FFA fisheries ministers progress observer and crew safety and longline fisheries development

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Republished from FFA Trade and Industry News, volume 13, issue 4, July–August 2020

The seventeenth annual Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers Meeting (FFC Min17) was held on 6–7 August 2020. In light of COVID-19 travel restrictions, this meeting was held virtually, with representatives participating from seventeen Pacific Island countries and territories. 

During this meeting, key activities and achievements of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) during 2019–2020 were highlighted including: implementation of the FFA Strategic Plan 2020–2025; addressing the impacts of climate change on tuna fisheries; progressing the Regional Longline Strategy action plan; FFA members’ achievements within the WCPFC; work to address observer safety and crew welfare; and work to further enhance the contribution of fisheries to Pacific Island economies, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Given considerably better fishery performance and higher economic rents generated from the Western and Central Pacific purse seine fishery compared to the longline fishery, Ministers welcomed FFA’s development of an action plan for implementation of the Regional Longline Strategy and identified this as a key priority.

This strategy aims to progress a zone-based management approach within WCPFC, with catch and/or effort limits established within FFA members’ EEZs, as well as binding limits set on the high seas. Ministers also welcomed the adoption of the Regional Longline Electronic Monitoring Policy, particularly in light of the suspension of human observers on vessels due to COVID-19 related health risks and travel restrictions, as a means of improving transparency of longline fishing operations. 

Ministers called for a strengthening of measures in the WCPFC relating to observer safety, including further investigation into regional options for ensuring observers are fully insured and that their families are supported in the event of tragedy at sea. Currently, observer safety issues are addressed at WCPFC through the Conservation and Management Measure for the Protection of WCPFC Regional Observer Program Observers (CMM 2017-03), but this CMM does not address insurance or observer family support. 

 On crew safety, Ministers called for full implementation of the harmonized minimum terms and conditions on human rights and labour conditions for crew adopted at FFCMIN16 in 2019. These legally binding MTCs came into effect on 1 January 2020 for all foreign and domestic vessels operating in FFA members’ waters. The Government of New Zealand will support a comprehensive multi-year project aimed at improving labour conditions at sea in the Pacific region. 

The suspension of onboard observers and port inspection activities as a result of COVID-19 has increased the risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity in the Pacific region. Ministers highlighted the need to rely on other important monitoring, control and surveillance tools available during this time including aerial surveillance, vessel monitoring systems, as well as vessel of interest information and the regional surveillance picture, managed by FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre.  Regarding climate change, Ministers stressed that fisheries issues should be firmly placed onto the wider climate change agenda, including through the Pacific’s engagement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and that Pacific regional organisations need to collaborate more closely on climate change-related needs of the region

Mapping tribal owners to benefit Bina landowners and cannery

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Verification has begun of the people who have claimed tribal ownership of the land where the Bina Harbour tuna cannery will be built, and nominations for positions as tribal trustees opened on Monday, 24 August.

Elections for trustees will be held in the next two weeks.

These are important steps in ensuring the building of the Bina Harbour tuna cannery is not disrupted by landowning disputes, which have halted other projects in Solomon Islands.

Verification is part of the process of formally mapping the tribal owners of the land. Its importance has been underlined by the estimated cost of the project and the level of private investment in it.

The project is likely to cost at a little over SB$2 billion dollars, with an external investor to contribute about 40%. 

Celsus Irokwato Talifilu, a local adviser to the Malaita Province Premier, said the cost of the project meant the government of Solomon Islands needed to be “very careful” to build the right foundations for success — and that meant mapping the tribal beneficiaries before the project started. Mapping entails identifying and registering people from the tribes acknowledged as tribal owners by the Solomon Islands High Court.

Mr Talifilu heads the Premier’s Advisory Research Unit (PARU) for the Malaita Provincial Government (MPG). He said it was important to establish who the resource owners were before site preparation and building began.

“These exercises are pillars for a sustainable project,” Mr Talifilu said.

He said those who intended to invest their hard-earned cash in the project would not do so if they believed the land-settlement process was inadequate. 

dispute over land was settled in 2016–2017. In July, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to commence work on the Bina Harbour project was signed. It included agreement to map tribal landowners as beneficiaries of the project. Mapping was conducted over eight days in July.

Bina Harbour women, men and children wait inside open-walled room to have names recorded as beneficiaries, Solomon Islands
Tribal landowners waiting their turn to have their names recorded as part of beneficiary mapping at Bina Harbour

In a statement, PARU said: “The beneficiary mapping exercise is a critical part of the land-settlement process for the Bina Harbour tuna processing plant project. This exercise ensures the resource owners are rightly identified and recorded. It is also the basis for a clear beneficiary scheme for the landowning groups.

“The MPG participation is crucial as a partner in the development of the project under the newly signed MOU. It is also a good exercise for the province so that the province can help with messaging of the new scheme that is more such sustainable.” 

