PAPUA New Guinea has called for greater cooperation between Pacific Islands and distant water fishing nations in data collection and in reporting over-fished areas in the Pacific ocean.
National Fisheries Authority managing director Sylvester Pokajam made the call during the second Pacific tuna forum in Port Moresby last Thursday.
“These issues relate to the sustainable management of tuna stocks. We can talk and plan about fisheries development but without a sustainable tuna fishery there will not be any viable industry in this region,” he said.
In relation to data collection and reporting of catches within the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), Mr Pokajam said without good and accurate data, the WCPO tuna fishery would not be adequately managed.
“The challenge is for fishers and governments in the WCPO to ensure that all catches are properly accounted for and recorded,” he said.
He also said challenges facing neighbours of the Pacific Island Countries (PICs), especially Indonesia and the Philippines, to address this issue were so huge but given the highly-migratory nature of the fish, the issue was not addressed all.
The PICs in WCPO would be faced with over-fishing and resource depletion, a problem common to tuna fishery in other regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs).
In relation to vessels from over-fished oceans entering the WCPO, Mr Pokajam said damage could be done to WCPO tuna fishery from the transfer of fishing capacity from other RFMOs like Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
He said the challenge in addressing this issue remained with Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) countries especially partners to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) in whose waters most of the purse-seine fishing occurred.
“Why should we allow fishing vessels that have over-fished tuna resources in other oceans to fish in our ocean?” he said.
Mr Pokajam was also concerned about the issue of flag state responsibility.
“The over-fishing of the big eye tuna is done by various flag states and we, coastal states have been blamed for not managing our resources properly.
“It is high time we should specifically identify those flag states responsible and ask them to cut their efforts,” he said.
He called on PNA’s traditional distant water fishing nation partners to work with Pacific countries to increase the level of cooperation and explore opportunities for joint ventures and onshore investments with PNA.
“By working together and understanding the development aspirations of the small island developing states in this region, we can address this issue and put a cap or limit on new entrants that intend to transfer their fishing capacities from oceans that have been depleted of their tuna stocks to the WCPO,” Mr Pokajam said.