Majuro, Marshall Islands 18 June 2016: A recently signed cooperation agreement between the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and the International Sustainable Seafood Foundation (ISSF) allows the two entities to cooperate on FAD tracking, the Vessel Day Scheme, purse seine vessel registry and other areas.

   As part of this closer cooperation between ISSF and PNA, ISSF is to allow PNA nations an exemption to bring new fishing vessels into service to develop their domestic fisheries industries.

   A decision by ISSF in 2012 led to capping the number of purse seiners at 2015 levels, with the requirement that before any new vessel could begin fishing in the western Pacific, an existing vessel had to be taken off the registry. This effectively blocked PNA nations attempting to develop their domestic fisheries capacity from adding new vessels to local fleets.

   The new MOU was hailed by PNA CEO Dr. Transform Aqorau for opening avenues of cooperation between the two organizations and for the “critical exemption for PNA’s domestic fisheries development.”

   “The PNA-ISSF agreement allows for further cooperation and reflects the success of the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) in controlling fishing effort,” said PNA CEO Dr. Transform Aqorau. Some in industry blame PNA for increasing the number of vessels, but these vessels are mainly fishing in-zone, where the VDS limits fishing, Aqorau said. He emphasized that there has been little growth in purse seine catches in the eight PNA members’ fishing zones over the past five years because of the VDS’ “hard limits” on fishing days. “The growth has all been on the high seas,” he added.

   The PNA exemption allowing the eight members to bring vessels to fish their domestic waters “represents a problem for those (in industry) that want to just fish and not invest in PNA domestic development,” said Aqorau. “As domestic fleets increase, the days available for foreign fleets will decline.” The fleets that are uninterested in working with and investing in PNA nations to develop their domestic fishing capacity are the ones who do not support this new plan.

   “It is unacceptable from PNA’s point of view that our members cannot increase the number of vessels fishing in domestic exclusive economic zones,” said Aqorau. Without the exemption, new PNA purse seiners fishing in domestic waters would be unable to sell their catches to tuna processors because ISSF members had agreed they would buy product only from those vessels on the ISSF registry in 2015 — or added later by removing an existing vessel.

   “We cannot accept a situation where domestically-licensed purse seiners fishing in our own waters cannot sell their fish to processors,” said Aqorau.

   The new MOU with ISSF sets the stage for further cooperation with this international organization that will assist in “carefully managed development of PNA domestic fisheries development,” said Aqorau.