PNG Fishing Association Sustainability Director Marcelo Hidalgo told SeafoodSource the data was collected from the National Fishery Authority (NFA) of Papua New Guinea observers placed onboard, and the Integrated Fishery Management System (iFIMS).
All told, the catch yielded 254 million tuna cans of tuna.
PNGFIA Chair Sylvester Pokajam said PNG has continued to deploy on-board fisheries observers, even though the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission allowed the suspension of fisheries observers coverage on purse-seiners at the beginning of the pandemic. He said the NFA would not have allowed fishing operations to continue without observers on board.
“After we attained MSC status in May 2020, the National Fishing Authority insists that observers are placed on vessels and allow them to also disembark in several ports,” Mr Pokajam told SeafoodSource.
Mr Pokajam said because of this, the country’s fishing efforts accelerated, and its processing capacity had not been affected by the pandemic.
“Fishing was not interrupted. [In fact,] it really gained momentum,” he said.
The association has been strict in making sure all the observers are following safety protocols, including taking COVID-19 tests before being placed on board. There are 200 MSC-certified observers on board the country’s tuna vessels, but they are only on board for a month at a time to ensure their safety, Mr Pokajam said.
Mr Pokajam said that observers are crucial in ensuring vessels comply with fishery regulations, and pointed to the report noting that PNG has been fulfilling its mandate of traceability and transparency.
“A traceability system is the best method to prevent fraud and illegal products from entering the supply chain as certified products. It protects consumers and the efforts of everyone working to keep our oceans healthy,” the report said.
“A traceable supply chain is a key to delivering the MSC’s vision of healthy oceans and providing its consumers with sustainable seafood they can trust.”
PNGFIA fishers and processors are selling whole round frozen tuna, pre-cooked frozen tuna loins, raw packed canned tuna, and canned tuna. Mr Pokajam said PNG is also opening sales to new markets in 2021, including from Spain and the United Kingdom.
HONIARA and NOUMEA, 2 May 2021 –Amplifying the voices of young Pacific people and addressing their questions and concerns is at the heart of the Teen Tuna Tok campaign, launched this week to mark World Tuna Day (2 May).
The social media campaign, a joint initiative from the Pacific’s lead agencies working with tuna, has received entries from teens from across the Pacific, from Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia to the Marshall Islands and Tonga.
Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said it was wonderful to see the thoughtful questions being posed by Pacific teenagers.
“The Pacific tuna industry delivers over US$550 million per year in direct income to Pacific Island economies and nearly 25,000 jobs. It’s also an important source of protein and its consumption will reduce pressure on inshore resources,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.
“Engaging in meaningful conversations with young people, who make up more than half of our population in the Pacific, is key to improving understanding of one of the few primary industries accessible to all Pacific Island economies.”
SPC’s Director of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division, Neville Smith, said it’s a credit to these teens that they are engaging with the scientists and experts.
“The Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) is currently the only ocean region with all four key tuna species in a healthy state, being neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing,” said Mr Smith.
“We know that this is not a commonly known fact and we see that reflected in some of the questions from the teenagers. Teen Tuna Tok has been a great opportunity to share the science and create what we hope will be an ongoing dialogue with Pacific youth.”
Video animation of basics of tuna management in WCPO
The second phase of the Pacific’s World Tuna Day celebrations will see the launch of a video animation. The animation details the work of the organisations contributing to the Pacific’s record as the largest and most sustainable tuna fishery in the world. This includes the work of SPC FAME, FFA, Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
World Tuna Day evolved from a Pacific-driven UN resolution in 2016. The aim of the day is to raise awareness of the value of tuna, the threats facing tuna populations ,and the economic and social benefits of sustainably managed tuna stocks, and to share best practice.
Media contacts: Samantha Mattila, FFA Strategic Communications Manager, email email@example.com, mobile +61 434 567 673 Toky Rasoloarimanana, Communications Officer, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, Pacific Community, emaill firstname.lastname@example.org , mobile +687 89 93 94
About the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
FFA assists its 17 member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. Find out more at www.ffa.int.
About the Pacific Community (SPC)
The Pacific Community has been supporting sustainable development in the Pacific through science, knowledge and innovation since 1947. It is the principal intergovernmental organisation in the region, owned and governed by its 26 member countries and territories. Find out more at www.spc.int.
Malo e lelei and greetings from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency.
I’m very pleased to be able to share my thoughts on the very important contribution of women to our work, even though I can’t be with you in the room, today.
Cooperation, empowerment, community …
When I think about what women bring to the table, these three words really resonate with me.
For people in the Pacific, these concepts are part of our cultural life. Women especially so, since we’re natural collaborators and often the foundation of community life.
Empowerment is still a journey in progress for women but many of us can point to at least one older woman in our lives who inspired us with their steps towards empowerment.
In my own case, my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all taught me the importance of faith, family and hard work. They also taught me the value of cooperation in making any progress. It is this foundation that has led me to my current role.
At the core of my work is leading the FFA team to facilitate regional cooperation in fisheries management and ensure the sustainable use of our offshore fisheries resources – for the fundamental purpose of maximising benefits for our people. Our people are at the centre of FFA’s work.
The most rewarding part of this work is close collaboration with members – listening and responding appropriately to ensure we jointly deliver what works best for our countries, communities and people.
Fisheries is a key economic driver in the region, with revenues from the sector accounting for over half of government income in several Pacific Island countries.
Nearly 25,000 Pacific Islanders are employed in the sector, so maintaining the largest and best-managed fishery in the world means we support the incomes, jobs, livelihoods and food security for so many of our Pacific people.
And women play a crucial role.
Research indicates that most women are found in processing (small scale and commercial) and marketing for the domestic market.
