Tuvalu refuses to sell days to uncooperative nations

Pohnpei, 11 June 2015: The outgoing Chairman of the Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA) Ministerial meeting and Tuvalu's Fisheries Minister Pita Elisala said his nation has refused to sell fishing days to nations that have blocked their initiatives to develop and sustain their own fishery. His strong worded statement set the stage for an interesting PNA ministerial meeting at Palikir in Pohnpei this morning.

Mr Elisala said they were concerned with the way these nations had treated them in the past but they had refused to sell them fishing days.

"Tuvalu has already started this process, by declining to sell fishing days to certain nations and fleets in 2015," he told the PNA ministerial meeting.

"Tuvalu is a small player in the PNA, and this move on its own is not likely to have much impact on the distant water fishing nation (DWFN) fleets concerned.

"It is also a dangerous game, as it threatens broader international relationships, including aid flows.

"However, we feel that DWFNs need to be shown that we will not always submit to their threatening, bullying or blocking tactics, and we hope that other countries will begin to collectively use the strong bargaining power that PNA can exercise as a coherent group."

Mr Elisala also expressed Tuvalu's disappointment of the outcomes at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) where some fishing nations had tried to avoid their responsibilities and commitment to sustainable fishing.

"The WCPFC has the role of ensuring that fishing in these areas is sustainable, but we have all seen the way that other Commission members, namely from Distant Waters Fishing Nations, have tried to duck and dodge their responsibilities and commitments to fishery sustainability.

"No-one was more disappointed than Tuvalu in the outcomes of the latest WCPFC meetings. In view of the disappointed outcomes, it is now timely for PNA to consider actions that would encourage compliance by distant water fishing nations, such as denying access to fishery resources to those countries who are continuing to block our efforts."

After last year's WCPFC meeting in Samoa, Mr Elisala criticised members for trying to manipulate the Commission by stopping the construction of their second fishing vessel to complement their single vessel domestic fleet to operate in their million square kilometres of ocean.

A second vessel would help them service their huge EEZ of 719,174 sq km from which 60,000 tonnes of tuna is caught each year.

"However the construction of our second vessel is being blocked on the pretext that it is inconsistent with WCPFC capacity management measures," he said.

PNA Chief Executive Dr Transform Aqorau said the 2-day meeting would discuss Tuvalu's concerns which are related to 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.

Ministers from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands will meet at the FSM's capital Pohnpei from June 11 to 12 to discuss and endorse a number of important issues.

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.

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