Our ocean, our life
FISHERIES in the central and western Pacific region are not in good shape. The commercially important fish populations may not yet be “fully fished” at this point but they are in danger of heading toward that direction. Even the fishing industry cannot much longer ignore the obvious.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s Scientific Committee reported that the yellowfin stock is “fully exploited” with “a minimum 47 percent probability” that overfishing is occurring within the regulated zone. The stock of bigeye tuna, according to the committee, is “not in an overfished state” but overfishing of this specie has been observed.
Tuna fishing is a major industry for islands that export to Japan, which consumes a quarter of the world’s tuna supply.
The FSM’s own tuna stock is assessed at 130,000 tons valued at $3 billion. That’s the amount that the Micronesia region would lose if overfishing is not kept in check and would result in the depletion of the tuna stock.
What we need is a system of regional — or global — discipline.
With that in mind, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, an international commission representing 33 fishing nations and islands, is now in session to revisit its agreement to reduce the catch of yellowfin and bigeye tuna.
The efforts to reduce tuna catches and enforce fishing regulations, however, are hampered by lack of resources, such as fleets with adequate monitoring systems to detect illegal fishers. This is definitely one area that the regional commission must immediately address.
Another factor that pointlessly contributes to the destruction of marine ecology is “bycatching.” This is a process by which fish are inadvertently caught and thrown back, usually dead, because they are not the target fish to be sold in the market.
According to fishery experts, about 20 million tons of fish are wasted in this way.
The commission’s member-nations and islands must therefore see to it that only acceptable fishing methods and gadgets are allowed in their areas of responsibility. One of the most destructive fishing methods is the use of large drift nets, which was banned by the United Nations in 1991.
Enforcing tough restrictions on fishing is a logical step, so is imposing a quota on tuna catch. Along with these measures, developing restoration plans would not be a bad idea even though the region may not have yet reached the “overfished state.”
Why wait ‘till that happens?