Pacific-wide Tuna Management Era Dawns
New Zealand sits on the doorstep to the world's largest tuna fishery. Over 60 per cent of the world's supply of raw tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, and tuna taken in New Zealand fisheries waters are near the edge of their migration path.
The highly migratory tuna move around the region during their lifespan, with some stocks, like bigeye, migrating throughout the entire Pacific Ocean. For this reason, conserving and managing tuna requires international co-operation. One country can't sit out on its own pretending to manage a stock that only spends a small portion of its life in its fisheries waters.
International law recognised this reality when setting out the regime for the effective management of highly migratory stocks in two key United Nations laws. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea requires countries with highly migratory stocks in their exclusive economic zones, and countries fishing for such stocks are required to co-operate in conserving and managing them. The 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement sets out the means by which this co-operation is to be implemented.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention is significant because it is the first regional tuna management organisation negotiated since the conclusion of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement. Consequently it contains many new and important provisions, including the use of the precautionary approach, protection of biodiversity, compatibility of management on high seas and inside exclusive economic zones, high seas compliance and enforcement such as high seas boarding and inspection and vessel monitoring systems.
The Convention establishes a Commission with a range of functions, including setting conservation and management measures, for example total catch levels, total effort levels and fish sizes. Importantly, Commission conservation decisions binding on all members may be voted through, even if consensus amongst the entire membership cannot be reached. This decision-making mechanism is an important step towards more effective international fisheries management. In this Commission, countries will not be able to prevent the establishment of binding conservation interventions by blocking consensus, as they can in other organisations.
New Zealand's exclusive economic zone is part of the Convention Area, and the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) will implement Commission decisions affecting fishing in it, as well as taking responsibility for a range of reporting requirements such as statistical and biological data, and information on New Zealand vessels fishing in the Convention Area.
MFish will also control New Zealand vessels operating in the Convention Area outside our fisheries waters, which will require, among a range of matters, a high seas authorisation to fish, a requirement to report to the Commission's vessel monitoring system and a requirement to carry Commission observers.
The tuna catch of New Zealand vessels operating in the central Pacific is significant (over 20,000 tonnes of tuna per year). Most of this catch occurs in the waters of Pacific Island countries. Like New Zealand, those countries are committed to the Convention and its objectives as a way of ensuring sustainable use of important regional resource. As such, the Convention is an important contribution to sustainable development in the Western and Central Pacific region.
For further information about the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention go to:http://www.ocean-affairs.com