The association covers 32 purse-seine vessels flagged to PNG and another 32 flagged to the Philippines that are based in PNG. The tuna must be processed in one of six PNG-based facilities, all of which are members of the association.
As part of becoming certified, the association must meet 10 conditions. Seven relate to lessening environmental impact, including on whales and dolphins, and interactions between whales and sharks. Three relate to how the fisheries are managed.
Trade and Industry News, which is published by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), said that certified organisations had to adopt harvest strategies to limit fishing to sustainable numbers. However, these were still being developed in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
Certification may help sell local tuna in the US
MSC-certified tuna might give the PNG association an advantage in the US market. Trade and Industry News reported that the US retailer Walmart was moving towards using only certified tuna in its brand Great Value. The brand Bumble Bee was doing the same.
The newsletter also discussed new tariffs on fish products being introduced by the United Kingdom now that it has left the European Union. Even though tariffs for canned tuna and tuna loins would drop from 24% to 20%, the price of Pacific Islands tuna means it should remain competitive.
Recent deaths on tuna-fishing vessels operating in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) have again signalled the need to improve safety and working conditions on vessels, and to introduce and enforce meaningful penalties for vessel owners that flout regulations.
Existing rules have been criticised for not going far enough to protect observers or crew, Trade and Industry News reported.
It said that at least one well-known voice in the region, Bubba Cook, of WWF-New Zealand, had called for a new approach to keep observers safe, since current rules and penalties were failing observers. Mr Cook said that using more electronic surveillance technology on ships might help. So might banning a ship from ever fishing in WCPO waters if an observer disappeared or died in suspicious circumstances.
Trade and Industry News said that “the death of an observer must be reported immediately and can shine a spotlight on the situation, some incidents relating to crew death or welfare can go unnoticed for months or even years”.
In 2016, FFA adopted harmonised minimum terms and conditions for access by fishing vessels (HMTCs). They are used to regulate fishing in the waters of the 17 countries that are members of FFA. The HMTCs make getting and keeping a licence to fish for tuna contingent on maintaining a safe work environment for observers. They give instructions on how to do this, and on what to do if an observer is assaulted, harassed, dies, goes missing, or is believed to have fallen overboard.
Trade and Industry News said the Indonesian Government tabled its concerns about “labour abuse” in a paper to the 16th annual meeting of the WCPFC in December 2019.
Under WCPFC resolution 2018-01, the countries of the region, and other countries that fish in the region are expected to enact laws that require fishing operators to provide crews of fishing vessels with fair working conditions, fair pay, and a safe environment to work in.
The rules of both organisations reiterate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Electronic monitoring may help improve working conditions
Trade and Industry News said the use of electronic monitoring and surveillance technology and artificial intelligence may make working conditions safer for observers and crew.
It reported increased interest in electronic compliance and observance as a result of suspending the observer program as part of COVID-19 restrictions. Observers are a lynchpin in keeping reporting of fishing effort accurate, and in the prevention of bycatch and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The countries in the region have been working out how to make electronic monitoring feasible, especially for the small island developing states (SIDS). It is expensive, and much of it is not fully developed yet, Trade and Industry News reports.
The FFA newsletter also reported that Thai Union was looking at using artificial intelligence to detect IUU fishing and abuses of human rights on tuna fishing vessels.
“The huge increases in revenues, from our work in getting hard limits for the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), and in restructuring the VDS and running it as a business, demonstrated that we can manage our resources more effectively,” Dr Aqorau said.
“I wanted to share this story because for a long time we were really played off by the foreign fishing operators. It was quite unfair how the distant-water fishing nations, for the better part of 30 years, did not pay us for the true value of our tuna.”
The PNA began operating from a small office in Majuro, Marshall Islands, in 2010. Dr Aqorau said that, at that time, the PNA states collected US$60 million in revenue from tuna fishing.
Because of the agreement, in 2019 the same states earned revenue of US$500 million.
It was an achievement “that donors, regional organisations and political leaders have been trying to do for years, but could not”, Dr Aqorau said.
