Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pacific Nations Call on Tuna Commission to Protect Whale Sharks

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) said countries must agree to protect whale sharks from fishing at next week’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Manila, Philippines.

Each year the WCPFC brings together the Pacific Island countries, Asian nations, US, EU and other foreign fishers to meet and decide rules for fishing of tuna throughout the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest tuna fishery, supplying 50% of the global tuna supply.

This year the Commission must decide on a conservation and management measure for whale sharks at its annual meeting from 2-6 December 2012. In 2010, PNA proposed to WCPFC a ban on setting purse seine fishing nets around whale sharks which was not adopted and the issue was deferred to this year’s meeting.

Up to 12 metres long, whale sharks are the largest living fish species in the world admired for their distinctive spotted markings and gentleness towards divers. Whale sharks sometimes provide shelter for swimming tuna and other fishes in the open sea. A paper from the Secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC) stated that in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean observers have recorded intentional setting of purse seine nets on whale sharks, as well as whale sharks being captured in nets accidentally. This fishing plus their slowness to reproduce, with whale sharks living around 70 years, has meant they are listed by IUCN as vulnerable to extinction.

The PNA banned setting nets on whale sharks and require whale sharks to be released alive if accidentally circled in nets in 2010.

PNA Chair Nanette Malsol said: “The PNA are global leaders in conservation and management of tuna but we are also concerned about the decline of other large marine species like the whale shark. We took the step of banning setting of nets around whale sharks in the PNA area. Next week we want WCPFC to protect whale sharks throughout the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.”

“PNA supports the proposal to address the impact of fishing on whale sharks put forward by Australia. It is not acceptable that these vulnerable species should be killed or injured just to catch a few extra fish. We must protect these beautiful creatures of the sea as part of our responsibilities under the WCPFC and the United Nations Law of the Sea.”

Released by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement on November, 27, 2012.

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