Ocean FAD Articles > Ocean FAD attends WCPFC9 held in Manila, Philippines, 2012

OFAD visit’s the Philippines, with Typhoon Pablo, during WCPFC9
28 Dec 2012

 

Just as we arrived to Manila, and checked into our Hotel, we were informed that a Super Typhoon was heading strait for us and would be here in less then 72 hours. By the second day of the WCPFC9 meeting, Typhoon Pablo had struck the Philippines further to the South and death toll started mounting.

 

Jasmin Stockett Reports:
Reflections From The Eye of The Tuna Storm
 
 
Navigating the realm of global environmental governance is something like attempting to transverse the Central Pacific in a Zodiac inflatable boat. And granted, I am no sea captain, but merely an ordinary citizen with a very intense appreciation and love for all living things from the smallest plankton to the largest blue whale. Consequently, when the quite unexpected opportunity to attend the 9th Annual Meeting of The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Manila, Philippines materialized, I jumped like a Bluefin chasing bait.
 
I had run into an old friend, John Harder, a fisherman of considerable expertise who possessed over three decades of experience as a boat captain. After the usual gossip and banter of long lost friends subsided, a much more serious undertone enveloped our conversation. John then told me as his steel blue eyes teared up, that his Albacore fishery was seriously imperiled, no, practically defunct because of driftnets
 
               
 
Now I had heard of driftnets, the veritable curtains of death, woven out of monofilament plastic which indiscriminately caught everything in their path. But I thought they had been banned by the United Nations, and thus were no longer a threat to our oceans and wildlife.  John, or John-boy as he prefers to be called, then spent the next hour enlightening me about this unfettered threat to the health not only of his beloved fishery, but also to the health of our entire oceans. He asked me, "Do you really love the ocean?" I said, "Hell yes!" Before I knew it, I was on an EVA airlines flight to Manila.
 
I am not sure what I expected, but the subsequent labyrinth of the international tuna community was anything but simple. The Commission's meeting was attended by dozens of member countries including heavyweights like Japan, the United States, and Korea, as well as cooperating non- members such Indonesia and Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Non-governmental organizations including stakeholders and environmental groups were also present. World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, and John's NGO Ocean Friends Against Driftnets, among others, were ascribed "observer" status. Delegates representing industry, the science community, and governmental agencies were also in attendance.
 
 
 
John had been trying to get the Commission's attention for over seven years with little or no luck! Currently in the North Pacific 30% of his Albacore showed scratches from driftnets and the entire 3rd year class 14-18 lbs are missing from his catch altogether. And yet John-boy could barely attract the ear of any delegate or observer!
 
 All of the delegates were permeated with both self-importance and self-interest. Smaller island nations were pitted against larger more powerful nations, i.e., Japan, Taiwan, etc. Compromise was not a prominent factor in the negotiations. And because the tuna are highly migratory species, cooperation would be essential to the success of any attempts at stewardship. Alas! I watched as the "tragedy of the commons" occurred on a global level.
 
 One of my favorite obfuscations of the meeting was the following often used scientific description of most of the tuna stocks:  "There is over-fishing. The stock is not over-fished."  Talk about doublespeak. 
 
Sadly, the Commission is basically a "United Nations" of tuna fisheries, with no real enforcement capabilities. Illegal fishing is rampant and even "compliant" nations cannot agree on what measures to implement to ensure the health of our tuna stocks for future generations. And as a mere novitiate in the whole scheme of this cobweb of interactions, it seems hard to remain optimistic. 
 
Greenpeace called the meeting results a "disaster for the Pacific fisheries." 
 
On the other side of the coin, the tuna industry hosted a raucous and jovial event where a $100,000 Bigeye tuna was served as sushi, Korean delegates danced Gangnam style into the wee hours, and I sat slacked jawed and incredulous while consuming as much of that Bigeye as I could. And it certainly was delectable.
 
 
                                 
 
OFAD president, John Harder reports,Issues of concern:
 
Report to the WCPFC that 30% of Albacore Tuna caught off the United States West Coast had driftnet scratches. This is an outrage!
 
False input made by USA regarding North Pacific Albacore Catch and Effort data.
No changes made. To be brought up at next NC meeting in Japan, 2013.
 
Northwest Quadrant of WCPFC’s CA exemption from VMS.
NC agreed to end exemption at the end of 2013.
 
Request information on IUU driftnet fishing vessel “DA Cheng”.
NOAA informed OFAD that stateless IUU vessel’s Crew and Captain came from China. The best option, at the time, was to turn IUU vessel over to Chinese Law Enforcement. No information was given as to the prosecution or investigations of the vessel and it’s Captain & Crew. 
IUU driftnet vessel was not put on the WCPFC’s IUU vessel list. To be continued…
 
OFAD stated, to the USA delegation, that US Albacore Troll Fishery is involved in South Pacific Albacore. 
OFAD requests that the US “High Seas” Albacore Troll Fishery be properly recognized and supported as stated in the United Nations “Code of Conduct”
 
6.6 Selective and environmentally safe fishing gear and practices should be further developed and applied, to the extent practicable, in order to maintain biodiversity and to conserve the population structure and aquatic ecosystems and protect fish quality. Where proper selective and environmentally safe fishing gear and practices exist, they should be recognized and accorded a priority in establishing conservation and management measures for fisheries. States and users of aquatic ecosystems should minimize waste, catch of non-target species, both fish and non-fish species, and impacts on associated or dependent species.
 
 
OFAD shared fishing log information containing 30% of coastal Albacore Tuna being scratched by IUU driftnets with environmentalist groups PEW, WWF, and  Greenpeace.
A interview was given to PEW. 
 
In closing statements of the meeting made by observers, PEW, WWF, and Greenpeace criticized the Commission for not properly addressing the over-fishing that continued to be allowed. Further stating that in the 6 years of this commission, no cut backs on Purse Seine fishing have been set.
 
American Fishermen's Research Foundation (AFRF) representative then spoke against the environmentalists saying that they were not being constructive. This was shocking to my ears.
This AFRF organization should be passing on concerns of it’s organization members by speaking out against IUU driftnets!
 
Not opposing Greenpeace, but embracing them.
 
AFRF is like a 2 headed snake. One head being the Sustainable Albacore Fishermen that pay 40$ per ton to have research done on Albacore Tuna. The other head belongs to the 3 major US cannery brand names, Chicken of the Sea, Starkist, and Bumble Bee Tuna, that also pay money for research on Albacore. It was the stronger Cannery head talking at this meeting in favor of the Purse Seine fishermen that do not catch Albacore.
The Albacore fishermen that contribute to AFRF fund oppose the US brands, now owned by Thailand, China, and Korea. 
This is good reason why the American Albacore Tuna fishermen are NOT properly represented at any of these meetings.
OFAD is ashamed to be associated with such a snake as AFRF
This matter will be continued !!!
 
 

John Harder