“it is about how a group of countries, friends and colleagues – through their friendship, alliance, shared vision and desire to control their fisheries … – put their heads together and created the largest capitalised tuna fishery in the world.”
He was motivated by wanting “to ensure that our peoples – the young, the old and feeble, the people in the village – get a fair share of the returns from our tuna resources”.
Dr Aqorau charts the early discussions on the agreement, and the opposition, challenges and victories along the way.
Some arrangements had been more successful than others, he said, but from the beginning the countries saw that the conservation of tuna populations and economic gain went hand in hand.
“The story of the PNA has been a remarkable one, especially the success of the VDS and how its significant economic returns have made such a large impact on the development of Pacific communities,” Dr Aqorau said.
The eight states that are members of the PNA are Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
One of the most important tools in understanding the biology and environment of tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is a bank.
This particular institution, the Pacific Marine Specimen Bank (PMSB), has been slowly building its revenue of research currency – muscle, organ and bone samples, stomach contents, photographs, and radiographic images – since 2000.
It also collects samples from other large, oceanic species such as marlin and swordfish that are also economically valuable.The PMSB is managed by scientists in the Oceanic Fisheries Programme of the Pacific Community (SPC). The datasets held in the bank help the scientists understand the world of tuna. Their knowledge forms part of SPC’s annual assessments of the state of health of tuna populations. In turn, the assessments are used to manage tuna fishing in the region.
Specimen banks are important because they throw light on our understanding of current situations – and because scientists in the future can use the same samples to find answers to new questions or to ask the same questions using new techniques or research tools.
One of the challenges the staff of PMSB face is ensuring that samples, which are collected all over the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, are kept in prime condition until they get to a permanent storage facility. Part of the scientists’ work is to prepare some samples to make it easier to transport them to analysis laboratories outside New Caledonia.
Much care goes into getting, storing, and transporting samples so they can be used for immediate research and analysis, and also in many years’ time.
This usually means that they have to be kept cold enough. Many samples can be kept at –20°C; however, those used in genetic analysis must be kept at –80°C. Freezers of the second kind are difficult to come by, and expensive to run.
Other tissue must be preserved in formalin and then transferred into ethanol.
The nine cubic metres of freezer space at the laboratory at SPC in Noumea is now too small to contain the growing collection. Although there are plans to enlarge it, research partners are also helping to house pieces of the collection in other parts of the region.
And SPC has funded the purchase of freezers in the main fishing ports in the region to that samples can be stored safely until they are transferred to their final destination.
In April, the PMSB contained nearly 120,000 samples collected from 34,000 specimens. Some national observer programs have participated in collecting samples for the bank since 2002.
Note: post updated 6 July 2020 to correct a spelling error.
The campaign is being run by the Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service.
Bruno Mugneret, from the Department of Fishing and Management of Marine Resources in Wallis, said the number of washed-up FADs had become a problem.
“In Wallis and Futuna, the problem appeared with great intensity in 2019, when the population saw the resurgence of these objects on beaches, on reefs, in the lagoon, and also in the open sea around the islands, causing many questions about the origin and the activities associated with this multiplication,” he said.
The Fisheries Service is collecting data from fishers and local populations. It will use a radio campaign to raise awareness in communities about their important role as “sentries” in locating washed up FADs.
The results of the research will be shared with coastal communities, so they can help develop ways of managing the FADs and protecting coastal environments.
“SPC conducted this study to estimate the impact that the massive use of FADs can have on the coastal areas of our region. The data available demonstrate a certain under-estimation of strandings,” Dr Escalle told Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service people at the launch of the local campaign.
She said it was important that island nations and territories collect information on stranded FADs to contribute to existing databases that are used to assess grounding rates and the consequences of strandings on coastal ecosystems and local fisheries.
In Solomon Islands, some women were doing well in jobs with greater responsibilities such as technical supervisors or managers in the SolTuna cannery at Noro, or had built up trading businesses and fleets of fishing vessels.
