Tuna Market Intelligence - Issue 29

Issue 29, December 15, 2015
Your fortnightly report on trends and influencers on the global tuna market from the Pacific Islands. PDF available here


With prices at the Bangkok market inching lower this month, tuna vessels may start to tie up if they cannot hit the bottom line. 

World Tuna Purse Seine Organisation (WTPO) Chairman Francisco Tiu Laurel said tuna prices now stood at US$950 per metric tonne: "The current market price is speculating downward since the Fish Aggregating Ban was lifted in November."

Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA) Chief Executive Dr Transform Aqorau said fishing effort in the high seas has increased as well as good fishing in the Eastern Pacific: "In our last market intelligence you will note that Purse seine vessels in our waters have used 38,000 VDS days as at November this year which is lower than the same period last year which was just over 46,000 days. So, overfishing is not of our doing but it is still occurring in the Pacific."

Last month the last price recorded in the Bangkok market was US$1,000 per metric ton.

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Skipjack proposal

Whilst many members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) were bemoaning the poor result on bigeye and other conservation measures, the PNA was happy about the outcome for skipjack tuna - the main stock their members benefit from.   The Commission agreed to adopt a Target Reference Point for the skipjack tuna stock.  PNA Chief Executive Officer Dr Transform Aqorau said: "We are pleased that with this measure we can implement more effective harvest control rules and include better management tools. It reflects the hard work our team of officials and ministers at the PNA have put into making this outcome now a more meaningful measure for our members.”

Dr Aqorau said the measure was a result of a joint proposal between FFA members and Japan and saluted the collaborative effort.

PNA delivers parting shot

Whilst the Parties to Nauru Agreement was disappointed with the failure by members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to reach an amicable solution to overfishing of bigeye tuna it is back to the drawing board to look at how it can address its own fishery. At the end of the meeting, no new measures were reached by the 30 plus WCPFC members meaning there will not be any reduction of fishing bigeye tuna in the region.

Scientists say the bigeye population is overfished and is at just 16 percent of unfished levels.

PNA Chief Executive Officer Dr Transform Aqorau said they would be addressing overfishing within their own waters now that the VDS scheme had extended to both longline and purse seiner fishing vessels in their waters:

"We may be disappointed with the bigeye tuna measure but such is the nature of the beast we call WCPFC - the fishing nations continue to hold the commission to ransom in the name of consensus, so when we put hard controls in our own waters, the same fishing nations run everywhere expecting to get sympathy."

At the end of the WCPFC meeting in Bali PNA chairman Eugene Pangelinan said they had mooted a balanced package of longline and purse seine proposals for the meeting and they had received wide support however they came away without a meaningful measure on tropical tuna species:  "We have been prepared to go far beyond our proposals to respond to the scientific advice on the need to fix the problems arising from the choice of Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) management proposals in the existing commission measure, even though this would have increased the burden on PNA Members and Tokelau. We do this because the continuing failure to improve measures to conserve and manage the tropical tunas, especially bigeye tuna, is undermining the sustainable development opportunities of our people. Already we are losing jobs because of this failure and we will lose more by our inaction every year to reduce bigeye mortality.”

Pangelinan saluted the efforts of chairperson Rhea Moss-Christian in trying hard to get the WCPFC members to come to some common ground but it was evident that certain distant water fishing nations were determined to derail the whole process.

Tuvalu joins Longline VDS scheme

Tuvalu has become the latest PNA member nation to implement the Vessel Day Scheme for its longline fishing industry signing on to the scheme at the PNA meeting in Bali this month.

The inclusion makes Tuvalu the eighth of the 9 member bloc of fishing nations to have implemented the scheme which is being used by the purse seine fleets fishing in PNA waters. 

"Tuvalu recognises the importance of signing up for Longline VDS as we have reaped the benefits of the Vessel Day Scheme with our purse seiners and this has reaped higher financial returns for our Government," Tuvalu's Natural Resources Minister Pita Elisala said.

Small nations feel brunt of Commission decisions

Meanwhile, Tuvalu says it will continue to suffer from some of the outcomes of the WCPFC this year.

