Brussels, 15 December 2008.
The European Commission has welcomed the adoption by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) of a three-year management plan for yellowfin and bigeye tuna. Key elements include a 30% reduction over three years in catches of bigeye tuna, and a two-month prohibition on fishing with floating platforms which are used to attract fish, to be extended to three months in 2010. Though these measures do not go as far as the results the European Union was seeking, they represent a positive step in the right direction towards the conservation of these stocks. This is particularly the case for bigeye tuna, on which scientists have been calling for a substantial reduction in fishing pressure. The plan also contains control and monitoring measures, as well as a ban on discards in these two fisheries. The Commission is committed to continuing its work within the WCPFC to strengthen and develop measures that will lead to sustainable fisheries in the area under its responsibility.
The EU had gone to the meeting seeking an immediate reduction of 30% in catches of bigeye tuna, and a three-month total closure of the purse seine fishery on both species. However, the Commission recognises that the result achieved is significant, as this is the first time that WCPFC has adopted significant measures to limit the overexploitation of these stocks. Implementation of the plan should now be monitored carefully, to ensure that it is actually able to deliver effective protection and help determine what further measures are required in order to meet scientific advice.
In addition to the plan for tropical tunas, the WCPFC also adopted a number of other measures during the course of the meeting, including a limit on capacity in the swordfish fishery to prevent the stock becoming overexploited. A list of IUU vessels (vessels engaged in illegal, unrecorded and unregulated fisheries) was adopted, and measures to introduce a centralised satellite-based vessel monitoring system (VMS) were finalised. The VMS system, which has been some time in the planning, will now come into operation from 1 April 2009. The meeting also adopted new measures for the protection of sharks and sea turtles, and a long-term plan (through to 2018) for the gradual transfer of fishing capacity from developed states to developing states, with the aim of ensuring that small island development states get a greater share of the fishery.
The Fifth Annual Meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission was held in Busan, Korea from 6 to 12 December, where the European Commission represented the EU Member States.