Man uses a tablet to take a photo of a young woman who is a tribal landowner at Bina Harbour, Malaita, Solomon Islands
Albert Benisi of Pacific Horizons goes through the formal process of identifying and registering a tribal landowner as part of the Bina Harbour beneficiary mapping

Mapping means formally agreeing who the landowners are

The mapping exercise involves formally registering all living people among the landowning tribes. The record of each person includes a photo of them, and the names of their parents and grandparents. The list of names is then verified by the group elders. After verification, the list is given back to the group for final checking. The checking might take two weeks. 

After the final list has been approved, the groups seek nominations for the election of their trustees.

Pacific Horizons Consultancy Group is mapping the beneficiaries. It conducted the same exercise for the Tina hydro project. 

New approach means representation should be fair

Albert Benisi of Pacific Horizons said the consultancy used a new approach to mapping the benefits for landowning groups. In the past, disputes over land ownership had brought projects to a halt. 

Mr Benisi said the approach taken at Bina Harbour would benefit all landowning groups. 

“The approach taken now is different from logging, which normally leads to unfair distributions of benefits to landowners,” Mr Benisi said.

“For this approach, there will still be trustees overseeing the tribal group who are parties to the development, just as with current logging and mining operations in the country. 

“But the trustees will be working for tribes as representatives only, and not deal with benefits and such.” 

Man sits at table writing in book while other tribal landowner applicants look on, Bina Harbour beneficiary mapping, Solomon Islands
Another step taken in recording the details of tribal landholders during the Bina Harbour beneficiary mapping

Because trustees would be elected, they stood as the choice of the tribes. Representation would be fair. In the past, those who were close associates of the land would be automatically qualified to be a trustee.

“One of the good things about this approach is every single member of the tribal landowning groups, from infants to elderly individuals, will be the beneficiary of the Bina Harbour cannery project,” Mr Benisi said.

He said that mapping would be completed for both primary and secondary rights holders of Bina land, and that everybody would have the same benefits from the cannery once it was fully operational.

Any company that runs the cannery will need to buy shares directly through the bank accounts of the individuals registered under the tribes. Young people would be eligible to receive their shares when they turned 18.

The cannery is due to start operating in 2023, and process about 27,000 metric tons of fish a year.

Malaitans reap benefits from conserving marine areas

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HONIARA – Communities along the coastline of Malaita Province have transformed degraded natural environments in recent years – and have improved their access to local foods as a consequence.

People in this most populous province of Solomon Islands have depended for their livelihoods directly on what nature provides: roots, fruit from forest trees, and fish and other marine animals and plants. 

But these natural resources have been under increasing pressure. As in many other places in the world, the resources here were carelessly managed in the face of growing human populations and increasing need to harvest them for food and other uses.

To turn this situation around, several communities have worked with WorldFish Solomon Islands, a fisheries NGO, which has done most of the work in setting up the conservation sites. The provincial government’s fisheries division has also helped.

Now the Malaitan people are benefiting from the conservation of local sea resources, and discovering that the “modern” conservation techniques they’ve been introduced to are the same practices that were used in the past.

The Fumamato’o success story

Manaoba Island is located on the north-eastern part of Malaita. It is the home of the Fumamato’o community, which lives along the Lau Lagoon. 

The community decided to protect its marine resources in 2013, and has already benefited greatly from its efforts. Before, this island community was a victim to overharvesting of fish, trochus, sea cucumbers, clam shells, and many other sea creatures.

But now, overharvesting is a thing of the past, thanks to chair of the Manaoba Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA), Mr Dominick Tuita, and his team.

During an interview with the Malaita Star magazine, Mr Tuita said Fumamato’o was like any other coastal community in Malaita Province. 

“The people depend heavily on their sea for income and food,” Mr Tuita said.

The island of Manaoba is well known to the Tobaita people, Mbaelelea people and Baegu people as the main provider of fish and other seafood. But Mr Tuita said that the overharvest of marine resources had taken a toll. 

In 2013, the people of Manaoba realised that they needed to change as they observed that resources were running out. They formed a committee to set up an LMMA.

“There are two areas where we restricted fishing: one is a total marine protected area and the other is open-and-close area,” Mr Tuita explained.

In the protected area, fishing is banned. In the close-and-open area, harvesting is allowed once a month. 

“We usually open it at the end of each month to allow villagers to fish for income or for community gatherings. When we open the open-and-close area, we invite fishermen from nearby communities to come and fish. During harvest day, everyone is welcome to fish,” Mr Tuita said.

Two Fumamato'o men standing in open long boat haul in a net while fishing in the open-and-close area. Photo: WorldFish/Bira'au Wilson Saeni.
Fumamato’o men haul in a net while fishing in the open-and-close area. Photo: WorldFish/Bira’au Wilson Saeni.

As a result of close management, fish were now present in greater numbers and larger sizes. 

Some fish species that they thought were extinct had returned to the fishing ground.

“The marine protected area and the open-and-close area made a big difference,” Mr Tuita stated.

Fumamato’o man holds two fish of a species that was thought to be locally extinct. Photo WorldFish/Bira'au Wilson Saeni.
Fumamato’o local holds fish of a species that was thought to be extinct. Once the community began to actively manage the marine areas, the fish has returned. Photo: WorldFish/Bira’au Wilson Saeni.

The women of Fumamato’o also benefit greatly from the locally managed marine area.

