Majuro 8 February 2016: The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) was honored for its “vision” in developing and managing a sustainable fishery in the western and central Pacific, while gaining new global certification for sustainably caught yellowfin tuna in the past week.

   “I am humbled that from our small office here in the Marshall Islands we have been able to obtain international recognition for the vision that we have to manage our tuna fisheries effectively,” said Dr. Transform Aqorau, PNA’s CEO, commenting on winning the annual Seafood Champion Awards in the “Vision” category at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Malta.

    Meanwhile, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), announced that free-school caught yellowfin from PNA waters is now certified to carry the MSC eco-label. The new MSC certification for free-school caught yellowfin follows on MSC’s 2011 certification of skipjack tuna caught without using fish aggregating devices (FADs). PNA is the first major free school purse seine yellowfin tuna fishery to achieve MSC certification. The certified fishery catches around 140,000 tons of yellowfin tuna a year, accounting for half of all yellowfin caught within PNA waters.

   “This is a very progressive step for the tuna industry,” said Maurice Brownjohn, PNA Commercial Director of the new yellowfin sustainability certification. “The PNA looks forward to working with brands, restaurants and retailers to increase the supply of MSC labeled sustainable tuna.”

   Already new orders are increasing for sustainably caught tuna from PNA waters. As the new certification by MSC for free-school caught yellowfin was being declared earlier this month, the major Australian seafood retailer John West announced a commitment to partner with PNA’s Pacifical label for the Australian market. Key to this partnership, which will see over 100 million cans of Pacifical-MSC-certified sustainably caught skipjack tuna hit the shelves in Australia, is the PNA tuna fishery’s sustainability certification by the globally recognized MSC.

   John West’s market launch of Pacifical-MSC labeled tuna was called a “world first” because of its magnitude by WWF Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman. MSC confirmed that the John West commitment to bring MSC-certified tuna from PNA waters into the Australian market is “the largest offering of MSC-labeled canned tuna in the world. By completely transforming its supply chain to source from the certified PNA fishery, John West is leading the way to help ensure our oceans stay healthy and teeming with life for generations to come.”

   Pacifical MSC certified tuna is now available in 12 countries. “PNA tuna sold with the MSC ecolabel also carries the Pacifical logo in clear representation of the end market’s commitment to the PNA island nations as custodians and protectors of a truly valuable marine resource throughout centuries and the generations to come,” said Brownjohn.

   The yellowfin certification follows an expedited assessment by SCS Global Services of yellowfin caught by the already-certified PNA skipjack fishery. This means that strict requirements already in place for skipjack have now been extended to include catches of yellowfin, including yellowfin tuna found in free school skipjack sets. The MSC Chain of Custody Standard requires that free swimming MSC certified catch is segregated from tuna catches caught using FADs, which are not certified.

   PNA developed the certified skipjack and now yellowfin fishery as part of its larger program of managing fishing in the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of its eight members: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.

   Seafood leaders honored 2016 Seafood Champions, including the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Malta in early February. The annual Seafood Champion Awards recognize individuals and organizations for excellence in promoting ocean health and environmentally responsible seafood. PNA earned the “Seafood Champion Award for Vision” for seeing the need to manage the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery for the long term.  

   “In the past five-to-six years we have achieved a number of firsts including being the first to be awarded the Island Business Magazine Organization of the Year in 2010, and the first to receive MSC Certification for the purse seine free school skipjack tuna fisheries,” said Dr. Aqorau. He added that PNA had in December successfully gained adoption by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission of Limit Reference Points for all four key tuna stocks and now Target Reference Points for skipjack tuna, “which provides an effective management framework consistent with good fisheries management practices for the region's tuna fisheries.”

   These are part of the package of PNA initiatives to ensure sustainability in the fishery.

   “We are working on FAD tracking and monitoring and now require all purse seine vessels to report these through the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) registration process, and have embarked on port-to-port electronic reporting from fishing vessels,” he said. “The longline Vessel Day Scheme also provides a platform to improve the management of the longline fishery and while it still lags a long way behind the improvements that have been made to the purse seine fishery, there is now a framework which is there that can be used to institute improvements.”

   Dr. Aqorau observed that, “These awards are given in recognition for the PNA and the work that their officials and governments have contributed to the success of their organization. I am very happy and I think the Marshall Islands should also feel a sense of pride in hosting the PNA, an organization that now has a big influence in the global tuna market.”