2017 Morrison & Foerster Pro Bono Report

DECLINING TUNA FISHERIES IMPERIL PALAU The island nation of Palau is on a mission to stop illegal fishing. MoFo is helping the government create a model program for sustainable fishing to protect tuna for future generations. Sixty percent of the world’s annual tuna catch comes from the waters of 16 island nations in the Pacific Ocean, including Palau, which owns and manages five percent of these waters. The Pacific is one of the last strongholds of global tuna stocks. Overfishing — which is already occurring for bigeye tuna — could lead to the collapse of Pacific tuna fisheries, putting Palau’s economy and culture at risk. Lawyers from MoFo’s San Francisco office are assisting longtime pro bono client, The Nature Conservancy, in helping the government of Palau create a model program for sustainable tuna fishing. The team includes partners Robert Townsend and Eric McCrath, and associate Jennifer Jeffers. “Palau has become a leading force in marine conservation. It’s fundamental to their culture and their economy,” says Jennifer. Palau’s fishing rights extend 200 nautical miles beyond its coasts, but the country has only a small marine police force to enforce regulations. “We had to design a regulation that could be practically implemented,” Eric adds. Longline commercial fishing entails dragging a main fishing line up to 100 kilometers (60 miles) in length, with secondary lines branching off of it, each set with hundreds of thousands of barbed, baited hooks. Overfishing with longlines degrades marine ecosystems and results in substantial bycatch of non-commercial sea life, as well as threatened marine and bird species. Using their experience in regulatory guideline development, government- NGO partnerships, bid processes, and economics, MoFo lawyers developed a new model for regional fisheries management, with regulations that increase local control and improve the fishery’s economic and environmental performance. “Essentially, we developed a scheme that allocates ‘catch quotas’ to individuals,” explains Rob. A regulator will set a total allowable catch (TAC) quota for tuna, measured by weight, for a given time period. The quotas can be bought, sold, and leased, a feature called “transferability.” Palau’s Congress adopted the standard in 2016. To enforce the regulations, fishing vessels will be outfitted with electronic monitoring systems that capture video of everything brought up on the longlines. “We hope this solution will become a template to help other western Pacific nations where tuna fisheries are being devalued and destroyed by over-fishing and illegal fishing,” says Rob. “Our goal is to ensure that tuna will be around for future generations.” According to The Nature Conservancy’s general counsel, Wisla Heneghan, “the dedicated services and insight [of the MoFo team] enabled the Conservancy to not only achieve our goals for the Palau Fisheries Project, but also to engage in cutting-edge conservation around the globe.” THE DEDICATED SERVICES AND INSIGHT [OF THE MOFO TEAM] ENABLED THE CONSERVANCY TO NOT ONLY ACHIEVE OUR GOALS FOR THE PALAU FISHERIES PROJECT, BUT ALSO TO ENGAGE IN CUTTING-EDGE CONSERVATION AROUND THE GLOBE. WISLA HENEGHAN 33 | Morrison & Foerster Pro Bono Report