HONIARA, 17 February 2020 – China says it is prepared to strengthen the tuna industry of Solomon Islands and help the tiny Pacific Island nation benefit more from its fisheries resources as it welcomes the Melanesian state as one of its new diplomatic allies.
For 36 years, the Republic of China (ROC, or Taiwan) benefited from the Solomon Islands tuna industry. Last September, the government of Solomon Islands cut the diplomatic relationship between the two countries (in what locals call “the switch”) to form a new allegiance with the People’s Republic of China.
Although the severing of formal relations with Taiwan was said to be unlikely to affect collaboration in the private sector, four months later there is no mention of dialogue between the two former allies.
This has provided an opportunity for the economic giant, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as it steps into a formal role.
China is one of the biggest players in the Pacific Islands tuna industry. Just like Taiwan, China is a member to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
However, China’s presence in the Solomon Islands tuna trade was previously unheard of, and only Taiwan was said to be benefiting greatly from the tuna stocks in the Solomon Sea.
Now that mainland China has established a formal relationship with Solomon Islands, there is no doubt that the new friendship will help boost the tuna industry for both countries.
The future: tuna trades between China and Solomons
During a trip by Solomon Islands journalists to Beijing last December, the PRC’s Ministry of Commerce said the Chinese Government was ready to assist Solomon Islands with its tuna trades.
“We (China) know that Solomon Islands has rich fisheries resources, and tuna is one of your major products and you are one of the major producers of tuna as the industry accounts for a huge part of your gross domestic product,” a ministry spokesperson said.
“At the moment, Chinese companies have already gathered some experiences in fisheries cooperation with South Pacific countries, so we support and encourage Chinese companies that are competent and interested to participate in the investment cooperation with Solomon Islands.
“Although our two countries are separated by a wide ocean with thousands of miles apart, we believe that as we work together, as we join hands, we can develop more cooperation opportunities and realise common development for China and Solomon Islands.”
China is Solomon Islands’ largest trading partner and also its largest export destination, she added.
“Among the 10 Pacific Island countries that have diplomatic relations with China, Solomon Islands is our second largest trading partner and second largest source of imports,” she said.
“In 2018, the two-way trade between our two countries amounted to US$750 million, which means Solomon Islands, relatively, enjoys a big surplus against China, and the surplus is enlarging in recent years.
“Now already some Chinese companies are cooperating with their counterparts in Solomon Islands, participating in projects such as infrastructure, fisheries, forestry, telecommunication, and also the mining industry,” the spokesperson said.
The PRC’s Ministry of Commerce also stressed that Chinese companies were also investing in the tuna industry of island states such as Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Micronesia. Investment is in numerous aspects of the supply chain, and includes tuna breeding, offshore fishing, refrigerating, and processing and retailing.
In 2018, the total online retail sales reached more than 9 trillion Chinese yuan renminbi (RMB), about US$1.3 trillion. The level of consumption in China is rising rapidly, which means Chinese consumers will have larger demand for high-quality products, China’s Ministry of Commerce said.
“This is a very big opportunity for other countries, including Solomon Islands, because you have many competitive products including seafoods, tuna and many other products that will have wider market access to China,” the spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce said.
China also said it would like to expand cooperation with Solomon Islands to include infrastructure, investment, and agriculture so that more projects can be carried out to allow local Solomon Islanders to develop better ability to achieve independent and sustainable development.
According to the spokesperson, there is great complementary between the economies of Solomon Islands and China. The Chinese Government was also well aware that Solomon Islands is a country with rich natural resources, and an urgent need to develop its infrastructure and also many industries, and China was ready to assist.
“China has the relative strength in terms of the size of market, and also capital and technology,” the spokesperson said.
“Now that we have established diplomatic relations, we believe that our mutual understandings and also our exchanges in different areas will be deepened and our mechanisms will be improved so that the potential of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries will be further tightened.”
China has also shown interest in enlarging the two-way trade because Solomon Islands is now an important supplier of timber and aluminium ore to China. The Chinese Government is also encouraging its investors to explore the possibility of importing more seafood from Solomon Islands.
The past: Taiwan benefited more than Solomons from Solomons tuna
In the 36 years before the switch, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said, Taiwan had given Solomon Islands funds to the value of hundreds of millions of US dollars as constituency development funds. But during the same period the country had harvested billions of dollars’ worth of tuna from Solomon Island waters.
Mr Sogavare reflected that, in this regard, Solomon Islands was a net lender to Taiwan.
According to Mr Sogavare, Solomon Islands had permitted its marine resources, especially tuna, to be harvested by Taiwan, besides advocating to the United Nations (UN) for the country’s right to self-determination.
Taiwan was also one of the major markets of canned and processed tuna products for Solomon Islands, as Taiwanese fishing fleets were affiliated members of the Tuna Industry Association of Solomon Islands (TIASI).
At one stage, when Taiwan was issued a “yellow card” by the European Union (EU) in 2015 for not tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, Solomon Islands was instrumental in assisting it work toward fixing the problem. The ruling was lifted after 3 years and 9 months, in part because Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources (MFMR) worked with Taiwan Fisheries inspector Mr Ian Lin to do inspections of and collect harvest data from Taiwanese vessels that fished in the Solomon Islands waters.
He pointed out that dealing with IUU fishing benefits the local economy, and also helps to ensure that from the fishing vessel to the table customers are getting fish the “green way”.
However, there is no doubt that Taiwanese fishing vessels have contributed a lot to the development of the fisheries sector by capturing more revenues for Solomon Islands.
In June 2019, roughly 55 Taiwanese fishing vessels had purchased licenses and were operating in Solomon Islands waters, according to the Embassy of ROC (Taiwan) in Honiara.
“These vessels come into Honiara and Noro every two months,” he said. This is only part of the picture, as other vessels also use these ports.
“Altogether, there are roughly 330 Taiwanese vessels visiting Solomon Islands every year for loading and unloading in our ports,” he said.
“During their visits they pay not only license fees, but also pay for housing, maintenance fees, livelihood supplies, recruiting local people for assistance, and so forth.
“Each visit probably brings more than SBD$20,000 revenue extra to Solomon Islands, and will benefit our economy and improve the employment rate in the country.”
The switch and Taiwan’s investment
Mr Sogavare said that despite the switch, his government would continue to support Taiwanese investments in the country.
“They are entitled to incentives and the protections guaranteed by our laws. We would encourage more Taiwanese investors to invest in the country, something they have not been actively doing over the 36 years of diplomatic relations,” Mr Sogavare said.
“Their investments have been by political governments and in political interests. The people of Taiwan are welcome to send cultural groups to Solomon Islands for cultural exchanges.
“These exchanges are not affected by the diplomatic switch,” Mr Sogavare once said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the cost of doing business with China would become cheaper and more efficient.
“According to the recent Central Bank of Solomon Islands report, we have a total trade value of SBD$2 billion, which is by far our largest single trading partner, well above all other trading partners combined.
