Japan has pledged US$3.6 million in aid to strengthen Palau’s maritime security and fisheries.
Last month in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met President Tommy Remengesau Jr. and reiterated Japan’s continued cooperation with Palau for a“free-and-open Indo Pacific”, including maritime security and connectivity.
Both leaders attended the signing ceremony on grant aid, which includes the provision of motorboats and floating markers as assistance towards the fields of maritime security and fishery.
During the visit both leaders also confirmed their continued cooperating on the recovery of the remains of the war dead, the stable operation of the Japanese fishing vessels, and people-to-people exchanges including those of young generations.
Japan has a pending request with Palau to allow small scale fishermen from Okinawa to fish in Palau’s waters, even after the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) in 2020.
Remengesau, however, said the fishing should occur in the Domestic Fishing Zone which encompasses 85,896 square miles of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Eighty percent of the EEZ would be a “no-take zone.”
“We are not going to compromise the integrity of the PNMS,” he said. “However, we are mindful of the 20 percent domestic fishing zone, which is a big area.
During the meeting with Abe, both countries have
agreed to further discuss the request.
Japan is one of Palau’s closest allies with millions of aid provided to the country to build roads, infrastructure and recently a new patrol boat to help police Palau’s EEZ.
Japan has also pledged support to Palau’s hosting of the Our Oceans Conference in 2020.
Under the PNMS law, a dedicated 20 percent of the EEZ will be accessible
to domestic fishing fleets. But the domestic fishing zone will be reserved
for local fishermen and prohibit exports
The law also requires that any fish caught in the domestic fishing zone should be offloaded in Palau.
Currently the fishermen from Okinawa conduct fishing outside the domestic area, which will be closed to commercial fishing when the PNMS law takes effect by January 1, 2020.
Taiwan and Palau signed a coast guard cooperation agreement to help police the island nation’s conservation area and fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) and maritime crimes.
During the state banquet, March 22, hosted by
the Palau government for President Tsai Ing-wen and her delegation, Taiwan
announced that in line with the agreement, it is gifting the island nation with a patrol boat to help
stem maritime crime.
President Tommy Remengesau Jr. thanked Taiwan for continuing to be a “staunch partner” of Palau as it prepares to prohibit a huge part of its exclusive economic zone to commercial fishing by January 1, 2020.
“Tonight sees the handover of one of the most
visible forms of this partnership through the new patrol boat for our coast
guard. As our friends from Taiwan know all too well, as island states, securing
our ocean spaces is vital to allow our respective national projects to flourish,”
President Raynold Oilouch and Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu
signed the agreement. Foreign Minister
Wu also presented two miniature model patrol boats to Vice President Oilouch as
President Tsai praised Palau as a tourist
destination and vowed Taiwan would continue to work with the country in various
fields including marine conservation.
Tsai said Palau and Taiwan’s relationship: “show that oceans do not separate us, but bind us together.”
Under the agreement, Taiwan and Palau “agree to seek feasibility of cooperation in the following: exchange of personnel visiting; exchange of personnel for training; Maritime Search and Rescue; Fisheries Law enforcement; and cooperation in combating transnational crime;
Taiwan has also donated a total of $1 million
to the marine sanctuary fund, a pledge it made in 2015 when the legislation was
Remengesau said the new patrol boat: “will augment our marine capabilities, strengthen our security, and be a vital tool in ensuring that the Sanctuary contributes to our sustainable development.”
students currently on scholarships at the Taiwan Naval Academy would join the
patrol boat crew when it’s officially delivered, Remengesau said
Taiwanese naval patrol frigate Hsun Hu No. 7 took part in joint exercises with Palau’s
Coast Guard on March 23.
By January 1, 2020, Palau is prohibiting
all commercial fishing in 80 percent of its EEZ while 20 percent will be
designated as domestic fishing zone to improve the nation’s food security.
Fishing nations that largely conduct
commercial fishing in Palau are from Japan and Taiwan.
The Taiwan Embassy here said that presently
Taiwan has 42 fishing boats operating in Palau waters which provide an “annual contribution
to fishing related incomes in Palau exceeds USD 6.9 million.”
future operations will be affected by the coming implementation of PNMS in 2020,” it stated.
Taiwan embassy said it supports the implementation of the marine sanctuary, it
hopes to “bridge a solution that can be accepted by both the ROP Government and
Taiwan fishing operators.”
