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SPC program will help nations cope with loss of tuna stocks

Nouméa, NEW CALEDONIA — Efforts are being made to ensure Pacific nations can cope with changing tuna migration patterns in the region.

Tuna migrations are already happening due to climate change and will become more pronounced over the next 30 to 40 years, bringing multi-million dollar impacts to Pacific economies.

To counter this the Pacific Community (SPC), through its Climate Science for Ensuring Pacific Tuna Access Program, aims to arm nations with the resources to counter this.

Principal fisheries officer at the SPC, Simon Nicol, said the migration is happening now and that will affect nations' ability to fish the species.

"Tuna will remain in the exclusive economic zones of each country, they may just not be as abundant as they are now.

"If countries are to adjust their economies they will need the best available information, and with funding from New Zealand this is what the program is intending to do.

"The intent of the work is to allow us to be able to make that much higher resolution analysis on behalf of Pacific Island countries, but there are a number of steps that we need to do along that way, and that includes strengthening up a number of the fisheries monitoring processes we have in place at the moment, ocean monitoring places."

Nicol said the new initiative will assist with negotiation across a range of platforms, including:

  • Actions associated with implementing the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission climate resolution
  • Loss and damage associated with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change processes - i.e. quantifying the impact of climate change on tuna derived income
  • Developing longer term bilateral arrangements depending on where industry returns are likely to be most beneficial to the country (e.g. as tuna redistribute they may wish to increase incentives for on-shore processing or transhipment as opposed to be reliant on access fees)
  • Bilateral and multilateral negotiations on access rights with distant water fishing nations

Nicol said the purpose is to get better estimates of how good the habitat is likely to remain within each exclusive economic zone.

"So there will be some refuge habitat that remains and that may be sufficient to allow countries to still continue to achieve the same level of production and benefit they get out of tuna.

"In cases where it's not, it will put them in a position where they are able to negotiate some of those access rights as fish do move out of their exclusive economic zones."

Last month the New Zealand government gave the program $US15.5 million.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the impact of climate change on tuna is a regional concern and requires a collective and coordinated response.

She said this fund will provide critical support for Pacific countries to protect their economic futures.