10, Nov, 2009

Rules to manage the ghosts of South Pacific fish?

Category: ECO Inc

Delegates from more than 25 countries in Auckland negotiating the final stages of a treaty to manage fishing in the high seas of the South Pacific, may fail their first credibility test before the week is out, says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ.

If they do not urgently cut fishing of Jack Mackerel in the Eastern Pacific and impose agreed catch limits now, then their rules will be for the management of the ghosts of fish. The fish will be gone before their treaty takes effect, says Cath Wallace, a senior resource economist and co-chair of ECO.

The negotiations are for the final stages of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO), which is designed to set up a management regime to govern fishing in the South Pacific for non-tuna fisheries. The main fisheries in question are the Jack Mackerel fisheries in the Eastern South Pacific and the orange roughy fisheries beyond Australia and New Zealand in the Western Pacific.

“The Scientific Committee of the fledgling South Pacific organisation has given delegates unequivocal advice that the loss of Jack Mackerel fish to fishing must be reduced, and is well above what the stocks can take. The scientists have given the decision makers a clear message that there must be cuts.

Environmental groups and others are alarmed that instead of agreeing to curb catch and fishing effort, some countries are blocking effective measures and many extra fishing boats plan to fish. There is a rush by countries to try and stack up a fishing and catch history, in order to make future claims to fishing entitlements. Peru has even passed a law allowing boats already known to be illegal fishers to fish in their name. It is an attempt to stack up a catch history to gain future allocations.

This is the classic 'race to fish' that is the basis of the tragedy of fisheries. Some of very people who are designing the rules for future fisheries management in the South Pacific high seas, are obstructing the introduction of immediate catch limits to protect the same fish stocks they want to have a future share of.

The European Commission, Peru, Korea, China and Russia are all blocking the introduction of catch limits or effective measures.

A list circulating in the conference corridors of the intended expansion of fishing vessels fishing in the South Pacific would be enough to wipe out far more than the available fish stocks of Jack Mackerel.

“It is likely that the SPRFMO agreement negotiations will be concluded and a text opened to the international community for the SPRFMO treaty. Unfotunately the Jack Mackerel will be gone by the time the treaty takes effect if the huge influx of fishing effort is allowed, and catch limits are blocked.

“Getting an agreement for SPRFMO is a really important thing, but if the fish have already gone it will only manage ghosts, said Cath Wallace.

For further information contact Cath Wallace at 021 891 994.