The WCFPC has toughened its stance on tuna fishing. It has extended fishing limits, expanded the official observer program, and made tougher rules against bycatch, including the compulsory use of non-entangling FADs.
Tougher rules to protect tuna stocks as well as boost struggling Pacific Island economies were the focus of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) decisions at its recent annual policy-setting meeting.
The most important measures agreed to at the WCPFC15 meeting in Honolulu in December 2018 are:
setting a target reference point (TRP) for South Pacific albacore tuna, to balance the preservation of fish populations and economic needs
The rule applies to FADs to be deployed in or that will drift into the western and central Pacific Ocean. During discussion at WCPFC15, the European Union reported that it already used non-entangling FADs in other oceans, and that they had no impact on the amount of tuna caught. The WCPFC agreed that, to prevent animals becoming tangled up in FADs, fishing fleets should avoid using mesh if possible. However, if mesh is to be used:
the netting must be less than 7 cm when stretched, whether used on the raft or in the hanging “tail”
if the raft is covered, the mesh is to be wrapped securely so that animals cannot become enmeshed
any mesh used in a tail is to be tightly bundled and secured into “sausages” that are weighted so that the tail hangs straight down in the water column and remains taut.
It recommended a solid canvas sheet as a better option for the tail.
Biodegradable FADs recommended
The WCPFC flagged the introduction of biodegradable FADs, to reduce the amount of plastic rubbish in the ocean and that washes up on reefs and coastlines. The Scientific Committee (SC) and the Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC) are to present suitable designs by 2020.
FAD closure extended
The Commission also increased by two months a year the period in which FADs are banned from use in some areas. They were previously prohibited from 1 July to 30 September by purse seiners operating on the high seas and in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) between 20°N and 20°S. The ban is now extended for an extra two months on the high seas.
Protection zone extended to reduce seabird bycatch
Longline fishing vessels must use several approved measures to reduce the number of seabirds accidentally caught while fishing.
The measures were already in place for the Pacific Ocean south of 30°S. From 1 January 2020, that area will be extended, with vessels fishing between 25°S and 30°S to also use approved measures, although the EEZs of Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Tonga are exempt. The measures allowed are detailed in CMM 2018-03 and summarised in policies and rules on Sustainpacfish.
Seabird bycatch mitigation measures
North of 23oN:
large longline vessels of 24m or longer to use at least 2 mitigation measures, including at least one from Column A
small longline vessels of less than 24m to use at least one measure from Column A.
Between 25oS and 23oN:
longline vessels are encouraged to use at least one of these measures, and preferably more.
Side setting with a bird curtain and weighted branch lines
Night setting with minimum deck lighting
Deep-setting line shooter
Weighted branch lines
Management of offal discharge
The commission also amended the rules to conserve and manage turtles, but failed to agree on new measures for sharks.
Interim target set for catch of South Pacific albacore tuna
Pacific small island developing states cautiously hailed the adoption of limits to the catch of south Pacific albacore tuna. The limit, called a target reference point (TRP), tells fishing nations how many fish can be taken, based on the combined weight of all breeding-age individuals (called “spawning biomass”) of that species.
Catch rules clarified for Pacific bluefin tuna, and limits maintained for tropical tuna
The WCPFC clarified the catch rules for bluefin tuna so that, when a country exceeds its effort and catch limits in one year, the amount extra it has taken is deducted from the catch it is allowed the following year.
The Northern Committee of the WCPFC had argued for a catch-documentation scheme (CDS) to be applied to Pacific bluefin tuna to help bring populations of this depleted species back to sustainable levels. This will be developed as part of the conservation and management measure (CMM) on bluefin tuna. The goal of the CDS is to create a paper trail (physical or electronic) in fisheries to make it much more difficult to sell illegal, unreported or unregulated fish, since they wouldn’t have required documentation.
Despite some pressure to relax catch limits for the main commercial tropical tuna species—bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack—the WCPFC extended current limits for another two years. These three species are worth more than US$4.4 billion a year.
Reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
Last year, the president of the Marshall Islands, Dr Hilda Heine, said: “A five-year target to eliminate IUU fishing by 2023 is bold, but the stakes are too high not to be audacious in the goals we set. If we are serious about combating IUU, we need a tougher mindset.”
Strengthen the observer network and compliance
WCPFC members agreed on several measures to strengthen compliance.
The Commission also expanded the compliance monitoring scheme (CMS), with some reporting information to be made publicly available online, and searchable. Flagging of alleged violations has also been formalised, with deadlines given for countries to address violation notices.
Calls to make work safe for fishing crews and observers
IN the Japanese port of Ishigaki, the longline fleet has braced for the impact of the decision of a tiny Pacific state to ban fishing in its waters from January 1, 2020.
The fate of 20 small fishing vessels is hooked to this conservation move which Palau – once occupied by Japan – has deemed necessary to protect its coastal waters.
A ban will mean the Ishigaki fleet from Okinawa Island will no longer have access to the katsuo (bonito, also known as Skipjack) which is the ingredient for tataki – tuna seared very briefly over a hot flame or in a pan, and can be briefly marinated in vinegar, sliced thinly and seasoned with ginger.
And so, on the periphery of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries (Tuna) Commission in Hawaii this week, Japanese delegates approached the subject of research in Palau waters post 2019.
It’s a thinly veiled move to allow Ishigaki fishermen to cross into Palauan waters and fish for Skipjack under the guise of research while actually catering to the tataki tables of metropolitan Japan.
Japan’s Head of Delegation at the Tuna Commission, Shingo Ota, said Palau was concerned about the closure because of its impact on the Okinawa fleet of what he described at 20 small-scale longliners.
“If Palau is going to close the area those vessels have nowhere to go, “ Ota said.
“They have been dependent on the same fishing ground for many years and it’s very difficult for them to find alternative fishing grounds because they are accustomed to the Palau EEZ and maybe (it’s) easy for them to find fish.”
There has been no mention of the 2000 tonnes of Big Eye which the Okinawa fleet also catches each year off Palau.
Palau’s fishing grounds are closest to Okinawa and Ota acknowledged that the ease of access to the EEZ by the Japanese fleet was also related to proximity and, by extension, economic reasons including fuel and supplies.
While Ota acknowledged that Japan had approached Palau to make exceptions for the Okinawa-based fleet after the fishery closure, he would not be drawn into details of the request.
By small-scale, Ota means vessels with the capacity to catch no more than 20 tonnes compared to the large scale which is usually 400 tonnes gross tonnage.
When Palau closes its Exclusive Economic Zone, the area will effectively become a sanctuary in which fishing and mining is prohibited.
A dedicated 20 per cent of the EEZ will be accessible to domestic fishing fleets which will off-load in Palau in an effort to boost local industry and create employment.
President Tommy Remenegsau pushed for this measure, citing the need to restore the health of Palau’s ocean for future generations.
Under this initiative Remengasau hopes to increase fish stocks in the EEZ and encourage more diving tourism which has proved to be attractive to Asian visitors and lucrative for local tour operators.
But even before the sanctuary has been established, the Distant Water Fishing Nations – in this case Japan – have started not-too subtle attempts to unpick a landmark decision by a Small Island Developing State.
And Japan can wield influence over its tiny eastern neighbour.
Japan is one of Palau’s largest foreign donors, providing aid which has enabled the building roads, water improvement and, possible future funding for the expansion of the airport.
The Roman Tmetuchl International Airport development will allow for 200,000 visitors a year to access Palau.
How much influence Japan is willing to exert will depend ultimately on whether Remengasau’s government pushes back on the attempt to secure the future of the Okinawa fleet.
But in an attempt to bring Pacific islands to the table, Japan has used the region’s often-touted appeal for consideration of traditional practice as a trump card.
“In addition to (the impact of) distant water fishing fleets, some of the species are migrating into Japanese waters, particularly skipjack,” Ota said.
