Majuro, Marshall Islands 19 July 2016: “In 2009, fisheries ministers asked us to establish the vessel day scheme on a commercial basis,” said Parties to the Nauru Agreement Chief Executive Dr. Transform Aqorau on the eve of the PNA fisheries ministers meeting this week. “Our small office in Majuro achieved what the ministers requested. We did it with our own resources without donor funding.”

   Dr. Aqorau will brief officials and ministers who are meeting in Christmas Island, Kiribati from 21-25 July. Following the Christmas Island meeting, Dr. Aqorau steps down as CEO after six years, with Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority Deputy Director Ludwig Kumoru assuming the PNA chief executive post.

   “We will review our achievements, and then ask the ministers to endorse a series of policies to enable PNA to continued adding value to commercial initiatives to benefit the members,” he said.

   The vessel day scheme (VDS) is the centerpiece of PNA’s management of its purse seine fishery and now generates approximately US$400 million per year for PNA members compared to US$60 million six years ago.

   Dr. Aqorau made the point that PNA has established the VDS as a commercially viable management scheme, and it has done this without relying on donor aid. “We have harnessed the resources that we have to make this happen,” he said.

   Dr. Aqorau said important accomplishments over the past several years include:

   • Establishment of the PNA Office in the Marshall Islands and maintaining a small staff who have engaged with fisheries and other government personnel from member nations to implement numerous fisheries strategies for the benefit of PNA members.

   • Achievement of Marine Stewardship Council certification of free school caught skipjack in the PNA fishery, a world first. The MSC sustainability certificate for tuna caught in PNA waters adds significant financial value to tuna products.

   • Creation of the “Pacifical” label for processed tuna from the PNA region. “This is a platform for a regional commercial value-added initiative,” said Dr. Aqorau. “Canned tuna products in stores in Australia, New Zealand and Europe now carry the PNA/Pacifical logo.”

   • Development of the PNA Observer Agency, which was established in response to PNA fisheries ministers asking the PNA Office to create an integrated placement agency for fisheries observers. “It makes sense to coordinate the hundreds of fisheries observers who work across the region,” said Dr. Aqorau. The agency is run on a commercial basis through an agreement between the PNA Office and MRAG, a company that manages the PNA Observer Agency as part of its wider business of promoting sustainable use of marine resources. “This arrangement is setting the benchmark on the way fisheries observers should be managed,” he said.  Aqorau said he is recommending that the PNA Observer Agency program be expanded in scope not only to provide observers for vessels fishing under the FSM Arrangement, but for observer work throughout the western and central Pacific and beyond. “Our aspirations should include looking to provide fisheries observers to other fisheries, including the Eastern Pacific, Southern Pacific, Indian Ocean and Atlantic,” Dr. Aqorau said.

   • PNA’s fisheries information management system (FIMS) is a “world class system” that was developed through PNA’s own internal resources. “FIMS has to be entrenched in the parties management of the fishery,” he said. “It has to be owned by the rights holders.” At this week’s ministers’ meeting in Christmas Island, Dr. Aqorau will be recommending that PNA’s FIMS be taken to the next level by corporatizing it. The PNA Office is proposing for ministerial endorsement a study to review how FIMS can be corporatized as a business owned by PNA members in which the member islands are the shareholders. “This is the innovative next step,” said Dr. Aqorau. “Let the owners of the fishery own and manage their own FIMS. It strengthens governance as part of management of the VDS.”

   Among new initiatives that will be on the table for discussion and action by PNA fisheries ministers include establishment of:

   • An Advisory Panel for the Chief Executive Officer to include representatives with fisheries and business experience.

   • A VDS Compliance Committee that will facilitate sharing of information among VDS members, including management of fishing day sales and compliance

   • Criteria for islands that want to join PNA and use the VDS to manage their fishery. Key to the criteria for new members is their support of the VDS for both purse seiners and longliners, said Dr. Aqorau.

   After more than a year of debate over the benefits of a quota versus effort fisheries management system, fisheries ministers will be asked to endorse the VDS as the system of choice for the PNA. As part of endorsement of the VDS, ministers will be asked to support a study of how to capitalize the VDS so that it becomes a part of the member government’s national accounts. “This can add tremendous value for the parties,” said Dr. Aqorau. “It is a powerful and attractive tool.”