Of course, while there are many women in the sector, there are also several challenges. Socio-cultural beliefs, family obligations, lack of skills and experience, lack of direct access to credit and finance, and poor market facilities restrict women from participating or participating equally in the industry.
Gender discrimination and pay gaps are still unwelcome realities, often due to outdated attitudes and beliefs about what roles women can play.
Challenging the status quo means creating systems, structures and processes that are wholly inclusive. We need to provide support not just for income-generating activities, but also for advocacy, mobilisation, and participation in decision-making processes.
At FFA, we recognise that through our work we can make a substantial contribution to the realisation of a better future for our women, not just in our sector, but by extension to our communities.
Some of the gender initiatives that I am particularly excited about include financial literacy training and our female crewing project. We are committed to upskilling women to have confidence with their finances and are proud to be pioneering efforts to train and put together an entirely female crew.
The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women is also an area we have been actioning. We are working closely with member countries to determine how the tuna fisheries value chain is being affected and the flow-on effects on women and other groups.
The research findings will inform our efforts to support the sector in recovering from the impacts of COVID, including alleviating the specific impacts on women.
We’ll also be hosting a gender forum later this year to ensure we hear more voices, have more conversations and act on more information.
We know that women in our industry have set their sights on a more enabling present and a more powerful future for themselves, their communities and their countries.
From the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner
We, the Pacific Island Forum leaders, representing the Blue Pacific and its peoples, are committed to strong regional action, harnessing shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean and acting as one Blue Pacific Continent. With 96% of our region being ocean, the ocean is at the heart of our geography, our cultures and our economies.
Starting in 2021, we will be guided by a new 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent in order to protect people, place and prospects of the Blue Pacific. It is envisaged that this new strategy will reinforce the prioritisation of ocean and climate change considerations into all regional and national policies and plans, both public and private.
We recognise the impacts and ongoing challenges that COVID-19 has imposed on our region and its ocean-driven economic sectors. The pandemic has led to major disruptions, reinforcing the need for the Blue Pacific and the international community to renew ambition and action on the ocean at national, regional and global levels, including towards recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 that advances the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The potential of the ocean to meet sustainable development needs is enormous, but only if our oceans can be restored and maintained to a healthy and productive state. Ongoing trends of exploitation and degradation of marine ecosystems show that not only have endeavours to date been insufficient, but risks are increasing every day. More must be done to protect our ocean as it provides solutions to some of our existential challenges such as climate change.
As custodians of the Blue Pacific, we have demonstrated our leadership and collective resolve to protect the Pacific Ocean. It is our endowment fund, inherited from our ancestors and which we share with future generations. We must care for, invest in, and nurture the ocean to continue to benefit from it.
Recommitting to our regional ocean policies
We reaffirm our commitment to sustainably manage, use and conserve our ocean and its resources, as one Blue Pacific, guided by our regional commitments and policy instruments.*
We note the important role of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner on advocacy and attention to ocean priorities, decisions and processes, including to monitor and report on progress in the implementation of regional ocean commitments.
We acknowledge Palau’s role as host of the 7th Our Ocean Conference in 2021, and recognise that hosting this conference and other international events in our Blue Pacific region provides a critical opportunity to showcase regional leadership, build partnerships and raise ambitious, action-oriented solutions.
We note the global biodiversity crisis and emphasise the importance of having strong ocean governance in place both within, and beyond, national jurisdictions of countries of the Blue Pacific, to ensure the holistic and sustainable management of the ocean.
We support global action to develop and implement the post–2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This framework, along with the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, will provide further momentum to holistically safeguard our rich biodiversity.
We strive for the expeditious finalisation, adoption and entry into force of an international, legally binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ) that establishes a robust and ambitious framework to conserve and sustainably use our marine biodiversity.
This framework must be based on the best available scientific information and relevant traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities; taking into account the precautionary approach; recognising the special circumstances of small island developing states; recognising the special interests and roles of coastal states; and taking into account cumulative impacts of activities, as well as of climate change, without undermining existing relevant legal instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional and sectoral bodies.
Urgent climate change action
We call for urgent action to reduce and prevent the irreversible impacts of climate change on our ocean, reiterating that climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Blue Pacific.
We also note with significant concern that, based on current trends, we will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius as early as 2030, unless urgent action is taken, with significant adverse impacts on the ocean. The recognition of the ocean–climate–biodiversity nexus entails that the protection of one cannot be at the expense of the other, and that radical ambition is required. This should include meeting or exceeding nationally determined contributions (NDCs), formulating mid-century low emissions development strategies in 2020 and may include commitment and strategies to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.
We welcome the convening of the Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue, which considered how to strengthen mitigation and adaptation action in this context, including through consideration of developing a work program on ocean within the UNFCCC.
We call for increased investment for the establishment of observation systems, to understand impacts of climate change on the ocean, blue carbon protection and restoration initiatives for climate mitigation and adaptation, as well as monitoring and prediction to strengthen natural-disaster response and risk-reduction strategies for our islands.
The international community must meet the global climate finance commitment of at least US$100 billion per year by 2020 from a variety of sources to invest in climate action in developing countries. This investment should be transparently accounted for in its provision and implementation. This should also include exploring innovative financing options and mechanisms for the ocean.
Securing the Blue Pacific
Recognising the strategic importance and value of the ocean and its peaceful use, we reaffirm our commitment to the rules-based international order founded on the UN Charter, adherence to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and resolution of international disputes by peaceful means.
