Coastal fisheries are vitally important in the Pacific with most people dependent on them for food and income, but they’re under threat.
While populations have been growing fish stocks have dramatically declined in all the valuable commercial coastal fisheries.
An advisor with the Locally Managed Marine Area Network, Hugh Govan, says this is of great concern given that it is healthy, locally available food and without it there will be negative impacts on health and incomes and an increased dependency on imported food.
This week the council of the Forum Fisheries Agency is to meet in the Federated States of Micronesia and Mr Govan says the Coastal Fisheries Working Group, of which he is part, is appealing to them to focus on the threatened coastal fishery.
He told Don Wiseman they want help fostering transparency and greater investment in coastal fisheries management.
Addressing issues that aren’t exclusively fisheries-related might help a nation lower the risk of having illegally caught fish pass through its ports.
Photo: The Pew Charitable Trusts/Danita Delimont, Getty Images
One of the biggest threats to ocean health is illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which accounts for up to 1 in 5 wild-caught fish. IUU fishing imperils the sustainability of the world’s fisheries and the resilience of marine ecosystems, and harms the economies of coastal nations that depend on healthy fish populations.
While catching every illegal fisher would be a monumental task, there are numerous other ways to combat this destructive activity. Almost all commercially sold fish must come through a port en route to market. And that makes port State measures—a term for port controls on foreign-flagged fishing and related vessels—a critical part of the solution to IUU fishing.
Numerous governments, international bodies, and nongovernmental organizations have been working for years to implement the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA)—the first legally binding international agreement specifically targeting IUU fishing—which came into force in 2016. But in most cases, those various parties don’t have full knowledge of how States manage their ports, their exposure to illegally caught fish, and their progress in combating the problem. Greater awareness of those efforts and issues across governments and organizations could lead to policy and procedure adjustments that would help prevent illicit catch from entering port.
To better understand which port States are most at risk of having IUU-caught fish pass through their ports, The Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned a peer-reviewed study to gauge that likelihood and determine whether the State has taken certain actions—such as becoming a party to the PSMA or complying with conservation and management measures within regional fisheries management organizations—to keep IUU vessels from entering port or using port services. The study also looks at global vessel traffic to identify the busiest fishing ports around the world.
The study, “Any Port in a Storm: Vessel Activity and the Risk of IUU-Caught Fish Passing Through the World’s Most Important Fishing Ports,” published in the Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics last week.
The results show that, in most cases, countries with high income levels and low perceived corruption face a lower risk of IUU-caught fish passing through their ports—demonstrating how addressing issues that are not strictly fisheries-related could improve a State’s ability to effectively mitigate IUU risk. The research also found that every region harbors weak and strong performers, and States that improve governance face less risk from foreign vessels attempting to land or transship illegal catch in port. The study considers publicly available information and does not attempt to measure IUU activity in specific ports or countries but suggests where more effective implementation of the PSMA would have the greatest impact.
Last week, around the second annual international day dedicated to the fight against IUU fishing, 61 countries met for the Second Meeting of the Parties to the PSMA in Santiago, Chile, to discuss the developments in implementation of the agreement and how best to close their ports to high-risk vessels.
Governments around the world have much work to do to translate PSMA requirements into national practice; they can take tangible steps now—starting with designating ports for use by foreign-flagged vessels and making information about port State measures publicly available—to help reduce this illicit activity.
Photo of the proposed area of the new domestic fishing zone of Palau. Photo courtesy of Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC).
Proposed amendments to the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act (PNMS) to lift the export ban on pelagic fish and create a corridor to the high seas as the new boundary for the 20 percent Domestic Fishing Zone (DFZ) will be signed into law today (June 12).
The bill seeks to allow commercial exports of fish within the DFZ
for its economic “vital revenue” from foreign fishing license fees and for
Palau to also earn revenue from fish caught inside and exported from the
domestic fishing zone.
It will also allow fish caught with long-line fishing to be
exported commercially. In the current PNMS law, the DFZ only allows exports of
fish caught by free school purse-seining.
The amendments also redefined the new boundaries of the domestic
fishing zone have been reoriented splitting the adjacent 80% of the PNMS and
allowing a corridor extending into the high seas.
The high seas corridor, the lawmakers said will allow local
fishermen to have access to the fish.