“Our trade with ROC (Taiwan) is only SBD$142 million, which is a minor fraction compared to China,” he said.
Is tiny Solomon Islands ready for giant China?
Now that China has shown its full interest in helping Solomon Islands bolster its tuna trade and economy, it is up to the Sogavare-led Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement to play its part.
In his statement after the switch to Beijing, Mr Sogavare said Solomon Islands is bound to reap huge benefits never seen before in the history of such a young nation.
However, Mr Sogavare had already been warned over his country’s engagement with China, well before the switch.
Deputy opposition leader Peter Kenilorea Junior has said that the country is not ready for a diplomatic relationship with China.
“The Solomons has many unresolved domestic issues related to land ownership and resource management,” Mr Kenilorea said.
He said the country’s weak laws and regulations leave it vulnerable to exploitation.
“We have already issues in terms of our lax immigration, lax labour laws, lax regulations, land issues, logging issues that have come in and caused a lot of hurt socially as well without much gain.
“And to repeat that again at a much larger scale is something that I just don’t feel we are prepared for.”
Mr Kenilorea told Australian media that the economic advantages of aligning with Beijing were clear, but he feared his country’s institutions were not ready to deal with a “powerful and dominant China”.
“I’m concerned about readiness in terms of our own governance, to really be on terms with China,” Mr Kenilorea said.
“We need to strengthen those governance systems … knowing full well our strategic location in the Pacific, and the strategic resources that we do have.”
During an interview with a top government official at the Office of the Prime Minister & Cabinet, he said, “We must prepare to deal with the Chinese demands and requests. The government must establish mechanisms with some form of regulations and legislative reforms to accommodate its new relationship with China.”
In her personal reflection following the Solomon Islands journalists’ trip to China, senior journalist Dorothy Wickham said she saw China as a country with money to burn and a point to prove.
During the trip, Ms Wickham said she was convinced that political leaders in Solomon Islands were not ready or able to deal effectively with China.
“Solomon Islands’ regulatory and accountability mechanisms are too weak,” Ms Wickham said.
“We have already shown some spirit with our attorney-general rejecting a hasty deal to lease the island of Tulagi, the capital of one of our provinces, to a Chinese company, but I fear how fragile and weak my country is against any large developed nation, let alone China.”
Ms Wickham added that Solomon Islands has always prided itself on setting its own course in international relations, recognising Taiwan for three decades, and in the 1980s, as a newly independent state, standing up to the Americans over an illegal fishing boat fiasco.
“In the end, it will be history that judges our leaders and whether the switch from Taiwan to China was the right move, and if they handle it in the country’s best interest.
“My hope is that in the meantime, the price extracted from our island nation is not too steep or too painful,” she said.
Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that the Chinese government consistently requires Chinese companies to abide by international laws and local laws during their cooperation with their local partners.
It will be interesting to observe what transpires from the new China–Solomon Islands bilateral ties in the three-year transition of 2020–2023. This is especially in terms of the tuna trade and how tuna talks between both countries will be sustainably managed.
More than 16,600 tuna were tagged in a recent scientific tagging expedition in ocean generally north of Papua New Guinea.
The voyage targeted skipjack tuna, which makes up 70% of the volume of tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO).
Tuna tagging helps the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and national fisheries managers assess numbers of tuna. The assessments are used to set catch limits.
This voyage was conducted largely in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Palau, and Federated States of Micronesia, with a little time spent also in two pockets of high seas.
In its most recent fisheries newsletter, SPC reported that fisheries authorities in PNG, Palau and FSM provided research permits and gave support to the research being done in their EEZs.
An average of almost 450 tuna were tagged and released each fishing day. Most – 93% – were skipjack, the rest being yellowfin (6%) and bigeye (1%). Most came from free-swimming schools (i.e. the tuna were not caught near fish-aggregating devices, or FADs).
Some fish were implanted with what is known as an archival tag, a physical device which must be inserted using small surgery and a very fast turnaround – no more than 30 seconds – so that the tuna doesn’t become too stressed and lacking in oxygen.
SPC reported that it expected some of the tuna tagged in this way would be recovered and would provide good data on the behaviour and movement of the fish.
The agency also reported that some tuna were injected with strontium chloride, a slightly radioactive salt that becomes incorporated into a part of the tuna’s skeleton known as the otolith (or ‘ear stone’). As the fish grows, scientists can use the mark left by the strontium chloride in the otolith to estimate how old the fish is. (Otoliths help fish to balance and to understand how fast they are swimming.)
To conduct the tagging cruise, SPC chartered a pole-and-line vessel from Noro, in Solomon Islands.
This was the fifth western Pacific tagging cruise, and it lasted from July to September 2019.
Tuna tagging has been carried out regularly since the Pacific Tuna Tagging Programme ran its first voyage in 2006.
The 16th session of the Pacific Tuna Commission (WCPFC16) that oversees waters producing 55% of the global tuna catch gets underway this week in Papua New Guinea. With a yearly value of over $5 billion to fishers in the region the annual event is incredibly important to the Pacific region, which makes up the largest bloc of the 33-member group.
The 21 Pacific island countries and territories make up 64% of the Commission membership. Not only are their waters the seascape where the majority of the tuna harvest takes place, but these are the same waters and biosphere that define their indigenous reference.
Those are two of the main reasons why the annual Tuna Commission congress is all-important to Pacific nations and to their people – the resource owners.
“As custodians of our land and resources, this is an important forum that seeks to establish rules and regulations that conserve and preserve natural resources, especially the marine resources, and PNG is proud to be part of the 16th WCPFC forum,” Dr Lino Tom, PNG’s Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources, told media earlier this week.
This feature is an attempt at introducing the Pacific resource owners: weavers, planters and fishers. Who they are; what and why the ocean means so much to them; and a number of reasons why they are not as engaged as they should be in their “tuna story”.
It is dedicated to Tuvalu’s Elisala Pita who passed away in August 2016, and to our brave forebears who fought, and continue to fight, for equity and sustainability of their offshore fishing resources. And in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) set up by Pacific nations to guard and protect its oceans and, ultimately, Pacific islanders’ way of life.
In the Samoan indigenous reference, Va Tapuia (sacred relations) means each living thing shares a common story of origin. It means that Va Tapuia governs relationships between people and the environment; that is, the land, the sea, the sky, the flora and fauna. For instance, water shares a genealogy with land, who in turn shares a genealogy with humans, the cosmos and the gods. This genealogy is sacred and invests a legacy of responsibility on all living things (trees, clouds, volcanoes, water, animals, people) to respect, through reciprocity, the divine balance or harmony they share.
Reciprocity: harmony’s Pacific meaning
History records “modern civilization”, the “West”, as birthed in the 15th century CE after the fall of the Roman Empire. And like those that preceded it, it is defined by the things it excludes. The people who do not fit.
