Pacific fisheries officials are calling on members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to band together and commit to an action plan that takes climate change’s impacts on its fisheries into account.
In a statement ahead of the week-long tuna commission meeting – taking place in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, between 5 and 11 December – the 17-member Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are "therefore calling on the WCPFC to collectively take stronger action on climate change.”
The FFA introduced a resolution to the WCPFC urging the commission to:
- Fully recognize the impacts of climate change; in particular on the fisheries, food security, and livelihoods of small islands developing states and territories.
- Take into account in its deliberations – including in the development of conservation and management measures – the impacts of climate change on target stocks, non-target species, and species belonging to the same ecosystem or dependent or associated with the target stocks.
- Estimate the carbon footprint of fishing and related activities in the convention area for fish stocks managed by the commission, and develop appropriate measures to reduce such footprint.
- Develop options such as carbon offsets to decrease the collective carbon footprint associated with meetings of the commission and its subsidiary bodies.
Tuvalu Minister of Fisheries and Trade Minute Alapati Taupo told SeafoodSource that although climate change is not a problem that his nation has caused, the impacts of climate change will fall on the Pacific, which will threaten the benefits of the region’s tuna fisheries.
“Climate change is not a problem that Tuvalu has caused, but we are going to suffer the effects,” Taupo said.
Pacific Communities Fisheries Scientist Graham Pilling said climate modeling shows that as the climate warms, tuna will move to the east and while some Pacific island nations may benefit from the movement, others will see a reduction in available fish.
He said it further indicates that fish “will move to the high seas and the overall amount of fish will reduce.”
Pilling said that “major impacts” of climate change “are predicted to occur after 2050, with some signs before that time.”
FFA Director-General Manu Tupou-Roosen said climate change is an important issue that the Pacific islands face both at the moment and into the future.
“Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and the impact on Pacific island countries is particularly threatening, given that tuna fisheries provide significant economic, social, and cultural benefits,” Tupou-Roosen said in a statement. “FFA is asking for increased attention by commission scientists on the implications of climate change for the regions tuna stocks and consideration of what conservation and management measures can be put in place to reduce the carbon footprint of both commission activities and fishing in Pacific waters managed by the commission.”
Tuna fishing brings in billions of dollars in revenue for the Pacific island nations. According to the Pacific Communities’ policy paper, the amount of tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) averaged 2.7 million metric tons per year between 2014 and 2018, with harvests from the exclusive economic zones of the Pacific nations representing 58 percent of this catch.
According to FFA, in 2018 the value of the provisional total tuna catch was AUD 8.92 billion (USD 6.01 billion, EUR 5.41 billion) marginally higher than for 2017 and the highest since 2013.
Photo courtesy of Fatu Tauafiafi