European Community pulls the rug on South Pacific negotiations

Posted on 10 November 2006
MSC certified catch of mackerel, UK.
© WWF / Edward Parker
Hobart, Tasmania – A number of fishing nations led by the European Community refused to agree to any responsible fishing management measures in the South Pacific Ocean as the negotiations associated with the interim management of the high seas in the region foundered.

Despite the best interests and efforts of the United States, Australia, Chile, Pacific island countries and New Zealand, which stepped up to the challenge of voluntarily restraining their fishing effort and calling for sound ecological management, the European Community refused to accept interim measures at a meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks and to protect the broader marine environment.

Of particular note was the Chilean government, stating that it is constraining its own national fishing effort out of concern for the sustainability of pelagic mackerel stocks, which are of great economic significance to the coastal communities of Latin America.

In contrast, a group led by the European Community wanted the freedom to rapidly expand its catch levels of mackerel without due regard for those in developing countries who rely on the health of these fish stocks for their livelihoods or for the health of marine ecosystems underpinned by these small pelagic stocks.

“It is clear that some governments seem bent on delaying any decision to cap levels of fishing so that they have the opportunity to rapidly expand their fishery exploitation, to the point that by the time we get any precautionary management measures in place, commercial fish stocks will have collapsed,” said Alistair Graham from WWF International.

“We are concerned to see these historical patterns of fisheries management failure being played out yet again in the South Pacific.”

WWF-Australia spokesperson Lorraine Hitch said: “Eight months ago at the first session in Wellington, these same governments agreed to adopt voluntary interim arrangements for the South Pacific Ocean at this meeting. Yet now it seems that even exercising restraint in their fishing activities as an interim step is unacceptable to governments such as the European Community despite their obligations under international law."

“Unless we see a major change in attitude and a significant show of good faith by all participants at the third negotiating session in Chile early next year, the future of this new proposed South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation already appears bleak.”

For further information:
Alistair Graham, WWF International, +61 439 568 376
Lorraine Hitch, WWF-Australia , +61 428 626 552
MSC certified catch of mackerel, UK.
© WWF / Edward Parker Enlarge