The unfit, who civilization must prune to protect its sense of self. And so long as there is progress, the pruning is encouraged to continue. But progress and pruning bring with them an unwelcome side-effect – the increasing and unwanted human debris left behind in their wake: the excluded, littered muck on the outside looking in.
Every culture, except for Pacific islanders, has survived this way since early antiquity. And each has had to find an answer to the question that confronted it: What becomes of them, the human debris?
In the 17th century, the growing British empire’s “answer” was two-part: call them criminals, and throw them in a deep dark hole that hopefully would never run over. But justice demanded the “West” do better than that; that civilization be not judged by who it excludes, but by how it treats the excluded. Today, amidst trade wars, rampant diseases, mass killings, and wanton environmental destruction, we bear witness to that treatment.
Pacific civilisation, Polynesian in particular, traces its roots back to 800 BCE, 2,300 years before the “West” was born. It is defined by a culture based on the collective and on reciprocity. An “inclusive” society that embraces rather than excludes, living a way of life based on sacred relations.
In the Samoan indigenous reference, Va Tapuia (sacred relations) means each living thing shares a common story of origin. When followed, Va Tapuia gives rise to other principles such as the Va Fealoa’I, or mutual respect; Tofa mamao ma le Faautautaga Loloto, or wisdom in the exercise of authority. It is this “reciprocity” in place of the West’s “progress” that gives rise to the Pacific interpretation of “harmony”. It is a reference with clearly defined components that ensures no one is excluded, no one is left behind – there is no human debris.
School of fish in Auckland: March 2016
In the world’s most populous Pacific city, Auckland, an old man smiles, eyes calmly surveying the throng of people busy setting up in the room. It reminded him of a school of fish swimming in the lagoon close to shore all those years ago.
His head still fully covered with hair that has almost completely turned grey, clearly, this is an important person, despite his simple appearance. Respected too, judging by the glances and the manner of endearments invited guests and peers show him. His Order of the British Empire, awarded in 2001, affirms him a person of distinction, international stature and influence.
As he sat there, calm and relaxed behind the front table, there was a glint in his eyes. An excitement made obvious by the satisfied veneer subtly painted over his demeanour. The impression one gets is that he had been party to something of great importance recently – yet the occasion on 15 March 2016 that finds him in Auckland’s Mercure Hotel was not about the telling of that tale.
As questions about what that “significant other” swirled, a call from the organiser that the event was about to start quieted the crowd.
The grey-haired gentleman was introduced.
Elisala Pita, tuna champion
“We are honoured to have here with us the Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee,” smiled Lisa Williams-Lahari, “and Tuvalu’s Minister for Works and Natural Resources, Honourable Elisala Pita.”
Yet those titles barely scraped the surface of the immense influence this man wielded in the vastness of oceans and historic negotiations over the Pacific’s 9.6million square kilometre tuna fishery. Or his pivotal role in 2013 that promoted Enele Sopoaga from leader of the opposition to Prime Minister of Tuvalu. Or of the ancient Polynesian wayfarers’ heritage coursing through his veins, and founded on a way of life built not on the individual and self-interest, but of a shared tofi (inheritance) with fellow islanders. A communal way of life, its roots traced back to around 800 BCE. Although fading, a way of life that is still practiced today.
Slowly, as is the contemplative way of Pacific elders, he leaned forward. With assurance borne of confidence as an experienced orator, he acknowledged his ancestors, and surveyed his audience. Then he spoke.
“Let me start off with a brief mention of the importance of the tuna fishery,” he asked politely.
In English, the strong and unmistakable orator’s tenor voice and accent overlaid with authenticity the topic of his address: why the Pacific’s tuna fishery is so important to Pacific island nations, people, and their struggle against the threats casting shadows and uncertainties in today’s modern world. Threats like illegal fishing, driven by self-interest, corruption, greed and desperation.
“For many Pacific islands, including my country Tuvalu, tuna is the only renewable commercial resource,” he continued without pause.
“The revenues Tuvalu receives from tuna fishing taking place in our waters represent about 45% of the Government’s 2016 budget. It does, however, require our joint efforts to protect and to sustain this revenue source.” (The joint efforts refer to working with another 15 Pacific independent states, plus Tokelau.)
Tuvalu has 26 square kilometres of land, and 900,000 square kilometres of ocean.
At the time of his address, Tuvalu’s vast ocean area was being serviced by a fisheries staff of three. And the cost of running its purse-seine fishery was estimated to be US$4 million a year.
To the north-east of Tuvalu is Kiribati. A country where its 810 square kilometres of land houses 110,000 people, inside its 3,600,000 square kilometres of waters. With only one patrol boat to police it.
Elisala re-emphasised that the immense expanse of ocean that Pacific countries are responsible for monitoring is fraught with many challenges: a complicated legal seascape, an even more complicated political seascape, and with limited resources at their disposal, both human and financial, the sustainable management of the fishery is nigh on impossible. The situation is made worse by foreign countries breaching not only their licence and terms of access, but also reneging on legal obligations to manage their fleets when harvesting tuna in Pacific island-owned waters.
“Tuna do not recognise our borders or our baseline maritime boundaries. Managing and enforcing a fishery where fish move freely in an area of water over 9.6 million square kilometres, with occasional tiny low-lying coral atolls in between, can only be achieved through regional collaboration,” Elisala said.
This was part of Elisala’s keynote address to launch the study, “Towards the quantification of illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Pacific islands region”.
When he sat down, one could now see why the old man was given those admiring and respectful looks before he spoke.
In the global world of tuna, worth US$42 billion a year, Elisala needs no introduction. World-renowned and recognised by the highest powers, he is one of the Pacific’s founding fathers who champions multi-million dollar benefits and favourable conditions in order to manage, protect and maximize the economic potential of the Pacific fishery. He was so good that even the United States hired him as their fisheries adviser early in his fisheries career.
Sadly, on 22 August 2016, just five months after his March speech, Elisala passed away in Funafuti, Tuvalu. His loss was made more poignant through the rekindled memories of other Pacific tupuna who fought hard and uncompromisingly in the years of the tuna war.
Elisala was Pacific old school. A direct descendant of ancient Pacific mariners who, without the aid of navigational equipment, settled the tiny islands of Oceania that dot its multi-million acreage of ocean. This deed was achieved hundreds of years before the first European explorers ventured into the region in the 17th century.
As with all others born on Tuvalu, the dominant geographical feature of Elisala’s childhood was the ocean.
It shaped his identity and perceptions, and contextualised his understanding of reality and the world. With roots anchored in the ancient Pacific’s communal way of life, he left home, one of the first Pacific generation to attend Western schooling in preparation for the new world. Yet embossed in his spirit were the ancient stories and lore of his mariner ancestors: of warriors, legends, tales of discovery as told by elders in the shadowed blanket of night lit by flickering tongues of flames from sooty kerosene lamps, the stars and moonlight.