Betty Koidi, in an interview with the Malaita Star, said that fish was now available in big number and large sizes, which greatly helped in the marketing of the fish. 

Mrs Koidi said the women of Fumamato’o could sell one fish for SBD$10.00 (US$1.20) and above. Before the locally managed marine area was set up, they struggled, as there was not enough fish and the fish they did catch were small. 

“We women will strive and work together with the men and youths of this community to maintain the open-and-close area for our benefit,” Mrs Koidi said.

Mr Tuita said the Manaoba LMMA operated under clear rules.

“If we find you fishing in the marine protected area, you will pay a fine of SBD$500 (US$61.00),” he said.

A group caught fishing illegally in the area at the beginning of the year paid a fine of $500 and a live pig. 

He said the surrounding communities knew about the rules and were working with Fumamato’o. 

“At first other communities found it hard to accept, but as they learn about the benefits of the marine protected area, they start to work together with us”, he said.

Sea resources protected on a taboo site at Mararo

The Mararo Community Based Organization in East Are’Are has taken steps to conserve its marine resources at the Puriasi Management Area. 

The area is a unique place that also contains traditional taboo sites. 

According to Tony Atitete, the community put rules in place to safeguard the area from being exploited and to scare away potential intruders.

Mr Atitete told the Malaita Star that the area was important for their tribe for the taboo site that their ancestors used to conduct their traditional form of worship. 

Thickly vegetated hillsides and heavily mangrove treed water edges of Puriasi Management Area. Photo WorldFish/Bira'au Wilson Saeni.
Puriasi Management Area. Photo: WorldFish/Bira’au Wilson Saeni.

Because the site was being managed to honour culture and to protect the natural resources, it was becoming a breeding area for marine life. 

He said the community aimed to preserve the marine resources for future generations. Rules prohibit the catching of certain animals and from some fishing methods for three years, and ban the collection of mangrove trees for firewood, and the “unnecessary” cutting of trees. 

After the three years, the taboo area would be opened only for one week for any special occasion, and then closed again. 

Anyone found to have breached the rules would face fines of up to SBD$500 (US$61.00).

Mr Atitete said the management plan had been developed and endorsed by surrounding communities. 

Although the hillsides of the Puriasi Management Area is covered with thick virgin forest, and its shoreline with mangroves, there was a persistent threat from a logging operation nearby. Mr Atitete said he feared that the Puriasi Management Area would be disturbed if the logging company went into full-scale operation. 

Head and shoulders portrait of Tony Atitete. Photo WorldFish/Bira'au Wilson Saeni.
Tony Atitete. Photo: WorldFish/Bira’au Wilson Saeni.

Conservation an ancient practice in East Kwaio

Marine conservation has been regarded as a longstanding part of the East Kwaio culture.

East Kwaio man Tome Arika said during a recent meeting with WorldFish and Malaita Province government officials that the “modern” conservation technique they were being taught was similar to the traditional conservation practices of Kwaio people.

“Personally, I find this concept blends in well with our traditional setting,” Mr Arika said.

“Before, we restricted these fishing grounds only for feast days. At that time this place was full of fish and turtles. 

“I’ve seen it with my own eyes. But today people overharvest fish and shells.”

Mr Arika, who holds onto the ancient Kwaio way of worshipping, said the increase in the coastal human population had put much pressure on the sea resources.

“Today you will hardly find fish in the fishing grounds, which were formerly conserved by our forefathers. There are fish, but they are small in size and less in numbers.

“I think we are all in support of looking after marine resources because we want to make life easy for ourselves,” he said.

FAD launches in Malaita to support incomes during COVID-19 restrictions

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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. 

Photo: Mathew Isihanua.

Solomons province begins work to develop Russell Islands fisheries

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HONIARA – The Central Islands Province (CIP) of Solomon Islands has commenced work to develop the fisheries sector in the Russell Islands group.

This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (M0U) on 30 April between the constituency (electoral division) of Savo–Russells, the Central Island Provincial Government and the Russell Islands Investment Forum (RIIF).

The group of islands lies north-west of the island of Guadalcanal, where the Solomons capital Honiara lies.

Fisheries are an untapped resource that have the potential to improve livelihoods in the Russell Islands once they are properly developed and managed by rural communities to supply local and regional markets.

The MOU was signed by Savo–Russells MP Dickson Mua, CIP Premier Stanley Manetiva, and RIIF chairman Lesley Assad Norris. It was the culmination of a consultative and mapping effort by national government officials and other stakeholders in early April.

In Solomon Islands, nine men and one woman stand for photo in a room. Three of them hold in front of them copies of the same document. They are RIFF chair Lesley Assad Norris , the MP for Savo–Russells, the Hon. Dickson Mua, and Central Islands Province Premier Stanley Manetiva
The signatories of the MOU to develop the fisheries of Russell Islands are flanked by officials of the stakeholder organisations. Those holding copies of the MOU are, from left to right, RIFF chair Lesley Assad Norris , the MP for Savo–Russells, the Hon. Dickson Mua, and Central Islands Province Premier Stanley Manetiva.