The corridor – boundaries start at 24-miles from the baseline
where the exclusive economic zone is measured and encircles Ngeruangel,
Kayangel, Babeldaob, Koror, Peleliu, Angaur and stretches outward from points
to the north of Ngeruangel and the south of Angaur into the high seas in the
The bill further proposes to allow long-line fishing activity
within the domestic fishing zone.
Senate Bill No. 10-157, SD1 has been transmitted to the House of
Delegates after the Senate approval on June 3.
Expedited approval by the House of Delegates, and hence OEK
passage, is expected as the amendments were the result of consultations between
the president’s office and both OEK houses.
The lawmakers are seeking to allow commercial exports of fish
within the DFZ for its economic “vital revenue” from foreign fishing license
fees and for Palau to also earn revenue from fish caught inside and exported
from the domestic fishing zone.
It will allow fish caught with long-line fishing to be exported
commercially. Currently, the domestic fishing zone allows exports only on free
The new boundaries of the domestic fishing zone have been
reoriented splitting the contiguous 80% of the PNMS no-take zone and allowing a
corridor extending into the high seas. The corridor – boundaries start at 24-miles
from the baseline where the exclusive economic zone is measured and encircles
Ngeruangel, Kayangel, Babeldaob, Koror, Peleliu, Angaur and stretches outward
from points to the north of Ngeruangel and the south of Angaur into the high
seas in the west.
The 80 percent of Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will still
be a no-take zone but the designated domestic fishing zone will not be
economically viable if it prohibits exports of the fish caught in the area.
The 24-mile baseline, meanwhile it will also allow the
pole-and-line fishing operations to fish much closer to home instead of moving
beyond the 50-mile radius.
The government said the amendments also in consultation with Japan
who has made a request on behalf of small scale fishermen from Okinawa who
traditionally fish down south into Palau’s exclusive economic zones.
All fish caught in the zone will have to be landed on Palau, but
the fisheries minister can give exemptions to landing obligations.
The expected changes to the law are being introduced before the PNMS takes effect on January 1, 2020.
Tokelau and the Parties to the Nauru
Agreement (PNA) member countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at
last week’s meeting of PNA Ministers in Palau that allows the South Pacific
territory to join the FSM Arrangement(FSMA), an agreement which allows parties
domestic vessels who are licensed under the arrangement, to access the fishing resources of other
Tokelau is the latest participants, joining other signatories (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands).
Under the MOU, a framework for the
participation of Tokelau in the FSMA will be established. The arrangement also
enables holders of Regional Access Licenses under the FSMA to fish in Tokelau’s
exclusive economic zone and it also ensures license holders fishing in Tokelau
fisheries waters complies with applicable national laws of Tokelau.
Tokelau will allow all purse seine
vessels licensed to fish in the Arrangement Area under the FSMA to access its
exclusive economic zone.
As a participant to the FSMA, Tokelau
may participate in the Annual Meeting and any Special Meeting of the Parties to
the FSMA and may participate in the decision making but Tokelau will have no
voting right in the process.
The arrangement will take effect
on July 1, 2019.
PNA CEO Ludwig Komoru said the signing
of the MOU with Tokelau is a “very important step” which means in that the
countries in the FSMA arrangement can now go to Tokelau waters to fish.” Giving
both Tokelau and PNA countries “extra area to fish and extra revenues, so it’s
Tokelau is made up of three small coral
atolls – Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu.
Tokelau has an EEZ covering
318,990 square kilometers.
Tokelau does not have a commercial
fishing fleet however, it has a large artisanal fleet of about 50 – 60 small
12’ to 16’ ft. motorized aluminum boats.
In 2012, Tokelau joined the PNA’s vessel
day scheme, the country’s main industry is fishing.
On May 29-30, 2019, Fisheries Ministers
from PNA convened in Koror, Palau for their 14th annual
During the meeting, fisheries ministers
also considered several important issues at this meeting, such as the PNA
Office budget, PNA’s Strategic Plan, the 2020 Party Allowable Effort (PAE), an
independent Chair for the PNA Compliance Committee, the purchase of Fisheries
Information Management System (FIMS) from Quick Access, high seas bunkering,
Vanuatu’s request to join PNA’s Longline (LL) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS),
Tokelau is also a participant at these
meetings as a party to the Palau Arrangement (PA), which is the management
arrangement for the purse seine fishery.
This is the fifth in a series of articles commemorating a decade of shark conservation work.
