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Commercial Fishing



New measures adopted to avoid bycatches. Last week’s annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) adopted an important and binding measure to reduce the risk of entanglement from FADs by 2020. FADs, or “fish aggregating devices”, are floating fishing gear mainly used for tuna fishing. However, they also attract other species, including various kinds of pelagic shark. The new measure to avoid such by-catches was adopted at the proposal of the European Union.

The WCPFC is one of the regional fisheries management organisations dealing primarily with tuna fisheries. The negotiations, which ran until last Friday evening, were tense but concluded positively. All main provisions of the existing conservation and management measure for bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna were rolled over. Negotiators also agreed on a Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore. This will reduce the level of catches and increase the abundance of the species.

Other positive measures adopted:

  • Amendment of the seabirds measure, an important step forward to expand the zone of protection of endangered bird species.
  • WCPFC rules regarding transhipment will be reviewed in 2019. This will be an excellent opportunity to reinforce monitoring and control provisions for transhipments at sea, a priority in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries.
  • Best practice guidelines for safe release of sharks, to reduce the mortality of sharks caught incidentally.
  • Non-binding minimum labour standards for crew on fishing vessels.

A new measure for sharks that would incorporate more rigorous conservation measures and easier enforceable provisions did not achieve consensus and was eventually dismissed.