Majuro, Marshall Islands 10 April 2017: Adding value to the tuna fishery and maintaining cooperation that has led to great benefits for the Parties to the Nauru Agreement was the theme of Monday’s opening of the annual PNA officials meeting.

   The five-day PNA annual officials meeting kicked off Monday morning at Marshall Islands Resort in Majuro with Kiribati’s Principal Fisheries Officer Aketa Taanga handing over chairmanship of the PNA body to Glen Joseph, Director of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority.

   Both Taanga and Joseph emphasized cooperation to increase the benefits coming to the eight PNA members and Tokelau, which cooperate to implement a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) for purse seine vessels and have launched a similar system for longline vessels.

   PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said adding value to increase benefits from the fishery to island parties is a top priority for PNA. “This is why PNA is supporting tuna canning trainings in our member nations to encourage island entrepreneurs to take up new opportunities for creating jobs and income,” Kumoru said. Cooperation among islands with a common interest has been the foundation of PNA’s progress, said Kumoru. “This cooperation is why PNA has been successful in implementing the VDS. Now we need to look at next steps by value adding to the industry to benefit our domestic economies.”

   The message of unity was emphasized during the PNA opening Monday in Majuro.

   “Our strength is through cooperation among all members,” said Joseph at the opening. “Individually and collectively (all parties) have benefited from the VDS.” Revenue from the purse seine skipjack fishery going to the islands has skyrocketed in the past six years, increasing from about US$60 million in 2010 to close to US$400 million last year.

   Joseph also recognized the strong relation PNA has with industry that has produced a successful partnership, “despite challenges along the way.”

   Taanga said 2016 was a successful year for PNA with implementation of the VDS, the signing of the fishing treaty with the United States, increasing industry interest in the PNA-Marine Stewardship Council sustainably caught tuna program and other developments.

   “These were made possible because we the parties face challenges together,” Taanga said. “Even with our differences (working together) is what moves us forward.”

   She said the ongoing challenge for PNA “is to add value to the success of the VDS. There are other ways to provide us with more benefits.” She urged PNA to concentrate on these going forward.

   “Adding value to our success is exactly where I intend to take us as the new chair for PNA,” said Joseph, commenting on Taanga’s remarks.

   Officials from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tokelau are attending the meeting, as are representatives of regional organizations such as the Forum Fisheries Agency, Pacific Community (SPC) and others.

   The PNA officials meeting will wrap up Friday by adopting recommendations for the upcoming PNA Ministers’ annual meeting, expected to take place in Majuro at the end of June or early July.