And, in 2019, three women started work as cadets on the National Fisheries Development fishing fleet. Until then, the agency employed only men on its fishing vessels.
Generally, however, few women work on tuna fishing vessels anywhere. In Solomon Islanders, they make up a large part of the workforce once that catch is landed, dominating work on processing lines in factories, and selling raw or processed fish in local markets.
They said some women were also found in technical, financial and managerial roles, but usually in lower-paid, less powerful positions than their male colleagues. This was the same for tuna that is exported and for tuna sold in local markets for local consumption.
The researchers said that the largest employment opportunities in the tuna fisheries, on fish-processing lines for women, and as general crew of fishing vessels for men, were poorly paid. Two-thirds of the workforce of SolTuna are women, but most of them are in the lowest-paid jobs with the least authority.
The researchers said that the International Finance Corporation had worked with SolTuna since 2015 to improve opportunities for women, as well as their working conditions.
Women’s work in the tuna fisheries was made more difficult because they were expected to fit paid work around their obligations to care for families and homes, with strong social and cultural values shaping women’s and men’s views on where women could legitimately seek work.
Most women who sell tuna in the Gizo and Noro are involved in small, family-run businesses. (This was different to the situation in Indonesia, where the value chain is more complex and offers more opportunities for women to be involved in or run larger businesses.)
If women were going to take up paid work across the tuna industry in greater numbers, jobs needed to be flexible so women could also meet their extensive family responsibilities.
The technical manual covers standard designs for different kinds of anchored FADs, and some regional modifications of these. It also discusses technical considerations for the design of upper floatation devices, main lines, and anchors, and considers deployment location and techniques from different kinds of fishing vessels, and maintaining FADs.
The manual improves on a 2005 edition by drawing on the experience and lessons learned by users of FADs across the Pacific.
The manual is published by the Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The new manual doesn’t replace the old ones, which FAME says still contains useful technical information. However, FAME said it became clear in 2016 that the older manual did need updating, when Pacific FAD users came together to share their knowledge and experiences in FAD design and innovation.
They said information that was still relevant in the 2005 edition had not been repeated in the new manual, but was referred to.
SPC has published short reports into ways that women can have a greater say in fisheries management in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
The reports are a snapshot of information on and analysis of the how women participate in fishing in the four countries.
Each report summarises the steps the country has taken so far to improve women’s involvement. These are mostly in policies. It also highlights strengths and weaknesses in current arrangements, and discusses political factors and social norms that prevent or deter women from becoming more actively involved.
These points are used to list ways in which women could become more equal participants in both decision-making about and control of fisheries resources. They include learning from women themselves what they need and want, targeting women when delivering extension services, and implementing gender-equity policies that already exist.
SPC says the reports are intended to stimulate discussion about how to make improvements in the organisation’s Social Development Programme and Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division.
It says the recommendations are also relevant to the national government of the country, and the country’s external partners in development.
Women often don’t see themselves as fishers
In all four countries, many women do not see themselves as fishers, even though they provide seafood for the family. They and the men in their families see only the men as the fishers.
The reports note that women also have less time to be involved in paid work, community decision-making and development activities, as they do most of the reproductive work and caregiving in the family and the community, and don’t have time for other things.
SPC writes that “care must be taken to consult with women and ensure they have time to benefit from development at a pace they can manage”.
Social norms needed to be discussed if people’s thinking was to change. This was difficult work that would take time, especially as there was a lack of expertise in gender analysis in all four countries.
Opportunities in each country highlighted
Women are involved in community decision-making in places in all the countries, and this could be built on to increase their involvement.
In Tonga, women make up 40% of the community councils that manage the special management areas that the government has set up to restore coastal fishing areas that have collapsed. However, SPC notes, the women on the councils may not have the same power as men when making decisions.
In Fiji, women are involved in subsistence fishing and also work in the cannery, hold positions of power, and have extensive knowledge and skills that are different to those of Fijian men in the industry. However, SPC notes, they remain marginalised in decision-making and consultation, and receive fewer benefits.