The embassy said Taiwan fishing operators wish to continue fishing in Palau waters, and “unload their catch in Palau; and Palau can continue to enjoy the economic benefits.”
The recent Pacific Community (SPC) 11th Heads of Fisheries meeting held in Noumea, New Caledonia from 11-13 March 2019 has been briefed on a large marine partnership initiative to improve economic, social and environmental benefits for Pacific states.
The PEUMP programme addresses some of the most serious challenges faced by the region such as the increasing depletion of coastal fisheries resources; threats to marine biodiversity, including negative impacts of climate change and disasters; the uneven contribution of oceanic fisheries to national economic development; the need for improved education and training in the sector; and the need to mainstream a rights-based approach and promote greater recognition of gender issues within the sector.
It focuses on six key areas targeting gaps in fisheries science; fisheries development; coastal resources and livelihoods; Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing; ecosystem-based management; biodiversity conservation; and capacity building at national and community levels.
Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation for the Pacific, Christoph Wagner reaffirmed the role of the EU as a reliable and close partner of the Pacific and said: ”The Pacific–European Union Marine Partnership Programme supports the sustainable management of fisheries, food security and blue growth in the Pacific region, in line with the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries. The oceans are a life force that sustains our planet and every person on it. Therefore it is so important to join up in the Pacific and set an example on how to manage marine resources more sustainably.”
Speaking on behalf of Sweden, Åsa Hedén, Head of Development Cooperation, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific said: “Following the New York Ocean conference co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden in 2017, Sweden presented its largest national budget for supporting environment, ocean and climate initiatives. In this commitment, we recognise the PEUMP programme as a unique intervention with its multi-sectoral approach with different stakeholders at regional, national and local levels working towards sustainable management of the Ocean. As a co-financier, we are pleased to be part of this initiative. It is evident that the PEUMP programme has taken on a serious people-centred approach to promote direct opportunities and positive changes for the people of the Pacific Islands, targeting women, men, youth and vulnerable groups.”
The SPC is leading implementation of the multi-partner programme which is working in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Vanuatu.
SPC’s Director General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said: “As the largest region on Earth and with climate change being more widely recognised as an immediate and pressing priority, the Pacific region will quickly become a hub for international climate change research and a focus for debates around conservation and resource management. The Blue Pacific narrative will ensure that our region has a leading, independent and united voice on these issues. The PEUMP partnership will provide further support to help ensure that, as stewards of the Pacific, we are working collaboratively to manage and preserve our ocean resources to ensure a sustainable future.”
Tri Marine affiliate National Fisheries Developments (NFD), Ltd., has been authorized to use the Fair Trade logo on its yellowfin and skipjack tuna sourced from the Solomon Islands, the company announced earlier this month.
Fair Trade certification was bestowed upon the Solomon Islands yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery as of 14 March. NFD’s five medium-scale purse seiners and four pole-and-line vessels that source tuna from the fishery are now permitted to use the Fair Trade logo on their catch.
The certification matches current customer interests, according to Tri Marine, which anticipates that consumers using its U.S. sales arm, the Tuna Store, “will now want to see Fair Trade Certified tuna on retail shelves.”
Fair Trade’s assessment of the fishery took more than a year, with NFD working “diligently to meet the rigorous Fair Trade standards for worker welfare and safety, as well as environmental sustainability,” Tri Marine said. The NFD Fishers Association was established during the process to ensure that the value of Fair Trade catch benefits the local communities around the Solomon Islands.
“We are proud to achieve Fair Trade certification and hope we can share the story of our fishery here in the South Pacific with customers around the world,” said Cynthia Wickham, the NFD’s pole-and-line fleet manager and local Solomon Islander, in a press release. “Fair Trade has helped our fishermen be better organized, ensure crew and stevedore safety, and improve overall community well-being.”
Neighboring cannery SolTuna was also included in the Fair Trade certification, and plans to process and pack Fair Trade-certified products from the fishery for the global marketplace. The products disseminated by SolTuna are “an important part of domestic food security in the Solomon Islands,” Tri Marine said. Key export markets reached by SolTuna include the European Union and the United States.
The new Fair Trade certification further bolsters the sustainability credentials held by both SolTuna and NFD, which are already Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified. Additional social accountability and organized worker protections are promoted by the entities’ Fair Trade status.
