Nadi, Fiji 3 December 2016: Parties to the Nauru Agreement representatives briefed media from the Pacific region during a workshop that is being held in conjunction with the upcoming Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission annual meeting in Nadi, Fiji.
PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru, PNA Commercial Manager Maurice Brownjohn, and Federated States of Micronesia fisheries Executive Director Eugene Pangelinan spoke Thursday and Friday on a range of fishery issues to journalists from eight nations.
The 3rd Pacific Editors Dialogue hosted by the Forum Fisheries Agency with the support of the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PacMAS), Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF, Australia, Japan and New Zealand started earlier this week in Nadi in preparation for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission annual meeting 5-9 December. The workshop is being led by veteran Pacific journalist Jemima Garrett.
Journalists asked the fisheries officials about everything from the so-called Blue Boats of Vietnam and illegal fishing to the fishing treaty with the United States and challenges to improving monitoring of the longline industry.
Mr. Kumoru said it is difficult to place observers on longline vessels fishing on the high seas because some stay out for months at a time. Fisheries managers are pushing for video monitors on longline vessels. Several PNA members are currently “looking at how to install and use video on vessels,” he said.
Asked about the number of longline vessels in operation in the western Pacific, Mr. Kumoru said simply, “Nobody knows. Some say as many as 5,000 vessels. This is what we are trying to find out.”
He also said the Blue Boats coming out of Vietnam are doing “big damage” to local fisheries in many islands including Papua New Guinea, Palau and Federated States of Micronesia. “Even when the vessels are confiscated and fishermen sent home, they come back again and again,” he said.
Mr. Pangelinan pointed out that Vietnam does not provide any regulation or control over these boats that have been arrested in FSM waters.
Because the world depends on tuna caught in the western and central Pacific, mainly in PNA waters, the PNA and Forum Fisheries Agency have “a huge international obligation to manage the fishery well,” said Mr. Pangelinan. “We will not be bystanders as other nations take the resource out of the region.” He said participation by the islands in the tuna fishery is about “creating wealth” for the islands that translates into jobs and economic opportunities.
Mr. Brownjohn briefed the media representatives on PNA’s business initiatives, including Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainably caught skipjack from PNA waters that is gaining large-scale orders from retailers in Europe and Australia. This tuna commands a higher price from buyers because it is caught “free-school” without the aid of fish aggregating devices (FADs) and is then subject to a rigorous chain of custody monitoring process from fishing vessel to retailer.