“(But) we have seen very poor migration of skipjack in recent years and so our coastal fishermen are very much concerned about skipjack.”
So what impact has this had on Japan’s coastal fisheries?
“They cannot catch skipjack, they have been traditionally catching skipjack in their coastal waters and I am telling other members that skipjack is not only important for economic objectives but also cultural objectives,” Ota said.
“Many of the coastal villages have a traditional celebration of the migration of the skipjack but recently because there is no skipjack coming to the Japanese coastal waters they often have to cancel the traditional activities.”
At the Tuna Commission in Hawaii, a group of Okinawan fishing industry representatives wearing “No Katsuo (Skipjack), No Life” shirts mingled with delegates to draw attention to their plight.
In the past Japan has used the research excuse to continue whaling activities despite an international moratorium.
Depending on Palau’s decision, the world will soon know whether Japan has been able to flout another international convention under the guise of contributing to science.
AS Pacific nations gathered at Waikiki to talk about fisheries conservation methods last week, Japanese fishermen were charged with trafficking shark fins in and out of Hawaii.
Sharks have in the past been targeted by long-line fishing fleets in the Western and Central Pacific due to their high value in the Asian market.
But a crackdown by regional governments through implementation of Commission Management Measures of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (CMMs) in the last 10 years have seen a reduction in shark finning.
In Honolulu Harbour the Kyoshin Maru No 20 was seized with 96 shark fins on board and its Captain, Hiroyuki Kasagami, Fishing Master, Toshiyuki Komatsu and Chief Engineer, Hiroshi Chiba, were charged with 11 counts related to trafficking shark fin.
The fishing boat is owned by Hamada Sulsan and operated by JF Zengyoren, a Japanese cooperative.
Each of the officers faces personal fines of up to $USD2.7million and jail terms of five to 20 years.
As the men headed on pre-trial release, another push was being made at the Tuna Commission (WCPFC) for an agreement on a comprehensive shark management measure. There are already a number of CMMs relating to sharks and the intention is to consolidate these in to a single measure.
Sharks are usually an incidental catch in the tuna industry but there are specific rules against targeting the species which can happen by deliberately setting hooks from longliners at certain depths.
But finning sharks is controlled and restricted under the licence agreements of fishing boats operating the WCPFC waters.
Around 100 million sharks died in 2000 as a result of fishing, according to a 2013 study by Social Development Direct, a UK based research group.
A 2015 study showed that deep-sea longline fishing vessels and coastal trawlers had the largest total of shark and ray by-catch.
There are no exact figures for shark deaths in the Pacific, but outgoing WCPFC Chairperson, Rhea Moss-Christian, told reporters Saturday that a shark management measure would be a priority this year.
Any shark management measure will need WCPFC members, cooperating non-Members and participating territories to prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea.
Associated with the measure will be a ban on trans-shipment, on-board retention of sharks and the landing of shark fins.
Longline boats deploy miles of baited hooks that accidentally snare sharks, among other unintended targets.
Within the FFA, strict Port State Measures offer a raft of compliance checks local authorities can make on fishing vessels according to the perceived threat posed by the boat.
This is another tool available within the Pacific to ensure the reduction of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fisheries, including catching and finning of sharks.
There is a fear, however, that some fleets are fishing for sharks on the high seas and transshipping fins to huge carrier ships which are involved in other illegal activities.
The presence of these large ocean-going carriers has caused Pacific countries to call for on-board observers on the vessels to report illegal activities.
Federated States of Micronesia National Oceanic resource Management Authority Executive Director, Eugene Pangelinan, said electronic monitoring was critical to conservation and management on the high seas.
“Electronic monitoring is more about supplementing and improving the compliance of longliners that are operating in the Exclusive Economic Zone or High Seas where current commission coverage is five per cent observer coverage,” Pangelinan said.
“We think the electronic monitoring offers an alternative – not to human observers – but more to increase the validation and compliance mechanism.
“It also offers an opportunity to improve our data collection and improvement in statistics gathering for other species of special interest such as sea turtles, non-target species sharks and so forth.
“I think electronic monitoring offers much more better eyes whereas observers are not capable of being physically accommodated on long-liners.”
Many of the fisheries with the largest by-catch of cartilaginous species like sharks and rays operate over vast areas of ocean and often in international waters, where fishing rules are weaker.
The measure before WCPFC15 would encourage research to identify ways to make fishing gear more selective and provide relevant information to the WCPFC Scientific Committee.
The WCPFC has the mandate to conserve and manage nearly 60 per cent of the global tuna catch, equivalent to 2.9 million tons of tuna, valued at over $5 billion.
It is also responsible for managing and conserving other migratory fish such as sharks and manta rays.
Conservation groups at the WCPFC have called for be a firm commitment, to conduct assessments on shark stocks.
Dave Gershman of PEW Charitable Trust said sharks were important to the ecosystem and as the top predators they kept the balance in the oceans.
“PEW is keen to see action for sharks before their numbers crash,” Gershman said.
“Negotiations for new rules on sharks have to take into account the widely differing interests of fishing nations and more conservation-minded resource-owning nations.”
While the Pacific negotiates the complexities of shark conservation measures behind closed doors, the US authorities have signalled that they will take no nonsense from fleets which target shark fins.
And in Honolulu Harbour there is one crew which has found out to its cost that with supportive laws, a dead shark can have a terrible bite.
WCPFC15, Honolulu, Hawaii, 12 December 2018— Albacore tuna is a vital resource for many Pacific nations but many domestic longline interests are being scuttled out of business by a growing foreign fleet and the failure of the rule-setting body –the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to act.
This week, a few words in a one-year old document will aim to claw back faith and test the credibility of the WCPFC, the world’s most successful tuna fisheries management organisation.
Last year at their closing plenary, the WCPFC, made progress on several years of discussion with an interim harvest strategy for South Pacific albacore putting the onus on an outcomes text saying the Hawaii meeting taking place this week “shall adopt a Target Reference Point for South Pacific albacore.”
The target reference point (TRP) – a notional ideal stock level – is the essential first step on which all other harvest rules rely.
The promise to set a TRP at WCPFC15 for one of the most negotiated tuna stocks in the Western Central Pacific Ocean, is set to roll out in earnest today, as the clock ticks towards the final plenary on Friday evening.
To ensure the momentum from last year’s meeting in Manila wouldn’t be lost, the WCPFC14 setup a working group with New Zealand at the helm to steer interested countries towards effective engagement on that agenda item.
Outgoing Chair of the WCPFC Rhea Moss-Christian is keen to ensure the promise of Manila is met, but her challenge is to extract consensus from a diverse group of nations with widely differing interests – a group that includes powerful distant water fishing nations as well as coastal states.
The determination and commitment of Forum Fisheries Committee members around the table, including Ministers from Samoa, Tonga, and Niue, was clear in their opening round of country statements.
Samoa’s Minister for Fisheries Afioga Lopao’o Natanielu Mua reiterated a call he made 12 months before in Manila, to the same stakeholders.
“It’s the target species for our domestic Longline fishery, that has been one of the main foreign revenue earners for our economy as well as supporting food security and livelihoods for our people,” the Minister said. He also made pointed mention of “the uneven playing field due to the subsidy support received by some fleets and therefore [the need for] an appropriate management strategy …to ensure that domestic, unsubsidised fleets remain economically viable.”
Alongside Mua are other high-level Pacific leaders in the countries most affected by the current approaches which are threatening incomes, food sources, and the long-term future of domestic longline fleets. The voices from Pacific nations most connected to Albacore are pitching the message at every opportunity that the Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore is a major part of the reasons bringing them to the Tuna Commission meeting.
Niue’s Fisheries Minister Dalton Tagalagi echoed the sentiments of his neighbourhood—South Pacific Albacore needs that target reference point to get moving on its harvest strategy.
He reminded the plenary of the shared responsibility from members to ensure fisheries are managed sustainably.
