Majuro 9 June 2015 — Ministers from the eight members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) meet in Pohnpei this week with an agenda focusing on adopting policies and programs to expand conservation measures and improve management of the multi-billion dollar tuna fishery in the western and central Pacific.
“The theme of this year’s annual meeting is laying the foundation for the next five years, consolidating the gains that have been made to the vessel day scheme (VDS) in the past two years, and managing this change effectively,” said Dr. Transform Aqorau, CEO of the PNA. Ministers from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands are scheduled to meet 11-12 June in Pohnpei, capital of the Federated States of Micronesia.
The centerpiece of PNA management of its skipjack tuna fishery is the VDS, the use of which has dramatically increased revenue flowing to the eight PNA members — from US$64 million in 2010 to an estimated US$357 million this year. Key VDS issues that ministers will review include: Expansion of the use of tenders (bids) for selling fishing days, entry into force of the first VDS for longline fishing boats, proposals for a conservation management measure for tropical tuna and target reference points for the tropical tuna fishery to apply a precautionary approach to tuna management in the region, fish aggregating device (FAD) tracking and monitoring, and ongoing improvements in management of the Marine Stewardship Council-certified free school caught skipjack and increased production of this MSC-certified tuna for sale to the European market through PNA’s Pacifical label.
The ministers are expected to approve the total allowed effort (TAE) — which sets the number of fishing days available in PNA waters — for the skipjack fishery in 2015 and 2016, and agree to a provisional TAE for 2017, and to adopt the PNA parties allowed effort (PAE) — which establishes the number of fishing days allotted to each party — for 2015 and 2016, and agree to a provisional PAE for 2017. PNA officials meeting earlier this year recommended that the TAE remain essentially the same for 2015-2017.
“The improvements to the framework for management of the PNA fishery, and that of the western and central Pacific through the PNA MSC free school certification, has led to the adoption of limit reference points and efforts toward the adoption of a target reference point and harvest control rules,” said Dr. Aqorau. “These measures are contributing to the establishment of a robust management framework especially for skipjack tuna.”
While the skipjack industry has been PNA’s focus since 2010, the longline industry will now see greater management by PNA with the entry into force of the first VDS for longliners. The ministers are expected to endorse a recommended PAE for the longline industry for 2016 and a provisional PAE for 2017, as they do each year for purse seiners.
Other important issues on the table at this week’s PNA ministers’ meeting:
• Plans for the rollout from 1 January 2016 of the first FAD registration and tracking. The number of FADs in use by purse seiners was estimated at 30,000 in 2013, and is believed to have grown substantially. “Improved knowledge and control of FADs is necessary to ensure that PNA members maintain the optimum sustainable benefits from their tuna resources and effective control on those resources,” said Dr. Aqorau.
• The benchmark price for fishing days in 2016. Currently, the benchmark is US$8,000 per fishing day, but fishing days have been averaging about US$10,000 in 2015. “The benchmark continues to be effective in driving up the price of access fees and also provides a good basis from which to predict annual income for government,” said Dr. Aqorau. He also pointed out that the move by some PNA members to a tender system in 2015 has resulted in very high prices offered for fishing days, which are beginning to reflect the true value of access to the PNA region.
• The fishing treaty with the United States. Despite a negotiating session in May, no agreement was reached on fishing days for 2016, creating uncertainty for U.S.-flagged purse seiner access to the PNA region. This situation, said Dr. Aqorau, reflects the fact that access to PNA waters is “increasingly valuable and competitive.” He expects that fewer fishing days will be available for all foreign vessels as PNA domestic fleets expand.
• Discussion of conservation and management initiatives at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which will hold its annual meeting in December. PNA is putting a lower priority on WCPFC matters in 2015 as it concentrates on improvement of the VDS. Nevertheless, the ministers will address the need for greater bigeye tuna conservation on the high seas by longliners and continue to emphasize the need for the WCPFC to support the aspirations of PNA countries to develop their own fisheries.
• Blocking of new purse seine vessel acquisition for PNA members by distant water fishing nations and an international fisheries organization. Ministers will address plans to take action against these countries, including the option of removing one-to-two vessels from fishing in PNA waters.
• Expansion of PNA crews on purse seiners. PNA is proposing to enforce mandatory crewing requirements from 1 January 2016 that would lead over a 10-year period to PNA nationals comprising 50 percent of purse seine crews.
• Proposed closure of Palau’s exclusive economic zone to fishing. Palau’s proposal for establishing a marine sanctuary in its waters will be delivered by officials from Palau.
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: email@example.com or by phone, (692) 625-7626.