Pacific fisheries officials plan for sustainable and profitable longline fisheries

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Fisheries Managers from across the Pacific met in Honiara last week to discuss strategies for ensuring sustainable and profitable longline fisheries in the Pacific.

Although scientists currently rate the southern longline fishery, primarily targeting southern albacore tuna, as biologically sustainable with no overfishing, there is concern about the economic viability of this fishery.

This fishery is currently affected by poor economic conditions, due to the relatively low value of the fish, the relatively high costs of Pacific island based fishing operations, and declining catch rates. This is of concern given that many Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) have domestic longline fisheries.

Low profitability is also an issue in the tropical longline fishery, which limits the economic benefits that Pacific island coastal States can get from their longline resources.

Last week’s workshop, facilitated by Alice McDonald, consultant at NRE People, sought to explore the issues facing longline fisheries, and develop some strategies for overcoming these issues.

Fisheries Managers worked together to explore and develop strategies for overcoming the issues facing longline fisheries. Image: Jenni Metcalfe

The Oceanic Fisheries Management project (OFMP2) supported the workshop, which aims to have a regional longline strategy ready to present to the Forum Fisheries Committee in July next year.

Participants in the workshop identified the following key objectives:

  • Avoiding a collapse in the target tuna fish stocks
  • Ensuring economic sustainability – employment and livelihoods
  • Minimising environmental impacts
  • Respecting human rights, including safety of observers on boats
  • Improving monitoring, surveillance and compliance, especially given the uncertainty of data about Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated (IUU) fishing

A MRAG study into longline fishing of tropical tuna species indicates that the two biggest IUU risks are from misreporting or non-reporting of catches (49%), followed by post harvest activities (39%), including illegal transhipment of fish at sea. Only about 3% of IUU is likely due to unauthorised or illegal fishing.

Derek Ta’uika Tagosia, e-Reporting and Monitoring Coordinator for the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources, reported on the success of their e-reporting, now installed and operational on over 100 locally based fishing vessels.

“Electronic reporting is entering and sending of catch and other data from the vessel to the office via satellite devices,” he said. “Before that we were using manual reporting where a log sheet is handed out to the captains and they fill it in manually using pens or pencils and we found a lot of challenges – handwriting is not clear, some missing fields, some missing pages, some using dialects.

“One of the biggest problems we had with manual logsheets was the delay in receiving those logsheets; we received them weeks late, or even months. But moving into e-reporting we managed to receive those logsheets – in just a click of a button.

“You can have the catch record for that day and the data for that catch, for that day.”

Experiences with longline fisheries in Samoa and Papua New Guinea were also presented, providing an opportunity for participants to share lessons learnt from successful initiatives and discuss strategies to overcome persisting challenges.

Fisheries Managers shared lessons learnt from successful initiatives and discussed strategies to overcome persisting challenges.
Photo: Jenni Metcalfe

The workshop group listed the most urgent actions they thought needed to be taken in the regions longline fisheries including:

  • Strengthening MCS for longline fisheries, including increased implementation of electronic reporting and electronic monitoring
  • Promoting zone-based management
  • Locking in high seas allocations
  • Tightening transhipment measures, especially in the high seas
  • Specifying sovereign fishing rights
  • Gaining agreement on target reference points
  • Working towards a harvest strategy that recognises existing zone-based management measures
  • Developing management approaches that increase economic revenue and benefits
  • Understanding the stocks and linking scientific research to Monitoring, Compliance and Surveillance (MCS) needs
  • Defining and protecting maritime boundaries and baselines
  • Getting stronger agreement about crew welfare, perhaps through a Resolution at the next Tuna Commission (WCPFC) meeting in December.

Chair of the meeting, FFA’s Deputy Director General, Matt Hooper said that resource owners, the PICTs, were currently paying for most of the costs of managing the longline fishery but were not enjoying a share of the economic returns.

“We need to look at ways to improve the economic rents from tuna fisheries, and if we are successful in that endeavour we may be in a position to recoup some of the management costs from industry.”

Pacific countries congratulate OFMP2 on progress & support extension to 2020

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Honiara, 1 November 2018

“Our Territory, being part of New Zealand, does not usually directly benefit from international funding, but this region-wide initiative has really benefited us,” said  the member from Tokelau speaking about the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) at its Steering Committee today.

“We have benefited over the past 12 months from MSC [Marine Stewardship Council] certification of our free school purse seine fishery, and by participating in workshops establishing the rights of SIDS [Small Island Developing States] on the high seas. There’s been a lot of work done and we are very appreciative of GEF funding.

Tokelau’s sentiments were echoed by delegates from Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Marshall islands and Niue, who also mentioned workshops, training, funding of observers, and the Catch Documentation Scheme as benefits of the project.