“We believe that we can all share and successfully manage this vital fishery if we honestly negotiate in good faith and transparently” he said.
Acknowledging the ongoing talks since 2015 to get traction on a strengthened conservation and management measure for South Pacific albacore, Tonga’s Minister for Fisheries Semisi Fakahau told the Commission that Tonga is committed to working with all members and fishing partners to support adoption of the target reference point for South Pacific Albacore.
“In order to maintain the long-term sustainability and economic viability of the tuna fisheries in the WCPO, and to secure livelihoods for local fishermen, it is important that stronger and more effective fisheries management arrangements for migratory tuna stocks and other species are agreed at this meeting.”
Kiribati Fisheries Minister Tetabo Nakara hinted that the conversations towards locking down the reference point won’t be easy. He noted during his country statement that: “there are agenda items that may polarise our collective approach, and when those agenda items are considered I would mutually call on us all to put aside our differences and to humbly approach those issues as one group in one voice with one amicable solution agreeable to us all.”
Presenting the position of the 17-member FFA bloc to the commission, FFC Chair Tepaeru Herrmann of the Cook Islands opened with the reminder that the Target Reference Point talks holds no surprises; it’s the fourth year in a row the FFA have proposed this move.
“As we’ve stated previously, it is critical to adopt a Target Reference Point so that we can start to manage this fishery…. we have come prepared to work in the spirit of good faith upon which that decision was taken to ensure that we adopt a meaningful Target Reference Point here.”
When it comes to the time needed to reach a meaningful number, the devil will be working through the detail. The WCPFC Secretariat and SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Program have provided an Information paper on trends in the Southern Albacore Fishery, revealing a 2017 peak in annual catch estimates for albacore in the south Pacific (south of the equator) of 92,989 metric tonnes, 98% of that by long liners and the remainder by trolling. With both fishing gears, the 2017 catch is upon the previous year – 29% higher for long liners, and 12% higher for trollers.
By comparison, the 2017 total albacore catch in the South Pacific was 72,272 mt and the longline catch within the southern part of the Western and Central Pacific Commission area — excluding archipelago waters — 69,688 mt, one of the highest in the last 10 years. High seas longline catch estimates represent 51% of the total and have ranged from 27-51% of the total over the last 10 years. By flag (or attributed nationality based on charter agreements), China and Chinese Taipei had the highest catch estimates of South Pacific albacore in 2017 (29,125 mt and 12,086 mt respectively), and together represent 59% of the total catch. 70% of their catch was taken on the high seas.
Science updates on effort warn there is ‘considerable uncertainty in 2017 effort estimates, mostly due to gaps in information and data.’ The number of deployed hooks in 2017 within the commission area south of 10 degrees south was 30% higher than in 2016, and 13% lower than the high seen in 2012. The estimated longline effort in this region was estimated at 277 million hooks in 2017.
Representatives of the Pacific tuna industry are pushing hard for action on albacore at this year’s WCPFC15 in the margins of the meeting and from the floor.
“Nobody can deny the perilous state of this fishery,”John Maefiti, Executive Officer of the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association said in an intervention in the WCPFC plenary yesterday.
“Catch rates simply cannot support current costs (for Pacific operators), leaving many companies on the brink of financial failure.
“We are fortunate that the Southern Pacific Albacore is biologically healthy, but the key to economic viability of a fishery is the catch per unit effort, or CPUE. We have observed a continually declining CPUE over several years, diminishing what was once a robust and attractive fishery to a shadow of itself. The inability of the WCPFC to control a massive increase in High Seas fishing effort is a sad indictment about this commission’s ability to manage the fisheries under its charge,” Maefiti said.
The Pacific fishing industry has joined the Forum Fisheries Agency and its member governments in calling on WCPFC to take heed of advice from its Science Committee and to ensure the long-term commercial viability and sustainability of the Pacific’s southern longline fishery.
Given the scale of detail and information on the Target Reference Point for South Pacific Albacore and other inter-related issues such as the domination of the southern albacore fishery by China and Taiwan, there are real concerns that discussions will get bogged down once again. This would mean seeing the time window for a decision close for another year.
FFA’s new Director General and her team will be as keen as the high-level heads of Pacific delegations and the outgoing WCPFC Chair to ensure that doesn’t happen and South Pacific Albacore gets the Target Reference Point the commission has promised. But with only a few days to go and other high priority issues including the Tropical Tuna Measure for Skipjack, Yellowfin and Bigeye; Compliance Surveillance, and Monitoring; and Transhipment, another late night/early morning finish may well be on the cards for WCPFC15. —Lisa W-Lahari / TUNApacific
HONOLULU, 11 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)-— With claims and counter claims by global powers that the Pacific is their strategic‘ sphere’ of influence, sub regionalism has been touted as the best way of cooperation to address complex fisheries issues for members of WPFC.
Tuna has shaped regional politics and influenced the relationship between Pacific Islands States and major trading partners including China, Japan, United States, Taiwan and South Korea and the European Union.
Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) chairperson and Cook Islands secretary for foreign affairs Tepaeru Herrmaan, says Pacific nations are seeing fisheries increasingly being elevated within both regional framework priority setting and also within a dynamic geopolitical space.
Last year Forum leaders in their communique elevated fisheries as a standing agenda item at their annual Meeting.
“Fisheries Ministers this year decided that, in addition to the Forum Fisheries committee meeting, they would create a regional fisheries ministers meeting, which would better allow them to also take into consideration coastal fisheries, or inshore Fisheries, so that committee will now convene. And that decision was supported by leaders,” Tepaeru Herrmann said.
“I think one of the things we are increasingly becoming cognisant of in our region …and increasingly those from beyond our region, is how central Fisheries is to our development agenda, not just from an economic perspective but from a conservation and international partnerships perspective. And it is offering leverage if you will, in some of our broader relationships.
“We are increasingly realising the importance …of our regional collaboration cooperation, as a means of strengthening our leverage in the fisheries conversations. So from a simple bureaucratic public servant perspective, it is certainly a very exciting time to be in the region. But I think really emphasises how much more important our regional solidarity is,” Herrmaan stressed.
She said one of the things that has been a pleasure to observe in the last couple of months is the growing collaboration between our FFA Secretariat and the office of the PNA.
“I think this is an evolution which is happening beyond fisheries space in our region (too). It is the recognition, in my personal view, that sub-regionalism has a critical role to play in strengthening regional solidarity and fisheries is perhaps one of those areas where that really comes to the fore
“A strong PNA office makes for a strong FFA collaboration, and certainly ultimately delivers better for members of the region.
Herman was asked to reflect on her recent 12-month
which has seen her play a more intensive role in fisheries diplomacy.
“I think what it has particularly emphasised for me is how important national cohesion and awareness is in terms of fisheries issues, in terms of the often delicate task government must play in terms of balancing between your very valid economic development objectives as well as your obligations for conservation management at the national level and then of course, translating that into that kind of balancing in the regional space where you’ve got, in the FFA space a number of members trying to maintain regional solidarity within those competing national priorities, which is a very difficult balancing act.
“One of the things that has certainly helped me in this very important role Is just the capability and the expertise that is within our regional Organizations both FFA and PNA but also a number of CROP agencies and I can say with a little bit of exposure we have in our Foreign Affairs service, on the global stage there is just so much we can share with the rest of the world about how we can effectively manage fisheries not just in this region, but globally.
Herrmaan said Cook Islands is very proud of its nationals who are now in senior positions in regional organisations with expertise in fisheries and that there is inspiration to be had in what those in regional fisheries have worked very hard over many, many years to ensure for the people we serve.
“I think one of the strengths of our region is this ability to bring through into a regional organisation, nationals from our countries to share not just the national context and the national perspectives but to develop and cultivate regional priorities and ownership and values, if you will, of what is the strength of this region and then to take that back (home).
WWF Bubba Cook said there are a lot of countries that depend heavily on fisheries either as distant water fishing fleets or as countries that are dependent on the tuna resource as a food source and thatgeopolitics will inevitably enter the picture.
