Mexico and Japan have already breached their bluefin fishing limit for the second year in a row, despite strict quotas, said Pew Charitable Trusts.
Pacific bluefin is worth nearly $1 billion at the final point of sale, but it has been severely depleted over the years, and now just sits at 2.6% of its historic level, the charity said.
In September 2017, countries agreed to a rebuilding plan for the species. However, “there is little room for error, and the quota overages will continue to hurt recovery”, Pew said.
A new stock assessment for Pacific bluefin will be released this summer, and it will give fishery managers a time to consider if the recovery plan is working, and how much work must still be done to rebuild the species.
But if countries continue to stretch the limits, there is little chance for success, and the species will remain in serious jeopardy, Pew said.
“Pacific bluefin tuna can’t catch a break. Mexico, one of the leading fishing nations for this severely depleted species, officially exceeded its 2018 quota just four months into the year on May 3,” said Jamie Gibbon, an officer on Pew’s global tuna conservation campaign.
“If nations are unable to enforce the rebuilding plan and show that they are honestly tackling overfishing, the idea of an ocean-wide commercial fishing moratorium may have to be revisited as the last ditch option to save the species,” Gibbon said.
An online reporting tool for fisheries management is gaining popularity in the Pacific, the Pacific Community (SPC) says.
OnBoard is free software developed by SPC which works on smart phones and tablets.
It improves the speed and accuracy with which boat captains can record their daily catch and upload data for fisheries managers to access.
SPC data analyst Andrew Hunt said traditional paper recording, which was still widely used, took a lot of time to process and was prone to errors.
Since OnBoard’s release last year there had been growing interest from Pacific countries for it be used on boats operating in their waters, Mr Hunt said.
“We have had nearly a hundred trips that have been reported electronically. Which is quite a good amount considering how difficult it is to get these tablets onto the boats,” he said.
“When we look at the data I think some of the positional information is more accurate because it can use the GPS onboard the tablet. And we have less problems with log sheets that can’t be interpreted.”
OnBoard was being used on boats in New Caledonia, Fiji, the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, Mr Hunt said.
The SPC was also working on translating the interface, currently available in English and French, into Chinese and other languages.
The Western Pacific Sustainable Tuna Alliance, Western and Central Pacific skipjack and yellowfin free school purse seine fishery has been ruled to have met the standards for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.
Following a 30-day comment period on the public comment draft report, SCS Global Services has considered the assessment team’s report, the peer reviewers’ comments and all stakeholder comments.
Its determination is that the fishery should be certified in accordance with the MSC fisheries standard. There is now a 15 working day period during which a previously involved stakeholder may lodge a notice of objection to this determination.
The fishery client for the certification is Taiwan’s FCF Fishery Co.
The Sino-Van Fish Processing Plant, in Vanuatu’s capital city of Port Vila, has been shut down for 14 years because of a prior lack of facilities to accommodate fishing boats. But when it reopens later this year, Matai Seramiah, the country’s fisheries minister, hopes local fishermen will return and make use of it, Radio New Zealand reports.
The plant, built by a Chinese firm, has been the subject of major protest by locals who fear that it’s re-opening will bring with it issues of water pollution, shark infestation and a rise in crime. Many feel that the larger northern island of Espiritu Santo would have made a better fit for the operation, according to the article.
Fishing is a major part of the Pacific island nation’s economy, with roughly 77% of all households involved in the industry.
Speaking on behalf of Seramaiah at a World Tuna Day event, Benjamin Shing, the ministry’s acting director general, said the country misses out on a lot of the benefit from its lucrative tuna industry, with a great deal of its fish landings being shipped abroad for processing.
The Forum Fisheries Agency says the Pacific is facing big challenges as it embraces digital technology.
A systems analyst for the agency said that in the fisheries sector, work to digitise information was ongoing and labour intensive.
Ano Tisam said many organisations and governments in the region still used pen and paper.
He said to move ahead, information needed to be accessible in a digital format and properly stored and archived.
