WWF workshop strengthens Fiji’s offshore tuna fisheries sector
Over the last three days, WWF in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries (MoF) and the Fiji Fishing Industry Association (FFIA) facilitated a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standards and Chain of Custody (CoC) / Traceability in Fiji’s Tuna Longline Industry workshop for key partners within Fiji’s Tuna fishing and processing sector as well as government agencies that included the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health.
Participants were up-skilled on theory and practical sessions from experts in the field of MSC fisheries standards, CoC requirements, and traceability to ensure Fiji’s Albacore and Yellowfin MSC certification within its exclusive economic zone and adjacent high seas are managed, audited and maintained in line with MSC standards which complements efforts to eliminate IUU regionally.
According to WWF Pacific’s Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood Programme Manager, Duncan Williams, MSC certification allows fishing operations to be more aligned and cohesive in the most sustainable interest for Pacific Island offshore fisheries stakeholders, not only for Fiji but the region.
“The MSC certification gives international consumers in markets such as the European Union, United States of America, New Zealand and Australia confidence that tuna caught in Fiji, has been sourced from healthy, well-managed tuna stocks. Robust fisheries with stringent Chain of Custody or traceability requirement are less likely to misreport catches. It is the ‘unreported’ component of IUU fishing that is a challenge facing the global seafood sector,” Williams said.
While opening the workshop, Permanent Secretary for Fisheries, Craig Strong said the Ministry’s international and regional commitments articulate the Fiji Governments willingness to embrace the shared responsibility in combating the global problem of IUU fishing.
According to the 2016 MRAG Asia Pacific report, the estimated cost of IUU fishing in Pacific tuna fisheries within the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is approximately over FJ$1.2b (US$616.11m). Of this, the regions’ longline fisheries sector accounted for around 44 percent of the overall estimated IUU value or FJ$545.1m (US$272.55m).
Fiji’s offshore fisheries sector, through its longline fleet, contributes annually around FJ$120m to its economy.
Despite the many challenges faced by Fiji’s offshore fisheries sector, progress has also been made over the last decade. This includes Fiji’s tuna fisheries earning international recognition as being the first longline tuna fishery in the world to have been certified sustainable under the MSC certification for sustainability back in 2012 and again last year in 2018.
In Fiji, the FFIA is the MSC certificate holder which consists of 55 MSC certified tuna longline fishing vessels.
“Fiji is making good progress in MSC certification having a small number in 2012 for Albacore caught inside Fiji waters, to the 55 vessels currently certified for Albacore and Yellowfin caught in Fiji waters and adjacent high seas. Also, Fiji’s commitments to the Oceans Conference were to have 75% of the FFIA membership to be MSC certified by 2020. We are proud to report that we are well on target to achieve this.”
“This confirms to the global community and the export markets that Fiji is serious in ensuring the long-term sustainability of its fisheries resources as a responsible flag and port State,” said Strong.
Strong highlighted that the workshop also contributed to the notion of ocean science.
“Ocean science is critical if we are to make the right decisions that govern the commercial sustainability of our oceans. Fiji’s membership of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the Western Pacific provides the perfect platform for us to anchor our scientific and research work as we enter the UN Decade of Ocean Science,” Strong added.
Williams emphasised that WWF is committed to working together in partnership with the Fijian Government, fisheries stakeholders, the private sector, development and funding partners to ensure that the country’s offshore fisheries continues to be sustainably well managed and benefits all grass-root communities here in Fiji.
The three-day workshop was funded by the European Union and the Government of Sweden through the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme. PEUMP is a multi-partner programme, which is being implemented by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and several regional agencies in 15 Pacific countries. The FFA and WWF are implementing a component related to the reduction of IUU fishing in the region.