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The Pacific tuna stock represents the Pacific region’s greatest shared resource. The total value of the tuna catch in the waters of Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members is worth about US$2.4 billion annually. It is a main source of income in the Pacific – contributing US$260 million to combined gross domestic product (GDP), and providing over 13,000 jobs to Pacific island people. There is the potential to significantly increase the returns for Pacific countries from this resource.
Supported by regional bodies such as the FFA and Secretariat of the Pacific Communities, well defined regional strategies are being implemented to maximise both economic and social benefits of fisheries to Pacific island countries. Sub-regional groups are also improving coordination and regional control over the tuna fishery to ensure that different interests are accommodated and advanced.
Tuna stocks in other parts of the world have been severely depleted by over-fishing. Key Pacific tuna stocks are approaching their sustainable limits and action must be taken now to maintain the productivity of this valuable resource. The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is the regional fisheries management organisation charged with the conservation and management of the region’s highly migratory fish stocks. Close cooperation from the distant water fishing nations in the WCPFC is essential, as the responsibility for conservation and management of these stocks must be shared by all who use them.
New Zealand, with one of the larger EEZs in the Pacific and a fishing presence in the region, is an active participant in regional fisheries initiatives, including the FFA and the WCPFC. New Zealand is also a substantial donor in the region, as well as a provider of monitoring, control and surveillance tools that help Pacific Island countries protect their EEZs.