Nations Reluctant To Provide Fishing Data Should Be Penalized

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Tuna industry official calls failure to report ‘tantamount to illegal fishing’

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, August 21, 2014) – Fishing nations that are refusing to provide tuna catch data to regional management organizations should be sanctioned, a tuna industry official told journalists in Suva, Fiji on Tuesday.

"The industry can provide accurate data," said Phil Roberts, the Singapore-based managing director of Tri-Marine International, a global supplier of tuna. "If they don’t provide the data, don’t wail about it in the newspaper, penalize them."

Roberts was commenting on concern raised by fisheries scientists earlier this month during presentations of new stock assessments that show bigeye tuna is now being over-fished and by island fisheries officials in Suva at a two-day tuna workshop who expressed concern about the lack of data from four Asian fishing nations.

Roberts and Dr. Transform Aqorau, CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement or PNA, said Tuesday the refusal to provide fishing data to regional management authorities is tantamount to illegal fishing.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing includes mis-reporting and under-reporting, said Roberts.

"Failure to provide catch data should be considered IUU," said Aqorau.

Vessels engaging in illegal fishing have been blacklisted throughout the western and central Pacific and have been forced to pay heavy fines to resume fishing.

Aqorau’s comments were referring to South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan whose fleets of longliners fish the high seas in the western Pacific for bigeye and yellowfin tuna to feed global sashimi markets.

All are members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission which regulates fishing on the high seas and requires all members to report operational catch data.

Earlier this month, the Forum Fisheries Agency, which represents 17 island members, criticized the four Asian nations while praising the United States for updating its domestic laws to allow it to provide the required data that scientists say is essential to developing accurate stock assessments.

Aqorau said the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission needs to act decisively at its December annual meeting to get these nations to provide data and to reduce catches of bigeye tuna, which scientists say has plummeted because of heavy fishing to just 16 percent of its original population level.

Roberts said the responsibility for policing high seas fishing "rests with the flag states." But the four Asian nations have refused to provide data from their vessels on the ground that national legislation prevents it.

Aqorau said illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is "significant" in the Pacific, particularly on the hig h seas in the vicinity of the 200-mile exclusive economic zones controlled by the eight PNA nations, where over 50 percent of the global supply of skipjack tuna is caught.

"There should be sanctions (for non-reporting of catch data) and (illegal, unreported and unregulated) is the ultimate sanction," Roberts said.

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