“We have been promoting responsible labor practices in our global tuna supply chains for years, including the application of World Bank/International Finance Corporation performance standards, and now Fair Trade standards in the Solomon Islands,” said Matt Owens, director of sustainability at Tri Marine. “Fishermen and fish processors are the backbone of our business and the economic drivers in their communities. Fair Trade certification provides an additional layer of worker benefits.”
“Tri Marine and NFD’s commitment to Fair Trade is a powerful example of responsible practices in the fishing industry,” added Julie Kuchepatov, seafood program director at Fair Trade USA. “We are proud to share the common goal of empowering Fair Trade fishermen and look forward to seeing more Fair Trade seafood available to consumers.”
Approximately 2,400 Solomon Islanders are employed by NFD and SolTuna, in effect making them the largest private sector employer in the country and an important contributor to economic growth, the companies said. Regional tuna resources are sustainably managed by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Parties to the Nauru Agreement, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
Japanese fisheries officials heard from their international counterparts about methods for incorporating more data into their fisheries science and management at a recent workshop in Tokyo.
The workshop,“New Resource Management Based on Data Innovation: Current State of the United States and Future Vision of Japan,” took place at the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries building on 7 March. The event was co-sponsored by the Fisheries Agency, the Fisheries Research and Education Organization, and the U.S.-based non-governmental organization Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
Japan’s Fisheries Reform Act, the first major reform of Japan’s fishing laws in 70 years, was approved in the Diet at the end of last year. The law will move Japan from a total allowable effort (TAE) system – in which the number, size, and period of operation of fishing boats, and the types of gear allowed, are regulated – to a total allowable catch (TAC) system with vessel quotas for most species.
In comparison with other countries, Japan has so far set a TAC for only a few species. Those include saury, Alaska pollock, sardines, mackerel, Southern mackerel, horse mackerel, squid, and snow crab – and recently for juvenile bluefin tuna. But with the reform, Japan will have to set TAC for many more species and fisheries, some of them data-poor, and also monitor and enforce the TACs. To accommodate the move, the government is planning an expansion of the country’s stock assessment system and an expansion of the use of data from fishing operations.
Masanori Miyahara, president of the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency (FRA), said under Japan’s current slow paper-based system, scientific assessments and quotas are made based on two or three-year old data. That leads to complaints from fishermen that stock assessments do not reflect what they are actually seeing when they fish. When a stock is recovering, this results in a TAC that is too low, and so it is bad for the fishermen. He also said that computerization of survey and landing data is becoming a global standard and may be required in future for sustainability certification schemes. Japan may find itself at a disadvantage in global markets if it cannot meet these standards, Miyahara said.
Guest speakers at the workshop included Dorothy Lowman and Shems Jud. Lowman is a U.S. commissioner of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), though she did not speak in that capacity at the meeting. In the past, she organized a national workshop on data modernization/electronic monitoring, and played a leadership role in the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s decision-making on groundfish. Her main activity now as part of the leadership team of the Net Gains Alliance, which is an initiative to support U.S. data modernization. Shems Jud is deputy director for the Pacific region for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), who was involved in changes to the management and data collection systems in the U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery.
Lowman explained the steps involved in setting up an electronic monitoring (EM) program, including a sample timeline, with special emphasis on involving all of the parties involved. For example, teaching some fishermen how to use the system, and then getting them to train others was effective. Lowman emphasized the benefit of not putting too much detail in the regulations, but rather referring to a vessel monitoring plan (VMP) for the details, in order to keep some flexibility.
“It takes two years to change a regulation,” while a VMP can be changed more easily, she said.
Jud reviewed the experience of the U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery, which adopted an individual transferable quota (ITQ) system in 2011. This required shipboard monitors to enforce the quota and ensure operators were not discarding bycatch. But using shipboard monitors on all vessels was expensive and problematic, Jud said. For example, if observers were unavailable, the vessel could not fish. And if an observer was scheduled and paid for, operators felt pressure go out even if conditions became dangerous. For smaller vessels, the additional person meant the loss of space for a crewmember. As a result of these problems, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to allow camera-based electronic monitoring (EM) systems in some fisheries from 2017. Under the “optimized retention” approach adopted by the council, fishermen’s logbook entries are the primary data source, and they are checked against the videos by authorized third-parties. Jud noted that due to success in rebuilding stocks, environmental groups that were previously critical of the industry are now even involved in joint marketing.
