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Apr 4, 2012

After 2 Year Ban, Pacific Fishing Area Home to 60% of World's Tuna is Reopened to Limited Fishing

Tuna boat searching for tuna
Photo: FLMNH Ichthyology Dept. & USGS
After a two year ban, in March 2012 the Western and Centeral Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) based in Guam lifted the ban allowing limited fishing in pockets 1 and 2 of the Pacific Ocean. These regions are home to approximately 60 percent of all the world's tuna. Pocket 1, is delimited by the Exclusive Economic Zones [EEZs] of the Federated States of Micronesia to the north and east, Republic of Palau to the west, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to the south. Pocket 2 is delimited by the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and parts of Kiribati.

The WCPFC is an international organization formed in 1994 after six years of negotiations.  It has 25 member states (listed below).  It was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.  As its name implies, its mission is interpret how local conditions apply to the U.N. Fish Stock Agreements (UNFSA).  This includes managing unregulated fishing, excessive fleet capacity, vessel re-flagging to establish legal regulations, insufficient gear and outfitting, provide more reliable data and to generally promote the conservation of migratory fish stocks.


The ban began two years ago in January 2010. Its goal was to conserve the bigeye tuna population, which scientists had concluded was being overfished.  It was also hoped that the ban would help grow the populations of other types of fish populations that were beginning to dwindle including skipjack, yellowfin, and albacore tuna.

As of March 2012, the ban has been lifted for certain countries but they must abide by strict regulations.  Other nations still do no have access.  The countries with permission to fish in pocket 1 are the Philippines, Japan and South Korea.  Those able to fish in pocket 2 are Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.

Granting permission to some nations and not to others is controversial.  The Philippines is the third top tuna harvester in the Pacific.  The ban has been an economic hardship on its local fisherman who have refocused their efforts in local Filipino territorial waters.  This is a traditional spawning region and may be placing additional pressure on migratory fish populations.

WCPFC Members:
  • Australia
  • China
  • Canada
  • Cook Islands
  • European Union
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Fiji, France
  • Japan
  • Kiribati
  • Korea
  • Republic of Marshall Islands
  • Nauru
  • New Zealand
  • Niue
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Chinese Taipei
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • United States of America
  • Vanuatu

Participating Territories:
  • American Samoa
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • French Polynesia
  • Guam
  • New Caledonia
  • Tokelau
  • Wallis
  • Futuna

Cooperating Non-member(s)
  • Belize
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Indonesia
  • Mexico
  • Senegal
  • Vietnam
  • Panama
  • Thailand

About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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