Major international squid producers today pressed on members of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Organization (SPRFMO) to reach an agreement on limiting fishing effort and increasing observer coverage for jumbo flying squid. At the 11th annual SPRFMO meeting, which ends tomorrow, industry leaders asserted the importance of global squid fisheries to markets and people, and expressed urgency for measures to ensure their sustainability. 

“This year, there seems to be real interest by most SPRFMO member states in limiting fishing effort and increasing observer coverage. However, we are deeply concerned, because it seems that consensus has not been achieved. Not reaching an agreement to limit fishing effort through a measure that meets the needs of the coastal state fleets puts the RFMO in a compromising situation, as it signals that the SPRFMO is not meeting the mandate established by the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean,” said Alfonso Miranda, president of CALAMASUR, a participant in the meeting.

Delegations from the US, EU, China and South Korea have presented this year proposals to increase observer coverage and limit the fishing effort of distant-water fleets (DWFs) operating on the high seas. Based on this interest, the SPRFMO created a working group to carry out the negotiations during the ongoing annual meeting, which is being held in Manta, Ecuador. However, there is an apparent lack of consensus among the delegations involved.

After several years in which the SPRFMO seemed to make progress toward improving the management of the high seas fishery, the current lack of consensus on limiting fishing effort based on the precautionary principle would be a step back on the path toward responsible management.

The jumbo flying squid fishery is an important source of raw material for a global industry that supplies products to the US and EU markets and sustains large artisanal fleets from Chile, Peru and Ecuador. Currently, the high seas fishery operates under an open access regime, putting at risk not only the sustainability of the stock, but also the livelihoods of entire fishing communities from the coastal countries who depend on the catch and processing of this resource said Carmen González-Vallés, Supply Chain Roundtables director at SFP. 

The SPRFMO has a mandate to manage the jumbo flying squid (Dosidicus gigas) fishery on the high seas of the South Pacific. This squid species supports the most important invertebrate fishery in the world, with an average production of 840,000 tons (2016-2020). The products derived from this resource are processed and distributed in global supply chains to the European, North American and Asian markets.

“Most of the advances made by RFMOs to manage the high seas fisheries build upon the notion of continuous improvement and the precautionary principle. If delegates involved in the negotiations embrace these approaches to guide their positions, an important first step toward sustainable use of the resource will be achieved, as the high seas jumbo flying squid fishery currently remains under-regulated. In contrast, the coastal states fisheries have been undergoing continuous improvements in the last few years. Such is the case of Peru, the main producer of jumbo flying squid, which is implementing a fishery improvement project (FIP),” Miranda said.

Since 2013, European and North American companies have cooperated in a pre-competitive manner by participating in the Global Squid Supply Chain Roundtable. Coordinated by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), the Roundtable promotes and supports actions that ensure science-based management for squid fisheries.

Confronted with a potential lack of agreement, the Roundtable companies have expressed concern and their support for delegates’ efforts to agree upon a measure before the end of today’s session.

“We would like to encourage the delegations involved in the negotiations to make their best effort to reach a consensus to increase the on-board observers coverage and to limit the fishing effort immediately on the high seas, where around 35 percent of the annual catch of jumbo flying squid is reported. The current status quo on the high seas, where fishing efforts are uncontrolled and on the rise, is negatively affecting the sustainability of the entire resource,” said Stefano Pagliai of Panapesca USA, a member of the Roundtable.