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Community – Pelagics

In the Western Pacific, domestic US fisheries in the US EEZ and the high seas are regulated by the WPRFMC’s Pelagic Fisheries Management Plan (PFMP), which will be transformed to the Pelagics Fisheries Ecosystem Plan in 2009. The Council has established a Pelagics Plan Team (PPT) to oversee issues relating to the PFMP, including the production of an annual report. The annual report is analogous to the Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation (SAFE) report, as it contains not just the modules for each of the four inhabited islands, but also synopses of stock assessments conducted in both the WCPO and EPO by the WCPFC and IATTC.

The Council also has an Advisory Panel (AP) which provides the opportunity for fishermen to review and comments issues and actions before the Council. Other advisory bodies that the Council has established which are primarily focused on pelagic fisheries includes the Recreation Fisheries Data Task Force (RFDTF), and the now disbanded Pelagics Review Board, which was established to deal with issues related to the Hawaii limited entry longline program. Recommendations from bodies such as the PPT and AP concerned with science and data are reviewed by the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC), which may forward the recommendations unchanged or with suggested revisions. The Council also convened the Fisheries Data Coordinating Committee (FDCC) which consists of representatives from each of the agencies providing fisheries data through a mutual agreement known as the Western Pacific Fisheries Information Network (WPacFIN). Although concerned with all data, the FDCC includes issues and discussions related to pelagic fisheries.

With respect to the Council meetings themselves, all advisory bodies report to the Council, either during the Pelagic and International Fisheries section of the agenda or during Program Planning. Issues relating to regulatory matters or requiring Council action have time set aside for public comment. The Council also periodically convened public meetings for scoping actions that it may take and to raise awareness in the public about the potential need for management or regulatory actions.

Council staff and Council family (Council members and SSC members) have participated in the US delegations to the WCPFC and IATTC. In addition to this participation, Council staff co-Chair the WCPFC’ Science Committee’s Ecosystem and Bycatch Working Group, while PPT members have been vice-Chair for the WCPFC Science Committee or Chair of the Bycatch Working Group of the International Scientific Committee which is the science provider to the WCPFC’s Northern Committee.

Politically, the Pacific islands are all members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) [http://www.spc.int/corp/], which was first convened in 1947 and also includes the governments of New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Britain and France. The 14 independent island states (excludes US, French and UK territories), with the addition of New Zealand and Australia, are also members of the South Pacific Forum [http://www.forumsec.org.fj/], which was established in 1971. The Conference and the Forum have secretariats housed in New Caledonia and Fiji, respectively. Both institutions support fisheries in the South Pacific: the Forum through the Solomon Islands based Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency [http://www.ffa.int/], which is concerned with managing access by distant water fishing nations to the region’s tuna stocks, and the SPC through its Oceanic Fisheries Program [http://www.spc.int/oceanfish/] and Coastal Fisheries Program [http://www.spc.int/coastfish/], which perform research and development.

In the Eastern Pacific the following countries from the American continent are members of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission [http://www.iattc.org/] (IATTC): Colombia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, United States, Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela. This membership is supplemented by participation by France, Spain, Vanuatu, Japan and Korea. The most notable absence from the IATTC is Chile, which forms a significant part of the western boundary of the Pacific (4,300 km or 2,672 miles). The IATTC was formed in 1950, initially between the USA and Costa Rica, but with other countries subsequently joining. The initial convention was superseded by the Antigua Convention of 2004, which among other things broadened the area of application from 30 degree north and south to 50 degree north and south, thus including stocks such as swordfish, albacore and bluefin tuna.

In the Western Pacific, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Management Commission [http://www.wcpfc.int/] (WCPFC) includes Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Community, 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, United States of America, Vanuatu. The WCPFC was established in 2000 through the Honolulu Convention, and was the first regional fishery management organization (RFMO) to be based on the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/convention_overview_convention.htm].

The Pacific is now divided up between two Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs), with the line of demarcation at 150 deg W, but makes a dog leg at 130 deg W to incorporate all of French Polynesia (which bisects the Pitcairn EEZ). The division of the Pacific into two RFMO jurisdictions, in which US vessels fish, makes the Western Pacific Council the most internationally focused of the US fishery Management Councils. The situation in the WCPFC is complicated by the establishment of a Northern Committee, which considers fishery management issues to the north of 20 deg N, and is concerned with species such as northern albacore, swordfish and North Pacific bluefin tuna, which are of little concern to the Pacific Island nations. However, there is overlap between the north and south over issues of mutual interest such as bigeye and blue marlin. The Northern Committee has also absorbed a forum, the Interim Scientific Committee to study the tuna and tuna-like species of the North Pacific Ocean (ISC), as its main source of scientific advice. It was once thought that the ISC (now called the International Scientific Committee) would develop into an analogous North Pacific RFMO, but with the division of the Pacific, between the WCPFC and IATTC, the role of the ISC will be as the Northern Committee’s scientific advisor.

International management of tuna and tuna-like species in the Pacific was accomplished first in the Eastern Pacific Ocean with the establishment of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) in 1950. The Western and Central Pacific Ocean was not brought under the jurisdiction of a similar Commission until 2000 with the signing of the Honolulu Convention by countries from Asia, North America and the Pacific Islands. Regional management in the WCPO was not entirely absent due to the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) which negotiated access for tuna fishing rights within the EEZs of the independent Pacific Island Nations. The US negotiated a treaty with the FFA member countries to allow access of US purse seiners to fish within their EEZs. This treaty has been in effect since 1988.