PNA leaders set fisheries agenda for 2016 and beyond

Pohnpei, FSM 13 June 2015: A series of decisions made by ministers from the eight members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) will guide management and development of the western and central Pacific fishery for the next few years.

   The annual ministerial meeting was held in Pohnpei, capital of the Federated States, 11-12 June and the ministers were welcomed by President Peter Christian.

   With a focus on promoting domestic develop of commercial fisheries among its members, the PNA ministers noted the success of the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) for purse seiners including stable effort, catches and catch rates within the PNA zones since 2010, and the substantial increase in revenues to members.

   The ministers also established limits on fishing days for 2015 and 2016, agreed to maintain the US$8,000 per fishing day benchmark for 2016, approved the first fish aggregating device (FAD) tracking and monitoring program for 2016, agreed to apply a $1,000 fee per VDS day for use of FADs beginning in 2016 as an incentive program to encourage free school catches, welcomed the plan for a longline VDS to be implemented from 1 January 2016, and took action to foster domestic commercial fisheries development.

   “This was an extremely successful annual meeting that confirmed the resolve of the Parties to continue developing and expanding their domestic fishing efforts,” said PNA CEO Dr. Transform Aqorau. “The Ministers also confirmed the success of the VDS as a conservation and management tool for our skipjack tuna industry, and directed officials to continue developing and expanding it, including for the first time to cover the longline industry.”

   Ministers expressed “satisfaction at the progress reported in the implementation of the Purse Seine Vessel Day Scheme, changing VDS selling systems leading to the growth in access fees, the ratification by five parties to the longline VDS, the successful development and application of the Fisheries Integrated Management System, the Marine Stewardship Council certification of the PNA free school skipjack fishery and the associated progress with marketing of Pacifical tuna products in the global markets,” the meeting communiqué said.

   Ministers noted that trading of fishing days to individual company groups, as opposed to just bilateral partners, had increased and this improved the effectiveness and value of the VDS. Ministers expressed their satisfaction over the improved compliance by the fishing industry with VDS rules.

   In approving the total allowed effort (TAE) of fishing days, the Ministers agreed that the TAE for 2016 would be less than in 2015 by over 700 days, dropping from 46,610 VDS days this year to 45,881 VDS days in 2016.

   In promoting the goal of domestic development among PNA Parties, the Ministers tasked PNA officials with analyzing the impact of the VDS on domestic vessels and preparing a strategy to ensure that the economic success of the VDS does not have a negative impact on the development of domestic fleets.

   The Ministers agreed that PNA will launch a 12-month FAD tracking and monitoring program from 1 January 2016, and will also begin charging $1,000 per VDS day to any foreign fishing vessel that sets on a FAD as an incentive to promote free school catches.

   The Ministers welcomed a presentation by Palau concerning plans for establishing a marine sanctuary in their exclusive economic zone, noting that “it is their right to do whatever they want.” It was noted that 20 percent of Palau’s EEZ would still be open to longline and purse seine vessels according to the proposed EEZ closure plan. PNA Ministers requested that more specific details be provided to the Parties and tasked officials, the PNA Office, Forum Fisheries Agency and Secretariat of the Pacific Community to undertake an analysis of the proposal.

   Ministers expressed their “longstanding concern at the continuing obstruction of the domestic tuna industry development of PNA Members and other Pacific Island countries. Ministers expressed their concern at the continuing abuse of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) measures to obstruct their domestic development, despite specific provisions in these measures providing for SIDS to be able to develop their tuna fisheries, and called on the WCPFC to put an end to this abuse.”

   The Ministers called for further consultations with the states involved, and agreed to continue to explore ways to take further action on this issue, including considering reducing access to the fleets of states that are obstructing the domestic development of SIDS as a way of protecting their foreign fleets from competition with domestic vessels. The Ministers noted a valuable meeting with Japan had been held on this issue.

   They also expressed concern at “resolutions of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) that had the effect of protecting existing foreign fleets and obstructing the domestic development of PNA Members,” the communiqué said. “Ministers endorsed action being taken against ISSF members if the issue is not resolved including (subject to further consultation among the Parties):

   • Requiring ISSF Member foreign vessel owners to declare that they will not apply the ISSF capacity resolutions to PNA vessels as a condition of registration of their vessels.

   • No new foreign vessels with ISSF member ownership or control to be licensed

   • Suspension of technical cooperation with ISSF.

   “With the launch in 2016 of FAD tracking, monitoring and charging, and a VDS for the longline industry, PNA is continuing to expand management and conservation measures for the long-term sustainability of the fishery,” said Dr. Aqorau. “Numerous other decisions taken during the annual meeting in Pohnpei will positively impact our fishery in the coming years.”

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