Project Coordinator, Hugh Walton, told the Committee that there were funds available to extend the Project for another 18 months beyond the finish of the project in June next year until December 2020.  He said such an extension would expand climate change work and increase funding of knowledge management activities.

The members of the Steering Committee warmly endorsed the proposed extension.

The delegate from the Federated States of Micronesia said it was very complex to to try and implement all the programs, and although the project had achieved many of the goals there was still more that could be achieved.

A few members also mentioned the importance of further climate change research, especially at the national level.

The delegate for Tokelau said: “This project has produced a lot of very good information. It would be good if the project could focus more on national information, especially on climate change. We are very concerned about climate change. We would like a bigger investment in this so we can make important policy decisions. Some of these decisions may mean transferring half our population to another country and the loss of a whole culture.”

Deputy Director General of FFA, Matt Hooper, who was chairing the meeting thanked everyone for their comments and said: “We will be taking this request for extension to UNDP and FAO as soon as possible.”

Hugh Walton (right) OFMP2 FFA Coordinator talks to the Project Steering Committee. Left: FFA’s DDG, Matt Hooper. Centre: FFA Finance & Administration Officer, Sireta Laore

 

 

Tuna stock assessment training workshops in Noumea

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The participants at this week’s tuna stock assessment workshops held at the Pacific Community (SPC) offices in Noumea, New Caledonia.

The Oceanic Fisheries Management Project works with SPC to deliver annual stock-assessment training workshops.

The workshops, which have been run since 2006, aim to increase regional fisheries officers’ ability to:

  1. understand and interpret the results from the regional oceanic fisheries’ stock assessments
  2. communicate this information to fishery managers within their countries
  3. increase their confidence to participate in scientific discussions of the WCPFC – in particular, during meetings of its Scientific Committee.

Pacific tuna fisheries sustainable but need to consider threats, especially from climate change

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The foresight of Pacific Islands country leaders in the late ‘90s means that the tropical tuna stocks in the Western Central Pacific today are being fished sustainably, despite pressures from increased fishing including illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing.

These are the findings of UN expert consultant on ocean and coastal management and governance, Dr David Vousden, who presented the conclusions of a detailed analysis of Western and Central Pacific oceanic fisheries to a meeting of Pacific fisheries managers in Rarotonga, Cook Islands earlier this month.

Dr Vousden says one of the most notable aspects of the tuna fisheries within the Pacific Islands region has been its continuing sustainability.

“All the available scientific monitoring evidence and modelling supports the conclusion that the tuna fishery in the Convention area is sustainable and is currently not being overfished.

“This is down to the fact that the countries have been working together through this Convention [Western Central Pacific Fisheries] and by carrying out the various activities and requirements in terms of monitoring and managing the fisheries, both within their EEZs [Exclusive Economic Zones] and out there in the high seas as well.”

Many Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) depend on tuna fisheries for a significant part of their income through their own domestic fishing operations and through licensing foreign vessels. About 60 per cent of the world’s commercial tuna supplies come from this region.

But tuna are highly mobile fish that moves across the EEZs of many different countries and also across the high seas. For this reason, Pacific tuna fisheries management is considered to be a ‘transboundary concern’ whereby countries need to negotiate with each other about fishing access and sustainability.

The Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) contracted Dr Vousden to conduct a ‘Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis” of the Western Pacific Warm Pool Large Marine Ecosystem.

“This process identifies the threats and their effects on fisheries and people, but it also looks at the real root causes that are making these happen,” he says.

“So, if you have a threat like overfishing, why is this happening? Is it because it’s not being monitored properly? Is it due to illegal fishing?

“Once you know these root causes, you can look at how best to resolve them and reduce or remove the threat”

Dr Vousden found that while the tuna fisheries in the Pacific Islands region are currently sustainable, they are also being threatened by the future risks of overfishing, climate change, bycatch of non-target species like sharks and turtles, and potentially by pollution from the land and from vessels on the sea.

“One of the biggest challenge is improving the management processes,” he says. “The current management processes have been successful but they are rather ad hoc and there is a need to move to stronger longer term strategies for managing harvesting to avoid the risk of overfishing, supported by strengthened compliance and enforcement and enhanced information gathering and scientific understanding.

Dr Vousden presents about the TDA in Rarotonga (Photo: Toss Gascoigne)

Dr Vousden also noted the massive issue of climate change and pointed to the “exceptionally good climate change modelling” being conducted by the Pacific Community (SPC) scientists. Within this context, he cautioned that the predicted impacts from climate change could potentially upset and confound the otherwise god efforts toward long-term, sustainable management of the oceanic fishery.

“Tuna are restricted in their range by water temperatures and by the amount of tuna ‘forage’ or food supply that they have. Climate change affects both of these parameters,” he says.