“We used technology to help Pacific governments to move away from what they are doing in terms of paper, and transitioning them over to digital technologies so that they can improve the way that they do things to make things more efficient and more effective.”
Ano Tisam was visiting New Zealand from Solomon Islands as a guest speaker at last week’s Pacific Tech Summit in Auckland.
RFSC, FFA HQ, Honiara SOLOMON ISLANDS— Regional fishing fleets have ‘eyes in the sky’ watching their every move. For the past three weeks Operation Rai Balang has been sweeping the Pacific Ocean to detect and report on fishing fleets operating in the EEZ’s of Forum Fisheries Agency members.
The operation involved assets deployed by FFA members and by the QUAD partners (Australia, New Zealand, U.S. and France). Pacific Patrol Boats (PPBs) from nine FFA members also participated. It was also noteworthy for the first full operational deployment of an aircraft under the new Australian-funded Pacific Maritime Security Program.
During the operation 257 vessels were detected and 177 vessels were interrogated closely at sea. There were 59 boarding’s at sea and in port. Over 90 sea days of steaming time and 165 hours of air time were expended. With over 250 personnel involved it was one of the biggest fisheries surveillance operations on record. In all Operation Rai Balang covered 14.1 million square kilometres of ocean.
The Operation resulted in Palau destroying seven unauthorised Fishing Aggregation Devices (FADs) within their waters and the apprehension of a Philippine fishing outrigger engaged in illegal FAD fishing. Within the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) four vessels were apprehended at sea and another vessel apprehended alongside for suspected violations of conditions Offences included the non-reporting of catch species and the non-carriage of required permits.
Efforts to reduce Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing involve not only finding illegal and unlicensed vessels, but ensuring that licensed fleets and their support vessels are not violating their license conditions.
Operation Rai Balang saw the first full operational deployment of an aircraft under the new Australian-funded Pacific Maritime Security Program. This involved the specially-equipped Cessna currently operating out of Palau which successfully tested its Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and communication capacities, in preparation for the deployment of dedicated King Air aircraft later this year. Other QUAD and member aircraft were also to the fore, including Orion aircraft from New Zealand, Australian B350 King-Airs, French F200 Guardians from New Caledonia, US Coast Guard G C130 aircraft, USGC Sequoia & Kiska assets, USN P-3 aircraft, and PNG Tropic Air aircraft.
The Chief of Staff for Operation Rai Balang, Petty Officer Bernard Pilon from PNG thanked all members and QUAD partners for their cooperation in the exercise. PO Pilon stated that “Operation Rai Balang 2018 has enhanced the effectiveness of not only the deployed assets but also of the regional team that leant a lot through country briefs and the experience of planners, watch-keepers and observers. The results speak for themselves.”
Operation Rai Balang involved patrol boats and HQ participation from FSM, Kiribati, PNG, Palau, SI and Vanuatu. The Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre in Honiara situated at FFA Headquarters included secondees from Kiribati, Vanuatu, Fiji, FSM, Tonga, USCG, AFMA, MPI, Royal Solomon Islands Police Force RSIPF TCU, SI Fisheries and the RAAF.
SustainPacFish is a new web portal designed to provide Pacific fisheries managers and industry with links to the latest information about measures to conserve and manage Pacific fisheries, especially tuna.
Launched today (23 March 2018), SustainPacFish is an initiative of the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
FFA Director General, JamesMovick, says SustainPacFish was designed after surveying potential users of the Pacific. It publishes the latest information about conservation management measures and actions to implement them.
“Our aim is to link people involved in fish in the Pacific – industry, researchers, communities and government – with definitive information about management, policies and practices that lead to sustainable use of Pacific fisheries and the conservation of our marine resources,” he says.
The new web portal is carefully designed to meet the needs of those involved and interested in Pacific fisheries. 400 leading figures involved in different aspects of oceanic fisheries management and sustainability were asked what they wanted, and they nominated simplicity, clarity and a focus on data.
“I want to know how many fish are out there, how healthy the stocks are, and what is predicted for the future,” says one respondent. “That’s the only way we can write fishing policies that will keep our industry alive and well.”