Tuvalu's Natural Resource Minister Pita Elisala said the tropical tuna measure on bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tuna required a fourth month Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) closure which would place a large disproportionate burden on them. Tuvalu already observes a three month closure of FAD sets in its waters each year.

"In exchange for carrying this burden, this year we sought additional controls on the longline fishery, which are the primary beneficiaries of bigeye conservation measures," Mr Elisala said.

He said Tuvalu sought the following controls:
   • a prohibition on longline fishing on the high seas during the period of the FAD closure for vessels that do not land their catches in port;
   • a prohibition on the transshipment of frozen bigeye tuna at sea;
   • improved observer coverage and monitoring of longline vessels operating on the high seas.
Mr Elisala said:“Sadly, DWFN member states refused to accept the most important longline fishery management measures that we proposed.”

PNG supports PNA stand on US treaty

Papua New Guinea will not accept the attempt by the United States to renege on an agreement it signed with Pacific Island nations in Brisbane in August.

PNG's Fisheries Minister Mao Zeming says Papua New Guinea, as Depository to the Treaty will not accept the attitude of the US side in undermining the Treaty because the Statement of Intent for the 2016 Interim Arrangement was concluded as a gentlemen’s agreement in good faith for the benefit of both parties.

Minister Zeming added that the signed Statement of Intent (SOI) was only for the 2016 fishing season from the January to December next year.

The Minister questioned why the US was reneging on a deal it agreed to abide by. He said the 17 PIPs were always accommodative of the US interests as they view the Treaty as not purely a fishing agreement, but one that also takes into account the US national security interests in the Pacific Region.

The Minister said revenue from the deal represented a sizable portion of the annual budget for many island countries, and this shock decision means these economies will “sink” in 2016 and onwards.

He urged the US to be mindful of the implications of undermining the Vessel Days Scheme (VDS) as the only tool that is giving control of the waters of the PIPs in the hands of the islanders.

PNA supports FFA deadline to US

The Parties to Nauru Agreement supports the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency's ultimatum to the US fleet that come January should they default on any payment under the United States treaty then all licenses will be suspended until payment is forthcoming.

PNA Chief Executive Officer Dr Transform Aqorau said the FFA's position was welcome and sent a clear message to large nations who wanted to fish in the region but were not willing to pay.

"The US has for a large part of its history dictated the price of fishing in the region, in PNA waters, but since 2010 they have been forced to adhere to rights based management approach after Papua New Guinea, being one of the three signatories of the treaty, pulled out of the treaty rendering it null and void," he said.

"Before that they actually dictated the price of fish they fished in our waters - after 2010, the treaty and the PNA through its VDS scheme has come a long way. "

WTPO reduces VDS fishing days

During the World Tuna Purse Seine Organisation's meeting in Bali last week, the organisation has announced that members will now buy 20-30 percent less of VDS days they bought in 2015.

WTPO chairman Francisco Tiu Laurel blamed disproportional increase in access cost, that makes fishing economic viability impossible and will lead to a strong reduction on fishing activity in 2016.

"The United States fleet likewise, because of the economic situation facing vessels, is unable to meet the conditions of the agreement with the 17 member Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member states, and for that reason there will likely be an eventual stop operation of the US fleet. WTPO has also noted that for 2015, members have reduced the operation of a significant number of vessels for economic reasons, as it is demonstrated by Secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC) estimates of Vessel Monitoring System days for 2015, and are planning to tie up more purse seiners next year to minimize financial losses.”

Laurel said management of the fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean had led to depreciation of the total value of tuna fisheries on a global scale: "Unless stringent measures on capacity are taken and the system could be corrected to link access with market value, the tuna fishery will face a dramatic crisis that will lead to disappearance of many companies and jobs for the fishing industry and all of the stake holders."

Tuna Market Intelligence end of year break

The Tuna Market intelligence takes a break before resuming  with our next edition on January 15, 2016.  We wish all PNA members and contributors to this market intelligence Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year.  The team wishes to thank all of you for the time and effort spent on making this initiative a success.

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Get In Contact With Us

Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA)
PNA Office PO Box 3992

Majuro, Marshall Islands
MH 96960
Phone: +692 625 7626/7627
Fax: +692 625 7628

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