World must try harder to save tuna, U.N. says

by Shinya Ajima

KOBE (Kyodo) The international community must do a better job fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing of tuna, a senior U.N. food agency official said.

“What we really need would be more strong commitments by all states and stakeholders to implement . . . instruments (for tuna conservation) and honor obligations,” Jean-Francois Pulvenis, fisheries and aquaculture director of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, said in a recent interview.

Pulvenis, attending the first-ever meeting of five international tuna resource management bodies in Kobe as an observer, said one failure has been correctly gauging the extent of all types of illegal and suspicious fishing.

“It is true,” he said of criticism that the global community has so far failed to work out effective measures to crack down on illegal fishing. It is “hard to evaluate the exact size and the exact effect” of the transgressions, he said.

He said there is need for “procedures and mechanism” that could help countries in fighting illegal fishing. In that sense, “this conference is extremely helpful,” Pulvenis said.

About 300 representatives of the fishing industries and governments of some 50 countries and regions are now in Kobe to discuss such topics as the sharing of information on illegal fishing vessels and introducing certificates of origin for tuna to prevent unreported fishing.

They will adopt an action plan when they wrap up the five-day meeting Friday.

Pulvenis said all tuna-fishing countries must immediately handle the issue of “fishing overcapacity” because the number of tuna boats has been increasing worldwide.

“This meeting will constitute a very important forum for . . . making some up-to-date and timely, concrete recommendations in this regard,” he said, adding that coordination by the tuna conservation bodies is indispensable.

On Japan’s position as the world’s biggest tuna consumer, Pulvenis said the government has played a leading role and is a “very good supporter” in global tuna conservation efforts. But he suggested a wide range of problems cannot be solved just by Japan’s efforts.