Four Steps That Could Affect Future for Fish—and Fishing—in North Pacific

Fisheries body has chance to adopt best practices at its upcoming meeting

Four Steps That Could Affect Future for Fish—and Fishing—in North Pacific
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Implementing new policies could improve transparency and sustainability in North Pacific fisheries.
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The North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) works to ensure that high-seas fishing for Pacific chub mackerel, Pacific saury, two squid species, and other stocks across the north Pacific Ocean is legal, transparent, and sustainable. The Pew Charitable Trusts shares those goals and will for the first time attend the Commission’s annual meeting, July 11-18 in Tokyo, as a formal observer.

Pew’s international fisheries work spans the globe and includes advocacy with regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and related bodies. These efforts center on promoting science-based fisheries management, modern enforcement mechanisms, and biodiversity protection.

As one of the world’s youngest RFMOs, the NPFC has an opportunity to base its policies on the most modern practices in fisheries management. To do that, and help achieve its goals, the Commission can take these four steps during its Tokyo meeting:

  1. Commit to greater transparency in the fisheries management process by making all meeting documents—including draft conservation and management measures submitted by members, and annual compliance reports—publicly available on the NPFC website.
  2. Follow standard RFMO practice by requiring that all vessels engaged in fishing activities—including those that transship NPFC-managed species—are registered (flagged) to an NPFC member government. That would mean that more vessels operating in these waters are subject to Commission rules. Alternatively, the Commission could develop a system in which cooperating non-members are recognized by the Commission when they have fleets operating in the region.
  3. Adopt a centralized vessel monitoring system to enhance the collection and reporting of ship location data for scientific purposes and contribute to NPFC monitoring, control, and surveillance programs.
  4. Combat illegal fishing by advancing the establishment of a compliance monitoring scheme to help NPFC members better adhere to Commission policies, with the aim of adopting that scheme in 2020 or soon after.

By taking these steps, the NPFC could make significant strides toward preventing illegal activity from undermining its conservation and management efforts. These accomplishments would also clear the way to develop harvest strategies for Pacific chub mackerel and other north Pacific stocks, implement best practices for transshipment, and adopt policies in line with the Port State Measures Agreement—three priorities for several NPFC members that could be addressed in 2020 and beyond.

Grantly Galland is an officer with Pew’s international fisheries team.

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