Knowledge gleaned from these two worlds informed Elisala, and selected kin of his generation, with gave them ways to navigate that world and influence the reality that plays out now in today’s modern world of tuna, oceanic management and technologically advanced tools of harvest.
But for all the international and regional acknowledgements, accolades and Pacific milestones – sadly, they are virtually unknown to the weavers, planters and fishers of the Pacific.
Wouldn’t it be great if every Pacific islander knew about the monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) employed to protect their fisheries? It is the story of how Elisala and other Pacific leaders came up with the MCS suite of tools that is fighting the bane of IUU.
The MCS system is worth talking about. In fact, Elisala did tell the Auckland meeting how the MCS, used as a tool, saw “an astonishing number of achievements ranging from:
the first centralised regional satellite based Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)
innovative agreements and systems to share data and intelligence, and
cooperative mechanisms that allow us to share our limited surveillance assets.
“These are coupled with:
robust systems for data collections, including well developed yet growing programs for the placement of independent observers on fishing vessels, and
excellent support and coordination from our regional agencies like Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
“I am therefore extremely proud to note that the results of this study demonstrate that these programs have been effective. As you will hear, there is of course still more that can be done, but there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that without that historical and ongoing effort, we would be looking at a much different report today. We would be looking at a report that says:
rogue vessels come and go as they please,
that industry knows it can fish illegally with impunity, and
that the Pacific is losing more than its gaining.
“I am pleased to say that this report says none of those things.”
And this is the sad part: Elisala’s words describing the effort, innovation and hard work put in by Pacific leaders, fisheries officials – women and men – and their international partners, collaborators and friends to protect the Pacific fishery were not heard by the many ordinary weavers, planters and fishermen.
It is evidence that the “tuna story” and those involved in its composition and distribution have challenges and barriers they need to scale in critical mass.
For it is clear that fully maximised economic returns, achieving preferred levels of sustainable management for the Pacific fishery, will only happen if the weavers, the planters and the fishers are integral to the “tuna story”. That they become subscribers, writers, poets, songwriters, movie producers, advocators, owners of the tuna story.
Why is that so important?
The answer lies in the next two paragraphs. Bear in mind that this is not definitive, as there are other pockets of literature inked with the same narrative and message.
The first is from the IUU study launched by Elisala. It states:
“One of the ways to ensure Pacific countries get their fair share (of profits, exports, jobs) would be by increasing value rather than volume, by eliminating oversupply, and targeting higher value products and markets.”
leveraging that control to maximise the economic benefits generated from the fishery to national economies.
The “something else”
With the vastness of the Pacific fishery, the inadequate resources to manage and control it, and the weak political clout the Pacific holds internationally, the Pacific will never truly reach above aspirations. It needs “something else”.
And that something else exists and has been successfully used in similar situations at the highest level.
That something else is … A Movement – a groundswell of united voices so powerful that they influence a change of mindset, a change in lifestyle, a change in choices, and the political impact to act in solidarity to stand up and defend the Pacific’s tuna fishery. A movement that envelopes and packages the interrelated work and tools needed to sustainably manage, protect and maximise economic benefits of the Pacific tuna fishery into one singular call to action.
Based on a philosophy inspired by American philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience”, it is called the “non-violent movement of passive resistance”.
It won for Ghandi India’s independence. It won for Martin Luther King his dream. It won for Samoa sovereignty in 1962.
The single critical element to its success? Ordinary people. Not the elites: ordinary people who are the owners, who have the integrity, honesty, courage, and rights. It is they, when united in solidarity, that bring the truth to bear.
It is why the weavers, planters and fishers of the Pacific are of paramount importance in achieving control of the Pacific fishery. It is they, and only they, who can make such a movement possible and successful.
How do non-violent movements work?
According to Why violence? author Robert J. Burrowes, non-violent action works because of its capacity to create a favourable political atmosphere and a non-threatening physical environment, and its capacity to alter the human psychological conditions that make people resist new ideas in the first place.
“In essence, non-violent activists precipitate change because people are inspired by the honesty, discipline, integrity, courage and determination of the activists – despite arrests, beatings or imprisonment – and are thus inclined to identify with them,” he said.
“Moreover, as an extension of this, they are inclined to change their behaviour to act in solidarity.”
In the context of groups, like Pacific countries struggling to defend their tuna fishery, Mr Burrowes wrote that they should convey compelling messages that explain what people can do in their particular context.
“It is important that these messages require powerful personal action, not token responses. And it is important that these actions should not be directed at elites or lobbying elites,” he wrote.
“Elites will fall into line when we have mobilised enough people so that they are compelled to do as we wish. And not before.”
Ghandi’s Pacific fishery example?
An example of this non-violence protest that parallels the experience in the Pacific tuna fishery is that of Ghandi and the Salt March message that illustrated what an Indian independence stance against British rule would look like.
“At the end of the Salt March in 1930, Gandhi picked up a handful of salt on the beach at Dandi. This was the signal for Indians everywhere to start collecting their own salt, in violation of British law,” Mr Burrowes wrote.
“In subsequent campaigns, Gandhi called for Indians to boycott British cloth and make their own khadi (handwoven cloth). These actions were strategically focused because they undermined the profitability of British colonialism in India and nurtured Indian self-reliance.
“A key reason why Mohandas K. Gandhi was that rarest of combinations – a master non-violent strategist and a master non-violent tactician – was because he understood the psychology of non-violence and how to make it have political impact.”
And this is why regional agencies like Forum Fisheries Agency, its member countries and officials, and their champions such as the late Elisala need to solve the information barrier so the weavers, planters and fishers can be reached and engaged.
For it is they, not the elites, who have the honesty, integrity, and rights as owners to garner solidarity and international political support to effect required results and outcomes.
Some of the possible results that could be had:
reduction or elimination of illegal fishing
greater and broader industry and flag state support to MCS system for sustainably managed fishing, and
consumer preference for Pacific-owned brands and certified products at various levels of the value chain (valued at US$22.7 billion in 2014).
Challenges and barriers to reaching weaves, planters and fishers
There are two major barriers that need scaling if the tuna story is to reach the weavers, planters and fishers of the Pacific.
Fisheries officials, national offices and regional agencies
There is no doubt about the commitment, and the innovative, difficult and ground-breaking work Pacific fisheries officials, MCS practitioners, ministers, non-government organisations and their various partners dedicate to the cause.
The same is equally true of regional staff and their application to the cause at the FFA, the related regional sibling the Pacific Community (SPC) and, to a lesser extent, the University of the South Pacific (USP), Forum Secretariat, and a whole raft of international stakeholders.
However, what is noticeable at this level of the tuna story is how insular, narrow and specific their focus is. And that is a function of a few home truths.
That the complex, highly technical, drawn-out fieldwork and overlapping or collaborative nature of the work with other government agencies takes most of the officials’ time.