Even as momentum builds for protecting sharks through regional and international bodies, many countries have opted to act with their own conservation laws. The Philippines, for example, developed a framework and passed a bill to protect these vital animals, and Fiji is finalizing regulations to prohibit commercial fishing of most shark species within its waters. Both countries have championed listings of sharks and rays by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The Pew Charitable Trusts caught up with A.A. Yaptinchay, director of Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, and Aisake Batibasaga, former fisheries officer of Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries, to hear how decisions for domestic protections for sharks and rays have propelled the two countries into the role of shark champions.
Q: How did your country decide it needed to protect and manage sharks?
Aisake Batibasaga: I became aware of the less-than-honest practices of fisherfolk and exporters fishing Fiji’s waters. Illegal fishing practices were rapidly depleting shark populations across Fiji. Shark bycatch was increasing, as local fishing crews were complementing their meager incomes [by selling] fins. Working with local, regional, and international partners, we set out to develop strong policies to better conserve and manage vulnerable and endangered shark species. We continue that work today in the hope that sharks remain an integral part of our marine ecosystem, our tourism industry and economy, and our culture.
A.A. Yaptinchay: The Philippines lies within the Coral Triangle, the center of marine biodiversity in the world, and sharks are very much an important part of the Philippine seas. We have seen sharks utilized as food, from directed fishing and bycatch, as well as tourism. We were concerned that there is not enough information available or management measures in place to ensure that our shark populations are not negatively affected.
Q: What hurdles did you overcome to help get these measures passed?
Batibasaga: Lack of resources, expertise, and funds to provide wider coverage and coordination between fisheries, border patrol, and customs officers. Organizations such as the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and the Pacific Community (SPC), and especially Pew have been instrumental in providing technical expertise, support, and resources for advocacy and strategic policy development in Fiji and the region—and for this we are deeply thankful.
Yaptinchay: We try to employ a participatory and interdisciplinary approach in the development of the 2020 Roadmap and the Shark Conservation Bill, but it is difficult to get input from all the stakeholders, including sectors like the cosmetics industry. Transparency and shared information are critical. The bill is with our politicians now, and momentum has waned because of the national elections in May 2019, but we expect progress after the campaign period.
Q: What changes have you seen as a result of these policies in the perception of sharks within your communities?
Batibasaga: Due to strong advocacy and strategic outreach on the ecological, economic, and social significance of sharks, Fijians are beginning to understand that protecting their sharks and reefs is tantamount to protecting the fish the locals eat—the Pacific islanders’ supermarket. Sharks are no longer just a culturally iconic predator but a vital part in the marine ecosystem and economy.
Yaptinchay: Creating a conservation framework allowed all sectors to participate in shark conservation. In 2014, a coalition of NGOs and government agencies created the Save Sharks Network Philippines, which increased awareness and support by educating and engaging the public and government agencies.
Q: What management measures are in place or in progress in your country?
Batibasaga: Protections for CITES-listed species are under the Offshore Fisheries Management Act and corresponding regulations. Fiji is finalizing regulations under the act to protect many shark and ray species from commercial fishing. Fiji also has both a regional and national plan of action for sharks and implements the conservation and management measures from the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, including a ban on catching silky and oceanic whitetip sharks.
Yaptinchay: Aside from the National Plan of Action—Sharks, the Philippines’ 2020 Roadmap targets increased information, regulation, awareness, and governance on issues related to shark conservation. One output is the Shark Conservation Bill, which was approved in the House of Representatives in February 2019. The Philippines also recognizes all sharks and rays listed in CITES as fully protected in the country, and the entire island of Cebu also passed local legislation to protect all sharks, rays, and chimeras.
Q: How have domestic measures helped make your country a global leader in shark conservation?
Batibasaga: Fiji government representatives are not only the voice of Fiji but the voice of the region. Protecting sharks is protecting our marine biodiversity, which is integral to our way of life. The Pacific must lead the way, since we are among those most prone to adverse environmental challenges. Our shark and ray regulations will act as a model for our Pacific neighbors and countries around the world. We may be a small island country, but we will continue to champion conservation efforts because our way of life depends on the actions we take today.
Yaptinchay: The Philippines has been championing species for listing in both CMS and CITES. We realized that the Philippines is in a unique position to influence our neighboring countries, particularly the ASEAN region, to support more international treaties and commitments and use the outputs and learnings from our projects as a means of promoting shark conservation globally.
Donald Trump poses with the presidents of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States. Photo by US Department of Interior.
The United States, Palau, the Republic of the
Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia have made commitments
to work together to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).
