Can deep sea mining and lucrative tuna fisheries co-exist?

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By Rosalyn Albaniel-Evara, Pacific Media@WCPFC13
THE Pacific’s two largest fisheries blocs-the Pacific Islands Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA) and Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are treating the issue of deep sea mine cautiously.

Pacific waters are home to the world’s largest fishery currently accounting for around 56 per percent of the global supply of tuna.

The dilemma the region faces is that those same waters will also be hosting the world’s first ever copper-gold project.

Papua New Guinea heavily relies on its extraction industry and the progress of the Solwara 1 project, now under development in its territorial waters, will mean added revenue to its national coffers while also much needed foreign exchange.

Nautilus has already been granted the Environment Permit and Mining Lease required for resource development at this site. It has indicated plans to grow its tenement holdings in the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters also in Solomon Islands, Tonga as well as other locations in the Western Pacific.

PNA chief executive officer (CEO) Ludwig Kumoru said he considered deep-sea mining to be a lot
more than the one or the deep sea mining,” said Mr Kumoru.

This is because the proposed seafloor mining operations would be done at 1,600 meters beneath the surface, well away from the 200 meter level, which is where the tuna live and breed.

However, he said the eight-member group recognised that being the first of its kind there are questions and different circumstances in different locations. However, land mines still pose more risk. “Worse is the tailings that come through the rivers from land-based mines and into the sea, that to me will affect the fish to head the PNA.

“But it depends on the sites, in other places it may be different, there may be a lot of strong under current which could move the cloud (plumes) up (to the 200m mark) or the way they move the minerals up, then there is going to be problem,” Mr Kumoru said.

Forum Fisheries Agency director general James Movick said the FFA has urged those countries participating or engaging in deep sea mineral mining exploration and mining take into account the local conditions and act on a strong precautionary principle.

“That really has to be the fundamental principle in which they operate,” the DG said.

PNA’s commercial advisor Maurice Brownjohn in an earlier interview stressed the importance of countries getting together and setting region-wide minimum terms and conditions for mining.

It is this mechanism that has allowed the PNA countries to boost their returns from fishing by more than 400 per cent in five years.

Mr Brownjohn said all mining should meet environmental standards and mining products must come into port and be landed and cleared with 3rd party verification of the quantity and quality.

These conditions reduce the opportunity for cheating and provide jobs.

If companies are not prepared to meet the conditions Mr Brownjohn said they should be given their marching orders.

“If you (the companies) are not prepared to do so, go to the Atlantic. Then we can have some tangible benefits, otherwise there will be lots of promises but very little delivery,” he said.



Fiji’s fisheries action commended by FFA

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By Aliki Bia, Pacificmedia@WCPFC13

Fisheries Forum Agencies Director General James Movick commended Fiji’s effort of being a member of FFA.
Movick says Fiji has been a very effective and good member of FFA and has taken a lead role in compliance and support.
“They have been very responsible and in fact one of the leading countries in ensuring that your compliance with international exports standards and they have taken a lead in a number of areas associated with that”
Movick says FFA is pleased that one of the top priorities of the Fisheries Ministry is to ensure the sustainable operation of one of our canneries.

Movick has also highlighted Fiji’s partnership with other Pacific Island Countries in terms of surveillance.

Understanding the Pacific fisheries roadmap

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Pacific leaders endorsed a new 10 year roadmap for sustainable fisheries at their annual meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in 2015.

What does the roadmap mean to Pacific islanders?

There are four ambitious targets within the 10 year time frame set out by the Leaders of the 16 members of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Leaders want sustainability and they have set reference target of three years for the major stock.

They want to double the value of the catch to the Pacific Islands within the ten year period.

They want to see the doubling of number of people employed in the fisheries sector.

The fourth target is to increase the supply of tuna for domestic consumption in the region by 40,000 tonnes per year by 2024.


Overfishing affecting marine ecosystems

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Pacific Bluefin has been fished down to just 2.6% of its unfished population and Bigeye tuna to 16%.

North Pacific striped marlin has been in a poor state for over 30 years.

South Pacific Albacore continues to decline and the persistently low and declining average catch rates are likely to continue. This undermines vessel profitability and may force some operators out of the fishery

Tuna being prepared for export from Palau to Japan
Tuna being prepared for export from Palau to Japan

Survey shows focus on tuna stocks

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A survey of people interested in Pacific fisheries shows that 92% were most interested to find out more about tuna stocks in the Pacific.

97 people completed a survey about a new website being developed by the Oceanic Fisheries Management project.

The next topic of interest was finding out about fishing catch statistics.

Catching tuna in the Pacific (Photo: SPC)
Catching tuna in the Pacific (Photo: SPC)