by Giff Johnson
MAJURO — The Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority or MIMRA is engaged in updating its strategic and tuna management plans, said Director Glen Joseph Thursday.
“Tuna is the number one driver of the economy here,” said Joseph. “We’ve had tuna management plans over the years. We’re revising it now so it caters to our regional and international obligations and development of the vessel day scheme.”
Majuro has developed into the world’s busiest tuna transshipment port, with 400-500 purse seine vessel transshipments annually. In 2017, 423 purse seiners transshipped nearly 300,000 tons of tuna in Majuro that were delivered to off-shore canneries by tuna carrier vessels, according to MIMRA.
In addition, revenue generated from the tuna fishery has skyrocketed since 2010 under the management of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement’s vessel day scheme. Marshall Islands is one of nine islands that implements PNA’s VDS to manage purse seine fishing in the region. Tuna revenue hovered around $3 million annually in the early 2000s. In 2017, a new record was set in Marshall Islands with over $33 million generated from the commercial tuna industry.
During the past month, over 30 purse seiners and carrier vessels have been anchored in Majuro’s lagoon awaiting transshipment as low world market prices and a glut of tuna in Bangkok have slowed the transshipment process.
MIMRA’s Oceanic Division is engaged in developing the new management plan with the assistant of two Fisheries New Zealand representatives. Dr. Aimee Komugabe-Dixson, a Pacific Fisheries Advisor, and Hilary Ayrton, a Fisheries Analyst with the Highly Migratory Species Team, have been working since last week with MIMRA’s team at the fisheries department’s Majuro headquarters.
They’ve been meeting daily with Oceanic Division staff since June 3 to put the new plan together.
Komugabe-Dixson made it clear that, “We don’t write plans.” The tuna management plan now in preparation is being developed by MIMRA staff with advice and support of the Fisheries New Zealand team. “We provide structure and guidance,” she said, adding the aim is to “develop a plan that is useable.”
Fisheries New Zealand comes under the Ministry of Primary Industries and the two visiting fisheries advisors are part of a program that is called “Te Pātuitanga Ahumoana a Kiwa” (Partnerships in Pacific Fisheries). It works with government organizations that administer fisheries in Pacific island countries and territories.
Komugabe-Dixson said their program works to build capacity in the Pacific region by developing partnerships and relationships with fisheries staff in each island. MIMRA staff are driving the process for developing the new plan, she said.
Offshore Fisheries Advisor Francisco Blaha, who is based in Majuro and focuses his work with MIMRA staff in tuna transshipment and other tuna-related work, said Fisheries New Zealand takes a long-term view toward developing partnerships in the region that lead to improvements in management of the fishery.