Wednesday December 1, 2021

PEW Charitable Trusts

When the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) comes together virtually for its annual meeting 1-7 December, member countries need to take stock of how far they still need to go to modernize management of tuna.

Seven years ago, member countries participating in the world’s largest tuna fishery agreed to implement harvest strategies for skipjack and north Pacific albacore stocks. These are pre-agreed frameworks for making fisheries management decisions, such as setting catch limits. They are akin to setting the rules before vessels go fishing, and they shift the perspective from short-term, reactive decision-making to a longer-term vision and set of objectives. The result is better for the fish, for industries, and for countries that rely on healthy fish populations, a fact acknowledged by both WCPFC and market stakeholders. WCPFC once led in these efforts, but now it has fallen behind all other tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), as it has failed to get even a harvest control rule (HCR) in place. HCRs, the operational component of a harvest strategy, are pre-agreed guidelines that determine how much fishing can take place based on indicators of the targeted stock’s status. The other four tuna RFMOs managing resources in the Atlantic, Indian, eastern Pacific, and Southern oceans have all developed HCRs for at least one of their stocks, while WCPFC has revised its workplan to delay time frames again and again.


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