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

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.

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.

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 Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee Tepaeru Herrmann raised the need to decide an albacore Target Reference Point with the Executive Director of the Tuna Commission Feleti Teo as part of the preparation for this week’s meeting in Honolulu.

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.

Before Tonga’s delegation came to Honolulu, Dr. Halafihi told Radio Tonga News 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 and the high cost of operations for local fishing boats. 

Meanwhile, Dr Halafihi 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 utilised by foreign fishing boats due to its small stock of tuna. 

“FFA members do have an agreement with the United States to fish in their waters, especially for skipjack tuna. And although they don’t fish in Tongan waters, but we still have an annual share from the US payment for their fishing activities in those agreement. That money comes to our government’s income. At the same time, we are sharing common waters”.

According to Dr Halafihi, Tonga benefits a lot from its involvement in FFA activities including programs with the WCPFC. 

He said the FFA and this week’s meeting of the Tuna commission will deal with issues concerning Tonga and other FFA members, including management measures, records of fishing vessels and monitoring of fishing activities in the region.

Chief Executive Officer of Fisheries also reiterated to Radio Tonga News in Honolulu that 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.