“I think that we saw at the recent APEC meetings in Papua New Guinea that in addition to the global trade disputes that are currently underway, there are these regional politics that are playing out very prominently as represented in vice president Pence’s statement at APEC where he made very clear the US’s continued interest in the Pacific region, which or may not be in conflict with the goals and ambitions of particularly China and some other Asian States in the region.
“So I think that that is unquestionably going to play in to the overall approach at meetings like this one, and other meetings related to resources in the region and I think that everyone needs to be cognisant of those additional factors, those political underpinnings that exist in the background that we have to take into account when these decisions are made. I mean, there may be things that may be said across the floor, not necessarily in concert with their particular beliefs behind closed doors and it’s, this whole process is a big chess game. It’s all about moving pieces on the board just a little at a time,” said Cook……PACNEWS
HONOLULU, 10 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—–The two largest fisheries organisations in the Pacific have joined forces to ramp up work to mitigate Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the region, ahead of this week’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) annual meeting.
A report on the impact of IUU fishing prepared for the FFA in 2016 estimated the value of catch associated with illegal fishing at over US$600 million annually, with the direct economic loss to members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) of around US$150million
The FFA and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are calling for the support of Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs), to eliminate IUU fishing.
“We want them on board and to understand this is a collective effort of the FFA and PNA to implement a best practice strategy to effectively track and hold offenders accountable,” said Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the FFA.
“FFA and PNA monitoring, control and surveillance strategy is to develop and deploy game-changing applications in support of IUU mitigation,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.
PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said the organisations are leading the charge against IUU.
“We have implemented a management system for the purse seiners through the vessel day scheme (VDS) that has greatly reduced opportunities for IUU activity in this fishery,” said Kumoru.
“Our requirement of 100 percent fisheries observer coverage on purse seiners and other measures is a big deterrent to illegal fishing.” Over 60 percent of the tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean comes from the eight nation members of PNA.
Kumoru said IUU fishing continues to be a front-burner issue for Pacific Islands.
“Eliminating IUU fishing is a core part of our fisheries management work and we look forward to support and participation from our partner nations and the fishing industry in this effort,” said Kumoru. “Working together to eliminate IUU will enhance sustainable and economically viable fisheries for the benefit of everyone,” he said.
Dr Tupou-Roosen stressed the economic impact of IUU fishing.
“The value of the Pacific fishery to individual Pacific Islanders and the economies of our 17 island members is enormous,” she said. “This is motivating new initiatives in support of existing monitoring, control and surveillance programmes to eliminate IUU fishing.”
At the WCPFC meeting this week, the 17 FFA member countries, eight of whom are also members of the PNA, will be advocating strongly for the Commission to adopt an “IUU List” for 2019 to include three vessels that have previously been identified for IUU fishing in the region.
FFA members have called on all Commission members “to actively work together to locate these vessels so that their illegal activities can be stopped,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.
The FFA is moving to crack down on the people behind IUU fishing through its “Persons of Interest Strategy”.
“The Persons of Interest Project will collect, analyse and share personal information on the people behind rogue vessels, such as the owners, the captains, and the fish masters in order to provide greater information to FFA member authorities that issue licenses and target monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) effort,” Dr Tupou-Roosensaid.
Through FFA and PNA regional MCS efforts,national-level activity, and coordination with Australia, New Zealand, the United States and France, the region now has a layered and expanding network focused on identifying and preventing IUU fishing.
FFA operates the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center based in the Solomon Islands, a unique monitoring and enforcement facility that coordinates MCS work through the 17-member network,including through deployment of two year-round dedicated surveillance aircraft.
Under PNA’s Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS), there are now 240 purse seine vessels in the FFA region using daily electronic reporting of catch logsheets. This real time reporting allows for daily monitoring of catch across the region. Similarly,Pacific Islands Regional Fisheries Observers are increasingly using electronic reporting for daily upload of data forms. When combined with each vessel’s electronic Vessel Monitoring System reporting of vessel location, this daily reporting from vessels and observers means fisheries administrations are increasingly able to undertake a more focused effort on data analysis as cumbersome and time-consuming paper-based data entry is being phased out, said Dr. Tupou-Roosen. “This allows for much improved analysis of possible IUU anomalies,” she added.
FFA through its Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center coordinates four large MCS operations annually, which provide coordinated regional surveillance. This integrates aerial and patrol ship support from the four FFA partners Australia, New Zealand, the United States and France, police and fisheries MCS personnel from all FFA member countries, a dedicated analytical hub and national patrol boat operations. These regional multilateral MCS operations resulted in the boarding of 743 fishing vessels from 2015-2018, resulting in 67 infringement actions issued by ship boarding personnel and 16 infringements issued by shore authorities, a joint statement from PNA and FFA said …..PACNEWS
Tuna has shaped regional politics and influenced the relationship between Pacific Islands States and major trading partners including China, Japan, United States and Taiwan and South Korea.
Each year the Pacific comes together with these powerful fishing nations to set the fishing rules for more than half the world’s tuna, as well as other ocean-going species at risk of being caught by accident by the fishing industry.
Diplomacy and solidarity among Pacific countries is key to Pacific success.
Ahead of this year’s meeting of the rule-setting body – the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), organisations representing Pacific nations are stressing their commitment to work together in solidarity.
With 60 per cent of the world’s main canning tuna – skipjack – caught in their waters as well as large quantities of fish for the fresh and frozen fish market, the Pacific is an important grouping.
However, decisions at WCPFC are made by consensus, so achieving results is often difficult.
The CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement which represents the 8 tropical tuna countries plus Tokelau, emphasised collaboration with the 17-nation Forum Fisheries Agency as they hold a series of meetings in Honolulu to prepare their negotiating strategies.
“The FFA Director General reminded us that we are doing this work for the benefit of our people,” PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said in a statement ahead of this year’s WCPFC which commences on Monday.
“We are the resource owners. This is why we work together to promote effective measures at the WCPFC for sustainable management of our fisheries resources,” he said.
Over the past decade, Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) comprising of eight countries (FSM, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, PNG, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu) developed a new model of cooperation, establishing a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) to limit purse seine fishing access to their waters.
The VDS scheme is the single most successful resource management model in the Pacific using rights- based control over fisheries resources.
Under the scheme, fishing fleets are required to purchase fishing days at a minimum of US$8,000 per day, provide 100 percent coverage of all purse seiners, provide in port transhipment of tuna and an annual three-month moratorium on the use of fish aggregating devices. This has improved conservation and management of tuna caught in PNA countries while increasing the revenue share for island member countries from US$60m in 2010 to an estimated US$400m last year.
Ocean management or what is now being promoted the Blue Pacific narrative–where Pacific countries are called to exercise stronger strategic autonomy over the Pacific Ocean and its resources.
In recent years, the Pacific has witnessed increased geostrategic competition in the region and the Pacific Ocean is at the centre of this stepped-up engagements from new and emerging global players.
At the Pacific Leaders’ Summit in Nauru this year, leaders reaffirmed the Blue Pacific as the basis of ‘asserting’ the region’s solidarity on the global stage and secure potential development assistance to drive collective ambition and aspiration for the Pacific region.
In the words of the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi; “The Blue Pacific platform offers all Pacific countries the capabilities to address a changing geostrategic landscape. The opportunity to realise the full benefits of the Blue Pacific rests in our ability to work and stand together as a political bloc. And the challenge for us is maintaining solidarity in the face of intense engagement of an ever-growing number of partners in our region. We should not let that divide us! ”.
Under the flagship of the Blue Pacific identity –Pacific nations are again building a collective voice and asserting their common values and concerns. The Blue Pacific is about shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean –and the recognition that Pacific Island Countries manages 20 percent of the world’s oceans in their Exclusive Economic zone (EEZs).
