Home WORK AREAS Stock Assessment Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission 2010
Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission 2010
Thursday, 23 September 2010 13:53

Logo of the WCPFCOne of the most important meetings for SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme (OFP) and SPC member countries and territories is the yearly Scientific Committee (SC) meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The SC reviews the current state of scientific knowledge, and sends recommendations and advice to WCPFC, which manages the world’s largest and most valuable tuna fishery. In its role as thfe science provider to WCPFC, OFP provides stock assessments, fishery statistics and other scientific work. Before and during each meeting of the SC, OFP also gives scientific support to SPC member countries and territories.



This year, the sixth meeting of the SC was held in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, from 10–19 August. OFP provided the majority of the scientific research with over 30 papers, including a review of fisheries; stock assessments for bigeye and skipjack tuna; an evaluation of current management measures; and a review of progress in the regional tuna tagging project. A brief summary of these presentations is presented here. The meeting’s summary report and meeting papers can be found by at the WFCP web site.


Fisheries review

In 2009, the tuna catch in the western and central Pacific was the highest ever recorded, at 2.4 million mt, which represents 58% of the global tuna catch. This was primarily driven by the record skipjack catch of 1.8 million mt – nearly 120 thousand mt higher than the previous record. The albacore catch, was the second highest on record, with very good catches from the longline fishery The largest part of the catch was skipjack caught by the purse-seine fishery (Fig. 1). The review also indicated, that despite the various restrictions imposed on the purse seine fishery in 2009, including the two month FAD closure that both total and FAD-related purse seine effort has been increasing in recent years.

Total tuna catch by species.Fig. 1: Total tuna catch by species

Stock Assessments and Management Advice

The 2010 bigeye tuna assessment, presented by Dr Shelton Harley (head of the SPC’s Stock Assessment and Modelling Section), indicated that overfishing was occurring (i.e. fishing mortality was above FMSY1), and that the stock was either slightly overfished or soon would be (i.e. spawning biomass was close to or below SBMSY2). Overall, the 2010 assessment was marginally more optimistic than the 2009 assessment ), but the SC still recommended to the Commission a 29% reduction in fishing mortality from recent levels.. Results of the 2010 skipjack assessment, the first since 2008, were presented by OFP’s Senior Fisheries Scientist Dr Simon Hoyle. This assessment made the first use of information from the recent tagging programme as well as new analyses of fishery-related data. The results, suggesting less scope to increase catches than had previously been thought, attracted considerable interest, though the assessment clearly indicated that the stock was not in an overfished state, and not being overfished.


Other Matters

We noted in last year’s report the nomination of a new Vice-Chair of the SC, Pamela Maru of Cook Islands. Pam, was the first Pacific Islander in a leadership position in a regional fishery management organization. Pam excelled at her role in 2010, including taking on extra responsibilities through a secondment to the WCPFC Secretariat in the lead up to the meeting. The confidence that the SC had in her performance was demonstrated in the nomination of both her and Vanessa Marsh (Niue) as co-conveners of the Data and Statistics Theme for 2011 and beyond. Both Vanessa and Pam have attended the annual Stock Assessment training workshops for several years now.


Subject to the approval by the Commission, the next SC meeting will be held in Palau in August 2011.



  1. FMSY = The fishing mortality rate that would, in theory, give the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) from a particular stock year after year. MSY is the average or maximum catch that can be removed under existing environmental conditions over an indefinite period without causing the stock to be depleted, assuming that removals and natural mortality are balanced by stable recruitment and growth.
  2. SBMSY = The reproductive output by sexually mature female fish in a population (also known as the “reproductive potential”) needed, in theory, for a population to provide MSY year after year.
Copyright © 2024 Oceanic Fisheries Programme. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.
   SPC Homepage | About SPC | Copyright © SPC 2010