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Pacific : Fisheries conservation and management elements not to be detailed in EPA, says FFA

06 February 2014

At a meeting of Pacific ACP Trade and Fisheries ministers and officials, organised by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Director-General James Movick stressed: “[T]echnical conservation and management elements for fisheries should not be detailed in a trade agreement.” He considers that such issues should be dealt with in a fisheries context, between EU and Pacific ACP (PACP) fisheries’ officials. “This has always been a clear and consistent FFA advice in EPA negotiations.”

Mr Movick clarified the role of the FFA in European Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations; although the agency does not participate in the negotiations, its role is to support and provide objective advice to its members on fisheries management and development aspects of EPA negotiations. “The nature of the agency’s representation in the EPA negotiations may have created an impression that FFA is under pressure, or is pressuring PACPs into signing an EPA. That impression is correct only insofar as the pressure that we are responding to is from FFA member governments and tuna investment stakeholders who want to see increased tuna processing investment and trade in the region.”

FFA is also sharing its experience on trade and development issues, such as in assisting Pacific island countries to attract increased investment to create employment, government revenues and income generation through the processing of tuna resources.

Regarding the tuna conservation and management provisions proposed for inclusion in the EPA, FFA has made it clear to the EU that FFA members have a long and successful history of tuna fisheries management; this management “has resulted in the Pacific still enjoying the healthiest tuna stocks amongst all of the global regions”. He also emphasised that although the EPA negotiations have been ongoing for 10 years, the FFA has urged negotiators to take into account that “much has changed, and continues to change, in the international tuna industry”.

Editorial comment

There have been a lot of changes in the international tuna industry during the 10 years of ongoing EPA negotiations, including EU and PACP interests and policies. International competition over access to tuna raw material, including the EU fleets’ operations, has been growing during this period. Increasingly, the EU wants to protect its industry – which must abide by a series of standards imposed by legislation – against others who, from the EU perspective, do not respect similar standards. A new EU illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) legislation has been developed, applying to all products entering EU markets, including PACP imports, which now have to prove that the fish have been legally caught. On the PACP side, there is growing political will to take more control of their tuna resources, and to maximise local benefits, often by linking the allocation of fishing licences to onshore investment for processing and trading higher added value products. Both in the PACP and in the EU, tuna fisheries management has therefore become intrinsically linked to trade-related elements, which would probably be reflected in EPA negotiations. How it should be reflected is another issue. International principles should always be respected, in particular the FAO Code of Conduct, which insists that countries should not condition access to their markets to the allocation of access to resources.

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