Navigating the blue horizon: Cook Islands to host 20th WCPFC annual meeting

Navigating the blue horizon: Cook Islands to host 20th WCPFC annual meeting

In the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, where the turquoise waters stretch beyond the horizon, nations come together annually to safeguard one of their most vital resources – tuna. This December marks a historic milestone as the Cook Islands assumes the mantle of hosting the 20th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Annual Meeting, a significant event for Small Island Developing States (SIDs) in the region.

For two decades, the WCPFC has been a pivotal platform, uniting nations to collaboratively manage highly migratory fish stocks in the Pacific. The Cook Islands, nestled in the heart of Polynesia, brings a unique perspective as a host nation, emphasizing the challenges and aspirations of SIDs in sustaining their fisheries.

Moreover, the Cook Islands actively engages in other Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, solidifying its standing as a leader in fisheries development and management within our Pacific community. This includes not only participation in all WCPFC meetings but also membership in the Northern Committee, alongside active involvement in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization.

Cook Islands’ symbolic stewardship: A tale of SIDs hosting

The significance of a Small Islands Developed States (SIDS) hosting the WCPFC Annual Meeting cannot be overstated. Small island nations, often vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and with limited resources, hold a crucial stake in sustainable fisheries. The symbolism lies in the acknowledgment of the unique challenges faced by these nations, particularly their dependency on marine resources for sustenance and economic stability.

Article 30 of the WCPFC Convention explicitly recognizes the special requirements of developing States Parties, especially SIDs, in the conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks. The Cook Islands, in stepping into the role of host, amplifies the voice of SIDs, advocating for measures that support their aspirations to develop and manage their domestic fisheries.

Agenda for WCPFC20: Priorities for Sustainable Fisheries

As the Cook Islands prepares to welcome delegates from across the Pacific and world, their agenda for WCPFC20 reflects a commitment to the sustainable management of tuna fisheries.

  • Development of Harvest Strategies: The Cook Islands, along with fellow Pacific nations, places a strong emphasis on the development of Harvest Strategies. This approach seeks to ensure the long-term sustainability of tuna species, aligning with global conservation goals.
  • Special Requirements for Developing States: Article 30 not only recognizes the challenges but mandates the Commission to consider the special requirements of developing States, particularly SIDs. The Cook Islands aims to ensure that conservation measures do not disproportionately burden these nations.
  • Climate Change Integration: In the face of a changing climate, Pacific nations are advocating for the integration of climate change impacts into the workings of the Commission. Rising sea temperatures and altered migration patterns pose direct threats to tuna stocks, making adaptation strategies imperative.
  • Labour Standards on Fishing Boats: Acknowledging the need for enhanced standards, the Cook Islands seeks to address labour conditions on fishing vessels. This move aligns with global efforts to ensure humane conditions for those involved in the industry.
  • Balancing Observer Coverage: An inherent imbalance exists in observer coverage between purse seine and longline vessels. The Cook Islands advocates for increasing coverage in the longline fishery, ensuring effective monitoring across all fishing methods.

Article 30 in Action: Facilitating Effective Participation

Beyond the thematic priorities, the Cook Islands is dedicated to implementing Article 30 in practical terms. Replenishing funds for the effective participation of SIDs, reflects their commitment to fostering inclusivity and genuine considering of SIDS needs and interests in fisheries management.

A Vision for Sustainable Fisheries: From Cook Islands to the Blue Pacific

As the WCPFC converges on the Cook Islands for its 20th Annual Meeting, the picturesque landscape sets the stage for discussions that transcend borders. The Cook Islands, with its azure lagoons and vibrant coral reefs, serves not only as a meeting ground but as a symbolic representation of SIDs’ dedication to the sustainable stewardship of their oceanic heritage. In this gathering, the harmonious blend of tradition, resilience, and commitment creates a narrative of hope for the future of the Blue Pacific.