Date: November 29, 2016

One year ago, as the 12th Regular Session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) approached, we published a blog post sharing ISSF’s view of priorities and potential solutions for tuna fisheries in the WCPO region.

Now that the WCFPC annual meeting is again upon us — in Nadi, Fiji, on December 5-9 – we have compared our 2016 position statement with last year’s list of calls for action.

Unfortunately, what we have found is that many of the issues in need of attention remain the same — including addressing the overfished state of bigeye and overcapacity in fishing fleets; requiring the use of non-entangling FADs; reforming the WCPFC compliance-monitoring process; strengthening longline observer-coverage compliance; and transshipment regulation.  

The progress needed in the WCPO is critical to tuna sustainability – as more than half of the world’s tuna production comes from this part of the Pacific, as noted in ISSF’s latest “Status of the Stocks” report.

In Nadi next week, WCPFC members once again have the chance to ensure the sustainability of all of the region’s tuna resources and marine ecosystems — by adopting science-based conservation and management measures that address the following 12 key priorities.

12 Priorities for Action at WCPFC Meeting

  • Bigeye tuna: WCPFC has made progress adopting limit reference points for bigeye. But the Commission can further prevent overfishing by eliminating conservation measure exemptions and adopting management measures that are easier to enforce.
  • Skipjack tuna: WCPFC has put target reference points for skipjack in place, but to maintain them, limiting fishing days in purse seine fisheries may be necessary. It’s also important to fully fund the SC12 request for a skipjack tagging program.
  • Harvest strategies: Stick to the 2015 harvest strategy work plan. Decide now on a rebuilding time frame for bigeye, management objectives for albacore, and acceptable levels of risk so that Management Strategy Evaluations (MSE) and other work can move forward in 2017.
  • Compliance process: Reform the Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS) process to allow accredited observers at working group meetings and also to publicize information on activities to address non-compliance.
  • Non-entangling FADs: When FADs are being used, require non-entangling ones to prevent catching sharks, turtles, and other nontarget species. In addition, develop FAD management recommendations, including vessel reporting on FAD deployment, FAD design, and more.
  • Supply vessels: Count supply vessels, require observer coverage, and collect and monitor data on vessel activities (bait boats, FAD use, fishing, etc.).
  • IUU: Ratify the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, and implement it in the region.
  • Sharks: Adopt SC12 recommendations to prohibit shark lines, and require sharks to be landed with fins naturally attached.
  • Observer coverage: In longline fisheries, sanction non-compliance with the 5% observer coverage requirement. Task the Scientific Committee with recommending a new, higher coverage level, such as the 20% recommended by IATTC and ICCAT scientists, to ensure better bycatch estimates.
  • Electronic monitoring: Adopt standards for e-monitoring in longline fisheries, as recommended by the EmEr Working Group and the Technical and Compliance Committee.
  • Transshipment: In longline fisheries, amend Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) 2009-06 to improve product traceability and curtail IUU fishing. Ensure members meet data obligations and deadlines, including through compliance processes.
  • Fishing capacity: Use closed vessel registries, and develop a common currency to measure capacity. Task the Scientific Committee with recommending longline capacities consistent with sustaining target tuna stocks, and support the Kobe III call to transfer capacity to developing nations.

We encourage you to also read our WCPFC position statement, which covers these recommendations for the Commission — and the background information below — in more detail.

Background and Links on WCPFC Issues
Click the links to read ISSF reports and Web resources on these topics.

Bigeye and Skipjack Tuna
Although bigeye catches in 2015 were 16% lower than in 2014, short-term projections reviewed by SC12 show that bigeye remains overfished. To end overfishing, fishing mortality needs to be reduced by about 36%. Skipjack is around the interim Target Reference Point (TRP) adopted by WCPFC, but fishing could increase unless there is effective capacity management.

Blog on Pacific bigeye (from
Tuna species: An overview
ISSF 2016-05B: Status of the World Fisheries for Tuna (Nov. 2016)
How the IOTC RFMO enacted HCRs for skipjack (infographic) 

Harvest Control Rules (HCRs), Reference Points, and Harvest Strategies
HCRs are well-defined management actions that respond to changes in stock status related to target and limit reference points. ISSF endorses applying the Precautionary Approach, using clear target and limit reference points and HCRs, as called for by the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and by some RFMO Conventions.

Video about HCRs
How the IOTC RFMO enacted HCRs for skipjack (infographic)
All Journeys Start with a Single Step
ISSF 2013-03: Report of the 2013 Stock Assessment Workshop. Harvest Control Rules and Reference Points for Tuna RFMOs 

Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS) and Transparency
There is a lack of transparency in WCPFC’s Compliance Monitoring Scheme (CMS):

  • Observers are not allowed in the CMS working group meetings.
  • Member responses to identified non-compliance issues are not released publicly.
  • Member reports on the implementation of WCPFC measures, known as Part II reports, are confidential.

ISSF noted these issues during the 2015 WCPFC meeting. Once again, we advocate reforming the CMS process.

ISSF 2016-06: Promoting Compliance in Tuna RFMOS: Mechanics of Reviewing, Assessing & Addressing Compliance With RFMOs
ISSF 2016-01: Observer Programs for Purse Seine Vessels and Best Practices

Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) Management  
Although FADs are a leading fishing method for tropical tunas, t-RFMOs have information gaps about how many FADs are being used and in what kinds of fishing operations. ISSF welcomed the creation of a Working Group on FAD management options in 2014, and was pleased to participate in the 2015 and 2016 meetings.

Video on managing floating objects
Video on saving sharks
Saving sea turtles (infographic)
ISSF guide to non-entangling FADs
ISSF 2016-08: Advances in the Use of Entanglement-Reducing Drifting Fish Aggregating Devices in Tuna Purse Seiners

Shark Protections
SC12 recommended that WCPFC reconsider conservation measure 2010-07, which allows members to exclude one mitigation technique (either wire trace or shark-lines). Shark lines catch mostly silky and oceanic whitetip sharks, whose retention is prohibited. Landing sharks with fins naturally attached is the best way to monitor compliance with finning bans and to collect data on shark catches, which is vital to shark conservation and management.

Guidebooks that feature best practices for shark handling and bycatch mitigation practices
Protecting sharks: Reducing shark bycatch in purse seine fisheries (infographic)
Mitigating problematic bycatch in tuna fisheries (blog post)
ISSF 2016-13: Compendium of ISSF At-Sea Bycatch Mitigation Research Activities as of July 2016

Longline Fisheries: Observer coverage, transshipment, and operational-level data
Data gaps in longline fisheries in WCPO create several conservation challenges, including for assessing stocks and catches, and for bycatch mitigation and handling. Observer coverage also is quite low, and some members fail to produce required transshipment reports or advance notifications, which electronic monitoring and reporting could help to address.

Fishing methods: An overview
ISSF 2016-07: Application of Electronic Monitoring Systems in Tuna Longline Fisheries. International Workshop

Fishing Capacity Management
SC11 reviewed preliminary estimates of potential tropical purse seine fleet sizes, given existing effort limits and candidate skipjack target stock levels, and found there is overcapacity in the WCPO purse seine fleet. ISSF remains concerned about increasingly unsustainable fishing capacity in the WCPO, which previous provisions have not kept in check.

Video on capacity
ISSF’s web page on capacity management
In rebuilding tuna stocks diminished by overfishing, study confirms value of fisheries management, regulatory enforcement measures