International talks to halt the decline of Pacific tuna stocks have taken a backward step after parties agreed to temporary measures that weaken existing protections, conservation groups say.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which regulates tuna fishing in the region, agreed to the temporary measures at the end of a week-long meeting in Guam on Friday.

Most of New Zealand's canned tuna comes from the Pacific, where all tuna stocks are in decline.

Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner Karli Thomas said the measures did nothing to halt the decline of bigeye tuna, which along with yellowfin tuna were the most at-risk in the region.


Scientists have advised fishing needs to be cut by up to 50 per cent to allow bigeye stocks to recover.

"This meeting unraveled protection for the region's tuna populations. This is a disappointing step backward," Ms Thomas said.

WWF tuna manager Daniel Suddaby said progress towards sustainable management of tuna stocks had been frustratingly stalled and in some cases had gone backwards.

"By not implementing good fisheries management, the WCPFC is showing a worrying lack of precaution for the future of one of the world's most important tuna fisheries."

Mr Suddaby said incentives to limit Pacific tuna catches must be given serious attention.

"A working fisheries management system that makes sustainable fishing a viable long-term economic activity in the Pacific and offers a choice for global tuna consumers is critical."