Policies and rules govern how tuna stocks are maintained
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meets once a year to decide on rules and policies that support the management of the tuna fisheries of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). The rules are called conservation and management measures (CMMs). They are binding. The WCPFC also sets resolutions, which are recommended courses of action but not binding.
The WCPFC is made up of three groups of countries: members, cooperating non-members, and participating territories. They are known collectively as CCMs. Among the members are the 14 small island developing states (SIDS) of the WCPO.
WCPFC maintains all CMMs and resolutions.
Extra rules apply in waters governed by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (see below).
CMMs for managing tuna populations
The CMMs that affect how populations of tuna and other species are managed are summarised on this page. Links to the complete CMM are provided.
- 2020-01, Bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the WCPO: purse seine fishery in tropics (20°N–20°S)
- 2020-01, Bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the WCPO: longline fishery
- 2020-01, Bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the WCPO: other commercial fisheries
- 2020-01, Bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the WCPO: target reference points
- 2019-02, Pacific bluefin tuna
- 2019-03, North Pacific albacore
- 2015-02, South Pacific albacore
- 2015-06, Target reference point for skipjack tuna
2020-01, Bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean
Purse seine fishery in tropics (20°N–20°S)
- Prohibits setting of fish-aggregating devices (FADs) July–September in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and high seas
- Additionally prohibits setting of FADs for 2 months in a row, either April–May or November–December (except for Kiribati-flagged vessels in adjacent high seas)
- From 1 January 2020, all existing and new FADs must be constructed to prevent the entanglement of sharks, turtles, and other bycatch. Mesh should be avoided, but if it is used should be wrapped tightly around the raft so that it doesn’t hang loose. Tails should be weighted, and if made of mesh, bundled tightly into a sausage shape. Mesh size to be no larger than 7 cm when stretched.
- The use of biodegradable materials is recommended
- No vessel is have more than 350 FADs with activated instrumented buoys
- Effort and catch within EEZs needs to match existing limits
- Non-SIDS need to restrict their purse-seine fishing efforts on the high seas to stated limits
- When a country exceeds effort and catch limits, the excess amount will be deducted from the limits for the following year
- All vessels are to retain on board and then land or ship at port all their catch
- All purse-seine vessels shall carry an official observer
- Except for SIDS and Indonesia, no country is to increase the number of its vessels that are larger than 24 metres and have freezer capacity
2020-01, Bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the Western & Central Pacific Ocean
- Catch limits are set for bigeye tuna for all countries catching 2,000 tonnes or more per year
- Countries that caught less than 2,000 tonnes in 2004 are not to increase their catch above 2,000 tonnes a year
- Longline vessels are not to increase their catches of yellowfin tuna
- People’s Republic of China, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei and USA are to report monthly on bigeye catches
- Except for SIDS and Indonesia, no country is to increase the number of its longline vessels targeting bigeye tuna that have a freezing capacity or ice-chilling facilities
2020-01, Bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the Western & Central Pacific Ocean
Other commercial fisheries
- Total effort and capacity of other commercial bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna fisheries (taking more than 2,000 tonnes) is not to exceed the average level of 2001–04 or 2004
2020-01, Bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna in the WCPO
Target reference points
- Pending agreement, spawning biomass for bigeye and yellowfin tuna to be maintained at or above the average set for 2012–15
- Pending agreement, spawning biomass for skipjack tuna to be maintained at 50% of the level that occurs in the absence of fishing (see CMM 2015-06)
2019-02, Pacific bluefin tuna
- For vessels operating north of 20°N, total fishing effort should stay below the 2002–04 annual average levels, and catches of individual fish smaller than 30 kg should be reduced to 50% of the 2002–04 annual average
- When more than the limit is caught, the excess will be deducted from the catch limit in the following year
- If less than the limit is caught in any year, a maximum of an extra 5% of the annual limit may be carried over to the following year
- For 2018–20, part of the annual catch limit for tuna smaller than 30 kg can be used to catch tuna larger than 30 kg in the same year. Fish larger than 30 kg cannot be used to catch fish smaller than 30 kg.
- Annual reports about these tuna catches are required by 31 July
- CCMs to monitor numbers of juveniles each year, to contribute to knowledge about numbers of surviving offspring
- Strengthen monitoring and data collection for fisheries and farming to improve data quality and reporting
2019-03, North Pacific albacore
- Fishing for albacore tuna north of the equator is not to be increased above 2005 levels, and work is needed to maintain or to reduce fishing efforts
- All CMMs are to report annually to WCPFC on catch by weight, and fishing effort by gear used
2015-02, South Pacific albacore
- Fishing for albacore tuna south of 20°S is not to be increased above 2005 levels, and work is needed to only maintain or to reduce fishing efforts
- SIDS have a legitimate right to responsibly develop their own albacore fisheries in the waters under their jurisdiction
- Each fishing vessel operating south of 20°S needs to report annually to the WCPFC about the total catch
2015-06, Target reference point for skipjack tuna
- The interim target reference point for skipjack is to be 50% of the estimated recent average spawning biomass in the absence of fishing
- The target reference point will be estimated using the same methods that are used for the limit reference point for skipjack
- The Scientific Committee will refer to this reference point when assessing the status of skipjack stocks and when recommending any changes due to possible local reductions or geographical shift in stocks
- 2010-01, North Pacific striped marlin
- 2009-03, Swordfish
- 2006-04, Striped marlin in the south-west Pacific
2010-01, North Pacific striped marlin
- Total catch is to be 80% of the highest catch between 2000 and 2003
- Each flag/chartered fishing vessel operating north of the equator must report annually on its actions to reduce its catch, and on the total catch taken
- Each participating country has an agreed maximum number of fishing vessels that may operate south of 20°S, and will not shift its fishing efforts north of this area
- SIDS have a legitimate right to responsibly develop their own swordfish fisheries in the Convention area
- All participating countries will cooperate on research aimed at reducing uncertainty about the status of swordfish stocks
- Annual reports need to be made to the WCPFC on the total catch and the total number of all vessels fishing south of 20°S
2006-04, Striped marlin in the south-west Pacific
- Each participating country has an agreed maximum number of fishing vessels that may operate south of 15°S
- SIDS have a legitimate right to responsibly develop their own striped marlin fishery south of 15°S
- All fisheries will report annually to the WCPFC on the striped-marlin catch, whether if is from direct fishing or as bycatch
Setting the rules … delegates in session at the 16th annual meeting of WCPFC, in Port Moresby in December 2019. Photo: F. Tauafiafi.
Extra rules apply in PNA waters
Any vessel fishing in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of PNA member states must be licensed to do so, and also abide by any other PNA rules as well as the CMMs of the WCPFC.
The members of the PNA seek to ensure their rules are consistent among members and with WCPFC rules. Article 1 of the agreement (signed in 1982 and amended in 2010) says:
‘The Parties shall seek, without any derogation of their respective sovereign rights, to coordinate and harmonise the management of fisheries with regard to common stocks within the Fisheries Zones, for the benefit of their peoples.’
Under the authority of the PNA, the member states have implemented two schemes that allow them to require fishing vessels to have a licence to fish in EEZ waters. The two agreements are the Palau Arrangement for the operation of the Purse Seine Vessel Day Scheme (amended October 2016) and a similar arrangement for the Longline Vessel Day Scheme (amended October 2016).
The arrangements set out the operating rules for these two types of fishing vessels. Under the rules, the PNA members sell a limited number of fishing days in the exclusive economic zones of the PNA states.
They also detail how the PNA manages tuna stocks (populations) sustainably while maximising local incomes.