The Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (the Convention) established the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to ensure, through effective management, the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks in the western and central Pacific Ocean.
The Convention was negotiated at a series of multilateral high-level conferences (MHLCs), which included participants from Pacific Island Countries (PICs) and distant water fishing nations and drew upon the principles of sustainable use, long-term conservation, effective monitoring, control and surveillance and the precautionary approach. The text of the Convention was adopted in September 2000.
Australia ratified the Convention on 22 September 2003 on the basis that it is a ground-breaking management regime that will best serve to protect Australia’s interest in the highly migratory fish stocks of the western and central Pacific Ocean. The Convention entered into force on 19 June 2004.
Highly migratory fisheries resources under the mandate of WCPFC includes tuna, billfish (such as swordfish, marlin, sailfish), and sharks. This includes the area covered by the Australian Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and Eastern Skipjack Fishery.
The Convention holds particular significance for PICs. Many of these nations rely heavily upon their fishing resources for food security and economic viability. For many Pacific Island populations, 70- 90% of animal protein comes from the sea. Offshore fisheries provide an estimated 15,000 formal jobs and hundreds of thousands of informal jobs (estimated to provide up to 500,000 jobs in PNG alone). The total annual catch of tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean represents around 60% of global tuna production and is a multi-billion dollar fishery.
The Convention applies to waters of the western and central Pacific Ocean including Australia’s exclusive economic zone off the east coast of Australia. The participation of PICs and Australia in WCPFC serves to protect the fisheries resources that migrate through the exclusive economic zones of certain Parties.
Participation in WCPFC allows Australia to directly engage in the development of management arrangements for the fisheries that the Commission is responsible for, including measures to manage and conserve the key tuna species of bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and albacore. Through WCPFC, Australia also plays an important role in developing management arrangements to address bycatch of other species including, but not limited to, sea birds, sea turtles, sharks and marine mammals.
Membership to the WCPFC is limited by the terms of the Convention. As the Convention is now in force, Contracting Parties to the Convention may, by consensus, invite other States, regional economic integration organisations whose nationals and fishing vessels wish to conduct fishing for highly migratory fish stocks in the Convention Area to join.
Current WCPFC members are Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu.
There are also a number of participating territories to the Convention: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna.
There are also twelve cooperating non-contracting parties to WCPFC: Belize, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Thailand, Vietnam.
Meetings of the WCPFC are held annually in December. The Scientific Committee and the Technical and Compliance Committee meet annually in advance of the Commission meeting in order for WCPFC members to act on the most recent scientific and compliance advice.
For more information on the WCPFC see the WCPFC website.