When added to that is the number of meetings that must be attended to ensure each country’s voice is represented and their interventions noted on issues where the majority of them, like the illegal Vietnamese blue boats, are live and developing – it means scarcity of time for anything else.
In a country like Tuvalu that level of difficulty is multiplied manyfold when taking into account that there were only three fisheries officials in 2016.
But that’s not all.
Officials are in a sector where those at the coalface are taking a giant leap to developing and using cutting-edge technology.
Surveillance and monitoring are fast-tracked into the digital world of hyper-telecommunications with many of the paperwork legacy systems transitioning and upgraded with urgency to digital information management systems (IMS) platforms. The hugely successful Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) employed by Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) is made possible by its highly developed Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS) that is able to manage and monitor the VDS.
It all adds up to the situation where more is expected of fisheries personnel, and at the same time, Pacific countries are doing the best they can with the limited human and financial resources at their disposal. Which essentially leaves no time to look beyond their core work program to even try and engage with relevant layers of government, let alone the media, and weavers, planters and fishers directly.
It also reveals another barrier: that Pacific fisheries departments or divisions are usually merged within a wider government ministry. In the internal challenge to get a media advice, a press release or article drafted, there is usually an information officer who deals with the multiple departments. In many cases, there is no dedicated information officer. Which means the time-poor fisheries officer will need to draft the material.
In any case, the information needs to be drafted which then has to go through the approval process before it could be posted on the department Facebook page or website, which will need another dash through a separate can and technical process. The process can be delayed when the website administrator is not a journalist and changes a few things to make it look more aesthetic, but inadvertently changes the whole technical context of the information.
The difficulty is multiplied many-fold when the information is to be sent externally, for example when it’s a media release or an article for the local paper.
And heaven forbid if a journalist interprets the information in a way that is negative: the fallout will impact the official, their relationship with their bosses, the public perception of the issue, and trust of journalists generally. Most times, the extrapolation of these scenarios usually render it best for officials not to even start the process.
But in the case that all internal hurdles are successfully navigated, what is the assurance that getting the information to the media would, first, reach the weavers, planters and fishers, and, second, be in a format they understand, and is relevant enough to engage them to action?
Media channel for weavers, planters and fishers
It is this question that is important for national officials and regional communications officials to answer: are they using the right communications and media channels; and do they know what the information channels for weavers, planters and fishers even look like?
Sadly, the low rate of engagement success in this area says they don’t. And that the West’s media platforms and role as the Fourth Estate is not working for the Pacific’s grassroots.
To find the weavers, planters and fishers “media” platform, there is a need to analyse the “Western” model and then assess if the Pacific platform exists within that space.
The scope of this feature does not allow for an extensive treatment of this topic, but a brief narrative of the relevant communication element to tease out the “media/messenger” in a Pacific setting is important to include.
But first a bit of background as to where democracy and the Fourth Estate came from and why they are important today.
Western civilisation and the Fourth Estate?
Today’s modern world, the “West”, is the most extraordinary civilisation in all of history (so far). Its roots lay in medieval Europe from where a Christian feudal society developed after the fall of the Roman empire, and started sprouting in the 15th century, spreading to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania and pretty much to the rest of the world.
It has become a globe-spanning industrial society colonising and establishing control over its subjects through democracy and the rule of law.
It is distinguished by two unique features:
representative government (born out of the republican government idea from Rome, and the fragmented power structures fostered by medieval feudalism), and
science (a distinct and rigorous way of looking at the world).
The combination of the two has driven technological advancement and economic growth. While the rise of democracy, from the American Civil War (1775–83) maintains control and power by enabling individualism and free-thinking to revolutionise social change through the accompanied changes of thought and philosophy.
What does that look like?
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution became widely accepted, and encouraged the rise of a more secular outlook.
Sigmund Freud and others pioneered a scientific understanding of the mind and the emotions, previously regarded as the preserve of spiritual sphere.
Einstein’s theory of relativity changed people’s views of the universe.
Karl Marx and others analysed society in new ways, leading to calls for the creation of radically new economic and social structures.
The importance of the media was first recognized by Thomas Carlyle. He was the first to use the term “fourth estate” back in 1837 (in his French Revolution paper), in an attempt to quantify why the press would be instrumental to the birth and growth of democracy: by spreading facts and opinions, and sparking revolution against tyranny.
How the press does that in a representative democracy is threefold:
it informs citizens
it sets up a feedback loop between the government and voters, and
it provides a forum for debates to expose people to opinions contrary to their own by moderating and curating arguments presented by all sides. This is important because informed decision-making on the part of voters requires an awareness of multiple points of view, not just seeking out those with opinions the same as their own.
Basically, Carlyle’s argument vouches that the press makes the actions of the government known to the public. Voters who disapprove of current trends in policy can take corrective action in the next election. And that without the press, the feedback loop is broken and the government is no longer accountable to the people.
When these pieces of information are taken together, what we have is that the Western civilization of today, born in the 15th century CE, and democracy born in the 18th century, are only 1,100 and 800 years old. These are young ideas compared to the Pacific’s communal governance system, which traces back to more than 3,000 years ago.
To tease out the Pacific media role in the way Thomas Carlyle saw it within democracy in 1837, the Samoa way is used as a reference.
This is done for two reasons.
First, because of mounting evidence, both oral and scientific, that the settlement of Polynesia originated from Samoa around 800 BCE (but if it’s Tonga that’s fine too). It ended with the settlement of New Zealand around 1300 CE. And second, because it means the traditional and communal way of life unique to Samoa would have also spread along the settlement path. A Pacific way of life, history, religious practice, and language that is one of the most well-known internationally.
Characteristics of weavers, planters and fishers
The most basic unit of the Samoan system is not the individual – it is the aiga, or family.
The term aiga is contextually different to the “West’s” definition of family. ’Aiga includes not only the immediate family (father, mother and children), but also the whole union of families of a clan and those, who although not related, are subject to the aiga’scontrol.
At the head of each aiga is a matai. It is a chiefly title (suafa) by and through which they exercise their rights in the family over which they preside.
Although it is common for each ’aiga to have a number of matai titles, one particular title, the Sa’o, is the most important and serves as the paramount matai title to which all others of the aiga defer.
With Samoans consisting of groups of families with close ties and history, the influence of the matai is felt not only in the village but also in the district and beyond.
That power and influence extended to life and limb. But that has been altered and absorbed by the advent of Western civilization through the democratic government of today where the matai’s authority is now confined and balanced against.
It is from this aiga unit that the structure of Samoan society is founded. Briefly, parts of its traditional structure are described below.
A Village Chief Council is part of Samoa’s faamatai system of governance. It is the highest level of authority in the village where decisions are passed by consensus. It maintains village traditions, and organises village affairs. Its decisions and deliberations are carried out and informed by various committees and groups.