“That fishery is hard to attack now,” he said.
There has been movement toward utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) for reviewing of the footage and the Japanese would like to learn about and employ such systems. The Japanese side is also hoping to digitize stock assessment data, such as having fishermen enter the catch on a tablet computer on the trip to shore instead of a paper based system that is slowly compiled and assessed. The goal is to use electronic reporting (ER) to get stock assessments that reflect real-time conditions.
The panelists in the workshop faced audience questions over concerns regarding the confidentiality of data, since fishermen like to keep their favorite spots a secret. Additionally, there were many questions for Lowman from the Japanese side about who owns and has access to the data, especially from vessel monitoring systems (VMS) that show vessel movements.
As the average age of Japanese fishermen is over 60, many questioned whether they could master the input of catch data by tablet computers, due to the fact that many older Japanese have low computer literacy. Everyone had a laugh when a video that was to be played at the workshop could not be made to run due to technical issues. Complicated modern technology was blamed.
I say “we” because there are 4 of us; Sam Lawni (Deputy Director), Laurence Edwards (Legal Counsel) and Beau Bigler (Fishery Officer) and myself as an Offshore Fisheries Advisor. I was quite keen for all of us to come to this GFETW as conference only happens every two or three years. It was organised by the International Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) Network to improve and enhance the capacity and communications of MCS practitioners around the world. The fact that we are in Bangkok made it more special.
While a lot of effort has been focused on the control of transhipments at sea, transhipments from fishing vessels to refrigerated carriers in port are a vital element in the Pacific tuna fishery and a daily occurrence for us. Thailand is the biggest tuna processing country in the world, and I’d say that half of the transhipments we authorise in Majuro will be arriving here to be processed; we call it the “tuna highway”.
From the “transhipment port” perspective, PSM best practices require the port to take a series of steps prior to authorising port use for transhipment, including: a standardised and integrated process of advance notice and arrival fishing vessel intelligence-based risk analysis using available remote sensing capacities, a transhipment authorization protocol, the estimation of volumes transhipped, and the departure clearance of the carriers with full traceability of fish on board and hatch plan totals.
From the receiving port perspective, as is the case in Bangkok, it must be considered that the fish on board the carriers have “not been previously landed”. Thailand’s Department of Fisheries (DoF) under the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) principles has to evaluate compliance on the legality of the catches of each of the fishing vessels being transported on the carrier, plus the volumes on departure from the last transhipment port. This is to assess the possibility that the carrier would have received fish on board since the last declared port departure. As in many other cases worldwide, the processing states do not have access to all the compliance tools used by the flag states of the fishing vessels, and perhaps most importantly the coastal states where those catches were taken. Having a direct link of collaboration with the regional port states where those vessels transhipped initially facilitate the fulfilment of their obligations under PSMA.
On the other side, only on receiving the fish at the processing plants in Thailand are the verified weights per species per vessels known. Before this, volumes and species composition are based on estimates from the logsheets and observers/monitors estimations. In fact, a 2017 FFA study on the quantification of IUU for the region identified underreporting of catches as the region’s biggest threat in terms of IUU. Yet Thailand’s DoF as part of their e-Traceability program collects all the “weigh in” values of the fish originating on each fishing vessels inside every arriving carrier. This verified information available in Thailand is vital to further understanding the magnitude of the underreporting problem in the Pacific.
Based on the understanding of this reality, the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA), as the fisheries body of the most important transhipment port in the Pacific (>400 a year), approached Thailand’s Department of Fisheries to establish an MoU for cooperation and exchange of information of common interest and mutual benefit.
The MoU, signed on 22 February, is the result of over a year-long engagement I have been fostering between these 2 countries I work substantially with. Both sides identified that reciprocal exchange of fisheries data was an area of critical importance that would require mutual collaboration between key players. In this case, the Marshall Islands (Majuro) being arguably the busiest transhipment port in the world and Thailand (Bangkok) as the largest tuna processing and port State.
With the signing of the MoU, the Marshall Islands, through MIMRA, will now be able to receive verified weights of tuna catches that are transshipped in Majuro and offloaded in Bangkok from Thai fisheries inspection officers on a regular basis.