Securing the limits of the Blue Pacific Continent against the threats of sea-level rise and climate change is the defining issue underpinning the full realisation of the Blue Pacific Continent. We are committed to concluding outstanding maritime boundaries claims and zones, including related treaties and legal frameworks to support the sustainable development and ensure the peace and security of our Blue Pacific Continent not only from environment threats but also from external geo-strategic interests. We are also committed to a collective effort, including to develop international law, with that aim of ensuring that once a forum member’s maritime zones are delineated in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the member’s maritime zones cannot be challenged or reduced as a result of sea-level rise and climate change.
Conservation and sustainable management of the ocean and its resources
We commit to responsibly and effectively manage 100% of the Blue Pacific Ocean within and beyond national jurisdiction to ensure its health, productivity, resilience and safety, based on the best available scientific information and traditional knowledge. This includes taking into account ecological and cultural connectivity when designating and establishing conservation and management measures and areas-based management measures including marine protected areas.
We are committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability and viability of the Blue Pacific’s fisheries resources currently being compromised by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, harmful fisheries subsidies, climate change, low level of value-adding of tuna in the region and marine pollution recognising its centrality to the wellbeing of communities and economies, and as guided by our Regional Fisheries Roadmap. Revenues from tuna fisheries provide much needed income for forum island members. The industry also provides over 22,000 jobs across the region. COVID-19 and its impact on sectors such as tourism has increased the importance of fisheries resources for forum island members, both in terms of economic returns and for food security.
We call for the increased use of technology to address threats to the long-term sustainability of fisheries resources and the associated impacts on the social and economic wellbeing of our people. We call for increased investment in coastal and marine ecosystem restoration and management capacities, sustainable aquaculture development, and research activities. Investment is needed for the future of sustainable coastal and marine tourism, economic resilience of fisheries, and community-level economic uplift and food security. We call for focused investment and capacity building towards retaining the traditional knowledge of sustainable fishing practices for future generations of Pacific people.
Maritime connectivity and renewable energy
Recognising that the Blue Pacific’s maritime transport industry plays a critical role, we call for the sustainable and resilient development of the maritime industry, including investment in new technology and operations, to ensure safe, accessible, efficient and affordable maritime transport which contributes to the International Maritime Organization’s decarbonisation strategy and a quieter maritime sector.
We are committed to promote partnerships that provide incentives for investment in sustainable ocean-based renewable energy – for new economic opportunities and energy security.
Combatting marine pollution
Marine pollution, of all kinds, produces negative ecological and socio-economic impacts, including plastics; nuclear waste, radioactive and other contaminants; World War II wrecks and other shipwrecks; and unexploded ordnance. Marine pollution puts entire ecosystems and species at risk, in addition to the people who depend on them for livelihood and economic development. Plastic pollution is a planetary threat affecting nearly every marine and freshwater ecosystem globally. Members contribute less than 1.3% of the mismanaged plastics in the world’s oceans but are one of the main recipients.
As the Blue Pacific, we have developed and implemented a regional action plan on marine litter (2018–2025) as part of the Cleaner Pacific 2025. However, we recognise the interconnectivity of the world’s oceans means that marine pollution requires the involvement of all countries and people to be effectively addressed.
We call on Pacific Rim countries to expeditiously implement relevant measures to prevent and effectively manage marine pollution and litter, including through land-based sources, in accordance with international law. The most effective control measures remain prevention and avoiding waste generation.
We further call on governments to ensure that appropriate global mechanisms are in place to enable the transformation of the global plastics economy.
Access to development finance and blue recovery
Achieving the objectives of the Blue Pacific requires increased levels of development and other sources of finance for the ocean. It also requires strengthening of enabling environments at all levels, including institutional and human capacity building at the national level and promoting access to science, knowledge, infrastructure, technology and innovation that is open and responsive to the specificities and challenges of our region.
We call on greater collaboration with development partners to improve economic recovery efforts and the formation of a sustainable ocean economy in response to COVID-19 pandemic challenges. We call for the development of innovative financing mechanisms, to mobilise financial resources to improve the amount and efficacy of finance to effectively implement ocean governance objectives in the region.
We call on global financing institutions, including the Green Climate Fund, Global Environment Facility and Adaptation Fund, to increase investments on oceans and climate change. Further, we call on the international community to identify innovative start-ups as champions to help address development challenges; and promote sustainable and innovative solutions, including implementing ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change, to further develop and advance regional COVID-19 recovery efforts.
The ocean is our past, our present, our future. By deepening collective responsibility and accountability for the stewardship of the ocean, we can protect our people, place and prospects, and secure the future of our Blue Pacific Continent.
The tuna fisheries of the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) are in better shape than those of other oceans, a report just published by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) shows.
The report summarises the state of health of the world’s tuna fisheries. It covers 23 tuna stocks: 6 albacore, 4 bigeye, 4 bluefin, 5 skipjack, and 4 yellowfin stocks. All but bluefin are commercially important in the WCPO.
The report is compiled from official reports of the 5 regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs), including the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which manages the tuna fisheries of the WCPO.
It backs up research by the Pacific Community that compares the status of tuna populations in the western Pacific, eastern Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. The WCPO is the only area of ocean in which all four tuna are abundant and are not overfished.
Although the ISSF report shows that tuna are abundant enough in the WCPO to be able to withstand fishing at current levels, it points out that there is “no potential” to increase fishing for yellowfin because it is “fully exploited”.
ISSF rated each of the 23 global stocks using 3 factors: abundance, fishing mortality, and environment. Each factor is colour-coded green (good, sustainable), yellow (warning, borderline) or orange (unsustainable or insufficient management).
Abundance relates to not just to populations numbers, but also looks at whether fish have been allowed to grow and reproduce at their most productive level.
Mortality is a measure of how intense the fishing effort is, and is a way of understanding whether a population is being overfished.
Environment refers mostly to action to minimise bycatch, species such as sharks, turtles and seabirds, as well as juvenile tuna, that aren’t targeted for fishing but end up in the catch. Some species face extinction, partly as a result of commercial fishing. Bycatch is usually noted accurately when it the catch is monitored independently.