In Rarotonga May 2018: (left) Perry Head, acting DDG for FFA; (middle) David Vousden; (right) Hugh Walton OFMP2 Coordinator with FFA (Photo: Toss Gascoigne)

“We are seeing a change over the past decade where tuna populations are moving away from some islands and migrating closer to others. We are also seeing the upwelling currents from ocean floors diminishing and, along with them, much of the nutrients that drive the food chains that the tuna rely upon.”

Dr Vousden has set out his findings in a technical report, which needs to be factually approved by all the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Pacific member countries. Once agreed, the next step is to produce a Strategic Action Programme for ministerial endorsement. This may then well lead to further funding and investment to support the PICTs in implement the actions identified and endorsed within the SAP.

Dr Vousden is optimistic that such support to implement the SAP would receive international support and funding, especially given the record of OFMP2: “This is about as good a flagship project as you can get in terms of governance and management of large marine ecosystems. The countries and their partners really understand what needs to be done in terms of oceanic fisheries management, and they’re really going for it.”

Despite the scale of possible threats and their impacts on the marine ecosystem, Dr Vousden is also confident of the ability of the regional and national fisheries managers to tackle them.

“When you’re dealing with an area the size of the Western and Central Pacific and you’ve got maybe 4,000 fishing boats out there at any one time, some in the high seas and some in EEZs, with different roles and regulations applying to them, just monitoring the fishery is a massive challenge.

“But I have seen this region slowly but surely rise to this challenge over the past two decades both in understanding what needs to be done and in taking the necessary management actions. This gives me enormous optimism for the fisheries in this region”.

“If they can keep going the way they are, and if they can maintain their dedication and interest in managing the fisheries, and with further advances in the science and our knowledge, then I think the Pacific oceanic fisheries stands every chance of remaining in good shape into the foreseeable future.

“The one overriding concern that remains, however, must be the monitoring of the impacts from climate change and being able to adaptively manage the fishery and the potential socioeconomic effects in the region that climate change can cause.”

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) is managing and administering the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2), which is being implemented jointly by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which provides the funding support.

The OFMP2 builds on previous GEF support that assisted the region in developing and adopting the Convention and then assisted with building the foundations, institutions and capacity for more sustainable Pacific fisheries management.

The objective of OFMP2 is to: support Pacific SIDS in meeting their obligations to implement and effectively enforce global, regional and sub-regional arrangements for the conservation and management of transboundary oceanic fisheries thereby increasing sustainable benefits derived from these fisheries.

SustainPacFish – New web portal links to information on sustaining and conserving Pacific oceanic fisheries

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SustainPacFish is a new web portal designed to provide Pacific fisheries managers and industry with links to the latest information about measures to conserve and manage Pacific fisheries, especially tuna.

Launched today (23 March 2018), SustainPacFish is an initiative of the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

FFA Director General, JamesMovick, says SustainPacFish was designed after surveying potential users of the Pacific. It publishes the latest information about conservation management measures and actions to implement them.

“Our aim is to link people involved in fish in the Pacific – industry, researchers, communities and government – with definitive information about management, policies and practices that lead to sustainable use of Pacific fisheries and the conservation of our marine resources,” he says.

The new web portal is carefully designed to meet the needs of those involved and interested in Pacific fisheries. 400 leading figures involved in different aspects of oceanic fisheries management and sustainability were asked what they wanted, and they nominated simplicity, clarity and a focus on data.

“I want to know how many fish are out there, how healthy the stocks are, and what is predicted for the future,” says one respondent. “That’s the only way we can write fishing policies that will keep our industry alive and well.”

Important information is already available through web sites operated by the FFA, Pacific Community (SPC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

“This site is not to duplicate this information but to provide an easy one stop shop to these sites and others for fisheries managers, governments and industry.

“We provide links and summaries – that’s why we call it a portal, a doorway to access information”. Movick says SustainPacFish also synthesises and simplifies existing information about Pacific fisheries that is not already accessible on other websites.

Users of the site can choose from six topics: fish stocks, economics, catch & harvest, bycatch, compliance and observers.

Once users have selected their topic they can then choose to look at information and links on a whole of region scale or by looking at the subregional grouping of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).

Additional content on subregional agreements and on individual countries will be progressively added as will content about the activities, progress and outcomes of the OFMP2.

“There is a lot of management, compliance, policy and research work happening across the region at any given time, all related to ensuring the future of our tuna fisheries,” says Movick.

See: http://sustainpacfish.net/

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) initiated the OFMP2 project, which is being implemented by FFA and managed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The OFMP2:

  • Supports Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as the major bloc at the WCPFC to adopt regional conservation and management measures
  • Supports innovative approaches being developed by Pacific SIDS at a sub-regional level, as they collaborate in fisheries of common interest
  • Assists SIDS to apply measures nationally in their own waters and to their fleets.

