Tuna Market Intelligence - Issue 18

Issue 18, July 1, 2015

Your fortnightly report on trends and influencers on the global tuna market from the Pacific Islands. PDF version is available here: http://www.pnatuna.com/sites/default/files/marketintel18.pdf


Insiders at the Bangkok Tuna Market are witnessing a steady rise in prices.

By May prices had reached $1,080 per metric ton, and the latest prices have fetched $1,175/t, which should rise to $1,200/t, insiders report.

The World Tuna Purse-seiner Organization (WTPO) Chairman Francisco Tiu Laurel expressed a hope that the reduction in fishing pressure might bring skipjack prices up from a low of $950 per metric ton seen in April 2015.

Ecuador tuna prices too have seen an increase which will benefit fishermen and fishing companies, rising from $850/t to around $1,100/t, he said. Send us your tips to marketintel@pnatuna.com


Marshall Islands warms to cannery prospect

Talks with Fiji tuna canning companies could result in a small cannery operation opening in the Marshall Islands. Discussions were held between members of a trade and investment mission that visited Fiji from the Marshall Islands during June.

“There are three or four cannery plants here in Fiji so one way or another we will look at the futuristic aspect of who we can work in partnership with,” Chief Executive for the Marshall Islands Office of Commerce and Investment Ravuni Uluilakeba told Fiji Broadcasting Commission during the trip.

Maurice Brownjohn, Commercial Manager for the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), joined the mission to Fiji and was involved in discussions with Fiji cannery representatives about opportunities in the Marshall Islands.

The one tuna loining operation on Majuro, run by Pan Pacific Foods, has struggled to maintain enough workers for one shift at the plant, which needs about 400 staff. This is in large part due to Marshall Islanders’ visa free access to the United States, where now close to 40 percent of the population resides, many of them working in poultry packing plants at higher wages. Another processing operation, owned by fisheries giant Luen Thai Fishing Ventures, offloads yellowfin and bigeye tuna caught by Majuro-based longliners and packages them for export to Hawaii and Japan sashimi markets three or four days a week.

Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Deputy Director Samuel Lanwi, Jr said a small-scale cannery, which could be in the range of 25-50 workers, would be able to attract an adequate number of employees for operations, and may look at processing by-catch available from the Majuro-based processing operations.


Tuvalu raises EU concern

Fisheries Ministers from the Forum Fisheries Agency 17 member nations will discuss the European Union's attitude towards member nations at the Forum Fisheries Ministers meeting in Tuvalu this week.

Opening the meeting in Funafuti, Tuvalu's Acting Prime Minister Hon Namoliki Sualiki said amongst other issues, they would discuss market access of fishery products,  the establishment of a Competent Authority to oversee health and hygiene requirements of the EU and other issues related to the uneven application of its illegal fishing rules.

At the last PNA ministerial meeting in Pohnpei last fortnight Tuvalu's Fisheries Minister Pita Elisala described the EU as a self appointed global fisheries policeman, using its market power to protect its own interests and threaten those of the small island developing states that it pretends to assist and support.

Tuvalu also hopes to address the controversy surrounding their second purseine vessel at the meeting. Construction of the Tautaloa came to a standstill in Taiwan last year with 40 percent of the work completed when their application for a permit to build and import was rejected by Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency.


Palau warns illegal fishermen

Fish in our waters and we will burn your boats. The simple yet strong statement from the small island nation of Palau became a reality on June 12 when

four Vietnamese “Blue Boat” vessels were burnt for fishing illegally in their waters.

The vessels were caught by Palau authorities off Kayangel Island in a protected area with over 8 metric tons of sea cucumbers and reef fish on board. Seventy seven Vietnamese crew members were loaded onto two other Blue Boats with enough fuel and provisions and sent packing back to Vietnam.

Palau's President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr did not mince his words when addressing the issue. "Palau is simply no longer an option when it comes to poaching," he said. Palau is trying to implement a no-take fishing zone, closing 80 percent of its Exclusive Economic Zone to commercial foreign fishing.


Eastern high seas fishing raising red flags

While tuna fishing inside the zones of Parties to the Nauru Agreement or PNA members has remained largely unchanged the past four years, a spike in bigeye tuna catches in a high seas area near Kiribati and the Marshall Islands is raising red flags.

Reports are coming in of “a dramatic increase in bycatch of bigeye tuna,” said Dr Transform Aqorau, CEO of PNA.  “It’s a serious issue.”

Pacnews reports that the central Pacific sees a larger bigeye tuna bycatch by purse seiners that target skipjack tuna, and reports from industry indicate that bigeye landings in Thailand have increased four-fold over the past two years. Scientists at the Tuna Commission last year said that bigeye tuna stocks had declined to under 20 percent of their original biomass and were being over-fished

Several years ago, as a conservation measure, PNA closed two high seas “pockets” to fishing as a condition of license to fish in PNA zones. Dr Aqorau said this eastern high seas area needs either a “hard” catch limit or to be closed to fishing as a condition of licensing in PNA waters.

He pointed out that catches in PNA zones have remained stable over the past four years because PNA enforces limits. But this is not the case in the eastern high seas, which sees growing catch volumes.

Not surprisingly, the fishing industry is less than enthusiastic about the possibility of an eastern high seas closure. “If the high seas are closed, the boats will have to buy fishing days (from PNA members),” said Tri-Marine Chief Operating Officer Joe Hamby in late April. “Closing the high seas is therefore not a conservation measure but a means to increase demand for (PNA fishing) days.”

American Tunaboat Association Executive Director Hallman said high seas closure in the eastern Pacific would have a “very negative impact” on the U.S. fleet. “The eastern high seas area is even more important to U.S. vessels since we have been largely excluded in 2015 from the waters of Kiribati, which are nearby,” Hallman said.

In light of the increasing tonnage of bigeye caught in the eastern high seas, PNA officials say a closure would help reduce pressure on the stock as well as reduce the current over-supply of skipjack that has seen prices plummet from US$2,300 per ton two years ago to about US$1,150 today.


Taiwan signs MOU with PNG

Meanwhile Taiwan and Papua New Guinea inked a memorandum of understanding on Monday in which the two countries agreed to cooperate in cracking down on illegal fishing.

Taiwan Fisheries Agency Director-General Tsay Tzu-yaw signed the pact with the National Fisheries Authority managing director John Kasu at the agency's headquarters in Kaohsiung. Tsay said Papua New Guinea has been an important fishing ground for Taiwanese fishing boats for tuna and has attracted Taiwanese investment in fish processing factories.

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Tuna Market Intelligence is an independent publication, sponsored by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to unearth industry and market information from Pacific Island reporters and analysts. Reprint in the media from the PNA countries is free. All other reprints must be authorized. Contact us on marketintel@pnatuna.com or see more on




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