The mapping exercise was to organise fishermen and fisherwomen in the islands into distinct village fisheries committees. 

Nine villages, and a total of 300 fishers, were identified to kick off the project and work according to the fisheries framework.

The Yandina Fisheries Centre and the constituency fisheries centre were identified as suitable for providing facilities to assist fishers to stock up supplies for the fisheries development program. 

It is anticipated that the facilities will enhance the capacity to store, handle and transport fish to markets. They will soon be rehabilitated to meet minimum standards for fish storage and handling.

Struggle for reliable infrastructure

For years, fishing, copra and coconut have been the main source of income for the people of Russell Islands and Savo Island in the Central Islands Province.

However, the lack of facilities has been a challenge to fishers of these islands.

The Yandina Fisheries Centre has been the major ice cube supplier for fishers, but it currently lies idle and this has been a big setback for the fishers there. It was built by the national Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in 1984, but has lacked the machinery needed to handle fish. When operating, it is also the main storage centre for local fishers who need to store their catches before they are shipped to the capital, Honiara, or other locations in the country.

A long, low building with a corrugated metal roof stands near the water. Two large plastic boxes stand in front. In the shallow water, a dingy with an outboard motor is at anchor.
The Yandina Fisheries Centre was built by the national Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in 1984. It is currently run down.


A former officer in charge at Yandina, Talent Taipeza, said people were willing to fish. 

“In my view, we are the ones that failed them and their fishing business by slowing down in our ice supplier service,” Mr Taipeza said. 

“The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is trying to make this place work. It has supplied us with fuel, but that has stopped. The machines have broken down and we are no longer receiving ice orders. 

“Due to that, the fishers have to bring their own ice blocks from Honiara when coming down here to fish.”

Head and torso photo of Talent Taipeza, a former officer in charge of the operations of Yandina Fisheries Centre, Russell Islands group of Solomon Islands
Talent Taipeza, a former officer in charge of the operations of Yandina Fisheries Centre


After years of dormancy, the centre resumed operation in 2016. However, after a few months, the machinery broke down again, forcing services to a halt.

Mr Taipeza said the ministry was trying to fully utilise the centre but the continuous breakdown of machinery was hampering efforts.

“Our ice machines have broken down. We made a little run with some European Union assistance but then the ice machines broke down,” Mr Taipeza said. 

“We have decided to halt operations until we get support again from the Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation of Japan. They have been trying their best to see us run this centre by ourselves. They supplied us with a generator and the ice machines. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is supporting the projects.”

Two men (arms and one torso only visible) break up blocks of ice to add to bin of fish to be transported. On Russell Islands, Solomon Islands.
Russell Islands fish vendors break up blocks of ice into a chiller box to keep fish chilled while it is shipped to Honiara


The centre was also in “dire need” of piped water, so that the centre can go back into operation.

“For so long, the facility is lacking the support of water supply, and the province has tried its best to make water possible,” Mr Taipeza said. 

“Now there is water, but to make it reach the centre is a problem. My job is to look after the centre. I can do any work in starting the machine, running ice block and other things that fishermen need. But as long as water is connected through here, we will not have any more problems, we will run this facility full time,” he said.

Following the halt of operations, most fishers in the Russell Islands were demanding that more centres open.

With the assistance of the Member of Parliament for Savo-Russells Constituency, a new fisheries centre was built on Loun Island. It was funded by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

“We have the machines here such as refrigerators, generators and other equipment funded by the European Union and the OFCF. If the province can assist us in strengthening the operations of this fisheries centre, I believe people will benefit greatly from it,” Mr Taipeza said. 

“The most expensive machines that the province cannot meet are already here in this centre. They will just need to assist the centre with proper water and electricity.”

Small building with concrete block base and timber upper, with corrugated metal roof, with some scaffolding on parts of building
A fisheries centre built on Loun Island

Leaders optimistic about Russell Islands fishing industry 

Following a recent follow-up assessment of the project area and sites, provincial fisheries officer Jacob Piturara was positive about the project.

So, too, were all the communities consulted during the discussion phases. They pledged support to organise and develop their fisheries resources. 

Elders in Russell Islands stated that, while the fisheries development program undertaken by the province, constituency and local people was underway, it was also important to develop proper management and sustainable practices.

“For so long, the Yandina fisheries facility in the Russell Islands was non-serviceable. Most of the time, we have to travel to Honiara just to get ice cubes to store our fish stocks,” the elders said in a government statement.

A woman in Alokan, an island off Banika, said her husband had been a fisherman for the last 20 years. She supported the program because she saw the challenges and hardships that fishers faced in trying to make ends meet. 

She said she was pleased that Russell Islands fishermen would be able to organise and share experiences, and at the same time work on how best they could handle their fishing and basic needs.

The MP for Savo–Russells, the Hon. Dickson Mua, said he was optimistic that everyone was working together to assist ordinary fishers and their families. 

Mr Mua said there were also more opportunities in the agriculture sector, especially the coconut industry.

The CIP Premier, Stanley Manetiva, said he wanted to build momentum for the fisheries program. 

“We are happy to have a plan moving forward, and the most important thing is the people must benefit from their resources and improve their everyday livelihoods,” Mr Manetiva said.