In a historic meeting with US President Donald
Trump on May 21st, Presidents of the Marshall Islands,
Hilda Heine, FSM ‘s David Panuelo and Palau’s Tommy Remengesau Jr., the four
nations agreed that one of the region’s most pressing issue is IUU.
In a joint statement following the meeting the leaders stated, “we
resolve to continue develop joint initiatives, both bilaterally and through
multilateral forums, such as the Pacific Islands Forum, to tackle the region’s
most pressing issues, including responding to natural disasters; combating
illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; advancing economic development;
strengthening the rule of law; and supporting the resiliency of the Pacific
President Heine said during the talks in Washington that her country deals
with illegal ship entries, supposedly for fishing all
Aa press briefing by US administration
officials on May 20 said illegal fishing is one of the security concerns in the
“President Trump is really looking forward to
discussing our shared security concerns, and that includes things like
countering illegal and unregulated and underreported fishing; it includes
addressing transnational crime and trafficking; and of course, the protection
of all the nation’s sovereignty as part of the free and open Indo-Pacific,” the
officials told reporters.
Although the joint statement between Trump and
the FAS leaders did not mention climate change, officials said that the US will
be assisting all the Pacific Island nations in strengthening their resilience
against natural disasters, rising sea levels, soil erosion, invasive species,
US Acting Secretary of Defence, Patrick
Shanahan, in his meeting with the leaders reiterated the United States
commitment to “working with you to address common security challenges such as illegal,
unreported and unregulated fishing.”
A report on the impact of IUU fishing prepared for the Forum
Fisheries Agency in 2016 catch associated with illegal fishing is valued
over $US600 million annually, with the direct economic loss to FFA members of
around US$150 million.
Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO Ludwig Kumoru
last year said eliminating IUU fishing is a core part of the fisheries
“Working together to eliminate IUU will enhance
sustainable and economically viable fisheries for the benefit of everyone,” he
The FFA and PNA are calling for the support of Distant Water
Fishing Nations (DWFNs), to eliminate IUU fishing.
“We want them on board and to understand this is a collective
effort of the FFA and PNA to implement a best practice strategy to effectively
track and hold offenders accountable,” said Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director
General of the FFA.
In February this year, Micronesian nations that
include Palau, RMI and FSM committed to uniting to combat illegal, unreported,
and unregulated fishing (IUU) in the Pacific by 2023. in the Pacific.
At the 19th Micronesia Presidents’ Summit on 21 February, Palau, Kiribati, the
Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Nauru signed a communique supporting
an IUU Free Pacific by 2023 – a challenge was set up by RMI.
“It is important to build on the momentum we have at the
national and regional level to combat IUU and to give it a goal or a target if
you will. Imagine an IUU Free Pacific by 2023,” RMI President Hilda Heine said
during the summit in Palau.
Economic and climate resilience were key focus points of a meeting between the New Zealand and Cook Island government last week.
The 2019 Joint Ministerial Forum was held on Aitutaki and included Cook Island Prime Minister Henry Puna, his deputy Mark Brown and ministers Vaine Mokoroa and Robert Tapaitau.
The New Zealand delegation included deputy prime minister Winston Peters, cabinet minister Stuart Nash and foreign affairs undersecretary Fletcher Tabuteau.
Mr Tabuteau said the meeting focussed on a range of issues including infrastructure development, security, fisheries, the Pacific Islands Forum, climate change and health.
He said it was important for New Zealand to facilitate positive long-term outcomes in these areas.
“And actually part of the Pacific Reset conversation around the is how do we productively spend money now around resilience, sustainability , economic transformation so that in 10 years from now were not just spending another dollar on aid or recovery or things like that.”
Mr Tabuteau said there was also an emphasis on improving health support for Cook Islanders.
“How can we do more for you in terms of what do we do in New Zealand, and how can we extend that to the Cooks in a systematic way?”
It was the seventh time the meeting had been held between New Zealand the Cook Islands.
President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands Hilda Heine, and President of the Federated States of Micronesia David Panuelo, US President Donal Trump and President of the Republic of Palau Tommy E. Remengesau. Photo: Faceook/ US Embassy Kolonia.
Pacific analysts say a meeting between US President Donald Trump and the Freely Associated States has ignored climate change.
The historic event on Tuesday with Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia renewed Washington’s ties to the states.
But a joint-statement released later made no specific mention of climate change, a key issue for Pacific Island states.
Amy Searight from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said the US had instead focused on security cooperation.