In essence, this will enable officers on both sides to trace the catch both ways to ensure its legality throughout the entire chain of custody, thereby preventing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. This verified information is vital to further understand the magnitude of the catch underreporting problem in the region.
The MoU is in line with the Marshall Islands IUU-Free Pacific initiative as declared by H.E. Madam President Dr. Hilda C. Heine last year. Having this direct link of collaboration with a key player like Thailand further facilitates the fulfilment of obligations under the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which the Marshall Islands, through MIMRA, is currently considering signing and ratifying in the near future.
At a personal level it has been a huge 10 days as I facilitated a workshop for PEW and WWF full of people I admire, then presented at global fisheries MCS workshop on what are we doing in the Marshall Islands , and realise that I’m a consultant to both the gold (Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency) and silver (ThaiDoF/OceanMind) winners of the stop IUU awards! and then facilitating the Marshalls-Thailand MoU.
Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. is not shutting down the request from the Japanese government to allow small scale fishermen from Okinawa to fish in Palau’s waters even after the implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) beyond 2020.
However, Remengesau said fishing should occur in the Domestic Fishing Zone which encompasses 85,896 square miles of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with 80 percent of the EEZ a “no-take zone.”
“We are not going to compromise the integrity of the PNMS,” He said. “We are however mindful of the 20 per cent domestic fishing zone, which is a big area.”
Japan is one of Palau’s closest ally with millions of aid provided to the country to build roads, infrastructure and recently a new patrol boat to help police Palau’s EEZ.
Japan has also pledged support for Palau’s hosting of the Our Oceans Conference in 2020.
Under the PNMS law, a dedicated 20 per cent of the EEZ will be accessible to domestic fishing fleets. But the domestic fishing zone will be reserved for local fishermen and will prohibit exports. The law also required that any fish caught in the domestic fishing zone should be offloaded in Palau.
Currently, the fishermen from Okinawa conduct fishing outside the 20 per cent Domestic Fishing Zone.
However, Remengesau is keen to accommodate the fishermen alluding to the possibility of amendments to the PNMS law specifically about the provision that requires that all catches should be offloaded in Palau.
“It’s about the livelihood of their people, its not a commercial operation; the question is can we do a win win situation? I think we can,” he told reporters. Japan also has the backing of the Senate which recently passed a joint resolution supporting the wishes of the small-scale fishermen .
Senate Joint Resolution 10-45 supports the Government of Japan’s request to allow vessels to continue its commercial fishing operation.
The Senate Committee on Resources, Commerce, Trade and Development stated in its report that Japan has assisted Palau in various infrastructure development and capacity building and that it should “reciprocate” by allowing some “fishing rights.”
There is also a move from the Palau Senate to delay Remengesau’s signature policy. Sen. Frank Kyota, chair of the Senate Committee said in an interview that his panel and several other senators will endorse the bill that seeks a delay of the PNMS implementation to 2025 instead of 2020
Kyota said extending the wind-down period would allow the country to recover from the tourism slump and increase revenues from the Pristine Paradise Environmental Fee (PPEF). The fee is collected from visitors to Palau.
A portion of the fee would go to the PNMS fund to support the implementation of the law.
But despite the tourism slowdown, Remengesau said it would hardly affect revenues it collects from foreign fishing licenses.
Remengesau said revenues that will be earned from the PPEF and the benefits to Palau from the Parties of Nauru Agreement’s (PNA) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) are bigger than the income it could earn from licensing of commercial fishing in Palau.
“So it’s not so much an emergency impact if there will be no fishing because the money we receive from licensing is a small amount compared to what we get from PPEF and also from what we receive from PNA,” Remengesau told reporters at apress conference .
Based on the Ministry of Finance Financial report for the fourth quarter of 2018, Palau earned $8.4 million from fishing days under the PNA’s VDS while it earned only $767,417 from fish exports. Revenues collected from PPEF amounted to $1,034,775.
Enacted in October 2015, the law set aside 500,000 square kilometers or 80 per cent of its maritime waters for full protection with the rest set aside as domestic fishing zone.
With less than a year before it is implemented, the President vowed to reject any attempt to delay the policy.
However, Kyota said the Senate wants to pass the bill to generate discussions on how the tourism numbers will impact the PNMS funding mechanism.
Kyota said the Senate is not “destroying the PNMS,” with their push to delay the implementation but extending the wind-down period to give Palau time to recover from the tourism slump.