“Organisation is key. As the Premier for Central Islands Province, I will fully support initiatives that will place my people in a better position.”

The signing of the MOU for the Russell Islands fisheries development project was witnessed by interested fishers from the Malaita Outer Islands (Lord Howe). They, too, hope to develop a similar project for their rich fishing grounds.

A fresh vision to take Solomons tuna fishery into a bright future

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HONIARA – Although tuna has helped grow the Solomon Islands economy by bringing in jobs and government revenue, the country needs a fresh vision, according to homegrown fisheries law expert Transform Aqorau.

On World Tuna Day, Dr Aqorau said that Solomon Islands needed to reset its focus with fresh ideas so it could meet the growing challenges the tuna industry faced in the region.

He posed the question: what kind of vision does Solomon Islands want for its tuna fisheries by 2060?

Dr Aqorau, who is the CEO of iTuna Intel and a past chair of the Parties to Nauru Agreement, has a rich knowledge of the tuna industry – and of emerging challenges.

These included climate change, weak fisheries policies, a lack of technological advancement, and the need for more fisheries research. 

According to Dr Aqorau, Solomon Islands could see a bigger and better tuna fishery if it addressed these challenges.

Dr Transform Aqorau on deck of a purse-seine fishing vessel. Photo: Giff Johnson.
Dr Transform Aqorau on board the purse-seine fishing vessel Lojet during a two-week voyage. Photo: Giff Johnson.

Beyond COVID-19 and through climate change

Overshadowing this year’s celebration of World Tuna Day were two natural phenomena that are causing a lot of global uncertainty: COVID-19 and climate change. Dr Aqorau said they would both leave an imprint on Solomon Islands fisheries resources and on food security. 

They were forcing governments, businesses, individuals and communities to rethink how to manage fisheries and try to ensure that trade was uninterrupted, at a time where there were restrictions on the supply chain. 

“So far, the SEAPODYM (Spatial Ecosystem and Population Dynamics Model) that has been developed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community is telling us that the population density of skipjack tuna, the primary source of Solomon Islands canned tuna product, is likely to shift to the eastern Pacific,” Dr Aqorau said.

It was therefore appropriate for Solomon Islanders to ask how they could respond to these challenges in a concerted and systematic manner. 

“We know that a second cannery is going to be built in Bina, in Malaita Province. Its feasibility and viability are going to depend on its capacity to secure a steady supply of tuna to maintain a consistent throughput for the cannery,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“Therefore, it is only appropriate to be asking questions about how we are going to guarantee that we can secure enough tuna resources to ensure the sustainability of Solomon Islands tuna industry.”

It was important to take a long-term view of the policies and the harvest strategies that were needed to ensure that the tuna stocks remained healthy and robust, and continued to support local communities.

“These are important considerations not just for Solomon Islands but for a number of Pacific Island countries as well.” 

Women under awnings with tables laid with fresh tuna for sale at market
Women sell tuna at the Honiara Central Market

Reforming policies the way forward

Dr Aqorau said it was “obvious” that Solomon Islands needed to review its fisheries policy and reshape its fisheries management regime so that it could accommodate these emerging challenges. To do this, it was necessary to understand how well the current systems were performing. 

“This could involve applying the fisheries governance diagnostic tools developed by MRAG Americas to test the performance of Solomon Islands fisheries management systems, and project the harvest strategy that will be required to support Solomon Islands tuna industry,” Dr Aqorau said.

The diagnostic test could look at the intersection between three factors to measure the current performance of the overall fisheries management systems. The first was whether there was a robust fisheries management policy in place. The second was whether the country had the capacity to implement that policy. The third looked at what measures and tools were in place to advance the policies.

Reviews should build on the framework of the Fisheries Management Act 2015, which needed amending, the draft Solomon Islands Tuna Management and Development Plan 2020–2025, and Solomon Islands National Ocean Policy. They should be utilised to reshape fisheries to help the country, including business, adapt to climate change.

Solomons as a hub of innovation

Dr Aqorau said there was “no doubt” that internet technology and advances in communication would significantly change the way business was conducted. With the right strategies, Solomon Islands could become the innovation hub for tuna development in the region. 

“This will require having a long-term vision to support such a development. But more broadly, it will require the promulgation of necessary regulatory frameworks, systems, and policies so that private–public partnerships in innovative research and development can be promoted,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“We should envision a fishery where innovation hubs are located within the same areas as the processing plants at Noro and Bina, providing tax-free areas for start-up technology and companies researching ways in which fisheries products can be value-added.”

Private–public sector partnerships could also provide ancillary services such as machining, welding, and net making.

In foreground man sliding a frozen tun along a chute, with other men behind him and fishing vessel in background
Workers offload tuna catches from the longline fishing vessel


The iTuna Intel boss suggested that Solomon Islands could also position itself to be the centre for innovative fisheries research.

This could be achieved by working with key partners such as the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Solomon Islands National University (SINU), and World Fish and other international ocean research institutions. 

“Solomon Islands has to be envisioning how it will be able to provide employment and enough throughput in 2060 in view of the anticipated shifts in the productivity of its EEZ, which is already subject to seasonal variations,” he said. 

