South Pacific fisheries convention agreed
14 November 2009
Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley today announced a new convention text had been agreed which will create a regional fisheries management organisation to manage non-highly-migratory fisheries in the high seas.
The organisation will manage deep sea fish stocks such as orange roughy and pelagic species such as jack mackerel, Mr Heatley said.
Over 20 countries came together this week in Auckland at the eighth meeting to establish the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO).
“This new convention is a key milestone in sustainable management of South Pacific fisheries,” Mr Heatley said.
“It sets out how the fisheries of the South Pacific will be managed and addresses one of the world’s last remaining governance gaps for high seas fisheries.
“The area of the high seas for which the commission will be responsible will be the largest to be managed by any regional fisheries management organisation."
Participants agreed that New Zealand would be the depositary of the convention and will host the commission secretariat.
“New Zealand is delighted to continue to play a central role in the SPRFMO process after initiating the negotiations with Australia and Chile.
“New Zealand has been proactive in seeking to establish a robust and responsive regional organisation for high seas non-tuna species in the South Pacific Ocean which ensures long-term sustainability of fish stocks, addresses the adverse impacts of fishing on biodiversity, and maximises our economic return from fisheries resources.”
The commission will not govern tuna and other highly migratory species, which are managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
Participants also agreed new interim measures to prohibit deepwater gillnetting on the high seas. Unchecked use of nets in deepwater results in lost gear which can continue to ‘ghost fish’ for long periods of time. The existing interim measures on pelagic fisheries, which expire at the end of 2009, were also replaced.
“We are disappointed that states could not agree on stronger measures for the jack mackerel fishery adjacent to South American waters. But we are hopeful that stronger action will be taken in line with scientific advice,” Mr Heatley said.
“The agreement on the text of a convention establishing the new organisation is a huge forward looking step and a tribute to the delegations that have worked so hard during its development.”
The structures and decision making processes it establishes will provide an excellent basis for the legally binding conservation and management measures to be adopted once the convention takes effect.
“The level of cooperation between states to agree the convention text and interim measures is commendable when we consider the very diverse interests and aspirations of those involved: coastal states; distant water fishing nations; and Pacific islands to name a few.
“We look forward to working with others in the future to collectively manage these important fisheries on our doorstep,” Mr Heatley said.