Tarawa, Kiribati 25 March 2016 — A series of annual meetings of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) kicks off Monday in the Kiribati capital of Tarawa with an agenda that will cover everything from review of the PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme and the U.S. fisheries treaty to selecting a new Chief Executive Officer and establishing a fisheries research program to build capacity among member nations.
The meetings run from March 28 through April 8 and encompass four separate events: a two-day technical meeting focused on fishing effort, health of stocks and industry developments; a two-day meeting of the Palau Arrangement that will review an independent report comparing effort and quota management systems and consider membership of new islands in the PNA; a two-day meeting of the Federated States of Micronesia Arrangement that will address issues related to the growing domestically flagged fleet that operates under this arrangement including on-shore developments in different PNA islands; and the four-day 35th annual PNA meeting that will select a new CEO to replace outgoing CEO Dr. Transform Aqorau, discuss development of an economic research program, the fishing treaty with the United States, and PNA issues to undertake at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission annual meeting at the end of 2016.
“The PNA annual meetings are always important, but at this year’s gathering the stakes are higher,” said Dr. Aqorau. “We have shown the success of the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) as a management tool and it continues to be praised by independent reviewers as an effective fisheries management system.” At the same time, there is a push from some countries outside the PNA to shift from the VDS to a tonnage quota system, which Dr. Aqorau and other fisheries experts have said is not suitable for the multi-species, multi-national nature of the PNA fishery. “The effort versus quota management systems is one of the critical issues that PNA leadership will be discussing during these meetings,” he said.
Dr. Aqorau, who has headed the PNA office in Majuro since it was established in 2010, expects to step down from the CEO post over the next few months once PNA leaders select a new CEO from a shortlisted number of applicants. He said he expects to remain active with PNA to ensure a smooth transition for the new CEO.
Among other important issues expected to be discussed at the PNA annual meeting in Kiribati:
• Requests of additional islands to join the PNA. There are currently eight members of the PNA. Tokelau, though not a full member of PNA, applies the VDS to its fishery, and other island nations are seeking to join PNA. Dr. Aqorau said he anticipates the meetings will address criteria for accepting new members into the PNA.
• Review of the successful PNA fisheries observer agency. The program that places fisheries observers on vessels fishing in the region has been managed on contract by MRAG Asia Pacific. A report on the progress of PNA fisheries observer operations will be discussed at the meeting.
• Officials will review the current status of the U.S. Pacific fisheries treaty. This will be informed by an update from a working group that held discussions in Australia earlier this month regarding the future of the treaty.
• Discussions will be held on plans to roll out an economic research program to produce better information and analysis on all aspects of the fishery for PNA members. PNA Office has been working to develop a PNA bio-economic model together with international institutions. Under consideration is establishment of fellowships for people from different islands to work on research projects, which will further develop capacity among PNA members, said Dr. Aqorau.
“Our annual meeting is about enhancing PNA control of our multi-billion dollar fishery for long-term sustainability,” said Dr. Aqorau. “PNA has transformed the fishery through a whole package of fisheries management initiatives.”