Progress in South Pacific fisheries management
16 March 2008
“New Zealand continued to negotiate for a sustainable management regime for fisheries in the huge high seas area of the South Pacific – stretching from Australia in the east to south America in the west – at a meeting in Equador this week,” Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.
Participants from over 30 countries around the world met in Guayaquil, Equador, for the fifth round of negotiations to establish a South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) to manage non-highly migratory fisheries on the high seas. These fisheries include orange roughy and pelagic species such as jack mackerel.
Jim Anderton said the South Pacific was one of the last high seas fisheries that is not being managed.
“It is a chance for New Zealand and like-minded countries to help establish a sustainable management regime on our back door-step, similar to the management we have in our own Exclusive Economic Zones.”
The purpose of the meeting was to progress negotiations on the Convention text, which will form the legal basis for fisheries conservation and management on the high seas. It was successful in progressing some of the key issues facing the future organisation, such as how to manage fish stocks that occur in both national waters and on the high seas.
“I’m pleased with the broad agreement on the precautionary approach and ecosystem approach being established as underlying principles for fisheries management.
“The precautionary approach advocates that fisheries managers should consider long term sustainability of a fishery over short term fishing opportunities, especially when information about a fishery is uncertain. The ecosystem approach advocates taking into account the environmental impacts of fishing. These are both very sound approaches to managing fisheries.”
This was the first meeting since the establishment of the Interim Secretariat. The newly-recruited Executive Secretary was able to report for the first time on the implementation of the interim measures adopted in May 2007.
New Zealand reported back on its management of high seas bottom trawling, which is including the application of the move on rule and area closures to protect deep sea corals and other vulnerable marine ecosystems.
Progress in reporting and implementing the interim measures by other countries was mixed however.
“We are very concerned over the rapid build up of vessels from distant fishing nations targeting the jack mackerel stock that straddles Chile’s waters, which is the largest fishery in the South Pacific,” said Jim Anderton. “Such increases in fishing capacity are contrary to the spirit of the interim measures and threaten the sustainability of the jack mackerel stock before the SPRFMO has even been established.”
The data being submitted by countries on their catches and number of fishing vessels will however enable a debate for the first time on how to ensure the sustainable management of this fishery.
New Zealand, Australia and Chile, as the co-sponsors of the negotiations, and other coastal states continue to work closely together on these issues.
“New Zealand is at the forefront of developing the new Organisation, with the Interim Secretariat of SPRFMO being established in Wellington earlier this year. New Zealand also chairs the Science Working Group.”