Majuro, Marshall Islands 18 September 2016: Endorsement of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement’s successful Vessel Day Scheme fisheries management system by Pacific Island Forum Leaders at their recent annual summit in Pohnpei provides a boost to PNA’s initiatives to add value to the tuna fishery.

   In their communiqué, Pacific Leaders devoted nearly two of the 12 pages to fisheries, underlining the significant role this resource holds for the Pacific islands. “Leaders acknowledged the good work of the PNA in achieving significant increased economic returns,” said the Leaders’ statement. The Leaders endorsed the recommendation of a Fisheries Task Force “that there is no need to change the management of the purse seine Vessel Day Scheme in the foreseeable future.”

   The Fisheries Task Force was established following last year’s Forum summit and comprised representatives from PNA, Forum Fisheries Agency and the Pacific Community.

   During the past year, PNA devoted much time and money addressing concerns about the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) system of management that were initiated mainly by donor countries. “With the Forum Leaders’ unequivocal endorsement of the VDS, we can focus on continuing to add value to the fishery by creating more economic opportunities for people in the islands to benefit from the industry,” said Mr. Ludwig Kumoru, PNA’s CEO.

   He said the VDS is the single most successful resource management model in the Pacific islands. PNA’s VDS is implementing “rights-based” control over fisheries resources in the western and central Pacific. This has improved conservation and management of tuna caught in PNA zones, while increasing the revenue share for the islands from US$60 million in 2010 to an estimated US$400 million last year.

   The VDS is the foundation for PNA management of the purse seine fishery, which includes requirements of purchasing fishing days at a minimum of US$8,000 per day, 100 percent observer coverage of all purse seiners, in-port transshipment of tuna, an annual three-month moratorium on use of fish aggregating devices, and other measures.

   Earlier this year, an independent review by Toroa Strategy Limited of New Zealand compared the effort-based VDS to a quota limit system and concluded: “The VDS is a fully functioning fisheries management regime without peer for its class of fishery…There is no clear benefit from changing the VDS from a Day scheme to a catch scheme now or in the near future.”

   PNA management through the VDS of tuna fishing within PNA zones has limited catches to sustainable levels, said Mr. Kumoru. “As the independent evaluation of the VDS pointed out, the ‘VDS is a very successful fisheries management regime by any real world standard.’ PNA’s challenge now is to take the next steps to increase participation in the fishery and expand the benefits to our islands.”

   Forum leaders endorsed the agenda of the Fisheries Task Force to: reform the management of the longline fishery; increase the value of employment and ensuring effective labor standards are in place; facilitating investment and trade; and value chain participation.

   “These are all areas that PNA has been actively addressing,” said Mr. Kumoru. “PNA members began implementing a VDS for the longline fishery in 2015 to bring this fishery under management control.”

   Pacifical, PNA’s tuna label, recently launched social guidelines for purse seiners that support standards for fishers working on vessels. It will evolve over time to become a standard requirement for industry, said Mr. Kumoru. “This was developed with industry and our own technical staff,” he said.

   The VDS is the platform for encouraging investment, which can be seen in the link between domestically registered purse seiners and locally-based tuna processing plants in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands, he said.

   PNA members are participating throughout the tuna “chain,” Mr. Kumoru said. One area for increasing participation of local people in PNA islands is small-scale canning of fish products for domestic consumption. With hundreds of purse seiners transshipping tuna through PNA members’ ports, raw material for canning is readily available. “This is a result of PNA’s requirement for in-port transshipment,” said Mr. Kumoru. “It has created a value adding opportunity for the domestic market.” A regional canning training is scheduled for Majuro in October as part of engaging business people in PNA nations in the tuna fishery.

   “The Forum Leaders declaration on fisheries is extremely encouraging to PNA members,” Mr. Kumoru said. “We will continue expanding opportunities for people in our region to benefit from the fishery.”