Pohnpei (Palikir), FSM 12 June 2015: Another global first yesterday for the Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA) when they passed an initiative to trial a charge of US$1,000 on each Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) set in PNA waters.

In what was dubbed the "free school initiative," Ministers at the annual PNA ministerial meeting in Federated States of Micronesia's capital Palikir, decided that a US$1,000 fee paid on top of the Vessel Day Scheme fee would be good incentive "not to set nets on FADs."

Executive Officer Dr. Transform Aqorau said once again the Ministers and officials of the PNA member nations have shown great wisdom and resolve to come up with not only a global first but a first in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in fisheries management and sustainability.

"From January 2016 PNA member nations across the board will try out the new initiative to levy a fee of US$1,000 on each ship that sets FADs in a fishing day," Dr Aqorau said.

The decision in Pohnpei today follows a PNA Ministerial endorsement to look into the possibility of such an initiative on FADs when they met in Tuvalu last year; something the host nation and Tokelau were particularly keen on.

"This is because they are two of the smallest and most vulnerable members of the PNA and fishing in their waters is very dependant on the use of FADs," he said.

Currently FADs are managed in the region at a WCPFC level with a four month closure of FAD fishing which is aimed at primarily reducing juvenile Bigeye, juvenile Yellowfin and other bycatch that are taken during FAD use.

Dr Aqorau said for Tokelau and Tuvalu and some other PNA members this is a crippling burden on them in terms of reduced revenue because it makes fishing in their waters much less attractive to the boats on which they depend on for their revenue.

"At the same time these countries like other PNA members earn relatively little from Bigeye fishing so it leaves them bearing a large burden for Bigeye from which they will get relatively little benefit," he said.

"These two countries like other PNA members remain committed to Bigeye conservation but are looking for a way to reduce FAD use that is less a burden on them."

Dr Aqorau said the "free school initiative" would provide a positive incentive for vessels to fish on free schools while leaving them free to manage their operations in a way that would be most profitable for them.

"At the same time it will still be aimed at reducing FAD use at a lower cost to the industry and therefore with less impact on PNA member countries especially those where fishing is more dependant on FADs," he said.

"Thus the incentive payment will generate a moderate amount of revenue for the governments which will partially compensate for the continuing burden for applying these measures."

He said the ministerial decision means fishing vessels will pay US$1,000 per day for any fishing day in which sets are made on FADs.

"Small vessels pay less and larger ones will pay more based on the Vessel day Scheme."

The PNA member nations will first start the trial in 2016 to see the best way to implement it and then return to report their findings to the PNA ministerial meeting.

This week’s annual policy meeting “will provide the venue for PNA ministers to continue to strengthen control and management of the PNA fishery, which accounts for 70-80 percent of the western and central Pacific tuna catch, and 30-40 percent of the global raw material for canning,” said Dr. Aqorau.

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are eight Pacific Island countries that control the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery supplying a major portion of the world’s skipjack tuna (a popular tuna for canned products). They are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New
Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

PNA has been a champion for marine conservation and management, taking unilateral action to conserve overfished bigeye tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including closures of high seas pockets, seasonal bans on use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD), satellite tracking of boats, in port transshipment, 100 percent observer
coverage of purse seiners, closed areas for conservation, mesh size regulations, tuna catch retention requirements, hard limits on fishing effort, prohibitions against targeting whale sharks, shark action plans, and other conservation measures to protect the marine ecosystem.

For more information, contact Dr. Transform Aqorau, CEO, PNA Office, on email: transform@pnatuna.com or by phone, (692) 625-7626