Need to improve harvest controls and monitoring of longline fishing
The report shows that all RFMOs need to manage stocks better, even where tuna are abundant.
ISSF’s particular focus was harvest controls. Although there are no binding target reference points (TRPs) or harvest controls in the WCPO yet, it notes that a few conservation and management measures (CMMs) include interim targets. CMM 2014-06 calls for harvest strategies for each kind of tuna and lists the elements that should be included. CMM 2015-06 sets an interim TRP for skipjack tuna.
CMM 2020-01 contains bridging rules for bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin that include benchmark numbers (expressed as spawning biomass) to be maintained. However, ISSF said that this CMM was too complex because it included “many ‘either/or’ choices, exemptions or exclusions” and that decisions were yet to be made about some measure. These made it “impossible to predict the outcomes in terms of actual future catch and effort levels”.
WCPFC is not alone: there are few TRPs and harvest controls operating in other oceans either.
The other major concern noted in the report is the lack of independent monitoring of longline fleets, which ISSF labelled as “deficient” in all oceans and among nearly all fisheries where longline fishing occurs. Without monitoring, it is impossible to know how much wildlife becomes bycatch. Longline fleets are notoriously difficult to monitor.
Strengths of WCPFC management also noted
The report notes that the interim arrangements to control the tuna harvest in the WCPO are “robust” and “ensure the sustainability of bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tuna stocks”. They include:
banning the use of fish-aggregating devices (FADs) from 1 July to 30 September each year, between the latitudes of 20 °N and 20 °S, in both exclusive economic zones and high seas
imposing an additional FAD closure of 2 months
requiring that all FADs prevent the entanglement of sharks, turtles and other species
limiting the number of drifting FADs, fishing days and, for some vessels, freezing capacity
requiring that all fish caught be retained, even if they have no market value or haven’t been targeted for fishing
requiring that all purse seine vessels have an independent observer on board.
ISSF reports that the global catch of albacore, bigeye, bluefin, skipjack and yellowfin in 2019 was 5.3 million tonnes. It said that 65% of stocks of tuna were at healthy levels of abundance, 13% were overfished, and 22% were in between.
Worldwide, 87.6% of the catch was from healthily abundant stocks.
About 52% of the world’s production of tuna was from the WCPO.
Having had nation-wide consultations in 2018 and 2019, the Tonga Ocean 7 team had hoped to finalise the plan in 2020.
But COVID-19 forced the delay as the Tongan government focused on keeping the kingdom free of the virus.
Environment Chief Executive Officer Paula Ma’u said the delay had given the team more time to review the plan and ensure everything was in place before it was submitted to cabinet.
Working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Waitt Institute and the Italian Ministry of Environment, the Tonga Ocean 7 team has been able to finalise finer details of the plan.
These include different maps showing zones that have been marked for specific activities such as the special management areas (SMAs), marine protected areas (MPAs) and no-take zones.
Included in the zoning as well are areas marked for tuna fisheries, tourism activities and special marine parks.
“These are important parts of the plan, which will become the ocean management plan once that is approved and then gazetted,” Mr Ma’u said.
Plan critical for protecting marine resources
The plan is critical for Tonga, especially in the face of losing marine resources for various reasons, including over-use and climate change.
Mr Ma’u is one of the three government chief executive officers who chair the Tonga Ocean 7 management committee.
The others are Dr Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi, of the Fisheries Ministry, and Ms Rosamond Bing, of the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources.
A challenge to manage the fisheries for all
Dr Halafihi said his ministry had been in the forefront of finding solutions to Tonga’s fisheries problems, which included tuna fisheries.
Tuna fishing within the Tongan exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has been dominated by longlining since the 1950s.
He said tuna in the Tonga EEZ were fished mainly by the distant-water longline fleets of Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Before 2004, the longline fleet consisted of around 15–25 local and locally based foreign vessels. Following a moratorium on foreign fishing in 2004, the size of the fleet declined, and by the end of 2011 consisted of only 3 vessels.
Dr Halafihi said foreign tuna longliners had been allowed to fish in Tongan waters since 2011 as part of Tonga’s program to increase tuna fisheries production.
In 2014, 19 foreign-flagged longline vessels had valid licences to fish in Tongan waters. The vessels were from Chinese Taipei (14 longliners), China (3), and Fiji (2). Thirteen of those vessels were less than 100 gross registered tonnes (GRT), with one being larger than 200 GRT.
In the same year, the catch for the Tongan longline fleet was about 61% yellowfin, 8% albacore, and 7% bigeye. In previous years, albacore was targeted but the focus switched to the higher-value yellowfin and bigeye tuna for fresh fish export markets. Dolphin was presently the most common non-target species.
With this scenario in place, the Fisheries Ministry had worked tirelessly with the Tonga Ocean 7 team to ensure that the Ocean Plan was finalised and gazetted for use.
“This is going to be a comprehensive management plan,” Dr Halafihi said.
While the tuna fisheries are a major focus, communities around Tonga have also raised their concerns on what they believe is best for the country.
Some have asked that special areas be marked off so that they can fish and earn income from their own fisheries activities.
Others have voiced concern that “others” from outside their communities are accessing their fishing areas.
“So there has been a lot of give and take to make sure that everyone is on the same page,” Dr Halafihi said.
Policing the Ocean Plan the biggest challenge
Once the plan is gazetted and in use, the bigger challenge would be policing the legislation.
“That is going to be a major challenge,” Mr Ma’u said.
Part of the work so far has been looking at the legal aspects of the draft plan and getting experts also to work on how it will be monitored and policed.