“There is scope to investigate the development of more diverse range of fish products such as fish sausage, fish balls, and tuna shavings for soup. These are, perhaps, necessary as we look for ways in which food security can be ensured for Solomon Islands’ growing population. 

“It will also be necessary to look at how the markets will be reached, and to ask the question as to what kind of products will be exported and how can these be marketed using some of the emerging technology platforms,” Dr Aqorau said.

To achieve this vision for Solomon Islands in 2060, the country also needed to review the skills that existed and which ones would be needed in 40 years’ time. It needed to embrace state-of-the-art technology and work closely with other Pacific Island countries to ensure the sustainability of regional tuna resources.


This story is adapted from the message on a more sustainable life in Solomon Islands given by Dr Transform Aqorau on World Tuna Day 2020. 

On World Tuna Day, the Pacific states focus on flourishing

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HONIARA – The small island developing states (SIDS) of the Pacific celebrated this year’s World Tuna Day on 2 May with a virtual dialogue with a serious purpose.

The discussion involved the United Nations’ Group of Friends of the Oceans. The group is made up of countries that help to accelerate the full implementation of the United Nations Development Program’s sustainable development goal 14, which focuses on life below water.

In the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), the SIDS collect millions of dollars in revenue from the tuna fisheries they manage. The revenue is vital for income, employment and food for Pacific Islanders. 

They are working around the clock to ensure that the harvesting of tuna is kept at levels that allow the fish to maintain healthy populations. So far, the WCPO has managed to keep tuna numbers at sustainable levels. But this is becoming more difficult. They face the pressures of increasing demand and uncertainty over the availability of tuna as the ocean environments change.

This was the focus of the discussions on World Tuna Day.

The first World Tuna Day was held in 2017 following a vote in the United Nations. The aim of the day is to draw the attention of consumers, governments, industry and civil society to the pressures placed on tuna as a vital source of food and livelihoods. As pressure increases, the need for collective global action to sustain viable numbers of tuna also increases. 

Tuna lying on a plastic tarp. Photo Ronald Toito'ona.
Tuna offloaded from fishing vessels during transhipment at the port of Honiara. Photo: Ronald Toito’ona

In everyone’s interest to sustain tuna numbers

Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN, Dr Satyendra Prasad, took part in the dialogue on behalf of the Pacific SIDS. He spoke on the significance of tuna to the Pacific states and the need to be serious in its sustainability. 

“Tuna is a significant source of food and an economic driver for SIDS, with approximately 7 million tonnes of tuna landed yearly. The SIDS region alone provides just less than 40% of the global tuna catch,” Dr Prasad said.

He added that the Pacific states were reminding the world that “it is in the interests of both the small states of the Pacific and of the world that this resource be managed sustainably”. 

Dr Prasad reminded the UN audience that the intention of World Tuna Day 2020 was to focus global attention to the considerable pressures that tuna stocks around the world face from illegal fishing and overfishing, from harmful subsidies to fisheries, and from the effects of climate change. 

“Accelerating international action in achieving the SDG14 – Life Below Water should be part of the UN’s response. This should also become a core part of the COVID-19 recovery efforts – the recovery must be a sustainable blue recovery as well,” he said.

Head and upper body photo to Dr Satyendra PrasadFiji’s permanent representative to the UN. Photo: FBC TV.
Dr Satyendra Prasad, Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN. Photo: FBC TV.

An opportunity to explore incentives to improve economies

Dr Transform Aqorau, who is a past CEO of the Parties to Nauru Agreement and one of the Pacific’s leading tuna experts, took part in the dialogue from Honiara. He told the global audience that the Pacific Island states needed to think hard about how to keep the tuna industry sustainable. He said that, as well as challenges, COVID-19 presented opportunities to rethink the management of the tuna industry in the Pacific. 

“The Pacific tuna industry will suffer as quarantine requirements, suspension of flights, and disruptions to the supply chain will affect the supply of tuna to regional and global markets,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“This will have adverse impact on jobs in the Pacific and on foreign exchange earnings from the industry.”

However, the Pacific could use the opportunity to rebuild a more equitable Pacific tuna industry. 

“Pacific governments should explore incentive structures that encourage increased processing within the region,” he said. 

“They should also invest in expanding equity in tuna processing enterprises that rely on the Pacific’s tuna but which are based outside the Pacific region.” 

Dr Aqorau said that climate change and the illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing of tuna in the region were a growing concern that Pacific governments needed to be fighting in the international arena.

Head and shoulders portrait of Dr Transform Aqorau. Photo Pacific Catalyst.
Dr Transform Aqorau, who spoke by video link from Honiara. Photo: Pacific Catalyst.

WCPFC celebrates the people who have kept tuna numbers sustainable

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPDC) contributed a statement to the dialogue. The organisation’s role in ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the tuna has attracted the greatest scrutiny of its work. 

The commission said in its statement that “intense scrutiny” occurred because Pacific communities and economies depended so heavily on tuna.

