Palau is building its capacity to ensure a consistent supply of tuna to its own people.
Most tuna fished in Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has been exported into the sashimi market, and locals have been left with rejects and low-grade fish. But now, with the Palau National Marine Sanctuary protecting 80% of the country’s EEZ, the Palau is building its domestic tuna fishery. The director of the marine sanctuary, King Sam, says it’s longline vessel will be joined early next year by a pole-and-line vessel. Belau Offshore Fishers supplies the domestic market. Its president, Okada Techiton, says the company is improving freezing capacity so that, when fresh fish is no longer available, there will always be a supply of frozen tuna and other ocean fish.
This 3.5 minute video reports on efforts to protect Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary now that foreign fishing fleets have left. Bernadette Carreon reports on progress and Richard Brooks videos and produces this special report on World Tuna Day.
This group of Malaita residents is preparing to release a fish-aggregating device (FAD) at Uhu in the West Are’are area of Solomon Islands’ Malaita Province. Another has just been launched at Small Malaita.
The FAD releases are part of a $100,000 provincial government project to support livelihoods during COVID-19 restrictions. Work continues in the small island communities despite the current state of public emergency that is operating in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.
For years, the Malaita Provincial Fishery Office in Auki has supported coastal communities with the deployment of FADs. In May, the fisheries officers put FADs to sea near Kwai and Ngongosila Islands in East Malaita, and Musukwi in North Malaita. It plans to extend the use of FADs to the Malaita Outer Islands soon.
Over the years, the Gizo–Honiara ferry has provided an economic lifeline for the fishing community of the Russell Islands. This ship is moored at the wharf at Yandina, in the Russell Islands, to pick up the latest catch. The seafood is packed in ice in chiller boxes and will be sold in the Honiara markets.
The importance of the route has grown because of the on-off operation of the Yandina Fisheries Centre on Russell Islands.
The group of islands is in the Central Islands Province of Solomon Islands, and lies north-west of the national capital, Honiara. Gizo is the capital of Western Province.
The national government, through the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, built fisheries centres around the country in 1984. But many of the centres, including the Yandina one, have often stood idle due to the lack of machinery to keep them running.
To get around this problem and maintain a flow of fish for sale at the Honiara market, fish vendors saw an opportunity to purchase fresh fish from the Russell Islands or tuna from Noro, in Western Province.
In much of the world it’s Labour Day, and we salute the workers who crew the tuna fishing vessels. These two fishers from a purse-seine crew are standing on between 700 and 1,700 tons of frozen tuna. It might be 35°C up here on deck, but once they are working deep in the hold, the temperature may be as low as –15°C.
When catches are landed at port or transhipped to a carrier vessel, the crew will work long days on shifts of about 15 hours, with five breaks. Work is suspended if it rains, as the rain damages the tuna – and it gives the crew a welcome break.
The people who cut up tuna at the Marshall Islands Fishing Venture (MIFV) processing facility in Majuro make it look easy – but there’s a lot of skill involved in working so quickly and accurately.
The tuna in this video, yellowfin and bigeye, is destined for tables in the United States, Canada and Japan. The factory is supplied by a fleet of locally based longline fishing boats, and the MIFV workers process the tuna for same-day air delivery via Asia Pacific Airlines (APA) to the overseas markets.
MIFV and APA are subsidiaries of Luen Thai Fishing Venture, which also operates a longline tuna processing operation in Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. It is similar to the one in Majuro. Luen Thai is one of the largest fishing and seafood companies in the Asia–Pacific region. Its integrated fishing business provides services such as base operations, logistics, and the processing and marketing of tuna and other seafood products to customers in the South Pacific, Japan and other eastern Asian countries, the US, and Europe.
A small project to test four types of electronic crane scales may grow into a transhipping process that benefits crews, skippers, vessel managers, scientists and regulators, project members hope.
If their early experiments pay off, the accuracy of weighing catches during transhipment will improve.