Important information is already available through web sites operated by the FFA, Pacific Community (SPC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
“This site is not to duplicate this information but to provide an easy one stop shop to these sites and others for fisheries managers, governments and industry.
“We provide links and summaries – that’s why we call it a portal, a doorway to access information”. Movick says SustainPacFish also synthesises and simplifies existing information about Pacific fisheries that is not already accessible on other websites.
Users of the site can choose from six topics: fish stocks, economics, catch & harvest, bycatch, compliance and observers.
Once users have selected their topic they can then choose to look at information and links on a whole of region scale or by looking at the subregional grouping of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).
Additional content on subregional agreements and on individual countries will be progressively added as will content about the activities, progress and outcomes of the OFMP2.
“There is a lot of management, compliance, policy and research work happening across the region at any given time, all related to ensuring the future of our tuna fisheries,” says Movick.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) initiated the OFMP2 project, which is being implemented by FFA and managed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The OFMP2:
Supports Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as the major bloc at the WCPFC to adopt regional conservation and management measures
Supports innovative approaches being developed by Pacific SIDS at a sub-regional level, as they collaborate in fisheries of common interest
Assists SIDS to apply measures nationally in their own waters and to their fleets.
The Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) wants to help Pacific Island nations manage their fisheries.
The multilateral development bank’s president, Jin Liqun, believes the Islands have “limited capacity” to do so on their own, so need the international community’s help.
Speaking at a round table discussion in Auckland attended by interest.co.nz, Jin said, “This is a huge resource that would be sufficient to make these countries very rich, but they have no power to drive away all these illegal fishing boats.
“We can help them…
“Maybe we would work with the New Zealand Government, combining our resources.”
Beijing-based Jin went on say, “I think Pacific Island countries still have to develop their institutional capability. That may take a bit of time, but with the support of New Zealand and other members of the international community, we would be able to help them to be more effective.
“These countries do need concessional funding.”
China’s position in the AIIB vs NZ’s
The AIIB has committed US$4.2 billion to financing 24 projects since it started operating in January 2016.
It offers sovereign and non-sovereign loans for projects in energy and power, transportation and telecommunications, rural infrastructure and agriculture development, water supply and sanitation, environmental protection, and urban development and logistics.
New Zealand is one of the Bank’s founding members, in 2015 committing to investing NZ$125 million in it over five years.
However New Zealand has dedicated a total of US$462 million (NZ$630) to the Bank. The difference between this figure, and the amount already paid can becalled upon by the AIIB as required.
Jin confirmed that while New Zealand is technically eligible to receive funding from the Bank, its priority is developing countries.
“I’m sorry we can’t invest in your country, even though I’d love to,” he said.
The US$462 million pledged by New Zealand makes up only 0.49% of the total committed by the AIIB’s 84 regional and non-regional members. This means it holds a 0.68% voting stake.
China has committed US$30 billion, so has a 27% voting stake.
Japan and the US aren’t part of the AIIB.
Jin is adamant: “It’s not China’s bank. China has China Development Bank, Exim Bank. The combined overseas assets are now beyond US$500 billion – more than the combined assets of all the multilateral development banks.
“So if it’s supposed to be China’s bank, why should we do it? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a multilateral institution.”
‘Need and temptation often leads to greater risk’
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters wants New Zealand to contribute more to multilaterals working in the Pacific.
He made this intension clear when he revealed New Zealand’s “re-energised Pacific strategy” in a speech delivered at a Lowy Institute event in Sydney on March 1.
Peters didn’t mention the AIIB specifically, but said the World Bank and Asian Development Bank were “vital institutions” that could offer “sustainable investment choices for Pacific nations”.
Overall he said he wanted New Zealand to increase aid payments to the Pacific, further to these falling from 0.30% of Gross National Income in 2008, to 0.25% in 2016.
Nonetheless, his speech had a cautious undertone.
“The Pacific overall has also become an increasingly contested strategic space, no longer neglected by Great Power ambition, and so Pacific Island leaders have more options. This is creating a degree of strategic anxiety,” he said.
