PNA Ministers: Looking at next steps for the tuna fishery

   Kiritimati Island, Kiribati 26 July 2016: PNA Ministers gathered in Kiritimati, Kiribati this week for their 11th annual meeting. Opening the meeting, Kiribati Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development Tetabo Nakara addressed the importance of building on the gains for the PNA and maximizing opportunities for the future through innovative approaches to management, conservation and development. This can be accomplished, he said, by strengthening the rights of the Parties to their shared resources, which was the theme of the meeting.

   The Minister noted that the hosting of the 11th PNA Ministerial meeting in Kiritimati was a perfect fit as this island serves as the fishing capital of Kiribati with an increasing significance to the fisheries sector development. He pointed to the connection of the people of Kiribati with the sea, as indicated by the local word for the sea, ‘taari’, which has the traditional meaning of ‘brotherhood or sisterhood’.  This embraces the notion that with the sea as a source of provision and food security, those who are beneficiaries of the blessings from the sea also have an important reciprocal responsibility to safeguard and protect these resources so they can provide the maximum benefits and be sustainably conserved for now and the future.

   Minister Nakara reflected on the success of the purse seine vessel day scheme (VDS).  The VDS gives all PNA Members lucrative fishing rights that can be sold, leased or used as collateral in commercial tuna developments.  These rights have greatly increased returns to PNA Members and strengthened the domestication of PNA’s own tuna fishing and processing industries in a viable and sustainable manner, he said.

   At the same time, the PNA faces the challenges of ensuring sustainability, most notably in respect to the bigeye tuna stock that urgently needs rebuilding. The Minister asked whether the current management systems are effective enough to address stock sustainability, noting that the issue of bigeye depletion has been discussed on a number of occasions for a number of years at various regional and international avenues. 

   The Minister called on the meeting to be proactive and provide participatory guidance and direction on how the PNA desired their offshore resources to be managed in a manner that can also allow room for development. 

   “I encourage us to be proactive in our approaches and see merit in putting in place an effective cycle management system which will allow parties to pursue development through a certain target species while a restocking program is in place for other species to recover for potential tuna fisheries development,” he said. “Though this may be a notion at this stage I believe that with our very capable officers and regional organizations, this is a notion that can be conceptualized and implemented.”

   He closed with encouragement to all the participants to enjoy the world famous fly fishing in the Kiritimati lagoon.

  The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are eight Pacific Island countries that control the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery supplying 50 percent of the world’s skipjack tuna. They are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.