Canning the Pacific tuna story

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By Samisoni Pareti, Pacific Media@WCPFC13

Dual labels of a blue and white fish and a Pacific Island maiden on a can of tuna market the beautiful tale of a group of islanders living largely in small states of the Pacific who are anxious about sustainable fishing.

Through an initiative eight-nation PNA group, which is home to 50 per cent of the world’s skipjack canning tuna, tinned fish with the PNA’s white Pasifical logo and the blue tuna label of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) are now retailed in Australia, New Zealand and in Europe.

Marine Stewardship Council label

The MSC label is the global gold standard for sustainable fisheries. It guarantees the tuna has been caught in free-schools, without the help of artificial measures like Fish Aggregate Devices (FADs).

“We’ve since had yellowfin (tuna) certified along with skipjack,” says Maurice Brown-john, commercial manager of the PNA secretariat. “We (the small PNA nations) are somewhere from 90 to 100% of the global supply of MSC certified skipjack and yellowfin MSC certified or potential supply. So we’re building up the global markets.
“Already this year we’re well over 50,000 tonnes. The key thing with this is we’re marketing it through Pacifical which is a joint venture marketing arrangement used exclusively for marketing PNA MSC products.
Just as Fiji Water is synonymous with Fiji, Pacifical is synonymous with PNA skipjack and yellowfin”, Mr Brownjohn said.
John West, one of the popular canned tuna brands in Australia, is now retailing PNA supplied tuna bearing the MSC label. More than 100 million cans are sold each year in Australia. John West is also selling these in New Zealand and there are plans to market the brand in Europe.
Brownjohn believes John West captures 45% of the canned tuna market in Australia. Customers can trace where tuna was caught.
Ludwig Kumoru, the new CEO of the PNA, said the eco-label deal with MSC is beginning to pay off for the eight island countries that are members of PNA, namely, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
“It is really selling the Pacific,” says Kumoru. “When you scan the code on the can, it tells you which boat caught the tuna that is in the can, so its good marketing ..for the Pacific.”

Kumoru said the decision to establish an eco-label stemmed from a tuna conservation measure that bans the use of FADs between 3 to 4 months in a year in Pacific waters. To make up for the shortfall of tuna revenue during the ban period, PNA proposed the marketing of free-school tuna that can be retailed at premium price, in association with the MSC’s label.

“So it has worked in a positive way. They (fishing boats) focus on free schools because they know if they fish on free schools, they get more money. We are addressing the conservation issue and the industry is happy because they are getting a little bit more money,” adds Kumoru.

Tuna Pacific website to meet needs of oceanic fisheries community

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People involved in the tuna industry across the Pacific have demanded simplicity, clarity and a focus on the essential numbers in a new website on tuna in the Pacific.

400 leading figures involved in tuna were asked what they wanted from the site. Thirty per cent responded, a good rate for a survey of this nature.

Their answer, in a word, is data.

“I want to know how many fish are out there, how healthy the stocks are, and what is predicted for the future,” says one respondent..

“That’s the only way we can write fishing policies that will keep our industry alive and well.”

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Jenni Metcalfe, the consultant designing the web site, says that the best sites reflect what users need.

“The information they need should be only 2 clicks away. They are not storehouses of organisational information,” she says.

Survey respondents were drawn from groups and individuals with an interest in Pacific tuna, from the fishing industry, environmental groups, scientists, and government officers who write fishing policy.

The web site is designed to cover tuna interests in Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia. While data is their main need, respondents raised other issues as well:

  • information on the benefits and employment from tuna
  • examples of successful policies and ideas
  • a section for each country, to portray the unique qualities
  • headlines and news, including biodiversity status

They also want a web site suitable for the region, simple, user-friendly, interactive and easy to navigate.

Simplicity is important, because the site has to serve an audience ranging from local communities to international conservation organisations.

The speed and cost of internet services is a factor, and also getting access to a computer in communities and offices where equipment has to be shared and may not be the most modern.

The site is part of the Global Environment Fund support of the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project. Implementation is the responsibility of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency.

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