That is why the Tonga Ocean 7 has worked with communities, civil societies, the private sector, government departments and the fisheries industry across the country.
“We will need everyone working on this together if it is going to be successful,” Mr Ma’u said.
The plan is expected to go to cabinet by mid-year and to be in place by the end of 2021.
HONIARA – High market fees imposed on tuna vendors at the Gizo Fish Market, in the Western Province of Solomon Islands, are forcing more tuna fishers to revisit the coastal fishing grounds, and have led to unsustainable fishing.
Gizo Fish Market is normally restocked with fish every day, as people from communities around the provincial capital take turns to sell their fish. This usually makes it easy to control the price of fish at the market. But now a problem has arisen over the fees charged to sell fish.
Tuna vendors want answers from authorities on why they have to pay $SBD20 to sell their catches at the Gizo market. People selling reef fish are charged SBD$5.
Tuna vendors are concerned because they spend more money and risk their lives to travel out in the open waters to fish.
This has raised a feud among the tuna fish sellers in recent times.
Ms Namu Avo is from the Babanga community, outside Gizo Island. She is a frequent vendor at the Gizo market and one of those who has questioned the fee differences.
“I felt disappointed with how the authorities are charging the fees for fish vendors at the market,” Ms Avo said.
“Looking at the difference of SBD$15, it is very expensive for us tuna vendors, having put more effort, time and also more money to fish for tuna.
“Sometimes we return with very few tuna, maybe less than 20, and really need to sell them out to repay all the expenses incurred on the fishing trip. They will still charge us the same amount of fee. This is really unfair to us tuna vendors.”
Ms Avo and other tuna vendors at the Gizo market said authorities needed to consider the challenges and expenses that they endured to bring fresh tuna to the market.
Costly fishing trips and high competition at Gizo market
The tuna fishers’ toil is dangerous and difficult. They have to wake as early as 2 am to prepare before heading out to various fish-aggregating devices (FADs) to fish.
According to Wesley Misu, a fisherman and vendor from the Titiana Community, outside Gizo, the trip to reach the FADs can take up to 5 hours.
“Travelling out into the open seas in search of various FAD devices is very difficult and dangerous. At the same time, it is also expensive,” Mr Misu said.
“The weather, too, can be unpredictable. Therefore, we have to also take extra precaution, especially when the sea is rough and the destination is too far to reach.”
Fishers sometimes have to cancel their fishing trips when there is no fuel or when the weather is severe.
Ms Avo also said that fishing was a challenge for tuna fishers.
“To make it worse, when we came back exhausted to the market, we are told to pay the high market fee without being certain that our catches will be completely sold,” she said.
“This is a real challenge for me as a tuna vendor, while the reef fish sellers only take advantage of the reefs and doesn’t spend a lot of money to go fishing for tuna and just exploit the nearby reefs.”
The Gizo Fish Market was supposed to make selling fair to all, so that communities near Gizo could sell their fish each day. Each market day allowed vendors from two communities, including Titiana, Nusa Baruku, Babanga, and Saeragi.
“Therefore, as a community, we have to take turns to sell our catches at the market. This is an arrangement that a lot of vendors here at the Gizo market are very unsupportive of,” Ms Avo said.
She said she had found out that fish vendors at the Noro market were charged SBD$5 regardless of being a reef fish or a tuna vendor.
However, at Noro Market competition was not high as it was at Gizo. It was lessened because the National Fisheries Development unloaded most of its catch to the SolTuna cannery there.
Ms Avo said that at Babanga there were a lot of boats and that nearly all families on the island went out to fish, as it was their only means of survival.
“For us at the Babanga community, the competition at the Gizo market at times can be high. Some of us normally sell little quantity, but when other fishers or vendors comes with high fish quantity and started dropping their prices, we have no other options but just follow suit. So, there is no understanding between all tuna vendors at the market,” Ms Avo said.
“Such a situation will force fish prices to drop to as little as $10, and it will not meet the expenses we incurred to travel out to fish in the open seas,” Ms Avo said.
Turning to reefs as a substitute for tuna fishing
According to Ms Avo and Mr Misu, the misunderstanding between the tuna vendors had forced many fishers to resort to fishing in the nearby reefs. Too much fish was being harvested, so that unsustainable overfishing was occurring in the reefs outside Gizo.
“We are faced with a lot of challenges every day, from meeting the needs in our own homes and of our customers and clients at the market,” Mr Misu said.
“Fishing is the only means for us to earn money, since there is no land available for us to do gardening. The money we get from each fishing trip is used to pay for food, children’s school fees, and other basic necessities. Therefore, we have to try as much as possible to meet our daily targets.
“We even have customers and clients on standby to pay from us, either at the market area or their residential homes. When we are not able to fish for tuna in the open seas, we have to revisit the local reefs to help sustain our families.”
Ms Avo said her husband had had to forego tuna fishing trips.
“My husband is a tuna fisher, but at times when we do not have enough finance to set out on fishing trips, he had to forego the trips and opt to fish in the nearby reefs. This is not only us that normally face such issues; it is a concern for a lot of families in the Babanga community,” she said.
“I believe such practice is the reason there are limited fish stocks in our reefs. There are also no sustainable management plans being put in place for us to follow.”
Vendors call on authorities to set policies to make fishing sustainable fishing
Due to the rise in unsustainable fishing practices, tuna fishers and vendors at the Gizo market have called on local authorities to reconsider the fees charged at the market, so that they, too, can preserve their reefs for future generations.
Gizo Town Council clerk Charles Kelly said the local council was not responsible for collecting fees from vendors at the market.
“If there is anything to do with the Gizo market and the fees that are charged to vendors, Gizo Town Council is not part of it,” Mr Kelly said. Vendors needed to negotiate with the Gizo market master.
