The 15th Regular Session of the WCPFC / by Francisco Blaha

While I start another of our great NZ cycling rides with my family as our holidays, many in my “fisheries family” are all in Honolulu where the 15th WCPFC session starts tomorrow. Is the biggest thing ins Pacific fisheries… ridiculous amount of people, money and work gets put into this marathon meeting.

He is never going to be at WCPFC meeting, yet the people there is deciding on his life and future

He is never going to be at WCPFC meeting, yet the people there is deciding on his life and future

In a totally unfair table coastal states (mostly developing countries) sit in the table with massively rich and subsidising countries and suppose to find “consensus” on measures that are mostly the interest of the coastal states (is their fish and life) against the wishes and desires of the DWFN. 

I been invited by my host in RMI to be part of their delegation… but I had enough with TCC this year. While the politics, backroom deals and pure hypocrisy of many delegates can be very interesting, it totally frustrates me. Furthermore 5 days in a room does take a toll on me. I know is part of my job and future, but as a consultant I’m out of the picture there. The meeting is for the countries and the regional organisations.  

One thing that has kept me alive in the consulting business is being totally honest about my limitations... and those jobs hits me right in on the two biggest: meetings and writing.

I do well with reading, strategies, training, getting into the guts of boats, finding out the tricks vessels masters do (I used to do them too), sitting with the App programmers and then doing beta testing, and quite a few more things... but I suck at writing big documents and at dealing with people that bulshit in meetings, (i.e. TW, CN saying that their Longline fleets would be economically collapsed if they were agree to ban on at sea transhipments… yea right! I could have jumped on their desks and said “how dare you!!!”)

I see these guys (mostly DWFN long term bureaucrats!) making massive decisions that stop advancements and condemn fishers and coastal countries to be the “working poor” and they never been on fishing boats, they have no idea of what is to work like a mule to earn in year what they spend in hotels coming to this meetings, while they are thinking they know everything about fisheries… really pisses me off! 

I guess my diplomatic skills have a way to go before i feel i can be usefull in these meetings.

Anyway… The agenda shows you the variety of topics to be dealt with: but some of the ones I’m more keen to see passing (yet I know is low chance dire to that hypocrisy I talked before are:

Strengthen management of at-sea transshipment for longline vessels to address non-compliance with existing WCPFC measures. FFA Members' long-term objective regarding transhipment regulation has been to facilitate all transhipments in the Convention Area occurring in port. This is consistent with Article 29{1) of the WCPF Convention which provides that 'the members of the Commission shall encourage their vessels, to the extent practicable, to conduct transhipment in port'. However, the current levels and regulation of high seas transhipment activity are inconsistent both with Article 29(1) and the objective of the WCPF Convention. Furthermore the DWFN transhipping on the high seas have not provided evidence regarding their efforts to encourage their vessels to tranship in port. 

The review of Transhipment measure is long overdue. The measure was negotiated a decade ago and, more importantly, there have been notable deficiencies in its implementation and ability to sufficiently regulate transhipment activity in accordance with the WCPF Convention.

The other one I’m personally interested (since I had a bit to do with this proposal) is the FFA proposal for a Resolution on Labour Standards for Crew on Fishing Vessels. This another one that has been long overdue.

This is the 1st time that a labour proposal is tabled in RFMO (which is incredible). And while I know that this is as my friend Transform said: “an exercise in constructive ambiguity, and the problem with getting a measure like this through is to make it ambiguous so you are seen to be doing something when you are not really doing anything”. I like to think that at least is on the table and obliges people to talk about it and hopefully identify who will be opposed and then let public opinion work on that! I’m encouraged that is on the table (and is more and more on the big decision taking bodies) and then with time it can be adjusted... otherwise is the status quo... which is obviously not working.

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 The other areas of key need for the region that need to be dealt for ensure long-term sustainability are:

  • Accelerate the development of harvest strategies of all tuna species

  • Avoid increasing bigeye and yellowfin fishing mortality

  • Strengthen FAD management by adopting mandatory use of non-entangling designs, complete reporting of FAD tracking data, science-based limits on FAD deployments

  • Reform the WCPFC compliance assessment process

  • Increase longline observer coverage to 20% and ultimately 100% (human/electronic) consistent with the requirements for the purse seine fishery.

I can only wish lots of strength to my friends at WCPFC meeting in Honolulu to keep the good fight, and to suggest the delegates to look into the eyes of the fisherman in the picture and spare a thought for the ones like him, that will never go to any WCPFC meeting (or any fisheries meeting really) yet their life depends more than almost anyone else, on the decisions being taken there.