After much testing for precision, robustness, ease of use, price, and a few other characteristics, the team has chosen the best performer. Team members need to develop standards that would be workable in the transhipment ports in Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands.
The team comprised people from Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Community, and Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority, led by fisheries consultant Francisco Blaha. They secured funding for the project from the Pacific–European Union Marine Partnership program.
The team hope this process to increase the accuracy of weight monitoring during the slow work of transhipment will become commonplace. If this happens, the people who monitor transhipments will be able to trust the weights as read by the scales, which will free them up to focus on the species composition of transfers.
Mending fishing nets is no easy task when the net is from a purse-seiner and may be up to 3,000 metres long and 300–400 metres deep, and weigh 6 tonnes, as in the case of super-seiners.
The design and construction of these nets are complex, as they have to function well in a variety of situations, weather and sea conditions that are pretty challenging. Not only do they have to withstand the complicated mix of forces and tensions during setting and hauling, they also have to cope with the extra stress put on them by being used under potentially different currents from the water surface to the bottom of the net.
Running repairs are done constantly. Many are done on board, but major repairs require a large, flat surface such as a wharf or net yard, and the use of forklifts and other equipment to move the net panels around. Francisco Blaha gives us a better appreciation of the difficulty crews face when repairing nets, at sea and in port.
Tuna fishers will have to do everything they can to save rays, including the magnificent manta ray, that are unintentionally caught during fishing operations.
Several species of mobulid rays, which include the mantas, are perilously close to extinction. One of the reasons for this is the numbers that die when they become part of the tuna catch.
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) hopes to reverse the trend to extinction. At its 16th annual meeting, delegates agreed on tougher rules aimed at helping rays survive industrial fishing operations. (Wildlife caught accidentally during fishing is known collectively as bycatch.)
According to World Wildlife Fund, every year between 13,000 and 19,000 seabirds, particularly albatrosses and petrels, die after being caught on longline hooks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean — even though a conservation and management measure already exists to protect them.
The new guidelines are simple so that they can be followed easily, and so are the materials needed to safely release seabirds: a towel or blanket, pliers, net, a box or bin, and gloves. Most of these are already likely to be on longline vessels.
Although the guidelines aren’t binding, they do mark a step up in WCPFC’s push for a sustainable tuna industry.
This is WCPFC 15, and it’s number 15 for me. That’s the nature of my job, like any other Fisheries manager here. It’s to make sure the decisions of the Commission are balanced and take into account our interests, not only as custodians of the resources but as development partners to this fishery so it’s important the measures here are effective and achieve long term goals. They should also create jobs and livelihoods and food security for our people.
Key highlights over those 15 years from where I sit? The biggest is the in-zone management regime, the Vessel Day Scheme. It’s transformed the fishery and our economic benefits to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement. The regional observer program is another of the key highlights. Those who are in these jobs are the unseen eyes and ears of our fishery in terms of compliance. We have a lot of young, dedicated people who make a lot of sacrifices to go out there and work under often difficult conditions and challenging reporting requirements.
And my third highlight is electronic monitoring. It’s the next stage for improving compliance and transparency, using tech to become more cost-effective, while doing a better job of managing the resources we have. That trend is only to improve as technology adapts and evolves with us.
At these commission meetings, negotiation is a key skill but it actually sits on a base of compromise, understanding and respect. Nothing annoys me more than people listening to us, saying they understand our situation, and then still going on to compare us to other Oceans. This is a totally different Ocean. We are the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, just look at the map. There are 17 member countries and territories. When you look at other Ocean areas, there is nothing there like us. So when people who participate in other Ocean forums come here and anticipate the same setting, it’s not. We are people. We are small Islands. We are affected, and our livelihoods, our futures depend on the health of these resources and the ocean they come from. So yes, at this 15th Commission, an ongoing message to all is that there is a need for mutual respect in this forum.
The measure that most needs to get across the line this week is obviously the Tropical Tuna Measure. It’s the bread and butter of this Commission and is a key objective of what we were established to do. –ENDS