While Peters said the Pacific was attracting “an increasing number of external actors and interests”, he didn’t mention China.
“So much is changing in the Pacific and sometimes it is not for the best. Need and temptation often leads to greater risk than prudence would suggest,” he said.
Scepticism from Pacific Island fisheries expert
These risks are ever clear to veteran New Zealand journalist and former press secretary for the Samoan Prime Minister, Michael Field.
Having spent a large part of his career in the South Pacific and covering the Pacific, and written a book on fisheries in the area, ‘The Catch’, Field said he was “completely sceptical” about the AIIB’s interest in the Pacific’s marine resources.
“I find it a really cynical move involving a country that is at the very moment engaged in an extensive plunder of the fisheries resources of the South Pacific.”
He said China’s interest in funding regulation could start by it cutting back on the subsidies it offers Chinese fishing boats.
Further, China should be “cutting back on the number and style of their fishing operation, and they should prove to the Pacific first that they are capable of effective internal regulation before they start wondering around telling other people what to do.
“The Chinese operation in the Pacific so far has been a complete disaster. It’s a matter of great shame to China. Everywhere you look; China is over-fishing and ripping off Pacific countries.”
Field said the existing regulatory system of fisheries in the Pacific was “the best option we’ve got”.
Yet he noted one of the bodies that monitors the Pacific – the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission – was “stymied year after year by nations like China who refuse to cut back on their catches, or refuse to limit their catches”.
You can see the extent of China’s fisheries in the Pacific using this Global Fishing Watch resource.
As for the concessional loans made in the past, Field noted the struggle Pacific Island countries were facing, trying to repay these.
The Australian in January reported Vanuatu was forced to lift its GST-style consumption tax from 12.5% to 15%, largely in an attempt to help service huge concessional loans from China.
Meanwhile Tonga was scrambling to start repaying massive Chinese debts with a five-year amnesty brokered by the International Monetary Fund to expire in coming months.
The Australian also reported the building boom that has taken place across the Pacific is on the back of concessional loans with provisos the borrower nations spend the money building infrastructure using Chinese construction groups.
Nonetheless, the AIIB’s Jin said it was important for donors to work with recipient countries to ensure they prioritised funding the right projects.
“So if anything goes wrong, don’t put the blame on the recipient countries, or else you have a problem,” he said.
“As long as donors and recipient countries will learn from lessons [of the past] they certainly will do a better job as we move forward.”
As for the relationship between the AIIB and China’s Belt and Road initiative, Jin acknowledged both were proposed by the Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Yet he said, “These two are different things. They are not the same, although there is some relationship…
“Belt and Road is a platform, inviting all the interested countries to work together. China does not dominate, China does not dictate, China cannot impose any project in any country. We are all working with sovereign governments.”
An independent adjudicator in New York has dismissed an objection to the re-certification of sustainable tuna fisheries controlled by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, or PNA.
Its eight member nations control about half the global supply of skipjack tuna, the most commonly canned variety.
The objection was lodged by the International Pole and Line Foundation whose members are thought to dominate tuna supply to the United Kingdom.
The PNA’s commercial manager, Maurice Brownjohn, said the objection appeared to have been supported by donors in the UK.
“And this is a market where we are increasingly getting market share because of the ability of this region to provide independently certified and high quality chain of custody for validating certification claims of the products that come from this region”
Maurice Brownjohn said the objection was led by a Queen’s Counsel and a team of barristers exposing it as the action of commercial interests and not fishermen.
The re-certification was granted by the Marine Stewardship Council for the PNA’s skipjack and yellowfin fisheries and now covers waters belonging to the territory of Tokelau, which is not a PNA member.
