The Pacific Ocean is home to the world’s largest and most valuable commercial tuna fisheries. The waters of the western and central Pacific produce 2.73 million metric tons of skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna each year, worth over $21 billion—more than half of the $40 billion that all tuna fisheries contribute to the global economy each year. These fisheries play a major role in the region’s coastal economies, and a variety of industries, such as tuna canning and processing and high-end seafood preparation, mainly for sushi and sashimi.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is the regional body charged with setting rules for fishing the commercially important species in these waters. Its member governments, which meet annually to set the rules for these fisheries, must prioritize sustainability and long-term health for the stocks in their charge. By shifting toward science-based management—including employing precautionary harvest strategies, adopting greater oversight of what is happening on the water through the use of electronic monitoring and increased observer coverage, and developing robust compliance regimes to ensure that rules are followed—WCPFC can establish itself as a leader in modern, sustainable fisheries management.