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To "sustainably manage" Pacific Ocean tuna stocks, certain waters are being closed

fili@samoanews.com

The phrase to "sustainably manage" tuna stocks in the Pacific Ocean has left the drawing board of fishery meetings of Pacific Island countries and the United States, and become the cause to close their waters to certain types of fishing vessels because of catch limits.

For the U.S., the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) is closing from Nov. 27 to the end of this year, the U.S. pelagic longline fishery for bigeye tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean as a result of the 2011 catch limit being reached, and the notice is posted on the federal regulatory website: regulations.gov.

For the Pacific Island countries, the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) has announced that the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) reports that 3 of their countries have closed their waters to foreign fishing vessels in order to maintain sustainable tuna fishing limits.

BIG EYE CATCH LIMIT REACHED

Pelagic longline fishing in the western and central Pacific Ocean is managed, in part, under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Implementation Act (Act).  Regulations governing fishing by U.S. vessels is in accordance with the Act, the NMFS notice states.

According to NMFS, the agency established a limit December 2009 for calendar year 2011 of 3,763 metric tons of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) that may be caught and retained in the U.S. pelagic longline fishery in the area of application of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (Convention Area).

NMFS says this rule does not apply to the pelagic longline fisheries of American Samoa, Guam, or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

NMFS said it monitored the retained catches of bigeye tuna using logbook data submitted by vessel captains. NMFS used those data and other available information to determine that the 2011 catch limit is expected to be reached on November 27, 2011.

The 2012 fishing year is scheduled to open on January 1, 2012, said NMFS.

During the closure, a U.S. fishing vessel may not retain on board, transship, or land bigeye tuna captured by longline gear in the Convention Area, except that any bigeye tuna already on board a fishing vessel upon the effective date of the restrictions may be retained on board, transshipped, and landed, provided that they are landed within 14 days of the start of the closure, that is, by the end of the day on December 10, 2011.

This 14-day landing requirement does not apply to a vessel that has declared to NMFS,  that the current trip type is shallow-setting.

Furthermore, bigeye tuna caught by longline gear may be retained on board, transshipped, and landed if the fish are caught by a vessel registered for use under a valid NMFS-issued American Samoa Longline Limited Access Permit, or if they are landed in American Samoa, Guam, or the CNMI. In either of these two cases, however, conditions must be met.

(More specific details of the federal notice can be viewed on www.regulations.gov

"The annual catch limit is an important mechanism to ensure that the U.S.A. complies with its international obligations in preventing overfishing and managing the fishery at optimum yield," said NMFS.

PNA CLOSING FISHING WATERS

According to the FFA website, The Nauru Agreement is a subregional agreement on terms and conditions for tuna purse seine fishing licences in the region. The Parties to the Nauru Agreement are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

This Agreement has 3 Implementing Arrangements which set out specific rules for fishing in these countries.

Announcement of the closure of waters to foreign tuna fleets to maintain sustainable fishing limits was made on Sunday, November 20, 2011.

Closing their fishing waters are Solomon Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu.

The announcement states that:

"The tiny atoll nation of Tuvalu was the latest to announce it was closing its fishery last week, notifying all foreign purse seine fishing vessels they are no longer permitted to fish for tuna in Tuvalu waters.

Tuvalu's closure follows the decision by Nauru a fortnight ago to close their waters after they reached their fishing limits (comments by Nauruan officials available on http://www.pnatuna.com/nauru-closes-its-waters-foreign-fishing-vessels ).

In June this year, Solomon Islands Cabinet decided to close their fishery (comments by Solomon Islands Acting Minister available on http://www.pnatuna.com/solomon-islands-cabinet-announces-tuna-fishery-closed-foreign-purse-seine-vessels ).

A key part of the PNA's conservation and management of tuna is limiting the number of days fishing vessels can fish in the PNA's vast 14 million square kilometres of Pacific Ocean - an area which provides around 30% of the world's tuna supply."

Of interest, the FFA press releases explains that "the PNA operates a Vessel Day Scheme for foreign purse seine vessels where a total number of days for fishing are set for the PNA area, and then divided between the eight PNA ocean states which can also trade days between them. If a PNA member country uses up their days, they must close the fishery and purchase fishing days from another country so as to keep overall fishing effort in the PNA area within sustainable limits.

Examples of this are:

1            In 2010, Solomon Islands bought fishing days from the Marshall Islands through bilateral trading. Solomon Islands then sold these days to Korea, so only Korean purse seine vessels currently fish in Solomon Islands waters in 2011.

2            In 2011, Papua New Guinea made use of the Vessel Day Scheme by buying fishing days from Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau so PNG can continue to sell fishing days in its waters and keep its fishery open.

PNA Director Dr Transform Aqorau said, "Despite the challenges they have as developing countries, Nauru, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands have enforced their fishing day limits by closing their waters to foreign tuna fleets. They have made a short term sacrifice of revenue in order to make a longer term gain of getting a higher price for their fishing days and to ensure fishing is kept in sustainable limits. We are all very proud of our leaders who have taken these hard decisions to help the PNA reach towards its goal of creating the world's largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery."

PNA countries and American Samoa have consistently expressed concern about foreign countries and canneries over-fishing the Pacific Ocean waters, while taking hugh profits from these catches, with no fair financial benefits to the Pacific Islands. In particular, is the fact that the ocean is stated by many of these Pacific island countries, including American Samoa, as the primary resource for their economies.



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