Peter Cusack, Regional Coordinator – Pacific Islands Regional Oceanscape Program
Honiara, Solomon Islands 13-15 February 2018. Lamine Camara, Director of Fisheries for Mauritania, was the first representative from Mauritania to visit the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in Honiara, Solomon Islands when he arrived in February this year. Joining him on the occasion were an additional 20 international delegates who all gathered at the FFA premises to participate in a Pacific – Global Zone-based Tuna Fisheries Management Exchange. The Exchange was hosted by FFA to provide an opportunity for representatives of developing coastal States from around the globe with an interest in tuna fisheries to visit the Pacific and learn first-hand of the successes and challenges in tuna fisheries management encountered in the Pacific Ocean.
Over the course of the three-day event, participants examined and discussed the “Pacific model” for fisheries cooperation. There was a focus on how zone-based management arrangements have been introduced in the FFA region and used to gain control of the fishery by coastal states, thereby reaping substantially increased benefits. FFA staff and resource people from the Office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and the Pacific Community described the long history of cooperation, the key outputs (programs and platforms for cooperation) and the main outcomes (social, economic and environmental benefits) that have been achieved in the FFA region.
A total of twenty-one delegates participated in the exchange, including representatives from national and regional fisheries agencies and fisheries programs in Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, Indonesia, Maldives, Seychelles, Tanzania, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, as well as representatives from the World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International.
The Exchange was part of FFA’s ongoing program that seeks mutual benefits from greater collaboration with developing coastal States around the world. Mutual benefits that accrued from the Exchange and are expected to expand in the future included:
for other developing coastal States – a working example of cooperation in fisheries management, development and enforcement and the ability to leverage lessons learned through trial and error here;
for FFA members – a greater appreciation around the globe of the zone-based cooperative model employed by FFA. This is growing more important as oceans and fisheries related issues gain more prominence on the global agenda. This greater understanding benefits FFA members because it should lead to better support for FFA positions and approaches from other coastal States around the world; and
for all parties – gaining different perspectives about how to deal with similar issues in the management of highly migratory fish stocks.
It was noted that many of the ‘lessons learned’ from the Exchange does not only apply to tuna fisheries, but also to other cross boundary demersal stocks, and for the introduction and use of monitoring, control and surveillance technologies.
In welcoming the participants and opening the Exchange FFA Director- General, Mr James Movick provided an overview of regional tuna fisheries management in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) and described the concept of “Zone-based Management” and how the Pacific small Island developing states (SIDS) have implemented it.
In his remarks, Mr Movick said that the region is “more strongly asserting our rights in what used to be a completely distant-water flag-state fishery. Pacific nations have given themselves a much bigger bite of revenues from the global tuna sandwich. We want to share this knowledge to assess what lessons are transferable to other developing regions – and learn from the unique experiences that others bring to our table.”
He also said that the importance of tuna to Pacific SIDS is illustrated by fisheries revenues making up more than 40% of public revenue in five countries, providing 25,000 jobs in the region and contributing to food security and development opportunities. At the global scale the 2016 WCPO tuna catch of 2.6 million tonnes represented around 60% of the global tuna catch and was worth $5.2 billion. In turn, around 60% of this WCPO catch is from FFA waters.
Tuna provide substantial economic opportunities for FFA members, including the contribution to DP through access fees, domestic fleet development, onshore processing jobs and export income, but today only 30% of fish caught in members’ exclusive economic zones is being taken by local fleets and only 10% is landed for processing.
Mr Ludwig Kumoru, CEO of the PNA shared how the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) has been a “game-changer in the sustainable management of tuna resources.” He continued saying, “The VDS put a cap on the number of days that fishing vessels can operate in our waters, and steadily ramped up the cost of access so that the PNA members receive a fairer share of revenues. Before the VDS came into being there was no proper valuation placed on the fishery and we were at the mercy of foreign interests. That has all changed.”
The OPP is one of the four Projects of the GEF-funded Common Oceans ABNJ Program that, under the World Bank lead, is supporting public and private sector investment in better managed fisheries targeting migratory stocks that straddle developing countries’ coastal jurisdictions and areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).
For more information about the Pacific-Global Zone-based Tuna Fisheries Management Knowledge Exchange, please contact:
Peter Cusack, Regional Coordinator – Pacific Islands Regional Oceanscape Program | firstname.lastname@example.org