He noted that although he expects that the President will reject the bill, the Senate wants to be on record that it has tried to save the PNMS from losing revenues due to the tourism slowdown.
In a January 11 letter to the Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism Minister, Umiich Sengebau, Kyota’s committee raised concerns that revenues from the VDS will decrease as well when the PNMS is fully implemented.
The committee said “since our economic frailty is an urgent matter,” the Senate needs to act on the proposed bill expeditiously.
Sengebau in response to the committee’s concerns said there are locally-based fishing companies that are looking into the options of maintaining operations beyond the full implementation of the PNMS, such as fishing outside of Palau’s waters or at the high seas and offloading their catch here.
The Minister also clarified that Palau can continue to earn money from the VDS through directly selling its vessel days directly to companies and any surplus days can be traded to another PNA member country.
The VDS sets an overall Total Allowable Effort (TAE) limit on the number of days fishing vessels can be licensed to fish in PNA Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) per year. Each country is allocated a share of the TAE for use in its zone each year.
These VDS days can be traded between countries in cases where a country has used up all its days while another has spare days.
The minimum benchmark for a vessel day fee for purse seiners is at $8,000.
The head of the Parties to Nauru Agreement says the safety of Pacific fisheries observers working on foreign vessels must be improved.
Over the past year a number of observers have been lost at sea and Ludwig Kumoru said more needed to be done to keep them safe.
Mr Kumoru said industry leaders agreed at a recent meeting to look at protecting observers and crews better.
“For the PNA, we have lost a couple of observers – PNG, Kiribati. One thing that we have done now under FFA is to push this thing for observer safe – what is the responsibility of the fishing boats when it comes to the welfare of the observer.
“When they are on the boat or when they get off – the countries. What is their responsibility to the observer? How are they going to be paid if something goes wrong with these observers.”
Last year East Sepik Governor Allan Bird told the Papua New Guinea Parliament that 18 local observers had disappeared at sea without a trace.
He called on the government to look into the cases because the men’s families deserved to know what happened to their loved ones.
PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services) — During a recent cabinet meeting in Palikir, President Peter M. Christian ordered an official review of current FSM tuna fishing policy and practices, as a component of ongoing internal tuna fisheries development policy review.
He expressed particular concern that concessions may have been granted without tangible proof of full performance by the concession grantee of agreed business investments and the delivery of benefits to the FSM and its people. Officials were instructed to ensure a proper and fair balance between maximizing revenues from licensing foreign fishing boats and promoting greater national participation in on-shore services and investment.
President Christian was explicit: the FSM government must not grant concessions until fishing investors and operators can demonstrate genuine on-shore business investments and tangible results that show an overall net gain to FSM’s economy and the well-being of its people and communities.
He called for more robust enforcement of concession trade-offs to be established by 2020.
“Genuine investors and partners should have no fear about a tightening up of FSM policies and practices,” President Christian said. “They will understand that delivering genuine and equitable two-way benefits provide the best assurance of long-term business viability and the sustainability of the tuna resource.”
While the first 12 nautical miles from land is considered territorial waters — i.e., the surface water and everything below is officially part of the country it’s near — an Exclusive Economic Zone is the sea zone stretching 200 nautical miles from the coast. While the surface water is considered international (i.e. ships can travel through it) everything below the water, including its fish, is for that country’s use. The value of tuna fishing access in the FSM’s EEZ has grown steadily since 2007, resulting from the implementation of the Vessel Day Scheme by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement and the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission fishing effort restrictions. The FSM is poised to benefit significantly from restructuring and transforming its tuna fishery from foreign-based fishing operations to domestically-based fisheries.
The FSM, like most other Pacific Island Countries, has granted fishing fee concessions, or discounts, to fishing companies that are nationally owned or based in the FSM. Since 1987 the FSM has provided incentives to help offset initial high establishment costs that companies might face in order to invest in or transfer their operations to FSM. This concession policy was based on the understanding that those investments and activities would generate clear and tangible socio-economic benefits to the FSM economy and community, within an agreed timeframe, that would offset the fishing access revenues given up by the government when it grants the concessions.