The Women’s Committee is responsible for administering women’s duties and role, which include: traditional hospitality for guests and beautification of the village through scheduled visitations to ensure each family house and the surrounding are clean; managing village events and schedules, child rearing and initiatives such as training, education, handicraft production and the like.
The Village ’Aumaga (untitled men) protect and serve the village in all faasāmoa ceremonies and keeping up traditional agriculture and fishing methods. Tautua (service) is the core function of the ’aumaga. They serve the matai council, develop the family land, provide food through plantation and fishing, and ensure the welfare and protection of the family.
The Aualuma (unmarried women) are charged with gardening, weaving, cooking and beautifying the village. Traditional ceremonial such as the ifoga play an important part in peace-keeping, and the traditional kava ceremony contributes to maintenance of good relationships. Cultural practices such as community correction through the village council are to ensure social cohesion and order in a Samoan village.
What is clear is that information and its channels were original parts of the social structure, not later additions. And the central conduit through which information is received, interpreted, and disseminated to all the various parts of society is the matai.
From the Samoan perspective, it is the matai and the traditional structures of its villages that are key to reaching and engaging the weavers, planters and fishers.
Have Pacific fisheries officials, regional communications officials, their international networks, and media practitioners built this into their information content and channels of communications?
They must. For even as the West’s influence has compromised, absorbed and taken over some of these traditional societal structures, the isolation and youthfulness of the islands region means that disseminating information to the weavers, planters and fishers still rely on traditional structures.
It is the matai element and similar social structures in other Pacific countries that need to be incorporated into communications and media platforms to scale current information barriers.
Success of any movement will depend on the engagement of weavers, planters and fishers for it is they who have the voice and power to make the political impact and initiate action to manage and protect the Pacific fishery.
How to get there
As in all things, the common element to long-term success in the Pacific is: trust and face to face.
And that leads us to the final message Elisala Pita left just over three years ago.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me close by saying that the fight against illegal fishing is one that we cannot afford to lose as it is bound to our future prosperity and wellbeing. It is a hard fight; it is hard to even tell how bad the problem is, but it is a fight that we have made significant ground on, and one that we will continue to challenge.”
When he sat down, the glint in his eye was still there. For in February just before heading down to Auckland, he had just secured the US treaty after a hard-fought arm wrestle with the United States.
As James Movick, the FFA Director-General from 2012–2019, said:
“The role of that generation in setting up fisheries management from which we benefit today is a debt that we owe to Minister Pita and other pioneering colleagues.
“Minister Pita will be particularly remembered for his active and committed chairmanship of the committee of Pacific Fisheries Ministers over the past year (2015–16). His strong leadership, personal engagement and steady support contributed significantly to the successful adoption of the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries that was endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2015; and the successful renegotiation of the fisheries treaty between Pacific countries and the US in June of this year.”
Written by Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi
Tropical tuna are one of the few wild animals we still hunt in large numbers, but finding them in the vast Pacific ocean can be tremendously difficult. However, fishers have long known that tuna are attracted to, and will aggregate around, floating objects such as logs.
In the past, people used bamboo rafts to attract tuna, fishing them while they were gathered underneath. Today, the modern equivalent – called fish aggregating devices, or FADs – usually contain high-tech equipment that tell fishers where they are and how many fish have accumulated nearby.
It’s estimated that between 30,000 and 65,000 man-made FADs are deployed annually and drift through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean to be fished on by industrial fishers. Pacific island countries are reporting a growing number of FADs washing up on their beaches, damaging coral reefs and potentially altering the distribution of tuna.
Our research in two papers, one of which was published today in Scientific Reports, looks for the first time at where ocean currents take these FADs and where they wash up on coastlines in the Pacific.
Attracting fish and funds
We do not fully understand why some fish and other marine creatures aggregate around floating objects, but they are a source of attraction for many species. FADs are commonly made of a raft with 30-80m of old ropes or nets hanging below. Modern FADs are attached to high-tech buoys with solar-powered electronics.
The buoys record a FAD’s position as it drifts slowly across the Pacific, scanning the water below to measure tuna numbers with echo-sounders and transmitting this valuable information to fishing vessels by satellite.
Throughout their lifetimes FADs may be exchanged between vessels, recovered and redeployed, or fished and simply left to drift with their buoy to further aggregate tuna. Fishers may then abandon them and remotely deactivate the buoys’ satellite transmission when the FAD leaves the fishing area.
Fishing licence fees can provide up to 98% of government revenue for some Pacific Island countries and territories. These countries balance the need to sustainably manage and harvest one of the only renewable resources they have, while often having a limited capacity to fish at an industrial scale themselves.
FADs help stabilise catch rates and make fishing fleets more profitable, which in turn generate revenue for these nations.
The abandonment or loss of FADs adds to the growing mass of marine debris floating in the ocean, and they increasingly damage coral as they are dragged and get caught on reefs.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t know how the distribution of FADs affects fishing effort in the region. Given that each fleet and fishing company has their own strategy for using FADs, understanding how the total number of FADs drifting in one area increases the catch of tuna is crucial for sustainably managing these valuable species.
Where do FADs end up?
Our research, published in Environmental Research Communications and Scientific Reports, used a regional FAD tracking program and fishing data submitted by Pacific countries, in combination with numerical ocean models and simulations of virtual FADs, to work out how FADs travel on ocean currents during and after their use.
In general, FADs are first deployed by fishers in the eastern and central Pacific. They then drift west with the prevailing currents into the core industrial tropical tuna fishing zones along the equator.
We found equatorial countries such as Kiribati have a high number of FADs moving through their waters, with a significant amount washing up on their shores. Our research showed these high numbers are primarily due to the locations in which FADs are deployed by fishing companies.
In contrast, Tuvalu, which is situated on the edge of the equatorial current divergence zone, also sees a high density of FADs and beaching. But this appears to be an area that generally aggregates FADs regardless of where they are deployed.
Unsurprisingly, many FADs end up beaching in countries at the western edge of the core fishing grounds, having drifted from different areas of the Pacific as far away as Ecuador. This concentration in the west means reefs along the edge of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are particularly vulnerable, with currents apparently forcing FADs towards these coasts more than other countries in the region.
Overall, our studies estimate that between 1,500 and 2,200 FADs drifting through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean wash up on beaches each year. This is likely to be an underestimate, as the tracking devices on many FADs are remotely deactivated as they leave fishing zones.
Using computer simulations, we also found that a significant number of FADs are deployed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, left to drift so they have time to aggregate tuna, and subsequently fished on in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This complicates matters as the eastern Pacific is managed by an entirely different fishery Commission with its own set of fisheries management strategies and programmes.
Growing human populations and climate change are increasing pressure on small island nations. FAD fishing is very important to their economic and food security, allowing access to the wealth of the ocean’s abundance.
