PNA to New Zealand and U.S. tuna industry: ‘If you don’t want to play by the rules, fish elsewhere’

   Auckland, New Zealand 21 March 2015 — The CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) today rejected criticism from New Zealand and United States fishing industry interests of the organization’s tuna management system, saying these are attempts to bully small island countries that are successfully conserving fisheries resources while increasing economic benefits for themselves.

   Speaking today in Auckland where Pacific island countries have been meeting with the United States on access for U.S. tuna fishing vessels, PNA CEO Dr. Transform Aqorau rejected criticism of PNA’s Vessel Days Scheme (VDS) by New Zealand and US industry interests. The VDS governs purse seine fishing in the eight PNA members’ waters, limiting the number of fishing days that can be sold each year and setting a minimum price that is currently US$8,000 per fishing day. PNA also enforces a range of conservation measures.

   “Under the VDS, purse seine fishing in our waters has been tightly controlled, with satellite tracking and observers on board every vessel,” Dr. Aqorau said. “As a result, there has been no significant increase in catches in our waters in recent years, our stocks are abundant, and access to our waters is valuable.”

   In contrast to the PNA area, said Dr. Aqorau, “catches in the region outside our waters have nearly doubled in the same time, over-supplying the global market. This is a result of reckless expansion of fishing outside our waters by the tuna industry trying to evade the tight controls in our waters and our fees.”

   PNA waters supply over 50 percent of the world’s skipjack tuna.

   Dr. Aqorau also objected to the pressure being put on PNA member countries to extend the current concessionary arrangements for U.S. vessels fishing in their waters.

   He asked how New Zealand farmers would react if they were pressured to reject Chinese investment in the dairy industry, and pressured to sell dairy products to the U.S. instead of China for political reasons.  

   “PNA members seeking to secure economic returns for their people for their fish are being pressured in that way just because they are small,” said Dr. Aqorau.

   “If the U.S. can’t afford to fish in our waters, won’t invest with us, and doesn’t like the tight controls in our waters, they should go back to fishing in the Eastern Pacific where they originally came from,” said Dr Aqorau.

   A treaty giving U.S. flagged purse seiners fisheries access to the Pacific region has been in place since the late 1980s. Since PNA’s VDS went into full effect in 2010, fishing access fees paid to the PNA by all fleets to fish in PNA waters have increased significantly. At the same time, U.S. vessels have paid at or below the minimum access fee while having the benefit of multilateral access to the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of all eight PNA members by virtue of the treaty. All other distant water fishing nations buy access rights on a bilateral, country-to-country basis. “This is why PNA members have increasingly reduced the number of fishing days they will provide for U.S. vessels under the treaty,” said Dr. Aqorau. “They can generate higher revenues by selling fishing days to other nations.”

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The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are eight Pacific Island countries that control the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery supplying over 50 percent 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.