To make this happen –Pacific countries realise the need to secure their maritime borders. The settlement of maritime boundaries provides certainty of ownership of the Pacific Ocean space –as Pacific people taking control of their domain, which is critical to managing their ocean resources, biodiversity, ecosystems as well as fighting the impacts of climate change. Of the 47 shared boundaries in the Pacific, 35 Treaties have been concluded so far and few more countries are now finalising their border agreements.
An Interview with Pamela Maru Fisheries Management Adviser, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Solomon Islands. Effective January 2019, Pamela will take up her new position as Secretary for the Ministry of Marine Resources, Cook Islands.
Republished from: INFOFISH (www.infofish.org). This email interview was originally published in the INFOFISH International, Issue 6/2018.
“We have the ability to shape our fisheries in a way that suits our long term needs, feeding and providing for our Pacific Islands. We need to invest in our people, and management of these resources – to give back, as we take out – if we really want to move ahead. We need to speak up more, and stop shying away from things that matter but which might be uncomfortable to raise.(Pamela Maru: quote from the ‘70 Inspiring Pacific Women campaign’)
INFOFISH: Let’s begin with the FFA proposal which was adopted last year by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) for a new Port State management measure to combat illegal fishing by boosting Pacific Island capacity to conduct port inspections. It must have been a moment to remember, particularly for you as the team leader of the project. Could you give readers an insight as to the preceding dialogue with Island nations to gather support for the initiative? We understand that the consultation processes between South Pacific countries often reflect certain cultural and traditional values.
Pamela Maru: Firstly, this really was an FFA member driven process. FFA members are made up of 17 nations from across the Pacific – north and south. It was FFA members that had been calling for proper consideration of their specific needs and special requirements, particularly as 15 are Small Island Developing States. Addressing these needs in a meaningful way is important to ensure that they are able to meet their aspirations of continuing to enhance their ability and contributions in the fight against IUU fishing. Fisheries make a significant contribution to the economies of Pacific Island nations, so the development of any programme must be adapted to suit specific objectives, their business needs, and the nature in which fisheries are managed in Pacific Islands.
The Forum Fisheries Agency is a unique entity. In 1977, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders had the foresight to establish an agency that could provide the necessary technical and legal support to Pacific Island nations to establish and manage their tuna fisheries resources. Over time, FFA members have cooperated in developing several regional initiatives, such as the Regional FFA Vessel Register, the FFA Vessel Monitoring System, Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions for Access by Fishing Vessels to EEZs, the Niue Treaty on Cooperation in Fisheries Surveillance and Law Enforcement, the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre, and regional standards for fisheries data collection and monitoring. What this has resulted in is a comprehensive framework and solid foundation for fisheries management and monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), in supplementing national capacity, on which to incorporate and further enhance measures such as port inspection regimes.
Of utmost importance is the protection of sovereignty. As coastal States and port States, ensuring their ability to manage their tuna resources and ports in a manner that does not undermine their authority, but that also enables these island nations to determine what the most effective and efficient means to achieve an objective is important. Far too often people presume to know what it is like working in small fisheries administrations, and that things could be easily put in place. When you are competing for resources against other national priorities such as health, education and infrastructure, fisheries will always rank lower.
In 2016, FFA undertook a study to quantify IUU fishing in the Pacific. What it demonstrated was that the former perception of high risk, unauthorised or unlicensed fishing vessels, has in fact diminished and now accounts for only 4% of the total estimated volume of catch associated with IUU fishing activities. This is an outcome largely driven by the suite of regional and national controls and monitoring tools established by both FFA members, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The nature of IUU fishing in the Pacific has shifted where misreporting now makes up 54% of the estimated volume of catch associated with IUU fishing activities, and 29% for non-compliance with other licensing conditions. What this means is a need to refocus compliance efforts and resources in response to these risk areas, on both flagged and foreign fishing vessels, which is exactly the approach FFA members are now taking through the development of a new Regional MCS Strategy (2018-2023).
Incorporating smart business design and risk assessment frameworks will enable smaller fisheries administrations to provide for the necessary information sharing and compliance responses needed to better implement port inspection regimes. This will help to avoid overburdening fisheries administrations that are already stretched for resources, and ensuring that systems are developed that are fit for purpose. The strengthening of port inspections is one part of the MCS toolbox that FFA members are operationalising, and working with development partners who also share this vision for a coordinated and integrated approach to MCS.
INFOFISH: You were reported to have said “It is the first time a measure really looks at the implications and impacts on small island developing states (SIDS), what those obligations might mean in terms of addressing their needs and their capacitydevelopment requirements and developing, or having, some sort of agreement to develop mechanisms that will support their ability to improve their technical capacity”. Almost a year has gone by since the adoption of the proposal. How far have the Island nations progressed in equipping designated ports and addressing fisheries compliance gaps in the relevant areas?
Pamela Maru: When international agreements are developed, dictating ‘how’ something must be implemented as opposed to focussing on ‘what’ is needed, can be the fine line between enabling a developing country to fully comply with a requirement or, creating an undue burden on available resources. In the context of the WCPFC, CMM 2017-02 is the only conservation and management measure that specifically articulates areas of assistance that SIDS themselves have identified as being important in ensuring their participation and contribution in the development and enhancement of port State measures in the Pacific. Not dictated to or driven by third party interests, but communicated by SIDS in the interests of SIDS. Pacific SIDS are not always well represented or able to effectively participate in the negotiation of international agreements, and this measure provides the opportunity for a considered approach to implementing port State measures in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
Compliance assessments on countries through RFMO or market-driven processes can create the political will for developing States to invest in, for example, port State measures. But in small economies this creates an issue where limited resources are diverted from higher priority areas, to an area that could be implemented if time and appropriate capacity building is provided in a way that suits the context and nature of their operations.
The measure was specifically designed to take a phased approach in implementing port inspection regimes, and ensuring that SIDS are able to fully comprehend what their obligations are – legally, technically, operationally – and what resources and arrangements are needed to maintain sustainable port inspection programmes, before progressing to a more comprehensive arrangement.
There has been great progress in working towards enhancing port inspection capacity. Understanding how port State measures fit into the regional Pacific fisheries picture and the role each country has to play, as a flag State, port State or coastal State, and sharing the necessary information and resources to inform targeted inspections. Improvements to regulatory frameworks are well underway, and regional workshops and engagement with MCS experts are contributing to the development of a broader FFA regional policy framework and related standards. This will help to develop effective training courses specifically for port State measures that will sit within the training framework that FFA has developed for MCS officers to attain formal qualifications.
Taking advantage of emerging technologies and transitioning away from manual and paper based processes, through the implementation of electronic reporting and electronic monitoring as well as further development of information management systems, is a significant body of work that continues. This will reshape the way fisheries administrations manage and analyse MCS information and enable the retargeting of resources to respond to risk assessment outcomes and help to improve compliance responses.
INFOFISH: What assistance mechanisms and associated timeframe, including training and financial support, are included in the proposal to avoid a disproportionate burden on SIDS? What is the FFA’s specific role in the process?
Pamela Maru: WCPFC is expected to discuss this issue at its annual meeting in December this year. One innovative approach that WCPFC is advancing is the development of a strategic investment plan to better coordinate the delivery of support to developing States where capacity assistance needs are identified, as well as ensuring more effective participation of developing States in the work of WCPFC. A comprehensive analyses of assistance needs, and available resources is being collated to inform the development of the strategic investment plan. This will hopefully provide the means for SIDS to access the needed resources to progress the development of their port inspection regimes.
FFA members will continue to drive and advise WCPFC and its members where SIDS require targeted assistance, and to highlight where a disproportionate burden of conservation effort is identified in the implementation of port inspection regimes. The implementation of any conservation and management measure must take into account the costs and benefits associated with implementation efforts, and that these be mitigated or removed. Port State measures are a prime example where the displacement of flag State responsibilities has resulted in the need for port States to actively address IUU fishing and compliance risks associated with deficient flag State controls. A collaborative and integrated MCS approach is needed to close the gaps and ensure that effective information sharing and compliance responses drive any port inspection regimes.