But he said the council was alarmed at the level of overfishing outside Gizo.
Gizo Market Master Moffat Maeta said his office was fully aware of the matter, and that his officers would try and sort out the situation so it was fair to all. He said the fee collectors were often lenient with reef fish vendors, which resulted in the low fees charged instead of the unstable fees.
“Normally, the fish market fees are charged at SBD$20 across the board for all fish vendors. This is clearly stated in the Western Provincial Government Market Ordinance.
“My office is aware of the fee differences as it’s been reported,” Mr Maeta added.
There were plans to review the market ordinance and the fish market fees.
Mr Maeta said that, because of the rise of overfishing in the province, especially around Gizo, the provincial government needed to review the fees charged at the Gizo Fish Market. One idea being considered was to reduce the fees charged to tuna vendors, and increase the fees for reef fish vendors, as a way of making fishing on local reefs less viable.
By imposing high market fees on local fishers who contributed to unsustainable fishing in the nearby reefs, it was projected that they would have no other option but to travel into the open seas to fish. This practice would allow local reefs as common fishing grounds to recover from overfishing.
“I will have a dialogue with my officers of the Market’s fish section and those from the provincial market steering committee,” Mr Maeta said.
HONIARA – The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has revealed that some fish species will likely vanish as a result of overfishing in waters near Gizo, the capital of Western Province of Solomon Islands.
Gizo has faced many life-threatening challenges and now it faces a bigger challenge in the fishing industry – an industry that was once rich in marine resources.
WWF Gizo officers carried out a study in 2020, looking at the top 10 species fishers target.
Their results show that some fish species decreased in a matter of weeks. Dafisha Aleziru, a fisheries officer for WWF, said this was a serious concern for the province and the fishing communities that relied on selling fish for survival.
“The study was done by measuring the maturity size, the spawning size of fish, and the minimum size limit of fish that are eligible to be caught,” Ms Aleziru said.
“The results we compiled have depicted that there are some species which need immediate attention. We have advised fishermen in and around Gizo to refrain from harvesting them in their hotspots.”
The researchers discovered that fishing has changed the size of fish all year round, because people rely every day on the sea for their daily needs. This means that fishing is changing the size of fish in terms of population, growth and environmental changes.
“Overfishing can be fatal to all fish types and stocks. When fish is overharvested, the wider food web will also be affected. On healthy reefs, algae are usually low from the grazing of some herbivores such the surgeonfish and the parrot fish, but when these fish disappear there will be no proper balance in the coral reef ecosystem, and seaweed-like algae (called macroalgae) can grow free, eventually suffocating reefs,” Ms Aleziru said.
“This is what’s happening now is Gizo and the surrounding islands.”
She said they had found that two of the popular fish species would disappear soon.
“The data collected shows that species like Acanthurus lineatus, [a surgeonfish] known locally as bebera, seki, berava or quere, and the Lethrinus olivaccus, which is locally known as long nose, misu, mihu or miu mola, are under huge threat locally,” she said.
According to the research findings, these two types of fish no longer reach maturity before they are harvested. The bebera begins to spawn at a length of about 17.5 cm, and is allowed be harvested once it reaches 20 cm. The long nose begins to spawn at about 46 cm and may be caught once it is 50 cm long.
She said the results showed clearly that the area had been heavily overfished over the years, with indiscriminate fishing methods used. The rising impacts of climate change were also contributing to the loss of fish. The scientific data they had collected proved that these species were in great danger.
“The destruction of the marine ecosystem has heavily contributed to the low fish population and, even worse, people tend to dive for fish, which has directly affected the growth of the fish population,” Ms Aleziru added.
Piokera Holland, a conservation officer for WWF Gizo, said: “The size of maturity for these fish to be harvested is 20 cm or 50 cm, but now you will find that most of the fish at the market are less than the actual maturity size.”
He said that the Gizo area would lose the species “very soon” from lack of conservation knowledge in the local communities.
Based on the findings of the scientific study, most of the communities had no knowledge of conservation management. Therefore, the WWF has begun to work closely with four communities in Saeragi, Simbo and Kolombangara to provide support through community-based resource management, in the hope that the two species can be saved and others protected from threat.
Apart from the WWF assistance, help may also come from the Western Province Network for Sustainable Environment (WPNSE), a network of non-government organisations operating in the province along with the provincial government’s fisheries office, to monitor the flow of a sustainable environment both Inland and Ocean.
In response to the outcome of the WWF study, WPNSE said it “will collaborate to address the issue in due time. The association will try as much as possible to not replicate the work of our members, but will meet to let each other know what they doing on a particular area.”
In light of the worrying findings from the study, the association is urging the provincial government’s fisheries office to take the lead before it is too late for the endangered species.
“We will be requesting the provincial government to put an action to the issue which the people and the marine ecosystem of Gizo are now facing,” a WPNSE statement said.
The study is also judging how well vessel operators are complying with the main rule to control marine pollution in the WCPO. This is the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) conservation and management measure (CMM) 2017-04. The rule, which came into effect on 1 January 2019, prohibits the dumping of any plastics into the ocean.
The study into the disposal of plastic waste has been commissioned by the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). It is preliminary to FFA member considering possible ways of strengthening CMM 2017-04.
FFA has noted that, despite WCPFC’s “excellent step towards curbing drastic levels” of plastic marine pollution, “the reality of current plastic disposal methods is in stark contrast to the intention of the measure”.
The Chief Technical Officer of the OFMP2 for FFA, Hugh Walton, said that, although the passing of CMM 2017-04 was a “landmark win” for FFA members, it had not necessarily equated to a decrease in the amount of waste dumped at sea. Countries had had more than a year from the adoption of the CMM in 2017 to consider the means needed once it came into force.
