December 9, 2022
Officer, International Fisheries
Fishery managers in the western and central Pacific adopted a management procedure (MP) for skipjack tuna – the largest tuna fishery in the world – on the final day of their annual meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam.
Eight years after committing to develop management procedures, also called harvest strategies, for its key tuna species, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) took this critical step forward to modernize management of the skipjack fishery at its meeting that ended Dec. 3.
This is not only the first management strategy evaluation (MSE)-tested management procedure for a tuna species adopted in the WCPFC, it is the first across the Pacific.
However, more work remains to be done. Importantly, the management procedure lacks a direct link to setting effort and catch in the skipjack fishery. While the MP will calculate catch and effort levels based on model estimates of population size, there is no mandate to apply them on the water. Without this link, some of the chief benefits of a management procedure will go unrealized, including catch level predictability and transparency. Further, lengthy, political negotiations may still occur since the MP-based catch levels will be but one option on the table.
Instead of the MP-based catch and effort levels being directly implemented, the Scientific Committee will review the output of the management procedure and provide advice to the Commission on the application of the management procedure to the implementation of the tropical tuna measure, which will continue to be periodically renegotiated.
Still, this is a significant accomplishment for the WCPFC, coming after years of hard work by the scientists and members of the Commission, and builds momentum for developing fully-tested management procedures for its other tuna stocks. It will be critical for WCPFC to fill in the missing piece of its management procedure for skipjack and tie it to setting effort and catch in the fishery when it next renegotiates the tropical tuna measure in 2023.