“Overall there’s not been a huge change in approach. For the Trump administration, the real challenge is climate change, the number one priority obviously for the Pacific Island nations. And the Trump administration is doing nothing on climate change so that’s a big mismatch in priority.”
Pacific analyst Tess Newton Cain, of TNC consulting, said the comments coming out of Tuesday meeting paled compared with the attention Pacific leaders have given the issue at summits like the Pacific Islands Forum.
“There was no reference to whether there had been any discussion between the Pacific leaders and President Trump about the US rejoining the Paris agreement, which we might have expected them to talk about.”
Instead, issues leaders of at least two of the three Pacific nations at Tuesday’s meeting honed in on was China’s growing influence in the region.
Last week, Palau President Tommy Remengesau said in an opinion piece that China was threatening the Pacific with expansionism and militarisation.
And on Tuesday, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine told the US defence secretary that China was placing economic pressure on her country.
“There’s growing concern that China is to some degree perhaps meddling in the political processes of these countries, trying to tip the scales for elections or other kinds of things,” said Dr Searight.
According to Palau-based journalist Bernadette Carreon, Pacific leaders were also using global fears over China as leverage with other vying partners.
She said Mr Remengesau’s opinion piece was uncharacteristically bullish in tone and may help extract concessions from the US, especially leading into the renegotiations of the Compacts of Free Association due to start soon.
“It’s like they’re dangling a carrot – it’s China.”
Papua New Guinea (PNG) has commenced the process of getting its tuna fishery Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified, and it is already looking ahead to the benefits it hopes certification can bring.
Key among those is boosting the on-shore processing sector, which has had some difficulties in achieving its full potential in recent years. There are six plants on PNG, including Filipino firm Frabelle’s own operation and its joint venture with Thai Union Group, named Majestic Seafood.
There is also RD Processing, IFC, Nambawan Seafood, and South Seas Tuna Co.
Frabelle president Francisco Tiu Laurel has previously told Undercurrent News of the difficulties in realizing the company’s potential on the island. This time last year the two plants it is involved with had been forced to lay off employees, and were considering closing entirely, apparently because the government had ended subsidies for foreign companies.
Already, though, the situation is looking brighter, Tiu Laurel said.
“For our plants Majestic and Frabelle PNG we are again up and running at about 70% of our capacity, and we have rehired about 800 workers per plant as the government of PNG has approved to give us some refund for the fish that PNG-flagged vessels unload and process on shore-based facilities,” he said.
The government’s final decision on these regulations is yet to be determined, and once it is, Frabelle will be hoping PNG’s national fisheries authority signs it as soon as possible.
“Once we get this we will be running the factories at full capacity, and hire more workers hopefully in the near future,” said the Frabelle boss.
Presenting at the recent Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium, PNG Fishing Industry Association (FIA) chairman Sylvester Pokajam noted the island’s six plants are currently operating at around half capacity; Frabelle at 90 metric tons (of a possible 120t) per day, and Majestic at 80t of a possible 250t.
In total, the processing sector is operating at 7,125t/ day, compared to its full capacity of 15,000t. Pokajam and Tiu Laurel both told Undercurrent that gaining MSC would help bring that utilization up.
“If PNG gets its own MSC it will definitely help the plants, as demand for MSC fish is increasing in several markets around the world,” said Tiu Laurel.
How will MSC help?
PNG’s government originally set up its “domestication policy” to attract downstream investment to the island, FIA told Undercurrent.
This policy incentivized shore-based investments from fishing operators already working on PNG, like RD and Frabelle, by discounting fishing license fees to compensate for the higher production costs of processing in PNG. This meant tuna canned there could compete on the global export market (mostly Europe). “Canned products from PNG had to compete with high volume, low-cost products from South America (Ecuador) and Thailand, which were also going into the EU market, and still is.”
The policy attracted overseas investors too, leading to the construction of five of the plants now operating (IFC initially set up shop in PNG to can imported mackerel for the domestic PNG market, FIA added”.
However, before all processing plants were able to fully reach their processing capacity there was a shift in the application of the domestication policy, whereby the fishing license fees were calculated on the basis of the “vessels day scheme” (VDS) rate, on a par with a region-wide benchmark price. “This benchmark price was two-to-three times the discounted rate,” FIA noted.
“The PNG government then further changed the policy application and introduced the regional VDS rate across the board on all fishing vessels (both domestic-based and distant-water fishing nations). This again further compounded the production cost of a unit of canned tuna produced in PNG.”
