WCPFC members agree to increase bigeye limits

Published on
December 8, 2017

Members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission concluded a five-day conference in Manilla, The Philippines, earlier this week by increasing catch limits on tropical tunas. It’s a move at least one conservation group fears could threaten the bigeye stock.

Beginning next year, Japan will be able to catch up to 18,265 metric tons of bigeye tuna. South Korea was allotted a nearly 14,000-metric-ton limit, while Taiwan will be able to harvest nearly 10,500 metric tons. China received a limit of more than 8,200 metric tons, in addition to a one-time transfer of 500 metric tons from Japan in 2018. Indonesia received a provisional allotment of nearly 5,900 metric tons, and the United States, which won the right to use its Pacific territories to increase its limit, can catch more than 3,500 metric tons. 

Those limits were set after the commission’s scientific committee concluded that the bigeye stock “appears” not to suffer from overfishing.

Amanda Nickson, who is the director of international fisheries for The Pew Charitable Trusts, called the decision to increase the limits by 10 percent disappointing. The commission’s decisions mean the bigeye stock have a greater than 20 percent chance of falling below its accepted biomass standards over the next 30 years.

“The inability to agree on measures that are in line with scientific advice puts into question the Commission’s ability to fulfill its mandate and meet the needs of the Pacific islands that depend on healthy tuna fisheries for economic security and the distant-water fishing nations that operate Pacific Ocean fleets,” she said.

In its agreement, the commission announced it encourage members to research methods that would reduce the catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas. In addition, would review the bigeye catch limits based on any revised stock assessments and the recommendations of the scientific committee.

WCPFC members also said they intend to switch to a zone-based system of longline catch limits to replace the current method of flag-based limits within members’ exclusive economic zones.

The new measures are scheduled to take effect on 6 February and will run through 2020.

Nickson said she hopes the members continue their discussions with develop plans to better protect the stocks.

“The health of tropical tunas in the Pacific, and the communities who depend on them, requires it, and cannot wait [to restart negotiations] another year,” she said.

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