We need to safeguard these resources, with effective management around the number and location of FAD deployments, more research on their impact on tuna and bycatch populations, the use of biodegradable FADs, or effective recovery programs to remove old FADs from the ocean at the end of their slow journeys across the Pacific.
THE 21st National Tuna Congress is happening on September 4-6, 2019 in General Santos City. The Theme for this year’s Congress: “The Tuna Industry: Embracing Technologies and Sustainable Strategies”. Why this Theme?
The choice of the Theme is anchored on sustainability supported by technologies. We all know that Sustainability of Tuna Resources is paramount to the fishing industry. It cannot be overemphasized that the sustainability of the ocean’s resources does not only rest on the shoulders of government. The same responsibility is likewise demanded of the private sector, especially the global players of the Tuna Industry, and the global fisheries advocates.
The Theme calls that sustainability can only be achieved if Conservation and Management Measures are dutifully observed, and international and regional agreements calling for preservation of species and recovery plans, are honoured.
Sustainability also means no overfishing. It means that we enable an environment for Tuna and Tuna-like species to spawn and propagate for another season of catch. The intention is not to deplete our resources.
On technology, the world is currently driven by technology. The fishing industry needs to keep up by continuously upgrading systems and processes to achieve full efficiency while being ocean-friendly.
For 2019, the SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII) welcomes its new President, Andrew Philip Yu. Outgoing President Joaquin T. Lu has served SFFAII for 8 years, starting in 2011. He also held the chairmanship of the National Tuna Congress for eight years.
President Lu’s accomplishments include: Active and dynamic Advocacy, Lobby Work, and Involvement in International and Regional Collaborations; Focused Partnership with National Government and Steadfast Observance and Compliance with Philippine Laws; and Implementation of the electronic Catch Documentation and Traceability System (eCDTS).
On the first, the country is a driven Member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Under his watch, the Philippines has been granted access to fish in the High Seas Pocket 1 (HSP1). This means that the country’s 36 fishing fleets can fish in the HSP1 of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This is a major breakthrough for the country. It may be recalled that for a time, the Philippines was no longer allowed to fish in Indonesia. The prohibition affected the Tuna Industry. The severity of the situation was felt in General Santos City, the home base of the Tuna Industry.
Under his leadership, the fishing industry was able to surmount the acute challenge. Of course, even as the Philippines is granted access to fish in the high seas, the country is duty bound to comply with international regulations, like the observance of conservation and management measures.
SFFAII also pushed for the Philippines’ inclusion in the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. The high seas of the Indian Ocean and the Exclusive Economic Zones of member-coastal states are potential fishing grounds for Philippine purse-seine fishing vessels. Fishing in other fishing grounds will enable our own fishing grounds to recover.
SFFAII also pushes the promotion of ASEAN Tuna globally and branding it as a suitable and traceable-produced product. SFFAII supports the move to properly label the fishing industry and its allied industries’ products. However, it likewise urges that international certification be made affordable, yielding benefits not only to stakeholders, but also on marine ecosystems.
On Focused Partnership with National Government and Steadfast Observance and Compliance with Philippine Laws. For 20 years, SFFAII has hosted 20 Tuna Congresses. The Tuna Congress is now on its 21st year. The yearly Congress has become a venue for intense lobby efforts from among the active players and loyal stakeholders of the industry. The issues and concerns afflicting the industry are highlighted in the yearly Tuna Congress.
The yields of the past Tuna Congresses include the Formulation of a Policy governing Illegal, Unlawful, and Unregulated fishing practices; Finalization, Production, and Issuance of the Philippine Fishing Vessels Safety Rules and Regulations; 2018 National Tuna Management Plan which is aimed at establishing a sustainably-managed and equitably-allocated Tuna fisheries by 2026 and promoting responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products; Creation of National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council that serves as an advisory/recommendatory body to the Department of Agriculture in policy formulation; Reconstitution of the National Tuna Industry Council; Approval of the Handline Fishing Law and the amendment of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the said law; among others.
On Implementation of the eCDTS. In 2017, a major milestone for the Tuna Industry unfolded when SFFAII partnered with USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership and BFAR to develop and implement the eCDTS. The system, when operational, will trace the movement of seafood from “bait to plate”, all the way through to export markets like US, EU, and neighbouring ASEAN markets. General Santos City has been chosen as the pilot city. Now on its final year, we will see how this system will actually impact the fishing industry.
All smiles … Francisco Blaha and a Solomon Islander at work on a pole-and-line vessel in 2010. Francisco is this year’s SeaWeb Seafood Champion for advocacy. We profile him here. (Photo: Francisco Blaha)
Francisco “brings a unique perspective and has the credibility of very different but complementary groups in fisheries”, SeaWeb said when it announced the 2019 winners earlier this month. It noted that some of his ideas had been adopted by big players in the fishing industry.
Francisco sees his award as recognition
of his ability to work with three groups that were often at odds with each
other: governments, industry, and non-government organisations (NGOs). He says
the SeaWeb awards brings together many people trying to do the right thing.
“This is a good thing, with all the bad
news that fisheries get,” Francisco says.
“There are no superpowers attached to the award, to the disappointment of my daughter.”
SeaWeb is a project of the Ocean Foundation. It has presented awards in four categories since 2006 to recognise individuals and companies for outstanding leadership in promoting the production of environmentally responsible seafood.
It comes in part because he works for
himself, and does not have to follow any company line, he told Tuna Pacific
after winning the award.
“I guess people appreciate that I don’t
pretend to be anyone or anything I’m not: I’m just a dyslexic fisher that got
lucky with access to education and work for himself,” Francisco says.
“I have never had to use a suit and ties,
even when I was working with the UN [United Nations] in Rome. Whatever I got was on my own terms. I don’t
‘sell’ anything for anyone. If I don’t like something, I just don’t accept the
job, and I’m vocal on why I disagree with it.
“I dislike profoundly ingratitude and pretentiousness.”
Francisco discovers a love of the ocean
Anyone who has read Francisco’s popular blog – he says it had 25,000 individual readers in 2018 – knows that he began his fishing life working on boats taking squid, hake and toothfish in southern Argentina. But they may not know that he has an earlier association with the sea.
Francisco grew up far from the ocean, in
the traditional lands of the Guaraní people around the border of Paraguay and
Argentina, with his local mother and European father.
“My family crossed the Atlantic on board
a cruising ship from Germany all the way to Argentina when I was six years old.
I like to think that trip marked my life,” Francisco said.
It wasn’t the only thing that influenced
him to take up a life on the sea.
“I guess some people grow by action: they
decide they want similar things to their parents and other people around them.
Others, like me, grow by reaction, by going the opposite way. As anything to do
with the ocean was outside my family’s influence, I went that way,” Francisco says.
By joining the Argentinian navy as a
cadet, Francisco was able to go to high school. He learned a lot about “the
ocean, and rowing and swimming” – and then a second-hand 1976 National
Geographic fell into his hands.