Clause 2 of the CMM states that: “CCMs shall prohibit their fishing vessels operating in the WCPFC Convention Area from discharging any plastic (including plastic packaging, items containing plastic and polystyrene) but not including fishing gear.”
Mr Walton said most of the other clauses did not prohibit actions, but merely encouraged signatories to prohibit their vessels from dumping waste at sea. And there was no mechanism to enforce clause 2.
“We hope this study will point to ways we can align the intention and the reality of waste disposal,” Mr Walton said.
One of the three consultants doing the study is fisheries adviser Francisco Blaha, who worked on commercial fishing vessels for many years. He has teamed up with Robert Lee, who also has a lot of experience on fishing vessels, and Alice Leney, a hands-on expert in waste disposal in the WCPO.
“We all come from operational experience,” Mr Blaha said.
“We believe it is important that we understand what it is like working in the industry. This is partly because we can’t go onto the vessels at the moment so we have to do a desktop study only.
“But also because there is this whole belief that fishers dump waste at sea by pure malice. We know what it’s like on the boats and we know that’s not true.
“People do things because there are incentives to do it that way, or because they don’t know a better way. Space is always a problem on fishing boats, so we need to consider what the main sources of plastic waste other than fishing gear, how much plastic waste is produced, and what is currently done with it in different fleets and jurisdictions. Then we can think about better ways to deal with plastics. How can people be incentivised, with the limited options of surveillance that exist at the moment? That, in a nutshell, is what we are investigating.”
“We already have quite a lot of problems with rubbish. If we’re going to take fishing vessel waste back to land, this will have a big impact on the rubbish on the islands. Other than Suva, all the other dumps are saturated: there is no more room. The highest point of Marshall Islands is the rubbish dump.”
The study team will look to quantify how much plastic waste is generated in the exclusive economic zones of FFA members and in the nearby high seas, and group it by sources such as vessel size, gear used (longline or purse seine) and the number of crew members. They will look at estimate volumes produced, disposed of overboard and brought ashore. They will investigate the impact in the ports that attract a great deal of fishing traffic of disposing of waste there.
Then they will summarise the mechanisms for disposal that could be applied, and recommend strategies and practices that will lead to better application of the present regulatory frameworks.
“If we look by type of vessel, the area where we have the biggest volumes is longlining, as there are numerous fleets. But also purse-seine is quite remarkable,” Mr Blaha said.
“There is only 5% observer coverage on longliners, but from what we know, about 60% of what goes into the water is plastic. On purse-seiners, with 100% observer coverage, it’s 37%.
“We have identified that the main source of plastic waste for longliners is the liners in the bait boxes, and for purse-seiners, it’s the salt bags.” (Salt is used to make a brine that is used in freezing the fish.)
He said it was difficult to estimate the volume of these items, because there were so many variables to take into account.
“Let’s look at longlining. How many hooks get soaked into the ocean? There were over 800 million of them in the WCPO in 2019. Then we work out bait size and weight, and adjust for the type of tuna being caught. For tropical tunas, you may be baiting 100 hooks per box, but for albacore it may be 150 hooks, so the number of boxes used varies,” Mr Blaha said.
“With the salt bags in the purse-seine fleet, it is complicated by cultural variations in the ways people operate, for example in how the brine is prepared or how much you reuse the brine, or if you flood wells for unloading.
“With crew waste, we look at crew-generated plastics: food wraps, cups, water bottles. The totals depend on the number of crew, not just on the gear on the vessels,” he said.
Volumes were less difficult to calculate when vessels came into ports than if they stayed on the high seas, although there were still many variables to consider.
“It’s way more complex that we ever thought it would be – and we knew it would be complex,” Mr Blaha said.
“This study is the first step. This is an area that is only going to grow. It needs to be fine-tuned in the future. But for this step, we wanted to make sure that whoever reads this knows we considered as much as we can for the estimates, that this is not a back-of-the-envelope estimate.
“How any recommendations can be enforced is always the big question in anything related to fisheries.”
One way to verify compliance with CMM 2017-04 might be to strengthen the capture of marine pollution data using the electronic monitoring cameras on board that are increasingly being used on fishing vessels to help monitor compliance with other fishing rules.
The team was also exploring an idea that visitors to national parks in countries such as New Zealand and Australia are familiar with: that you take out with you what you brought in.
“If the carriers bring the bait, bring the salt bags, they can take them away again, as carriers may have incinerators on board, or at least more space. We are also exploring the idea of bonds: they get their bond money back when they show that the rubbish has gone back with them,” Mr Blaha said.
HONIARA – In recent times, communities in the Western Province of Solomon Islands have seen a drastic decrease in fish numbers in their common fishing grounds.
Two coastal communities that rely on the ocean for survival are Nusa Baruku, on Gizo Island, and Babanga, which is located on a beautiful, small, sand-banked island that lies 2 km east of the provincial capital, Gizo.
Unlike the overpopulated Nusa Baruku community, Babanga has a population of no more than a thousand people. Initially predominantly I-Kiribati, this community is gradually become a melting pot of race and culture in peaceful coexistence.
Increasing demand fuels overfishing of reefs
Just like every other Pacific island state, fish and other marine resources are an important commodity for people, who rely on them for income generation.
In Nusa Baruku, where fish is harvested every day, and this and an growing population and marine pollution mean the resources are on the edge of overexploitation. These three things threaten the coral reefs and their biodiversity, and now people have to go out far to fish for food and income.
According to Ms Eva, a fish vendor and fisher from Nusa Baruku village, the consistent use of unselective fishing methods has damaged the reefs. Eva has sold fish at the Gizo Market for more than 20 years. Over this time, she has seen the changes that are happening to the marine resources of her village.