For more information contact:

OFMP2 Coordinator, Hugh Walton, hugh.walton@ffa.int

OFMP2 web portal contact, Jenni Metcalfe, jenni@econnect.com.au, phone +61 408 551 866

Pacific swaps paper for digital to better manage tuna fisheries

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Unreported tuna catches, especially lack of adequate verification of catches in the high seas is the biggest issue facing control of Illegal and Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

But new digital technology looks set to help commercial fishers to better record and report their activities.

“There is a big need to improve the timeliness and reliability of the fisheries data that managers and compliance officers receive,” says Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Hugh Walton who coordinates the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project.

Hugh Walton says more accurate fishing reporting will help make sure regulations are met and that scientists have the best available data for stock assessment

“There are currently challenges with fishers not properly monitoring or reporting as required, and the paper-based systems in place make it difficult to enforce and ensure mandatory data is submitted.”

FFA is working with the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to develop and implement a regional strategy to strengthen fishery monitoring and data collection through the use of electronic monitoring and reporting.

“The use of electronic log sheets and observer forms and camera-based electronic monitoring systems as well as independent observers on fishing vessels will help us to make sure that the regulations are met,” says Walton. “Such monitoring will also make sure scientists have the most reliable data possible on which to base their assessment of the sustainability of tuna stocks.”

Better monitoring also means scientists can measure the impacts of tuna fishing on accidentally caught animals (bycatch), such as sharks, turtles, seabirds and dolphins.

Last year the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Solomon Islands and Fiji started projects to trial and implement electronic monitoring with some of their longline tuna fishers.

A PNA workshop convened earlier this year between these countries, FFA and SPC looked at how these projects were progressing, and how they might fit into the broader regional electronic monitoring and reporting strategy.

FFA’s Peter Cusack participated in the workshop. He says while there are inevitable challenges to implementing new technologies including costs, the participants agreed that: “the cost of electronic monitoring needs to be compared to the cost of poor information, and that doing nothing comes at a cost.”

The vision of the electronic monitoring and reporting strategy currently under development, is to provide: “a monitoring and assessment framework that provides reliable and timely information to ensure ecologically sustainable management objectives can be met and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing can be eliminated.”’

The strategy would also see tuna fishers using tablet devices or computers rather than paper forms to electronically report on catch and operational requirements.

“Implementing this will require that FFA, SPC and PNA provide training for fisheries staff, who would then in turn train agents and operators in the use of the e-reporting tools,” says Walton.

“The benefits in having more reliable, accurate and timely data will be enormous for managing the world’s largest tuna fishery and ensuring its sustainability into the future.”

New system to help EEZ surveillance: Fiji fisheries minister

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SUVA, 28 APRIL 2017 (FBC NEWS) — The Fisheries Ministry has recently introduced a vessel monitoring system to help in the surveillance of Fiji Exclusive Economic Zone.

This was highlighted by Fisheries Minister Semi Koroilavesau in parliament this week.

“Each vessel that is fishing within the Exclusive Economic Zone has beacons that are monitored by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in Honiara. So vessel movements within its territory either it be Fiji or any other Pacific Islands is basically monitored and these reports are also given by the fishing vessels that are legally fishing to report any legal activity within their area of responsibilities.”

Screen shot from video footage recording fishing activities onboard fishing vessel Photo Credit: Satlink.

Koroilavesau says they also have observers in all licensed fishing vessels that carry out inspections while the boat is out at sea.

The Ministry also has an electronic system where units are installed on ships which make videos of activities on board.

Solomon Islands’ strong IUU fishing stance assures EU market

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The Solomon Islands has safeguarded its $500 million a year tuna export industry by taking strong measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in its waters.

In good news for the industry earlier this year (March, 2017), the European Commission lifted its cautionary ‘yellow card’, which had been in place since December 2014.

At that time, the EC determined that the Solomon Islands’ Government was not doing enough to combat IUU fishing in Solomon Islands’ waters.

Solomon Islands fisheries exports to the European Union are worth some SBD$500m annually, and an escalation to red card status would have been a disaster for the industry.

(Source: SPC)

The lifting of the yellow card status is an indication that strong enforcement for handling, processing and food safety is now in place.

The shift from yellow to green card status is recognition of collaborative efforts on the part of fisheries stakeholders, according to Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency Director General James Movick.

“The announcement ends more than two years of hard work led by the Solomon Islands government, other ministries working with the fisheries sector, and the industry,” he said. “We could not be more pleased that the tireless work to address these concerns and challenges have met with success.”

The Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) is also delighted with the news.

“This is excellent news for the fishing industry, for fishermen and for companies like Soltuna, which processes tuna here in the Solomon Islands for international markets,” said PITIA’s executive officer Johan Maefiti.

“On behalf of all our members, we would like to congratulate everyone who worked hard to make this happen. We have implemented strong mitigation measures against IUU fishing, and assured our access to critical European Union markets going forward.”– Press Release Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association, PITIA