Pacific fisheries officials plan for sustainable and profitable longline fisheries

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Fisheries Managers from across the Pacific met in Honiara last week to discuss strategies for ensuring sustainable and profitable longline fisheries in the Pacific.

Although scientists currently rate the southern longline fishery, primarily targeting southern albacore tuna, as biologically sustainable with no overfishing, there is concern about the economic viability of this fishery.

This fishery is currently affected by poor economic conditions, due to the relatively low value of the fish, the relatively high costs of Pacific island based fishing operations, and declining catch rates. This is of concern given that many Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) have domestic longline fisheries.

Low profitability is also an issue in the tropical longline fishery, which limits the economic benefits that Pacific island coastal States can get from their longline resources.

Last week’s workshop, facilitated by Alice McDonald, consultant at NRE People, sought to explore the issues facing longline fisheries, and develop some strategies for overcoming these issues.

Fisheries Managers worked together to explore and develop strategies for overcoming the issues facing longline fisheries. Image: Jenni Metcalfe

The Oceanic Fisheries Management project (OFMP2) supported the workshop, which aims to have a regional longline strategy ready to present to the Forum Fisheries Committee in July next year.

Participants in the workshop identified the following key objectives:

  • Avoiding a collapse in the target tuna fish stocks
  • Ensuring economic sustainability – employment and livelihoods
  • Minimising environmental impacts
  • Respecting human rights, including safety of observers on boats
  • Improving monitoring, surveillance and compliance, especially given the uncertainty of data about Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated (IUU) fishing

A MRAG study into longline fishing of tropical tuna species indicates that the two biggest IUU risks are from misreporting or non-reporting of catches (49%), followed by post harvest activities (39%), including illegal transhipment of fish at sea. Only about 3% of IUU is likely due to unauthorised or illegal fishing.

Derek Ta’uika Tagosia, e-Reporting and Monitoring Coordinator for the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources, reported on the success of their e-reporting, now installed and operational on over 100 locally based fishing vessels.

“Electronic reporting is entering and sending of catch and other data from the vessel to the office via satellite devices,” he said. “Before that we were using manual reporting where a log sheet is handed out to the captains and they fill it in manually using pens or pencils and we found a lot of challenges – handwriting is not clear, some missing fields, some missing pages, some using dialects.

“One of the biggest problems we had with manual logsheets was the delay in receiving those logsheets; we received them weeks late, or even months. But moving into e-reporting we managed to receive those logsheets – in just a click of a button.

“You can have the catch record for that day and the data for that catch, for that day.”

Experiences with longline fisheries in Samoa and Papua New Guinea were also presented, providing an opportunity for participants to share lessons learnt from successful initiatives and discuss strategies to overcome persisting challenges.

Fisheries Managers shared lessons learnt from successful initiatives and discussed strategies to overcome persisting challenges.
Photo: Jenni Metcalfe

The workshop group listed the most urgent actions they thought needed to be taken in the regions longline fisheries including:

  • Strengthening MCS for longline fisheries, including increased implementation of electronic reporting and electronic monitoring
  • Promoting zone-based management
  • Locking in high seas allocations
  • Tightening transhipment measures, especially in the high seas
  • Specifying sovereign fishing rights
  • Gaining agreement on target reference points
  • Working towards a harvest strategy that recognises existing zone-based management measures
  • Developing management approaches that increase economic revenue and benefits
  • Understanding the stocks and linking scientific research to Monitoring, Compliance and Surveillance (MCS) needs
  • Defining and protecting maritime boundaries and baselines
  • Getting stronger agreement about crew welfare, perhaps through a Resolution at the next Tuna Commission (WCPFC) meeting in December.

Chair of the meeting, FFA’s Deputy Director General, Matt Hooper said that resource owners, the PICTs, were currently paying for most of the costs of managing the longline fishery but were not enjoying a share of the economic returns.

“We need to look at ways to improve the economic rents from tuna fisheries, and if we are successful in that endeavour we may be in a position to recoup some of the management costs from industry.”

Pacific countries congratulate OFMP2 on progress & support extension to 2020

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Honiara, 1 November 2018

“Our Territory, being part of New Zealand, does not usually directly benefit from international funding, but this region-wide initiative has really benefited us,” said  the member from Tokelau speaking about the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) at its Steering Committee today.

“We have benefited over the past 12 months from MSC [Marine Stewardship Council] certification of our free school purse seine fishery, and by participating in workshops establishing the rights of SIDS [Small Island Developing States] on the high seas. There’s been a lot of work done and we are very appreciative of GEF funding.

Tokelau’s sentiments were echoed by delegates from Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Marshall islands and Niue, who also mentioned workshops, training, funding of observers, and the Catch Documentation Scheme as benefits of the project.

Project Coordinator, Hugh Walton, told the Committee that there were funds available to extend the Project for another 18 months beyond the finish of the project in June next year until December 2020.  He said such an extension would expand climate change work and increase funding of knowledge management activities.

The members of the Steering Committee warmly endorsed the proposed extension.

The delegate from the Federated States of Micronesia said it was very complex to to try and implement all the programs, and although the project had achieved many of the goals there was still more that could be achieved.

A few members also mentioned the importance of further climate change research, especially at the national level.

The delegate for Tokelau said: “This project has produced a lot of very good information. It would be good if the project could focus more on national information, especially on climate change. We are very concerned about climate change. We would like a bigger investment in this so we can make important policy decisions. Some of these decisions may mean transferring half our population to another country and the loss of a whole culture.”

Deputy Director General of FFA, Matt Hooper, who was chairing the meeting thanked everyone for their comments and said: “We will be taking this request for extension to UNDP and FAO as soon as possible.”

Hugh Walton (right) OFMP2 FFA Coordinator talks to the Project Steering Committee. Left: FFA’s DDG, Matt Hooper. Centre: FFA Finance & Administration Officer, Sireta Laore