More specifically, FFA has a five year project that aims to support its members with implementing port State measures. Through this project, collaboration with donors, NGOs and the FAO will ensure that practical solutions and coordinated efforts provide timely delivery of technical support to Pacific SIDS.
INFOFISH: As the bulk of the tuna in Pacific waters is caught by foreignowned vessels, what measures are being taken to ensure their compliance with the new Port State Measure requirements? We know that in many instances, foreign interests do not share a common vision with the governments of the Pacific Islands nations with regard to the management of tuna resources.
Pamela Maru: The bulk of tuna in the Pacific is caught in the waters of Pacific Island nations. Therefore the focus of any port State measures is not only on foreign flagged, or foreign owned, but all fishing vessels. IUU fishing must be addressed holistically, it does not make sense to focus on a specific portion of the fishing fleet. It is important to use a balanced approach that also caters for flag State responsibilities, as informed by compliance assessments.
FFA members have a long history and well established relationships with their fishing partners; as such it is common knowledge between parties on the standard suite of regional requirements for foreign fishing vessels operating in the fishery waters of FFA members. These include operational data provision and reporting, fisheries observer coverage, VMS, and regional vessel registration. Most importantly is the compliance by fishing companies with the national laws of each FFA member in which their fishing vessels operate. What this means is that there are few, if any, fishing vessels and operators in FFA waters that are unknown or do not have historical information that FFA does not have access to.
The FFA MCS network provides for comprehensive access to information and resources that allows Pacific Island nations to implement their national laws, and any applicable port State measures.
With robust monitoring and surveillance systems in place, countries are able to target inspections at high risk or areas of particular interest. FFA incorporates regional vessel registrations, national licensing, VMS, surveillance information and other available MCS data to assign a compliance index to fishing vessels. This is provided to FFA members through a shared regional surveillance picture to monitor fishing vessels and their compliance history.
The delivery of dockside boarding and inspection training, investigation and prosecution courses, review of the vessel compliance index, and recent developments on persons of interest profiles all contribute to enabling Pacific SIDS, in particular FFA members, to enhance their ability to effectively implement port State measures.
INFOFISH: Thus far, only Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu have signed up to the FAO-led Port State Measure Agreement (PSMA) which entered into force in June 2016. How does the FFA-led Port State Measure complement the PSMA, and do you see more island nations acceding to the FAO-PSMA?
Pamela Maru: It is interesting that the only Pacific nations to have acceded to the PSMA are those with very little port activity. Interesting because the burden of implementation is not as great as busier ports, yet they are struggling to implement the PSMA. The core issue is the provision of real and meaningful assistance to support national implementation, which is precisely what the WCPFC measure does. The objectives of both the PSMA and the WCPFC CMM 2017-02 are the same, but how they are implemented differs, because the nature of WCPFC tuna fisheries is unique in that the waters of the SIDS lie across the entire Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention Area. The WCPFC measure attempts to provide assistance to developing States to fully understand what their obligations are, and to work through implementation issues before having to commit to a binding or more comprehensive arrangement.
FFA members Australia and New Zealand have also ratified the PSMA, but recognise that SIDS have special requirements to consider. Particularly important is the contribution by New Zealand to the FFA Pacific Islands Port State Measures Project, a comprehensive five year project to target assistance where FFA Island nations require support to enhance their port State measures. This project not only aims to support the implementation of the WCPFC measure and the PSMA, but broader support to develop systems and processes that will strengthen MCS capacity in ports.
The WCPFC measure balances the responsibility to address IUU fishing by enabling any WCPFC member, cooperating nonmember or participating territory to request that a port State undertake an inspection on a vessel that is believed to have engaged in IUU fishing.
Under the PSMA, countries are provided assistance once they become Parties, but with the WCPFC measure it was important to SIDS that assistance be provided whilst they consider implementing more prescriptive requirements, or whether an alternative approach may be needed, yet achieve the same outcome. The most important element of both is the access to, and sharing of, MCS information.
There is significant political pressure on Pacific Islands to accede to the PSMA. Some have signed and/or ratified, while others are considering doing so. However, each nation must be allowed to make that sovereign decision as to whether or not they sign up to any international arrangement, and not be pressured into doing something that might not be suitable in meeting their needs to combat IUU fishing.
INFOFISH: The Tuna Fisheries Report Card 2018 published by the FFA makes for interesting reading, providing as it does, an update of the current status of Pacific tuna fisheries in relation to four major goals (sustainability, value, employment, food security) adopted by Forum Leaders in 2015 in the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries.
While the share of total catches in FFA Members’ waters taken by FFA fleets has risen in value from 31% in 2013 to 45% in 2017 mainly due to increased participation in the purse seine fishery, the same progress is not evident in the processing sector. Furthermore, employment in processing tends to be concentrated in certain areas. What are some initiatives that are in the FFA pipeline which might help to boost the processing sector and to ensure more equitable distribution of activities?
With regard to the export value of tuna from FFA Member countries, the Report Card notes that there was an increase of 25% in 2017 from 2015 levels. However the Card states that this was mainly as a result of continued growth in the value of catches by the fleets of FFA Members which made up for the global fall in prices. To reduce this over-reliance on global prices, does the FFA have proposals to enhance export diversification?
Pamela Maru: Increased participation in the purse seine fishery will not necessarily result in increases in investment or employment opportunities in the processing sector. Processing has been centralised in certain areas due to the availability of support infrastructure such as harbours, roads, electricity and water. However small ventures are being pursued in some of the other islands, and FFA is supporting investment facilitation in FFA countries, including joint venture initiatives. Identifying where cooperative arrangements might be established for product supply and processing through the potential use of regional hubs is an area of work that is ongoing.
The report card indicates that the target for a 25% increase in export values by 2020 from 2015 levels was likely achieved in 2017. This is attributed to the recovery in fish prices since 2015, after values fell each year between 2012 and 2015. FFA continuously monitors market trends and has investigated the potential diversification of market opportunities. Traditional markets like the EU, Japan and the US are likely to be the main markets for Pacific Island exporters in the short to medium term. In the long term, and as major global suppliers in raw materials, FFA will continue to monitor and investigate where alternative markets and opportunities might present themselves.
INFOFISH: You are understandably a proponent of increasing the presence and authority of women, currently mainly to be found in the Pacific Islands’ artisanal sector and as labour in processing plants, except in instances where women benefit from genderspecific support. Nothing surprising here, as we see women in many regions of the world are similarly held back by cultural value systems and family responsibilities. In your opinion, what are the top three key strategies that should be employed to hasten the inclusion of women in decision-making processes in Pacific Islands’ fisheries?
Pamela Maru: Education is the greatest tool we can employ in addressing gender inequality issues. Demonstrating the value of women and their contributions to fisheries, and more broadly the communities they inhabit is needed to change attitudes and culture, and foster greater participation by women in key fisheries roles. Awareness and outreach programmes on gender equality will only strengthen this resolve, such as the recent work by Pacific regional organisations promoting the stories and experiences of female role models across all fisheries sectors. Empowering women by offering opportunities to further their education, employment opportunities and career progression, has flow-on benefits not only for the institutions they work for, but also on the dynamics and improved wellbeing of their families and communities.
Regional agencies and national administrations must invest in developing meaningful policy frameworks that review management processes and procedures, and make the necessary changes to understand and address gender inequalities that may restrict women from taking up opportunities to contribute and participate in decision making. Comprehensive and considered frameworks will ensure that workplace diversification and inclusivity are achieved, and ensuring that gender equality is incorporated in all work areas.