“It had an article about the trip of the Hokule’a,
the Hawaiian double-hulled canoe that went from Honolulu to Papeete. I started
learning, reading history, and fantasising about the South Pacific,” he says.
Francisco loved the ocean, but not the military life – he admits to having a strong anti-authority streak – and when he was released from the navy after the Falklands War, he decided to go fishing for a few years, and worked as technician on board fishing and research vessels while he gained a Masters in fisheries science.
His experience of working during this time taught him that he had no desire to work in a job “where you spend half your time navigating political storms” of bureaucracies and grooming political connections to get jobs and promotions.
“So, I decided to come to the Pacific and
go to all those places I had read about in the article on the Hokule’a
as teenager. Two weeks after graduation, I got in a sailing boat that was going
to Tahiti via Cape Horn … no plans, no contacts, just hopes and a smile.”
He spent almost two years heading west, fishing
and doing odd jobs in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, before landing in New Zealand in
1995. He fell in love with the country, and has set up his life there.
An introduction to fisheries compliance
Francisco worked for New Zealand fishing
companies such as Sanford and Simunovich Fisheries. It was here that he was introduced
to a level of fisheries compliance he had not experienced. To his surprise, he
enjoyed the work.
Having decided it would be useful to have
a degree from an English-speaking university, he earned a Masters in food science,
then started doing domestic consulting work.
“I found international fisheries
consulting work mostly by chance,” Francisco says. “I didn’t know such a job
existed. But if fit me well: I know fishing, I have a good practical and
academic background, and I love travelling and spending time with fisheries
people. I also have a total lack of embarrassment about trying new languages,
and that helped, too.”
Apart from a two-year stint with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome, he has worked for himself for the past 25 years.
A familiar face in the Pacific – and around the world
Francisco is now a familiar face in the
Western and Central Pacific Ocean, where he holds contracts with governments,
charitable and non-government organisations, and international bodies. Most of
his work these days is with monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) to
combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. This involves him in
the development of port state measures (PSM) and catch documentation schemes
He does a lot of work with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA), from high-level development of procedures such as the Port State Measures Framework to training compliance officers to the use of new hook-type scales to monitor transhipment volumes.
“The Guaraní I grew up with have a
culture that has a surprising affinity with the cultures of the Pacific, so the
customs that are the basis of Pacific life are not too foreign to me. When I
started collaborating with the FFA over 10 years ago, I found an organisation
whose values are akin to mine,” Francisco says.
“FFA is at the edge of the best practices
in fisheries worldwide. I love working for them. In fact, I consider many of
the staff as part of my extended family now.”
Home, soul and family in the Pacific
Francisco has his fingers in many other
pies, too. Among other projects, he is an adviser for the Marshall Islands
Marine Resource Authority (under a contract with the NZ Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade), “dealing with an amazing variety of stuff, from strategy
advice, procurement for boarding boats, intelligence analysis of vessels
arriving at port, inspections—and 100 other things.”
He is working with FAO on the implementation of port state measures and social responsibility and the use of blockchain technology to make the chain of fish production more transparent. And he is collaborating with OceanMind on remote intelligence analysis of fishing vessels.
A one-off project he had fun with was developing a colouring book to help train subsistence fishers of countries that belong to the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on best practice in fishing.
Francisco’s work isn’t restricted to this region. In his CV, he lists 58 countries he’s worked with around the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.
However, while he works around the world,
his work in the Pacific has special meaning for him.
“The Pacific has been home for half my
life. It has given me a second run in life, and family, friends, meaningful
work, and an oceanic playground to surf, do open-water swims, spearfish,
paddle, navigate by wayfinding … My soul is at home in the Pacific. And the
Pacific fishing problems are my fishing problems – I live off fishing in this
ocean for most of my year.”
A passion for fairness
For someone who holds little regard for
rank, the challenging world of compliance may seem like an odd choice of
“The fact that I am here today in New
Zealand with this job is a function of my past, and relates to my appreciation
of the concept of fairness and equal opportunities. I’m coming into it from the
perspective of it being fair for all sides. It does not relate to enforcing
rules,” Francisco says.
“For me, the fisheries ‘crisis’ is not a
biological crisis, but one of politics, transparency, and fairness.
“Right now, the system is not fair. When
I broke my knee on board back in Argentina, when I had exams at university, there
was a ‘system’ set up by the fishers’ union to look after me. When I see the
conditions and pay that many of the crews today have, it just upsets me!
“I have the same posture on gender and
diversity. I don’t participate any more on panels and conferences unless the
organisers can prove that there is more diversity than at the last one. This is
not some ‘new age’ thing I’m trying to pose for; it’s just that is not fair,
and that is enough for me.
“I grew up in a country with not much of
a culture of compliance, and while I felt that many of the rules were
dumb, at least I expected they should have applied equally to everyone and
not just to some. The equality of the rule of law in New Zealand is a rare
He says he had found a niche that suits him,
working “in the middle” between regulators with whom he shares insights into
fishing; industry, which he can help be more cost-effective; and the fishers, for
whom he is a voice for decent working conditions and wages.
He is proud of being trusted by all.
“People respect that you understand their
job because you have done it yourself. For example, when you go on board, crew
immediately know if you spent time fishing by the way you move on board, the
fact that you know how to operate the instruments and the bridge—and that you
can call them on technical issues when they are trying to derail the
conversation when you find a compliance problem.
“It’s the same at factories. And in boardrooms. When people know you know your stuff, that is good for everyone to improve the industry.”
Fishing is the people – men and women
Francisco likes to point out that he
doesn’t work with fish any more.
“I work with the people who work with
fish. I love working with fishermen and fisheries inspectors, factory people. I
have gained a much wider perspective by working on the ground than being in
classrooms,” Francisco says.
“In a fishing boat, you don’t have to
like the guy next to you, but you should be able to trust him. Everyone on
board has a job, and you have to do your job right. If you don’t, people die;
it’s as simple as that.
“Fishing also makes you very aware
of your overall insignificance. When you are in storm at sea and there are 20 metre
waves outside and 80 knot wind gusts, nothing really matters a lot other than
staying alive. And when you see those seas and what nature can be, it is a
profound life experience … or at least it is for me.”
He would like to see more women working
in all fields of the fishing industry.
“It still is an unfair playing field out
there,” Francisco says.
“But I would say to women that it is
getting better, mostly because other women before you started opening the way.
Now it’s your turn. Many men are also changing and walking along with you, and
you’ll be surprised how many good people are out there for each of the idiots
you will still find along your path.”
Francisco says that he has been shaped by
fishers and fisheries; that they allowed him to educate himself, help his
family, make friends, and work in places he’d never heard of.
“I love fisheries, and fisheries are
people, for good and for bad, and they cannot and should not be separated. My
favourite Māori proverb or whakataukī
is something I appreciate more as I get older. It goes: He aha te mea nui o
te ao. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
“What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.”
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