So, now PNG’s domestic vessel operators feel there’s no incentive to produce a cost-competitive product in PNG if they are paying the same licensing fee rate as the distant-water fishing fleets, “who have not sacrificed and taken on risk on any shore-based investment, as PNG domestic investors have done”.
The industry lobbied, and the PNG government tried a new line; a rebate scheme on both the processing sector — calculated per metric ton of value-added — and on the fishing sector (per ton of fish landed into a PNG shore-based plant). “This rebate scheme is having its share of challenges in implementation to date, and rebates haven’t been paid as and when due,” said FIA.
Hence, FIA said, processors are not currently inclined to utilize their full capacity. But:
“With the MSC fish, it attracts a premium price compared to the current non-MSC fish products. Hence, with certification, the same volume of fish produced by PNG processors will attract the premium price, and this would enable a viable return for the processors to produce more in PNG. Eventually, the MSC value becomes the incentive to attract the volume to be landed and produced in PNG, and the plants processing volume will progressively improve towards their full capacity.”
Extra volumes too
Tiu Laurel also noted PNG’s ongoing MSC process encompasses an area of fishery not currently covered by the PNA certification.
“Plus it [would] also make catches from the archipelagic waters of PNG MSC certifiable, [volumes] which currently are not included in other MSC approved areas,” he added. At present PNG is part of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement MSC certified tuna fishery, but it is looking to break away from this organization as the sales are controlled by Dutch organization Pacifical, which parts of PNG’s sector have fallen out with.
“The archipelagic waters produce a lot of fish annually, and [are] very near the ports of Lae and Madang, where most of the factories are located, thus making it very important for the factories to get a constant supply of fish to process,” Tiu Laurel said.
Historical catch records suggest archipelagic catches would add around 90,000t more MSC certified tuna per year, the FIA told Undercurrent.
From a high of 506,413t of tuna caught in 2013 in PNG waters, volumes dived to 135,687t in 2015. That has since been on the rise again, to 316,278t in 2018, according to FIA data. Importantly, said Pokajam, this has always been made up just 1% bigeye tuna, a species there are concerns for in terms of biomass. Skipjack made up 65% of the total, and yellowfin 34%, in 2017.
“Landings in PNG are actually up, in my opinion, except for the first three months [of 2019] when catches were down, mainly due to bad weather. But from April onwards I think it will be okay,” Tiu Laurel told Undercurrent.
Based on Tiu Laurel and Pokajam’s comments, PNG’s tuna sector is now waiting on what it hopes will be a successful MSC certification and a more favorable government approach.
“We need this additional refund to make us really competitive, as we are now paying full VDS [vessel day scheme] fees — the same as other overseas fishing companies fishing in PNG, which is not fair,” said Tiu Laurel of the possible changes in regulation.
Other Pacific Island nations grant the locally-flagged fleets a 40-50% discount on VDS rates, and allow them to fish for free in the “eastern high seas”, managed under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, he claimed.
“This is a terrible disadvantage to the PNG-based fleet. The difference in cost of operation per vessel is about $1 million per annum versus other vessels,” said Tiu Laurel. “Due to this many have actually left the PNG registry, and if not addressed soon many more will leave.”
In 2018 there were 226 vessels licenses to fish in PNG’s exclusive economic zone — 61 reefers carriers and 165 purse seiners. In 2019 there are 61 vessels either PNG-flagged or locally-based foreign vessels licensed, affiliated to five companies; see the slide to the right.
Any new regulations for PNG will have to wait for the time being, though. As the Diplomatreports, a vote of no confidence was slated to take place on May 16 to remove prime minister Peter O’Neill from office. O’Neill had rejected calls to resign earlier in May.
O’Neill disrupted the opposition’s plans by obtaining a parliamentary adjournment on May 7. Following the adjournment, opposition members of parliament can now only table a no-confidence motion again once parliament resumes operations on May 28.
Tiu Laurel has, in the past, told Undercurrent of Frabelle’s ambitions to expand its processing to other Pacific Islands, namely Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
The latter remains on the cards, though plans have been delayed, he said.
“We intend to build one more loin and pouch plant in FSM, Pohnpei state, and we are now working on a state agreement with the fisheries department. But recently there has been a change in leadership as there is a new president, and we are waiting for the new cabinet to be chosen and continue the negotiation.”
Frabelle hopes to finalize talks this year, and to begin construction next year, he said.
Contact the author firstname.lastname@example.org