01, Feb, 2013

South Pacific Fisheries negotiations impasse - Talks in Auckland continue into the night

Category: ECO Inc

Thursday 31 January 2013 (10.23pm) – Auckland , New Zealand – Media Release

New South Pacific Fisheries Management Organisation falters on fish cuts
and fish allocation disputes.

“In Auckland New Zealand, today delegates attending the South Pacific
Fisheries Management Organisation’s, SPRFMO meeting, in its first
Commission meeting since it took legal effect, have reached an impasse
in critical deliberations today. Some nations are reluctant to reduce
their Jack mackerel catches for the coming year despite perilously low
levels of stock. “Both the total allocation and the shares of fish
catches are in contention at the meeting which faces negotiations late
into the night”, says Cath Wallace, co-chair of the Environment and
Conservation Organisations of New Zealand, ECO. New Zealand does not
fish the Eastern Pacific Stock but its diplomats are chairing some of
the most contentious negotiations.

Wallace said , “The chair of the meeting, respected New Zealand
international lawyer, Bill Mansfield, urged delegates to soften their
positions. He noted that the world is watching what the new organisation
is doing. He stressed the plight of the fish stocks and that the
credibility of the new organisation is at stake. He suggested that
difficult countries would be held to account internationally, if the
meeting failed to agree on ways to enable the fish stocks to rebuild”
WWF delegate, Mauricio Galvez, said “Jack Mackerel is a key species for
South Pacific marine ecosystems and a resource on which livelihoods of
many Chilean fishers depend ”,

Cath Wallace of ECO, an economist, said that “the problem is
intrinsically difficult because the Jack Mackerel stock lives in the
high seas beyond any national jurisdiction but it also lives along the
South American coast known as a “straddling stock”. Peru, Ecuador and
Chile have sovereign rights to fish in their own EEZ’s while the
fledgling Commission only covers the high seas. Jack Mackerel, once
thought to be the largest fish stock in the South Pacific has been
heavily fished by both South-eastern Pacific coastal states and by
distant water fleets from countries including Russia, China, Korea,
Tawian and the Faroe Islands who not only wanted the fish but to
establish a history of fishing to make a bid for future fishing rights.”

Maricio Galvez said that coastal states, such as Chile, Peru and Ecuador
have spoken passionately for consideration of the coastal state
interests and the impact declining fish stocks have had on fisheries
dependent communities in those countries. Coastal states allowed huge
amounts of fishing while distant water fleets also intensified their own
fishing. Wallace said, it was the “race to fish” and greed. Jack
mackerel fish stocks, once the largest in the South Pacific now face a
classic “tragedy of the commons” future.

“Non-governmental organisations and fishing industry observers listened
to the discussion and have some rights to speak, said Wallace. ”The
chairman noted that countries’ short term self interests are overcoming
the collective expressions of will to be precautionary, said Galvez.
Chile wants a total catch limit for 2013 of 441,000 tonnes, the European
Union advocates 300,000 tonnes.

Environmental groups present, including the Environment and Conservation
Organisations of NZ , WWF, Birdlife and the Deep Sea Conservation
Coalition, called on countries to show fishing restraint and to observe
the commitment agreed in 2012 by countries at the Rio+20 meeting to take
action to allow fish stocks to recover to their most productive levels
by 2015.

“Chile has already set a total catch limit for 2013 for her fleet of
282,000 tonnes which is already close to the amount the European Union
has proposed for a total allowable catch , and that is a problem says
Galvez. EU boats have also fished the areas heavily in the past.”
“As well as the South American countries, Russia, China, Korea, the EU
and the Faroe Islands and others – including Vanuatu and the Cook
Islands are interested parties wanting both current and future rights to


Vanuatu has a virtually open register that allows foreign vessels
to operate in their name and is represented at the meeting by an
Australian with links to a Greek fishing company with vessels registered
in Vanuatu. The Cook Islands has also allowed non-national vessels to
register as its fleet, but these are not alone, with other countries
also opening access in their quest to position for future catch allocations.

Scientific models show that the jack mackerel stock has plummeted in
recent years,there are minor indications of recovery recovery but this
could be short-lived if fishing nations cannot show restraint.

The talks are due to finish on Friday evening New Zealand time but the
Chair has warned delegates to expect late night discussions tonight and
Friday night.
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For background on the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management
Organisation and this meeting see www.southpacificrfmo.org