Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)

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.

Background

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. The text of the Convention was adopted in September 2000. After consultation with states, territories and industry groups, Australia ratified the Convention in September 2003. On 19 June 2004, the Convention entered into force and the Commission met for the first time in December 2004 in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.

The Convention draws upon the principles of sustainable use, long-term conservation, effective monitoring, control and surveillance and the precautionary approach.

The Commission seeks to manage all highly migratory fish stocks within the Convention area including tuna, billfish such as swordfish, marlin, sailfish, mackerel and sharks. These fisheries are a very valuable resource to the Australian fishing industry.

Australian priorities

The Convention applies to waters of the Pacific Ocean including an area off the eastern coast of Australia. PICs and Australia's partcipation in WCPFC serves to protect the fisheries resources that migrate through our exclusive economic zone.

Participation in WCPFC allows Australia to directly engage in the development of management arrangements for the fisheries the Commission is responsible for, including measures to manage and conserve the key tuna species of bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and albacore. Through the Commission, 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.

Regional Engagement

The Convention holds particular significance for PICs. Many of these nations rely heavily upon their fishing resources for for food security and economic viability. For many Pacific island populations, 70- 90% of animal protein comes from the sea while offshore fisheries provide an estimated 13,000 formal jobs and 100,000’s of informal jobs (up to 500,000 in PNG alone). The total annual catch of tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean represents around 60% of global tuna production. In value terms, this equates to around US$4 billion per year.

Binding Treaty Action

Australia has undertaken binding treaty action on the Convention 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. The National Interest Analysis and text of the Treaty were tabled in Parliament on 17 June 2003 with its instrument of ratification lodged with the depository (New Zealand) on 22 September 2003.

Convention Map PDF Icon PDF [298kb]

Members

Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Japan, Kiribati, 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.

Participating Territories

American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna.

Cooperating Non-member(s)

Belize, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Ecuador, El Salvador, Indonesia, Mexico, Senegal, St Kitts and Nevis, Panama, Thailand, Vietnam.

Meetings

Sessions of the Commission 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 Commission members to act on the most recent scientific and compliance advice.

For more information on the WCPFC see the WCPFC website.