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Tonga’s tuna issues a priority at this year’s Tuna Commission

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 11/12/2018

Albacore tuna – the species most important tuna for Tonga -will be at the top of the agenda for the annual Tuna Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Hawaii this week.

Viola Ulakai of Radio and Television Tonga who is at the Tuna Commission event in Honolulu said, Pacific countries involved in the albacore fishery want this year’s meeting of the Tuna Commission to live up to its commitment to establish a Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore.

According to Viola, the target reference point or ideal level for the fish stock is the first step from which all other rule-making takes its cue.

The Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency Dr. Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen raised the need to decide an albacore Target Reference Point with Viola and her Pacific Colleagues in Honolulu before meeting starts today. FFA Director General has confirmed with the Pacific Editors that the issue was taken by a representative of FFA to the Executive Director of the Tuna Commission Mr Feleti Teo as part of the preparation for this week’s dialogue.

The Forum Fisheries Agency’s push for a Target Reference point is fully in line with the expectation of the Ministry of Fisheries, according to Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry Dr. Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi.

Dr. Halafihi told Radio Tonga News in Honoululu that there is a concern over the decline in the amount of tuna in Tongan waters. He said contributing factors include the impact of Climate Change, overfishing and the high cost of operations for local fishing boats.

He says Tonga is fortunate to get technical and financial assistance from being a member of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) despite the fact that its sea is hardly utilized by foreign fishing boats due to its small stock of tuna.

FFA members do have an agreement with the United States to fish in the Pacific waters, especially for skipjack tuna. And although they don’t fish in Tongan waters, but Tonga still have an annual share from the US payment for their fishing activities in those agreement. That money comes to the government’s income.

Tonga benefits a lot from its involvement in FFA activities including programs with the WCPFC.  Halafihi said the FFA and this week’s Tuna commission meeting will involve other issues concerning Tonga and FFA members, including management measures, records of fishing vessels and monitoring of fishing activities in the region.

There are bilateral talks to be held during the Honolulu event and updates on various agreements including the Niue Treaty, through which Australia and New Zealand are helping Tonga and FFA members on monitoring and surveillance activities.

Honourable Minister of Fisheries is leading Tonga’s delegation at the WCPFC 15th Convention in Honolulu.

© Radio and Television Tonga News

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