“Growing up in the Baruku area, I saw the changes that are happening which resulted in the depletion of our marine resources. From time to time, these changes become challenges, as we no longer experience fishing like before, when it was easy and plentiful,” Ms Eva said.
Due to improper management of the resources they have, Eva said that, sometimes, they had to travel outside the islands to fish.
“Nowadays, it is not easy for us to fish in our familiar fishing grounds because of overfishing with the growing population in our community. Besides, marine pollution is contributing to the scarcity of our marine resources, not only the fish but also other seafood we normally consume,” she said.
Eva said she has been fishing for most of her life on the nearby reefs and had seen the changes happening over time in the ecosystem.
Pollution is playing a significant role in the damage of the ecosystem. The main sources are run-off from rivers; the spilling of hazardous substances such as oil and petroleum from vessels and small boats with outboard motors; and also human waste such as plastics, ghost traps, and lost nets, monofilament and lines. Once damaged, the coral reefs can take a very long time to recover.
At the Babanga community, a similar concern has been raised. Fishing has been regarded as one of the main income-generating activities on the island. There is limited arable land and water for growing root crops and vegetables, and they rely heavily on sea resources to meet daily basic needs.
In comparison, on large islands, copra and cocoa are the top seeds and contribute to incomes.
Babanga islanders expressed concerns over the lack of sustainable income-generating projects to support the rapidly increasing population.
”It is a cause for concern, given multiple challenges imposed on family livelihoods and community incapacity to contain associated socio-economic issues,” the islanders said.
Communities call for sustainable fishing project
With the increasing problems of reef exploitation in both communities, village fishers are calling on authorities to provide project support so they can make the harvest of marine resources, especially depleting fish stocks, sustainable.
A group of fishers from Babanga said one option was to ask the provincial and national government through the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) to step in and provide much-needed support in conservation management.
“Our only means of survival is to continue fishing, as there are no other income-generating activities available that one can make fast money just as how fish trading does,” one fisher said.
“If the provincial government and national fisheries ministry have available funding to assist us, we are willing to cooperate to save our decreasing fish stocks.”
The people of Nusa Baruku are pleading for conservation support to help them manage their resources before it is too late. As time passes, the increase of population makes it more difficult to manage their resources, because people go out to fish every day.
According to fisher and vendor Eva, one reef is normally be fished over five times a day.
“Now, it worries me to know that there will be no good place to fish in the near future, and it will be more difficult for the generation to come,” she stated.
Other villagers also raised concerns about the need for the whole community to understand their marine ecosystem so everyone could help protect it. However, in order for this to happen, they needed support from the fisheries and other NGOs to help them tackle these issues.
Lack of provincial government support clarified
In an exclusive interview, a fisheries officer working for the Western Provincial Government revealed that there were ongoing problems in the provincial government and that these had contributed to the failure of some proposed fisheries projects.
“Lately, we haven’t been able to fulfill some of the projects we planned,” said the officer, who wishes to speak in anonymity.
“Most of those projects were supposed to be funded by the provincial government under the provincial financial budget. MFMR is also helping us with infrastructure support such as building provincial fisheries centres, storages and other project assistances.”
The officer said that, although his office understood that local fishers wanted project support, it was reluctant because support had been used wrongly in the past.
“For example, recently, there was a program from the Ministry of Fisheries where people could apply for assistance like outboard motors, ice-cooler freezers and other fisheries aspects of support.
“We later found out that some of these people were taking such an opportunity for granted. They ended up selling their property to other people,” he said.
As a result, the MFMR had shut down project assistance. The ministry had transferred the assistance scheme to the Constituency offices to take care of.
“The new arrangement now allows rural fishermen to apply for fishing projects through their Constituency offices instead of requesting assistance from the provincial fisheries office. So, it is clear that all the funding for all fisheries programs and projects are directly received by their constituency,” the officer said.
The officer urged the people of Babanga and Nusa Baruku to seek help to their from their Member of Parliament.
WWF support takes pressure off reefs
The provincial fisheries office is now receiving support from non-government organisations that operate in the Western Province. One of these is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The Gizo WWF fisheries officer, Ms Dafisha Aleziru, said the organisation was providing support to communities through micro-finance for women and conservation management with the construction and deployment of FADs.
WWF has already been working with four communities in the province in the micro-finance and marine resources management support. The communities are Saeragi in west Gizo, Varu and Nusa Tuva in Kolombangara Islands, and at Riguru in Simbo.
Ms Aleziru said, “The micro-finance initiative is to help women in these communities to look at other income-generating opportunities, rather than stressing the reefs with fishing activities. Similar to the micro-finance support, the idea to deploy FADs is to ensure that the management of all sea resources is under control.”
With the growing demand of financial and conservation management support from coastal villages, the organisation is looking to also support communities in Vela la Vella and Rannonga this year. But there is a process for communities to follow, in order to qualify for any assistance from WWF, though the office is open for the public and is on standby to help anyone who is interested.
“The first step is to write an application letter to the office and we will arrange a time to meet with the community. At the same time, upon receiving the letter, we will be doing an assessment at the community along with the proposed site,” Ms Aleziru said.
WWF conservation officer Mr Piokera Holland said, “Conservation is not an overnight job, as it takes patience and hard work before we can experience its benefits. People really need to understand how important conservation is and why it is vital for our marine resources and biodiversity.”
He said WWF had faced some challenges in setting up support. The main one was, when working with communities, ensuring the rights over and ownership of the proposed area.
”This is common in all the communities WWF has worked with. Sometimes the management plan was already given, but then some people will come forward and claim that the same area is also theirs,” Mr Holland explained.
He said WWF had not received any requests for help from Babanga or Nusa Baruku. However, the organisation was open for a dialogue, should the communities need assistance to conserve their marine resources for future generations.