An example of this is the establishment of the FFA gender equity framework that seeks to address gender inequality, and promote the full participation of women in all aspects of its work, including supporting FFA national administrations and industries in developing and implementing gender equity policies, and committing resources to supporting work programmes and initiatives to institute changes that create an enabling environment. Whilst implementation is still in its infancy, it is a useful platform to drive and influence change in a way that should see continued improvements in the increasing trend of women involved in Pacific fisheries.
We do not have to wait for major changes to make an impact. Small changes count. Listen and take into account the perspectives of female colleagues, allow them to take the lead in driving outcomes, support their ability to be working mums and partners and reap the benefits of improved morale and productivity, establish support networks to strengthen their voices and respond to issues like domestic and family violence. There are lots of little things that can promote inclusivity and pulling down barriers that hinder women’s participation in fisheries, and everyone should actively seek to identify what they can add in support of this goal.
INFOFISH: On a final note (and this is in reference to you as one of the ‘70 Inspiring Pacific women’), do you have any personal goals that you wish to achieve so that you can similarly inspire other women?
Pamela Maru: A goal I have always wanted to achieve, and has recently come to fruition, is to return home to the Cook Islands and head the Ministry of Marine Resources. I have had the great fortune of being mentored and taught by some great individuals, and want to be able to do the same. Coming from a culture where caring for and sharing with your wider community is central, I too want to pay it forward, to teach and mentor not only Cook Islanders but other young Pacific Islanders making their way in fisheries, and ensuring that they take full advantage of the career development opportunities available to them, and how to manoeuvre in this dynamic industry.
Having worked for a Pacific regional fisheries agency, I have been exposed to many more prospects available to Pacific Islanders, to advance both my education and career in fisheries regionally and internationally. This has challenged me to set my sights a little higher, to continue with higher learning, and then eventually see how far up the regional ladder I can climb. Possibly internationally, but the Pacific is home and where I want to contribute my efforts to for now.
More women are taking on key roles in Pacific fisheries, managers and chairs in RFMOs and heading regional fisheries organisations. They have established the path ahead of me, and for those that follow. I’m just hoping I can add to that.
Editor’s Note: INFOFISH, in collaboration with the National Fisheries Authority, Papua New Guinea, is organising the 7th Pacific Tuna Forum on 12-13 September 2019.
Ronald Toito’ona reporting from the Thriving Pacific Workshop
Pacific leaders from fishing agencies, industries and businesses, conservationists and academics participated in a workshop this month to determine the next steps needed to realise a vision for a thriving Pacific economy, built around a healthy tuna fishery and marine ecosystem.
Peter Seligmann, chairman of Conservation International, moderated the Thriving Pacific Workshop. He is also the Founder and CEO of Nia Tero, a global collaboration to advance indigenous peoples and local community stewardship of vital ecosystems.
The goals of the Workshop were to deepen a shared understanding, adoption and commitment to sustainable fisheries by transforming the value chain and establishing a Natural Currency Standard for Pacific Tuna. Tuna is a key ecological resource deeply intertwined with the lives, livelihoods and ocean health of one of the largest fisheries on Earth.
The former Parties to the Nauru Agreement (CEO) Executive Officer and Workshop participant, Dr Aqorau said in an exclusive interview that the idea of a “National Currency Standard” is an initiative that is being developed by Nia Tero with the support of Walmart Supermarket in the US. He hopes this will lead to a strategic partnership either with the PNA as a collective group or individual PNA members.
The idea of a National Currency Standard finds its inspiration in having a Standard that reflects the values and aspirations of the indigenous communities of the Pacific region for whom tuna is a vital source. For Walmart, the largest purchaser of tuna on the planet, it is about securing a sustainable supply of tuna and supporting Pacific Islands communities.
“This will build on the progress of ratings and programs but go further in supporting cooperative governance for these shared resources,” said Dr Aqorau. “It is about securing supply and ensuring equitable benefits accrue to the communities who own the resource.”
“The idea is to link the standard to the Sustainable Development Goals [SDG]. The Standard should recognise and support regional aspirations as reflected in the Regional Roadmap, Blue Economy, Blue Pacific and the region’s shared goals. The region’s goals are to support the cultures and socioeconomic development aspirations of the Pacific Islands, which are encompassed in existing regional strategies.”
“The Standard should be backed up by full transparency and traceability, using existing Chain-of-Custody protocols and taking advantage of available technologies. The Standard should be built on the foundational principles, of environmental sustainability and social accountability, and drawing on the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) principles. But the Standard will apply it in a more robust manner, taking a broader, more comprehensive view in terms of the application of the principles, with full transparency to address weaknesses,” Dr. Aqorau said.
The former PNA boss said, in establishing and assessing against these principles, the Standard should draw on best practices from globally established ratings and certification systems for fisheries. The Standard should also incorporate criteria developed specifically for tuna by other organisations, such as the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.
Dr Aqorau further stated that these are exciting times in the global tuna industry as well as challenging, given the social and cultural issues coming to the fore in the global discourses on tuna.
“I am a fervent believer in the reshaping of our fishing rights to empower our peoples who are the custodians of the largest and healthiest tuna stocks in the world,” said Dr Aqorau.
Meanwhile, according to Dr Aqorau the next steps will be to sensitise the idea with our peoples so that is actually driven from within the region.
Background: the desire for long-term sustainability in the Pacific Islands
As the population of earth grows toward 8 billion, sustaining renewable sources of protein becomes more critical. The importance of the Pacific tuna fishery to the security and prosperity of Pacific Island countries requires an intense focus on sustainability to ensure ocean ecosystems are kept healthy and continue to provide benefits to Pacific Islanders.
Building upon the work done in Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries, a small group recently developed a draft blueprint for a Thriving Pacific, focused on bringing together proven innovations to reward sustainability in the marketplace and support effective governance that benefits Pacific Island communities. This blueprint relies on collaborative efforts among business, non-profits, and governments. We know from other conservation initiatives that only by working together with local stakeholders can a truly sustainable solution be found.
Thriving Pacific Workshop
Convened by Conservation International, Nia Tero and Emerson Collective, this workshop on Thriving Pacific brings together leaders from across the Pacific Island tuna supply system—fisheries management entities, supply chain companies, fisheries conservation experts and retailers. It aimed to provide insights and perspective to form a practical, market-based approach to account for the full value that Pacific tuna represents for the people who depend on it as a food, whose well being and livelihoods are affected by it, and the ocean ecosystem with which it is intrinsically linked. The discussion at this Workshop will inform the work ahead including a set of regional meetings in the Pacific Islands in 2019.
Theory of Change
To realise the vision of the Roadmap, a small number of aligned resource owners, value chain companies, and retailers must envision and act in a coordinated way on three things:
A definition of sustainable tuna that includes the highest standards of cultural, social, environmental and economic best practices (“Natural Currency Standard”)
A concurrent strategy to hit the ‘reset’ button on consumer awareness of ‘sustainable tuna’ in the USA and other major markets to drive consumer demand and market penetration of the Natural Currency Standard (e.g., ‘Got Milk?’, ‘Pork, the other white meat’ campaigns)
A practical, economically viable approach to rethink the supply chain by improving supply chain efficiencies, reducing waste, and ensuring transparency and traceability to scale and support a product portfolio that adheres to a Natural Currency Standard
A Natural Currency Standard
Although the present economic value of Pacific Island tuna fisheries is well understood, the broader natural capital value of these species is not embedded in the market and governance systems for these resources. Furthermore, existing ratings and certification programs have been developed without incorporating the aspirations of indigenous cultures, experience of private sector partners, and support for cooperative governance of a shared resource. Harnessing these experiences can help incorporate the true value of tuna species and help ensure sustainable management of this critically important resource. We propose to develop a Natural Currency Standard (NCS), establishing a globally recognised set of criteria to support environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and cultural perpetuation.
We will draw on best practices from globally established ratings and certification systems for fisheries, such as the Marine Stewardship Council, and incorporate criteria developed specifically for tuna by other organisations and platforms. These environmental best practices will consider the broader ecosystem role of tuna and incorporate predicted climate driven shifts that will affect management, ensuring that a healthy fishery and ocean ecosystem will continue to produce tuna indefinitely.
