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Local fishing nations lay blame for depleted tuna stock on Distant Nations

“The distant water fishing nations are obviously more focussed on retaining their presence for their fleets and retaining the current levels of catch wherever possible.”The Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency (F.F.A), James Movick, is certain.He says overfishing will be a key talking point at the 11th Regular Session of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, which kicks off on Monday.Speaking to the Weekend Observer, the Director General says local fishing nations are laying the blame for the depleted tuna stock on Distant Water Fishing Nations (D.W.F.N).While D.W.F.N.s have a place in the Pacific, they are the cause of many problems for the local custodians of the ocean.“Quite a bit otherwise we wouldn’t have these overfishing issues,” says Mr. Movick. “I think if it was left entirely to us we would be able to allocate fishing effort according to our priorities.“Which generally speaking are conservation which supports the economic development aspirations and needs of the island countries.“The distant water fishing nations are obviously more focussed on retaining their presence for their fleets and retaining the current levels of catch wherever possible.”He said for this reason there is a clash between those different objectives and interests that causes these problems.“What we have been trying to make clear to the D.W.F.N.s is that if they engage in responsible fishing particularly in conjunction with the island countries that to us is the best long term solution.“It provides the development benefits that we are looking for and it provides the security of access that they are looking for and to be able to do so in a manner that enables us to conserve the fish stocks.”However, Mr. Movick said not all nations were wanting to the steps to achieve this at this time.When asked which nations, he said it was hard to generalise.“Because obviously you come down to individual firms these are investment decisions,” he said. “It’s businesses and then groups of businesses and associations that then form the national position.“What will eventually happen in my view is that individual companies will see the light if you like and as they shift and if they become more engaged in.“Investment in the islands, then their home governments might be more willing to adapt their own policy positions.”He said it must be noted that many of the D.W.F.N.s have local small-scale fisherman who don’t have the capability to invest overseas, and so their governments must manage the dichotomy of the two industries.Mr. Movick said in a bid to address the overfishing issue and the clash between the positions, he said the F.F.A had been more proactive this year in terms of communicating with the countries, with the D.W.F.N.s on the measures it had proposed.“Particularly looking for support in cases where we know they have similar views to us,” he said.“Or else asking them to give us their views, or explain any opposition or concerns they may have in the case where we know or think that somebody might have some difficulty.“But this process of prior consultation is hopefully going to be a constructive one.“Sometimes in the past we haven’t really communicated very well we all show up at the plenary and enter into arguments instead of having sound discussions.”In regards to the other problems the D.W.F.N.s posed to the F.F.A. members, Mr.Movick said there was a time when the outside nations took advantage of the island states.“They did in the old days, certainly a lot more than now,” he said.He said however that they had made head way especially with the purse seine (a style of fishing) fishery and Skipjack Tuna under the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, where the parties now get a 23 rate of return on the resource.“It contrasts to the old days where we were satisfied for many, many years to take 4-5 per cent return we thought that was a major accomplishment,” said Mr. Movick.“I remember the fist time we ever got five per cent I thought heaven had come down to earth.“Now through the measures we have taken in a strong collective action we have been able to get a much higher share.”He said beyond this in the past joint venture arrangements that the island states entered into with D.W.F.N.s also posed issues.“There was a lot of opportunity for (say) transfer pricing, again where the D.W.F.N., or the foreign partners were able to take advantage of the relative ignorance of the island partners.“But those are coming under scrutiny, all those old agreements many of them have failed already.“And I think new agreements have the opportunity to learn from that so “By bringing in appropriate high level commercial contract law expertise we can address some of the inequities that had been in the previous agreements.”He said in spite of the problems, D.W.F.N.s do have a place in the Pacific.“They have a place in the Pacific where a country is unable or prefers not to invest itself in the development of its tuna resources,” the D.G. said.“So therefore may look at contracting with or partnering with foreign companies as a more cost efficient way of bringing about national development.“But it should be in the context of what we refer to as zone based management and management by the costal states.“So even the high seas in our view, in an ideal situation, even access to the highseas should be divided up and entrusted to the adjacent costal states, the Pacific island costal states.“Then they can manage it in conjunction with their in zone management measures, that would be the ideal.”He said furthermore, foreign countries fleets would still have a role to play because obviously the island states are not in a position to have so much investment coming out of the islands.“Nor do we need to or want to,” he said.“But we would simply want to partner with those foreign companies that are willing to invest with us or to enter into a creative co-investment arrangement of one sort or another.“But we have got to be able to gain a larger share of the final end value of this resource and not just be commodity suppliers without the opportunity to enjoy the full range of benefits.”Turning now to the conference The D.G. said there were two big issues faced by F.F.A. members.“We do need to improve on the conservation management measures particularly for what we call the tropical tunas - Big Eye - which is the species clearly under the most serious threat of over fishing,” he said.“That is being over fished according to the scientific advice and yellow fin is approaching the point where we could enter a situation of over fishing.“But we've also go to put into place a measure for the Sothern Albacore fishery which is also having serious problems albeit of a different nature more economic than biological or conservation.“So those are the two main issues that we will have but this meeting.“We have got a number of other issues for us in particular the island countries we would like to see the Commission take some decision on.“To require the D.W.F.N. flag states to provide operational data for their boats that are fishing on the high seas areas.“They have not been diligent in this regard and so there is a concern that this will cause a hole in our scientific assessments or a weakness in the scientific assessments which we can’t afford.”Mr. Movick said from these issues the F.F.A. would be pushing very hard to see the tropical tuna measure as well as the Southern Albacore measure.“Those will be our top two priorities,” he said