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Major fisheries regional meeting labeled a failure by Pacific countries

A major regional fisheries meeting was labeled a failure Friday afternoon for its inability to agree to tuna fishing cutbacks demanded by 17 Pacific island countries.The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission wrapped up five days of meeting in Cairns, Australia on Friday.Solomon Islands official, Edward Honiwala, says while the meeting did approve a plan to reduce bigeye catches and freeze the number of fishing vessels, it did not go far enough.Mr Honiwala was speaking for the eight-member bloc of islands known as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) that control waters where more than half of the region’s tuna is caught in a fishery valued at 7 billion US dollars.He says they have failed in their responsibilities to adequately address the problems of overfishing.The Pew Environment Group says the Commission seemed unable to agree or deliver on its core business to protect important tuna species such as bigeye and Pacific Bluefin from overfishing.Its director of global tuna conservation, Amanda Nickson, says that’s despite last minute negotiations between member countries and pleas from non-government groups at the Commission.The meeting agreed to reduces longline bigeye catch by 10-30 percent for foreign fishing nations, freeze the number of large foreign purse seine vessels and longline vessels targeting bigeye tuna for sashimi that can operate in the region, sets a four month closure for using fish aggregation devices, FADs, to catch tuna in 2014 rising to five-months in 2015 with the intent of a high seas FAD ban in 2017, and asks the WCPFC to come back next year to agree for limits on purse seine fishing for after 2014.But island officials say the deal also provides loopholes, such as exempting the European Union vessels from a proposed ban on using FADs.The hope for a four-year deal proposed jointly by PNA, Japan and the Philippines for deeper reductions in bigeye tuna catches did not gain consensus support.Solomon Islands official, Edward Honiwala, says their proposal was blocked by players who want unfettered access to the high seas so that their vessels can avoid fishing in the exclusive economic zones, and make an appropriate contribution to small island developing states’ sustainable development.And Amanda Nickson says the outcome of this annual meeting shows that some of the world’s most powerful fishing countries are falling well short of their responsibility to sustainably manage tuna populations in the Pacific Ocean, and prevent exhausting some of the last remaining healthy tuna populations on Earth.