A new, comprehensive social responsibility standard is encompassed in the Monterey Framework, which has three core components:
(a) Protect human rights, dignity, and access to resources;
(b) Ensure equity and equality, and
(c) Improve food and livelihood security.
The NCS will incorporate these social responsibility dimensions, addressing egregious practices such as slavery and other labor/human rights abuses and supporting social improvements in tuna fisheries.
The Pacific Islands’ shared goals to support the cultures and socioeconomic development aspirations of the Pacific Islands are encompassed in existing regional strategies that have been developed and approved by all Pacific Island leaders.3 The NCS will incorporate the regional aspirations encompassed in these guiding frameworks and strategies, as well as a full range of sociocultural values.
Creating consumer demand for sustainability
Commodification of tuna presents major challenges to the sustainable seafood movement, particularly where canned tuna is concerned. Consumers have higher expectations and demands for sustainability and companies that incorporate sustainability into their business have outperformed their peers in the marketplace. To better support sustainability in Pacific tuna fisheries, we need to learn and understand more about the desires, attitudes and trends of consumers. Given that many consumers are confused about their choices when purchasing seafood, there is an opportunity to shape the space favourably to support sustainable practices.
There are many opportunities to explore marketing high quality skipjack tuna from the Pacific Islands to support a transformation in practices and benefits for local economies. In the USA, entire protein, dairy, nut and fruit categories have been successfully rebranded, awakening the category from a flat to declining market-share to margin and sales growth. Much like pork, milk and almonds prior to concerted marketing campaigns, we believe that sustainable skipjack is not getting its deserved status in the marketplace despite investments in fishery management and is being overlooked as one the world’s most healthy, tasty, nutritious and sustainable forms of protein.
Rethinking the supply chain
Market pull-through is essential for the success and durability of systemic change in a supply chain. In the Pacific Island tuna value chain, aligning the sustainability principles of major retailers with the development aspirations of the Pacific Island region generates significant opportunities to rethink the supply chain.
Technology will be key to improving efficiencies and solving key sustainability issues in the supply chain. Building on proven approaches, technology can improve monitoring and traceability along with lowering the cost of energy and water that benefit producers, processors, brands and consumers. Process innovations and local investments that shorten time to market, improve access to labour pools, and/or improve the ability to store product can also play an important role in supply chain improvements. These improvements lower cost of handling and bring more financial benefit to local islands.
Ultimately, properly aligned incentives can help to encourage responsible management for long term benefits. There are a range of bright spots and long-term investments that can be scaled, as well as a set of frontiers in innovation and business models that can be explored to re-think and re-imagine the tuna supply chain of the 21st century.
Economic benefits can come in different forms: royalty returns from selling fishing rights to foreign nations, and providing fish for the domestic market at a time when food security is an issue.
The third possibility is jobs in the fishing industry. UN figures show unemployment rates in the Pacific can run as high as 60% in the worst affected countries, with women and youth being the hardest hit.
Dr Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi, Chief Executive Officer at Tonga’s Ministry of Fisheries, outlined a new approach his country is taking, to increase employment by encouraging local operators into longline fishing.
“We need to manage and develop the local industry, and shift our reliance away from foreign vessels,” he said. “Currently we have about 70 locals employed in fisheries. A new approach could boost the employment of marine engineers, crew, fishermen, and observers.”
“There will also be new opportunities for women, in marketing and administration.”
Dr Halafihi (also known as Hau) said that Tonga currently has only one local longline operator and seven foreign vessels, and their new plans provide for 20 licenses, 10 each for foreign vessels and locals.
Employment is the major benefit, but one side effect of a stronger domestic fishing fleet will be to increase compliance and reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This is a significant because Tonga does not have the capacity to enforce laws with foreign fleets.
Hau mapped out the steps Tonga will take: controlling of licences, incorporating the new measures in law, increasing the number of local operators using bareboat charters, seeking out donors to provide vessels, and training.
The Solomon Islands are planning a similar approach. Ferral Lasi, Undersecretary Technical at the Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources, says the main idea is not to issue licenses to foreign vessels for fishing or export.
“We want to cut foreign longlining. At the moment, we have 91 longliner foreign vessels licensed but no domestic operators,” he says. “We hope to sign an MOU this year to start the 5-year process of changing the face of our fishing industry.”
He expects the benefits will be considerable.
“Local owners will make money, stimulating business. Employment will be boosted on vessels and in processing centres. We are looking at bringing $200-300 million into the economy of the Solomon Islands,” he says.
Ferral puts the current value of longlining at about $900 million, with license fees amounting to $20-40 million.
“It will all be linked to a national fisheries hub. For some fish (like bigeye) the value is higher if we manage the process of export ourselves, so we plan to handle, process, and export fish like this. There will be many people employed in the hub,” he says.
He says training programs are part of the plan, and also jobs for women.
“Our cannery employs a lot of women, and this will happen in the Hub. We are about to finalise a policy about gender and it will relate to all our activities,” he says.
This will be a total change for the Solomon Islands and will need a lot of work involving willing partners.
“We need to develop the concept, and a plan. The whole project will be handled by Solomon Islanders and phased in over a transition period. It involves Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC) and donor partners (including Conservation International). The memorandum of understanding (MOU) will spell out who will do what,” Ferral says.
Changes are also coming to the Cook Islands, as they move swiftly to adopt a new e-reporting system developed by SPC.
Marino Wichman, Data Manager at the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR), has been tasked with implementing a new electronic reporting system to manage the longline quota management system approved in 2016-17.
“The Ministry works closely with SPC and FFA to ensure our information management systems are at optimal operational standards for both our data technicians and industry operators. E-reporting is of particular interest, as the Ministry has now introduced longline quota for albacore and bigeye tuna.
“It can be quite tricky on the reporting side of things,” he says. “The old system of recording catches and entering fish data into the data bases was cumbersome. Paper sheets got lost, some data had to be re-entered up to seven different times, and delays meant accurate up-to-date information was difficult.”
Now SPC has made available a new app called Onboard.
Andrew Hunt, of SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme, says Onboard helps captains of longline boats to complete their log sheets.
“Instead of filling out a paper-based form, captains submit the information electronically. Onboard has features like GPS and the camera to improve data quality, and captains can submit new reports while they are still at sea, providing daily updates of their data,” he says.
“It’s on an Android Tablet, and loaded up and given to captains of commercial vessels. Each day they’ll log their fishing activity into the tablet, recording what kind of hooks they’re using, and how many, and the types and weights of fish they catch.”
“And then when they’re finished they submit the data straight into the database.”
MMR has been trialling the system for its Cook Islands flagged vessels operating out of America Samoa and Rarotonga.
Mr Wichman says, “We found that captains liked the concept and took on board the onus of keeping records in a safe place to keep them updated, but they don’t like tablets, and want to use laptops.”
After discussion with MMR earlier in the year, SPC has now provided a PC version of Onboard for use on shipboard laptops and computers, which will enable the app to tie into existing satellite data feeds onboard vessels.
MMR Director Offshore Tim Costelloe says: “With the large size of our EEZ and the need to tie e-reporting verifications into weekly and daily reporting for our Quota Management System, we found that an app using a handheld device did not fit the needs and requirements of our legal framework. This latest PC version greatly improves the standard of delivery and will benefit all stakeholders with more timely reporting and better monitoring of catches.”
The Cook Islands licenses 54 longline vessels, of which 26 are Cook Islands flagged. The remainder of the longline fleet are charter vessels flagged to China under access agreements with the Cook Islands Government. MMR is aiming to have 100 per cent e-reporting coverage on all licenced longliners by the end of 2019.
“We still have some way to go, as it is new technology and we need to work out the kinks, but the end result will include up to date info sharing, better monitoring, and greater control of catch limits,” Mr Costelloe says.