The FSM’s fishing industry has grown from just two fishing companies with five purse seiners to 23 purse seiners in 2019. The growth is primarily attributed to the practice of granting concessionary VDS rates for domestic-basing that creates jobs for FSM citizens and enables the FSM’s full participation in the fishery and its development. FSM’s goal is to maximize the contribution of the fishery industry toward socio-economic development of the FSM and maximizing benefits to the resource owners (the people of the FSM). With larger values at stake in the fishery, the FSM government is reviewing and tightening up its investment and fishing access concession policies to ensure that they achieve the level of benefits that they seek within its national development aspirations.
FSM government officials emphasize the importance of full compliance by fishing concession holders to prove, as much as possible, the level of benefits they had promised to deliver in return for the concessions they have received.
The National Oceanic Resource Management Authority, its Executive Director Eugene Pangelinan said, “will implement robust monitoring of concessions to inform annual FSM VDS allocations to its fishing industry as called for by the president.”
PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services) — The Federated States of Micronesia, relies heavily on fish for cultural, nutritional, and economical reasons.
While the FSM has taken the lead in many areas when it comes to simultaneously maximizing revenue, protecting the environment, and ensuring the sustainability of our fish populations — such as the Technology for Tuna Transparency or T-3 Challenge initiated by FSM President Peter M. Christian at the fifth Our Oceans Conference in October 2018 — there’s still much our country can do to improve.
It was with this in mind that, on Jan. 23 2019, representatives of the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority, Pohnpei State’s Department of Public Safety’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, National Fisheries Corporation, Caroline Fisheries Corporation, Diving Seagull, and Dongwon Industries, attended an International Seafood Sustainability Foundation workshop on biodegradable fish aggregation devices or FADs.
The workshop’s goals included educating the fishing sector on new regulations from the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission on FADs, producing buy-in on how the sector can use biodegradable FADs, and scientific projects in our part of the Pacific.
Citizens unfamiliar with FADs (Micronesians frequently call them “payao”) may appreciate the definition from ISSF: FADs are “man-made floating objects specifically designed to encourage fish aggregation at the device. They can be anchored to the ocean floor or set to drift in the open ocean.”
Aggregation means putting together, so a FAD essentially attracts lots of fish together.
Historically FADs are useful insofar as they can gather lots of fish together in one place, but in recent decades FADs have been made of synthetic materials (like nylon) and they have relatively negative publicity from being associated with problems such as bycatch (i.e. when you’re looking for tuna but you accidentally get sharks and turtles instead), reef damage, and overfishing.
The discussions in the morning focused on the history of FADs and their relationship with countries and fisheries, including in the FSM.
Standout observations included multiple local fisheries advising that approximately 80 percent of their FADs are variously lost, stolen, or drift beyond the legal boundaries of their fishing area —and worldwide approximately 10 percent of all ocean pollution is from lost fishing gear, and 640,000 tons of fishing gear end up in the sea every year (including FADs).
FSM citizens will recall that the aforementioned T-3 Challenge that NORMA and The Nature Conservancy are implementing intends to use electronic monitoring to quash the overfishing problem, and in conjunction with fishing fleets using biodegradable FADs ideally ocean pollution and bycatch issues from entanglement (i.e. when a fish gets stuck in a net) will become less pronounced.
Matthew Chigiyal, assistant director of NORMA, advised that “It’s…in your interest that there is some authority to see what is happening with your FAD…register your FAD per NORMA’s requirement.”
ISSF has been conducting numerous experiments in the past several years in countries such as Ghana (in Western Africa) and the Maldives (an island nation in the Indian Ocean) with biodegradable FADs, and has determined that natural materials like raw twisted cotton perform similarly to contemporary synthetic materials like nylon. (Banana fiber is also potentially useful, though there isn’t presently the industrialization necessary to support its use in large-scale development of FADs).
By the end of the discussions in the afternoon, NORMA, the local fishing companies, and ISSF were discussing what a long-term scientific project in the Western Pacific might look like.
The countries in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, where more than 90 percent of purse seine fishing occurs, are developing a biodegradable and non-entangling program to reduce the adverse impacts of non-biodegradable materials, as well as the destruction, loss, or abandonment of fishing gear.
The FSM government is dedicated to protecting its ocean resources while simultaneously maximizing their use for the development and well-being of our people. Partnerships between the public sector (i.e. NORMA) and private sector (e.g. CFC, NFC, Diving Seagull) augmented with support from scientific leaders (i.e. ISSF) will help ensure a positive future for both our fish as well as the citizens of the FSM.