“From a conservation lens, it is gratifying for the WCPFC to celebrate World Tuna Day in the comfort of the knowledge that the four key commercial tuna stocks of the WCPO – namely bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and south Pacific albacore – are all assessed to be managed and maintained above the agreed sustainable levels,” the WCPFC said. 

“This is an achievement that is unmatched by any other regional ocean.”

WCPFC attributed it to the dedication, sacrifice and cooperation of members, cooperating non-members, participating territories and other stakeholders of the organisation.

Smiling man wearing bandana on head and large plastic apron holds whole bagged tuna on wharf. Fishing boat in background.
Offloading tuna at the Mua-i-walu wharf in Fiji … SIDS want to maintain populations of tuna in their waters to ensure a continued flow of revenue and economic opportunities

What do we want for tuna fisheries in 2060?

Dr Aqorau said the serious backdrop to this year’s World Tuna Day celebration was caused by two phenomena that had resulted in a lot of global uncertainty: COVID-19 and climate change.

They were forcing governments, businesses, individuals and communities to rethink how to manage their fisheries and ensure uninterrupted trade at a time where there were restrictions on the supply chain.

“Therefore, it might be well to ask ourselves on this occasion, what kind of vision we want for our tuna fisheries by 2060,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“We in Solomon Islands are forced to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on fish trade as well as the projected impacts of climate change. 

“So far, the SEAPODYM models that have been developed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community are telling us that the population density of skipjack tuna, which is the primary source of Solomon Islands canned tuna product, is likely to shift to the eastern Pacific,” Dr Aqorau said.

He said that the combined consequences of the effects of COVID-19 and climate change meant it was appropriate to ask how the country was going to guarantee that it could secure enough tuna to ensure the sustainability of its tuna industry. 

“It is important to take a long-term view of the resources and the harvest strategies that will be needed to ensure that the tuna stocks remain healthy and robust, [so they do] enough to support the economy, ensure sufficient food security for Solomon Islands’ growing population, and also support throughput for Solomon Islands processing plants,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“These are important considerations not just for Solomon Islands but for a number of Pacific Island countries as well.” said Dr Aqorau.

He said it was “obvious” that Solomon Islands needed to review its fisheries policies and reshape its management regimes so that it was able to accommodate these emerging challenges. 

In order to plan for the future, it was necessary to understand how well the current fisheries management systems were performing, Dr Aqorau added.

“We need to take a futuristic look at Solomon Islands fisheries that will embrace the use state-of-the-art technology, and a whole different range of arrangements working closely with other Pacific Island countries to ensure the sustainability of our tuna resources. 

“We can start working on constructing a fresh vision for our tuna for 2060.”


COVID-19 threatens Solomon Islands’ global tuna industry

Categories News, NewsPosted on

HONIARA, 17 April 2020 – Solomon Islands is facing an economic crisis: with the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, the prognosis for the near to medium term is not looking good, says iTuna Intel CEO and founding director of Pacific Catalyst, Dr Transform Aqorau.

“The only revenue going to be coming into the Treasury is through the sale of fishing vessel days (VDS) to foreign fishing vessels and a little from existing logging operations. The latter are at levels that are much lower than 2019 but the forecast is not really bright,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“With regards to tuna revenues, we have to keep our fingers crossed that this natural phenomenon, which has seen tuna concentrated in our waters as a result of the shift of the warm pool, will remain in Solomon Islands over the next few years.” 

In normal years, the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, of which Solomon Islands is a part, generates about $25 billion in revenue from tuna a year. 

Tuna is the second largest revenue earner for Solomon Islands, behind the depleting logging industry. The tuna industry’s contribution to the Solomon Islands Government revenue on average is $260 million, of which 90% comes from fishing licences, the Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) has reported.

Dr Aqorau is a Solomon Islands fisheries law expert, and a former boss of the Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA). He said that Italy and China, which were the two biggest importers of Solomon Islands tuna, had to date been the countries worst affected by the coronavirus. 

“This will no doubt have a percolating effect on our major exports and, ultimately, revenue,” he said. 

“No economy can survive without new money coming in, whether it is the form of donor aid or revenues from exports, as this will eventually impact on its ability to pay for import.”

CBSI reports on Covid-19 threats to local economy

The CBSI reported in March that the coronavirus would likely have a negative impact on the Solomon Islands economy. The spread of the pandemic and the considerable disruption it would cause would be exacerbated by the increasingly intertwined trade and investment relationships between China and its neighbours in the Asia–Pacific region. 

The report stated that “being a small, open economy, the Solomon Islands will likely be adversely affected through the trade channel and thereafter the economy, and even fiscal operations”.

This month, CBSI reported that the speed of the spread of COVID-19 and the extent of the pandemic around the world meant that it had to revise its near-term growth outlook for the Solomon Islands economy

Front of Central Bank of Solomon Islands building, Honiara
The Central Bank of Solomon Islands says that the COVID-19 is a huge threat to the country’s economy


The report said: “The downward movement in the global economy, as well ensuing public health measures and business closures, could see a significant decline in real GDP of between minus 3% to minus 5% in 2020. The current information at hand indicates that the economy is moving into a recession starting in the second quarter of 2020.”