In Samoa, women make up about 18% of fishers in villages, and are responsible for about 10% of a community’s fishing effort. They also do most of the processing after harvest. SPC notes that although the Samoan Government is hampered by the limited sharing of skills and knowledge between departments, it is working with development partners to improve women’s involvement in coastal and marine fisheries.
The reports cover all fisheries. However, as women are much more involved in coastal fisheries and aquaculture (and men in deep-sea fisheries), the discussion is more focused on these. SPC has a handbook on gender equity and social inclusion in coastal fisheries last year.
At the core of their research is one of the elements at the heart of a heating planet: carbon.
By tracing two of the most abundant forms of carbon, the isotopes carbon-12 and carbon-13, they were able to show that a significant amount of global heating is caused by human activities rather than natural processes.
They also found that several other factors also influence the amount of different carbon isotopes in tuna.
Scientists find evidence of changes in the food chain
One of the most important happens at the start of the food chain, with a group of plankton known as phytoplankton, which use sunlight and carbon to make the energy they need.
The scientists showed that the abundance of different kinds of phytoplankton has changed in the past 15 years, directly as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. They also showed that the proportion of carbon-12 and carbon-13 available changes the kinds and abundance of phytoplankton. These changes don’t stop here, but alter the kinds and abundance of animals, including tuna, all the way up the food chain.
Numbers of some phytoplankton are shrinking, and this too is affecting the abundance and location of tuna.
The change in the balance of phytoplankton is made worse by another effect of climate change: ocean stratification. Surface and deep waters of oceans now mix less, and that fewer nutrients are stirred up and made available for plankton to consume.
The research also showed changes in how quickly phytoplankton grow.
The scientists traced two forms of carbon
The research involved scientists from several fields. Among them was Valérie Allain of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The scientists took 4,500 samples of muscle from albacore, bigeye and yellowfin tuna over 15 years, from 2000 to 2016, from the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. They found that changes were most pronounced in the Pacific Ocean.
They traced two forms of carbon, carbon-12 and carbon-13. This is possible because each isotope each has a different weight and also behaves slightly differently.
Carbon is found naturally in living things, and in the air, land and water. It is also present in coal and oil, and when these burn, carbon-12 is released into the atmosphere.
More than 90% of atmospheric carbon is absorbed by the oceans. From there, it enters the food chain, being taken up by plankton and passed on to each predator up the chain, until it ends up in tuna, along with other forms of carbon such as carbon-13.
Reporting on their findings in the most recent issue of SPC’s Fisheries Newsletter, Valérie Allain and another researcher, Anne Lorrain, said that the data will be “of inestimable value” in projecting the effects of climate change on the health and quantity of seafood, and in validating modelling. This is because they collected so much data over such a long time and a very large geographical area.
Their research makes much more certain that humans do affect the environments and inhabitants of the open oceans.
It covers the subtropical and tropical waters of the WCPO, and informs users about the best methods for handling and releasing sharks and rays, recommended by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
Many shark and ray species in the WCPO (and elsewhere in the world) are in danger of dying out, and accidental catch during fishing is a major cause of deaths in some species. If these species are to be saved, scientists and fisheries managers need accurate figures on how many are being caught. And that means being able to identify them reliably.
SPC says that, as well as helping fishers, it also helps observers, who collect operational data from fishing and report back to fisheries managers, who use the information to manage not just tuna fishing but the care of the marine environments that tuna rely on to remain healthy.
To make identification at sea easier, the illustrations show the most important distinguishing features of each species, and its colour when alive.
Identification will also be made easier by the inclusion of the common name for each animal in six languages: Cantonese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and Spanish.
The manual is written by Timothy Park, Lindsay Marshall, Aymeric Desurmont, Boris Colas and Neville Smith, and illustrated by shark and ray illustrator Dr Lindsay Gutteridge, who is also a scientist.
The new manual refines an older guide that defines 30 species of sharks and rays.