Majuro, Marshall Islands 27 January 2017: Focusing on strengthening management of the multi-billion dollar central and western Pacific tuna fishery, and supporting innovative ways for islands to add value to the fishery are twin goals of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) this year.

   Among ongoing value-added projects being promoted by PNA that are expected to expand this year:

   • The Majuro-based PNA office is engaging with its members to run small-scale tuna canning trainings similar to the first held in Majuro in late 2016. “We are creating opportunities to make money for the parties beyond the fishing day fees they are collecting,” said PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru. The canning training, that is taking advantage of low-cost tuna available in PNA member ports because of PNA’s rule requiring all purse seiners to offload in port, is one effort. A training is now scheduled for Solomon Islands in February.

   • PNA is also helping to link potential outside fisheries investments with local counterparts and governments. This has now resulted in a Japanese firm looking at investing in a katsuobushi — smoked skipjack tuna that is used in miso soup and other products — plant in Majuro. “Our aim is to connect members with potential investments to help create employment opportunities and involvement of the parties in the fishery,” said Mr. Kumoru.

 • The new vessel day scheme (VDS) for longline fishing boats is a work in progress that is a focus of PNA this year, he said. “Our aim is to keep improving monitoring of longliners and get traction on the VDS in 2017,” Mr. Kumoru said.

   • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainably-caught skipjack tuna dramatically increased in volume in 2016, to 59,586 tons compared to 6,896 tons the previous year. PNA forecasts for 2017 over 100,000 tons of skipjack caught without the use of fish aggregation devices and subject to a strict chain of custody. The MSC and PNA Pacifical sustainability label means this tuna commands a higher price at market.

   • Tracking and monitoring of the tens of thousands of fish aggregating devices (FADs) used in the tuna fishery is ongoing for both conservation and economic benefit to the members.

   But while continuing to support these value-added economic initiatives, PNA is also focused in 2017 on bolstering management programs, said Mr. Kumoru. With PNA’s vessel day scheme for purse seiners dramatically changing the picture for island members — whose revenue increased from US$60 million in 2010 to an estimated US$400 million last year — it has exponentially increased the work of PNA’s Majuro office.

   Although the PNA resource holders are managing the world’s largest skipjack fishery, the PNA has maintained a small office staff of five supported by consultants in other countries. Mr. Kumoru said it will be essential to increase support staff to manage basic financial functions of PNA’s growing economic footprint. “We want to build a stronger foundation in the PNA office and at the national level, then we can decide on the next issues for PNA to tackle,” he said.

   This and the need to establish a decision-making structure that can work outside of the annual PNA officials and ministers meetings each year are critical to ongoing work of PNA, he said, adding he anticipates putting both of these needs to PNA officials when they meet in their annual meeting beginning March 27 in Majuro.

   “PNA is a business-focused organization,” said Mr. Kumoru. “As such, we cannot efficiently act on opportunities with decisions made once a year at the annual meetings.” He said he will be asking PNA leaders to look to establish a board representing members that can make decisions between annual meetings.

   As part of consolidating gains made through the VDS for purse seiners, PNA needs to look to tighten loopholes in the system that hurt the sale of fishing days in 2016. “In 2016, we weren’t able to sell all fishing days mainly because purse seiners were allowed to fish in high seas areas,” Mr. Kumoru said. “By doing this, we’ve created some cracks in the system.” PNA officials need to step back and review the situation that has developed over the past three years and develop a solution. “We created a situation that is not beneficial to all members,” he said. “This is the value of our collaboration and unity.”

   While overseeing this multi-prong fisheries management program, the PNA office aims to keep encouraging business engagement in the fishery. “PNA has demonstrated the opportunity that is in fisheries,” he said. “The question is how to add value and grow our members’ economies by getting more local developments that create new jobs.”

   This year will feature the first World Tuna Day that is United Nations sanctioned as a global day of celebration. The UN endorsed May 2 as World Tuna Day by resolution in December, which has generated greater interest in the day not just in the region but internationally, said Mr. Kumoru. Among events planned is one at the UN headquarters in New York City to showcase PNA products and programs.