Majuro, Marshall Islands 19 April 2017: In addition to regional fisheries management issues, last week’s Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) annual officials meeting focused on strengthening PNA’s institutional structure.

   “Improving administrative functions and financial transparency is essential as the PNA organization continues to expand its scope of work,” said PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru following the meeting. He said the officials discussed in detail the costs of various PNA activities, reviewed an assessment of the PNA Office, and looked at other financial matters.

   Mr. Kumoru said a focus of his work is to strengthen the structure of the PNA Office in line with maintaining high standards of accountability and transparency.

   Ending bunkering on the high seas, implementing tracking and management of fish aggregating devices (FADs), and Vanuatu’s request to join PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) for longline vessels were among regional fisheries initiatives the meeting discussed.

   “PNA ministers tasked us with ending high seas bunkering,” said Mr. Kumoru. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be done in port but could be accomplished in designated areas within PNA exclusive economic zones.” Officials directed the PNA Office to develop a cost-benefit analysis of a plan to shift refueling from the high seas to in-zone for the ministers to review at their July annual meeting.

   PNA continues to develop its plan to manage and track the tens of thousands of FADs in use by the purse seine fishery. A definite start date for requiring fishing companies to register FADs with PNA was deferred for consideration by the ministers at their annual meeting. Officials endorsed implementation of FAD management as the parties are ready for managing the process.

   Vanuatu’s interest in joining the VDS for longline vessels was a welcome sign that countries not only among the PNA see the value of the VDS. As with Tokelau, which cooperates with PNA by enforcing the VDS for purse seiners in its waters, there is a process for countries outside of the PNA to join in implementing the VDS, said Kumoru. Vanuatu’s interest in joining is to be reviewed going forward, he said.

   An important goal for Mr. Kumoru is maintaining the independence of the PNA Office from donor funding. He sees this as a key part of the overall goal of continuing to strengthen PNA’s institutional structure. Since inception, the PNA Office has been supported first by its members, and in more recent years from revenues derived from administration of the VDS.

   Mr. Kumoru says there is value in “strategic partnerships” with non-government organizations and other donors, but the PNA Office wants to avoid accepting funding from these donors to maintain its independence. Mr. Kumoru said he recommends donors and partner NGOs work directly with individual PNA members on projects, which have produced positive results in various areas including expanding electronic monitoring of fishing operations.

   “Maintaining the independence of the PNA Office is essential,” said Mr. Kumoru.