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Data gaps affect pacific tuna assessment


Four Asian fishing powers were requested to supply proper data on its tuna catch. (Image: Stock File)
MARSHALL ISLANDS
Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 04:40 (GMT + 9)

Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) requests its members to properly report their fishing catches in Pacific waters to help prevent overfishing.
This request was made by the international organisation in the framework of the 10th Scientific Committee meeting of the WCPFC in the Marshall Islands, Solomon Star informed.
Tokelau chair of the FFA Science Working Group Tiga Galo recalled one of the obligations that all members signed up to when they joined the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) was to provide full catch and effort data on the operations of their fishing vessels in the Convention Area.
Galo challenged China, Chinese-Taipei, Japan and Republic of Korea to bring their domestic laws up to date so they can comply with their data obligations to the WCPFC.
She stated Asian countries should follow the lead of the United States, "which used to have domestic legal impediments, but is now in full compliance with their data obligations to WCPFC. Quite frankly, we think these other countries are just making excuses," she stressed.
“Yet, here we are 10 years down the track, and there are still four Asian Co-operating Country Members that are hiding behind the temporary deferment that allowed them time to amend their domestic regulations - laws that might have technically prevented them from supplying this operational data at the time of agreement,” Galo pointed out.
Galo explained FFA members have long debated the problem of monitoring high seas fishing activity on the borders of Pacific EEZs.
She explained that Pacific Island countries supply operational data to the commission on all the tuna fishing vessels that they licence to fish in their national waters, whether foreign or local. And she added that Pacific Island nations cannot collect data for Asian distant water vessels operating on the high seas if they are not licensed to fish in Pacific Island EEZs.
The resulting data gaps affect the accuracy and reliability of fisheries stock assessments and increases the risk of exceeding fisheries conservation and management limits as well as removing the ability to hold vessels and their flag States to account for their actions.
For his part Marshall Islands fisheries director Glen Joseph stressed: "We need to narrow the uncertainty (in stock assessments)."
The islands provide all data on catches within their 200-mile exclusive economic zones, but the four Asian nations are not providing detailed data for catches on the high seas, which Joseph and Galo said is a major problem.
"This creates an uncertainty about our own resources that affects food security, sustainable development, and our survival," Joseph said.
Fisheries scientist John Hampton of the New Caledonia-based Secretariat of the Pacific Community, which coordinates stock assessments for the WCPFC, said the lack of this data, mostly from longline fishing vessels that fish on the high seas, is a gap in the research.
Joseph ensured a big push will be made at the annual meeting of the WCPFC in December to resolve the problem of lack of tuna catch data by the four Asian nations.
The 11th regular session of the WCPFC has been schedules for 1-5 December in Apia, Samoa.
 
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