The impact of COVID-19 was expected to affect almost all sectors of the Solomon Islands economy. Supply chains had been affected, with travel limits and disruptions to business activity.

Densely packed group of Solomon Islanders outside building with security shutters down. Photo: Lachlan S. Eddie.
Most businesses in Solomon Islands have scaled down operations as more workers are being laid off. Photo: Lachlan S. Eddie.

Trimarine’s Soltuna scales down operation

More workers from the fisheries sector are being laid off as the pandemic’s grip on the Solomon Islands economy tightens. Soltuna, which employs over 1,000 workers, is one company that is scaling down.

Speaking in Parliament last Tuesday during a motion to extend the state of public emergency to four months, Minister for Finance and Treasury Harry Kuma said fisheries exports to Italy in particular had indicated a declining trend from the end of the first quarter of 2020 .

He added that prices were likely to fall by 5%.

“This will severely affect the operation of Soltuna and the employment of mainly women and girls in the Noro Cannery,” the minister stated.

On a similar note, Trimarine’s spokesperson, Joe Hamby, specified that Soltuna production depended firstly on the supply of tuna from its sibling company, National Fisheries Developments (NFD).  

“As you can imagine, fishing is directly impacted by the weather. Cyclone Harold has severely interrupted NFD’s fishing operations. Soltuna cannot operate without a steady supply of good quality tuna from NFD,” Mr Hamby said.

He went on to say that Trimarine had learned a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic. This was because Soltuna’s management and staff were almost all Solomon Islanders, and Soltuna could continue to operate during periods when expatriates had to evacuate back to their home countries.  

For example, only one of the six tuna processing plants in Papua New Guinea was operating at the moment. The others had closed because they don’t have enough local management and technical expertise. Expatriates with those skills had gone home, Mr Hamby added.

Two female workers and one male worker at Noro tuna cannery, Solomon Islands
Workers at Soltuna cannery, Noro … nearly 1,000 workers have been affected as Soltuna scales down work during the coronavirus pandemic


“By contrast, despite COVID-19, Soltuna has continued to safely produce badly needed food for both the domestic and export markets.”

Dr Aqorau had projected that demand for canned tuna products would increase, including in China, where demand for fresh fish was declining as a result of the pandemic. 

“It will be an evolution in China, but the tuna industry will be in for some very exciting times in the future,” Dr Aqorau said.

Transhipment problems threaten the global tuna supply chain 

Frabelle Fishing Company in the Philippines is another company that is affected by COVID-19, as most ports in the Pacific are closed to transhipment.

The company’s CEO, Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jnr, said Solomon Islands was a major resource for tuna in the Western Pacific, as well as a major transhipment point. He said any restriction imposed by the government on fishing and fish transfers would surely affect the flow of goods to the markets.

Head and upper body portrait photo of Frabelle CEO Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jnr
Frabelle CEO Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jnr


“If we are operating unhampered, we are actually not losing so much, but if we go into port and we are made to wait for 14 days’ quarantine, we will be losing about US$10,000 per day in our operations cost while at port, plus the island nations will lose 12 of those 14 days in terms of vessel fishing days that fishermen are supposed to pay PNA,” he said.

“So, for every port call with quarantine, each boat loses about US$120,000, and the island nations will also lose about US$130,000 per day per vessel at port under quarantine.

“These are rough figures, but realistic,” Mr Laurel said.

He added that if Frabelle was not allowed to tranship in other ports, the company would have to run to ports that would allow them under certain conditions. But this would entail burning more fuel and losing more fishing days for both the fisherman and the island nations.

Three fishing vessels in Honiara waters, with trees in foreground and hills enclosing waterway in background. Photo: Ronald Toito’ona.
Fishing vessels conducting transhipment at the Honiara port. Photo: Ronald Toito’ona.

Inability to replace crew

Marko Kamber, of Caroline Fisheries Corporation, has also stated that another major issue that island-based operators faced was the inability to replace crew because of the travel bans in place.

“Also many island ports do not allow disembarkation of crews to fly home,” he said.

Korea-based company Silla is also facing hiccups with their operations, with difficulties due to restrictions imposed by island countries despite a 100% fleet operation, says Operation & Sales Manager Sancho Kim.

Mr Kim said their operation was affected by the 14-day quarantine rule and some countries were closing their ports, both air and sea, to block COVID-19 transmission. 

“It is obvious any one of those measures are affecting our operation negatively, causing delays in finding available ports to call for transhipment and maintenance operation,” Mr Kim said.

Honiara port in Solomon Islands is one of the main ports for tuna purse seiners’ transhipments. Solomon Islands’ exclusive economic zone has been a good fishing ground for tuna purse seiners this year, so far, leading vessels to call more frequently to Honiara for transhipment.

“It surely helped to improve the local economy to bring more economic activities into Honiara and also increase government revenue. However, Solomon Islands is also implementing a 14 days quarantine policy, which is forcing vessels to turn around to find other ports available to call.”

Purse-seine tuna fishing vessel offloading catch at Noro, Solomon Islands
NFD’s purse seiner Solomon-Topaz offloading tuna at Noro in a trial held during better times in 2018