with the outcome of the meeting, saying it failed to achieve effective plans for the sustainable management of fish resources.

The meeting’s most disappointing decisions included extending the prohibition period of fish aggregation devices by only one month and allowing several Philippine purse seine vessels to access pockets of high sea that had previously been closed to fishing, the group said.

Greenpeace in Taiwan said there are many purse seine vessels operating in the western and central Pacific, with Taiwan having the highest number at more than 1,500 vessels.

However, while the Fisheries Agency has committed to cutting the fish catch by 2 percent, it has failed to make public information on the number of vessels and fishing quota allocation it will allow, the group said, urging the agency to come up with more aggressive and credible strategies to ensure sustainable fishing.

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