Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
Canada's Pacific albacore tuna fleet has up to 200 Canadian vessels and employs more than 2,000 people directly. The annual albacore catch is in excess of 5,700 tonnes valued at approximately $30 million per year.
While Canadian vessels have not fished in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Convention Area in the last several years, this situation can vary from year to year depending on the migratory patterns of target tuna species.
The Commission is the international organization responsible for the management of tuna and tuna-like species in the Central and Western Pacific ocean, which account for 60% of the world's tuna fisheries, with an annual landed value approaching $3 billion.
The Commission seeks to eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, address issues in the management of high seas fisheries such as excessive fleet capacity, incomplete statistical and catch information, as well as encourage responsible multilateral cooperation in respect of conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks.
The Convention area consists of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, i.e., west of 150° W longitude.
Species managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission include skipjack, yellowfin, albacore, and bigeye tunas, swordfish, and blue and black marlin. For a complete list of species managed, visit the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission website.
The WCPFC has three subsidiary bodies:
- The Scientific Committee provides advice regarding the status of tuna stocks and bycatch species in tropical and South Pacific waters;
- The Technical and Compliance Committee develops monitoring, control and surveillance measures; and
- The Northern Committee makes recommendations to ensure North Pacific stocks of highly migratory species (those stocks in which the majority of biomass is historically located north of 20° N latitude) are sustainably managed.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission comprises the following 25 members: Australia, Canada, China, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, the United States of America and Vanuatu.
Seven Territories (American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, and Tokelau) also participate in the work of the Commission.
Canada joined the WCPFC on December 1, 2005.
Benefits for Canada
Of particular importance to Canada is the Commission's management of North Pacific albacore tuna. North Pacific albacore tuna is a single stock that migrates seasonally across the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Convention Area, and into the adjacent Convention Area of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. Younger tuna first join migrating stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean and then travel to the Eastern Pacific where Canadian albacore tuna harvesters are focusing their fishing efforts. This migration pattern means that the decisions taken by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission can impact the Canadian fishery.
- The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission has implemented a ban on the use of large-scale driftnets on the high seas, as well as measures to conserve sharks, seabirds and sea turtles from incidental bycatch in tuna fisheries.
- Within the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, there exists for conservation purposes an interim objective for North Pacific albacore tuna to maintain the rate at which the fish reproduce above the average level of its 10 lowest estimates.
- At the 2010 annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the Commission adopted a management plan for Pacific bluefin tuna in line with scientific advice.
- Also during the 2010 annual meeting, the members of the Commission agreed to review the performance of the Commission, to be undertaken in 2011, as recommended by the joint tuna regional fisheries management organizations' process. The criteria for the review incorporate the principles developed through that process.
- In 2011, a stock assessment was completed for North Pacific albacore indicating that there are currently no conservation concerns for this stock, which reflects positively upon the Commission for its management of this stock.
Canada's Leadership Role
- Canada held the position of Vice-Chair of the Commission from 2009-2010.
- Canada played a leadership role in the development of a strategic work plan for the Commission that was adopted in 2010 to guide the work of the Commission over the next five years.
- In 2010, the commission agreed on Canada's proposal for the development of a fisheries management regime based on a Precautionary Approach. This regime will be the basis for future work when considering the need to establish pre-determined reference points and management actions in regards to all stocks managed by the Northern Committee.
- Canada has worked to increase the transparency of the Commission. For example, a Canadian proposal to provide a mechanism for non-governmental organizations to provide information on issues of non-compliance to the Commission has been approved for a one-year trial period in 2011.
- In 2011, a key objective for Canada will be to seek agreement amongst the Commission members for the adoption of an updated conservation and management measure for North Pacific albacore tuna based on the most recent stock assessment and in line with science advice.
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