Distributing a conservation burden across multiple jurisdictions: a case study of the western and central pacific tuna industries
Additional Publication Information
The Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) stretches approximately 6,000 nautical miles across numerous jurisdictions, from the archipelagos of Southeast Asia to the remote atolls of Kiribati in the Central Pacific. This vast ocean is home to the world’s most productive tuna fisheries, supplying global markets with skipjack, bigeye, yellowfin and albacore worth approximately US$4.6 billion annually. These fisheries are critically different from other tuna fisheries in that 87 per cent of all reported WCPO tuna catches are harvested from waters under national jurisdiction. Unlike the high seas tuna fisheries of the Eastern Pacific, Indian Ocean and North Atlantic, the WCPO tuna fisheries are predominantly subject to the sovereign rights of coastal States and therefore essentially ‘owned’ by a small group of developing coastal States.
In December 2004, the region came together and celebrated the establishment of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. All of the key coastal and distant water fishing States collaborated to establish the world’s most advanced regional fisheries management organisation with a mandate to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the WCPO tropical tuna fisheries.
Eight years later, the members of the WCPFC are now at a critical juncture. In order to fulfil their mandate and ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the WCPO tropical tuna fisheries, they must cooperate to reduce overfishing in complex fisheries that catch multiple species, utilise multiple gears and span multiple jurisdictions.