Bali, Indonesia 6 December 2015: Tuvalu has become the latest Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA) member nation to implement the Vessel Day Scheme for its longline fishing industry, signing on to the scheme at the PNA meeting in Bali.

   The inclusion makes Tuvalu the eighth of the nine member bloc of fishing nations (PNA countries plus Tokelau) to have implemented the scheme. PNA has been running a successful Vessel Day Scheme for purse seine vessels on which the new longline scheme is modeled. "Tuvalu recognises the importance of signing up for the Longline Vessel Day Scheme as we have reaped the benefits of the VDS scheme with our purse seiners and this has reaped higher financial returns for our Government," Tuvalu's Natural Resources Minister Pita Elisala said. "We have been talking about joining the scheme for quite some time now and we are pleased to finally sign the agreement, join the crew and embark on the same journey."

   PNA Chairperson Eugene Pangelinan said Tuvalu joining is a cause for great joy and confirmation that Tuvalu believes that the PNA Longline VDS will improve the management of their longline fishery in their waters.

   "This is testimony that the Vessel Day Scheme is building strength and confidence among the membership. As chairman, we remain committed to get our remaining member Kiribati to join us,” Pangelinan said. "We also hope that fishing nations will realize that they must respect our measures in zone and cooperate with us as this is the future of managing the longline fishery in our waters.”

   Mr Pangelinan said the Longline VDS scheme would serve as a good model for Pacific island nations and if others saw the benefits, they should also manage their fisheries likewise. "This Vessel Day Scheme recognizes that zone-based management is the way we want to manage our fisheries in our Pacific,” he said.

   “This is the PNA's flagship measure to manage our longline and purse seine fishery. It is work in progress and we will continue to pay careful attention to improving it over time, whether it is responding to science or to economic conditions, it is a scheme that will be constantly reviewed and improved."

   The longline VDS started on January 1 this year in the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Solomon Islands followed by Papua New Guinea and Tokelau (in November). PNA CEO Dr Transform Aqorau said implementing a VDS for the longline industry was a challenge but long overdue and the response from PNA member nations like Tuvalu was a vote of confidence in the scheme.

   "PNA member nations like Tuvalu will benefit from the effective use of the VDS for managing the purse seine skipjack fishery, which has pushed revenue up from US$60 million to US$350 million in five years, 100 percent fishery observer coverage of fishing vessels, production of quality catch data, and in-port transshipment of tuna,” said Dr Aqorau.

   In contrast, the approximately 3,000 longliners have less than five percent observer coverage, revenue to island nations has remained flat for 15 years, there is low reporting of tuna catch data, and high seas transshipment of tuna is the norm, which limits availability of catch data, Dr Aqorau said. "The longline industry is currently at the point where purse seiners were 20 years ago — largely unmanaged and fishing unsustainably with woefully low revenue returns to the islands," he commented.

   Dr. Aqorau said it is going to take time to implement the VDS but PNA has taken the steps to do the necessary groundwork through a series of workshops in the last year.