Celebrating 20 Years of WCPFC
In the Pacific's vast expanse, where the sea is a heritage written in the Pacific islanders' DNA, a compelling story unfolds. It's a narrative woven over two decades, marked by milestones that echo the commitment of nations to safeguard one of the world's greatest treasures—the Pacific tuna. This is the 20-year journey of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), a journey where the largest tuna fisheries in the world found not just guardians but stewards of a legacy.
The tale commenced two decades ago, under the Hawaiian sun, with the adoption of the Convention establishing the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). This pivotal moment set the stage for a remarkable journey in fisheries management.
Four years later, the WCPFC convened its first meeting in the heart of Pohnpei. The Secretariat found its home, becoming the beating heart of collaboration.
In 2012, a significant stride was taken with the adoption of the Compliance Monitoring Scheme. This framework became the backbone of ensuring that member countries adhered to agreed-upon conservation and management measures, laying the groundwork for accountable and transparent fisheries practices.
The harvest strategy framework, adopted in 2014, marked another pivotal moment. It was a declaration that Pacific nations were not merely harvesting tuna; they were cultivating a legacy of sustainability. With an eye on the future, this framework provided a roadmap for maintaining tuna stocks at levels that would support long-term ecological health.
During its annual meeting in 2016, the WCPFC acknowledged its silent heroes – the fisheries observers. Measures were adopted to protect these custodians of the sea, acknowledging the human thread woven into the tapestry of fisheries management.
The year 2019 saw the Commission facing a new challenge head-on. In a forward-looking resolution, climate change was officially recognized and included as a standing agenda item from 2023 onwards.
As of 2023, the WCPFC proudly boasts Conservation and Management Measures in place for all tuna and billfish species, as well as sea turtles, sharks, mobulids, cetaceans, and seabirds. This comprehensive approach reflects a holistic understanding of the interconnected web of marine life and the necessity of managing it sustainably.
Beyond protocols, beyond meetings, WCPFC's journey is entwined with people. It’s the fishers casting nets, the scientists deciphering ocean whispers, and the communities weaving tales around the catch.
Moreover, WCPFC's journey is not a solitary one. It is a story of collaboration with key partners such as the Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community, and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement. Together, we form a resilient tapestry of cooperation that has been pivotal in making the Western and Central Pacific Ocean tuna fishery one of the best managed in the world.
The economic value of tuna fisheries for the WCPO region is immeasurable. Beyond the dollars and cents, it sustains livelihoods, cultures, and dreams.
As we celebrate 20 years of WCPFC, let's not merely applaud policies and measures. Let's celebrate the people—fishers, scientists, policymakers, and communities—who have been there, year after year, under the vast Pacific sky, ensuring that the largest tuna fisheries in the world continue to thrive. It's a celebration of resilience, a commitment to future generations, and a testament to the fact that in the Pacific, the heart of the ocean beats in rhythm with the people who call it home.