HONIARA – A new tilapia hatchery in Guadalcanal is set to ease in-shore fishing activities and boost food security for the Aruligo community.
Construction of the hatchery should be completed by the end of the year. Aruligo is about 32 km north-west of the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.
It is jointly funded by the Solomon Islands and the New Zealand governments under the Mekem Strong Solomon Islands Fisheries programme (MSSIF). The hatchery will improve food security, help reduce pressure on existing in-shore fisheries, and help rural people, particularly youth, participate in the productive sector.
The New Zealand Government said the Aruligo hatchery project was one of the most important projects of MSSIF.
“We’re excited to see the progress made by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) at the Aruligo Tilapia Hatchery,” the New Zealand High Commission’s Office in Solomon Islands said in a statement.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has slowed progress on the construction of the hatchery. However, work is continuing.
“Despite challenges caused by COVID-19, the contractor has made excellent progress towards completion of Phase 1 of the project,” the High Commissioner’s office said.
“We think the office building and ponds look fantastic! We expect completion of Phase 2 – fencing, utilities, and further pond construction – within the next few months.”
The first phase includes a laboratory, an office, a covered area of tanks for growing juvenile fish, and a perimeter fence.
MSSIF has supported the MFMR for the past decade.
The fisheries ministry hopes the project will provide much-needed facilities to import tilapia and to make an improved strain available to rural fish farmers. This is driven by MFMR’s policy to develop an aquaculture sector that supports rural livelihoods, food security and economic returns.
Optimism over new venture
MFMR said the COVID-19 pandemic had done little to dampen the spirits of the group of dedicated government officers and contractors who continued to work on construction activities at the hatchery. Ministry staff conducted a site visit in April to see first-hand the stage the project had reached and were satisfied with progress.
During the handover ceremony, the ministry’s Under-Secretary of Corporate Service, Patterson Lusi, appealed to the Aruligo people to look after the property.
“As we gather in this magnificent building and the first set of ponds that we have here, it demonstrates a true commitment that we all have in making sure that there is a national tilapia hatchery project to be built here,” Mr Lusi said.
“I also want to appeal to people around here to look after the property. Remember the maximum benefits of this project will pour out to the communities in and around this area.
“The first species of tilapia will be from here, the first training for farmers will also be done here, so please look after our facility well.”
Speaking at the ceremony, the Senior Fisheries Officer of Guadalcanal Province, Willie Kokopu, said the division was proud to be part of the development of the centre.
Locals employed in building the site
Part of the centre sits on a World War 2 site, and early work involved clearing unexploded ordnance from the area. Locals were employed to help with this work, and the ministry said that more locals would be employed on Phase 2 works.
An elder was reported as saying that the project would “be a magnet for other proposed development in region”.
It is anticipated that construction will be completed this year. The hatchery should become fully operational once Nile tilapia are imported in 2021. They will be dispersed to farmers in late 2022 or early 2023.
Aquaculture is relatively new in Solomon Islands. MFMR’s Aquaculture division expects tilapia to contribute to food security and rural livelihoods. So far, the fish has only been used for stocking natural bodies of freshwater bodies to increase inland fishing production.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
HONIARA, 27 March 2020 – WITH the increasing threats of climate change on local fishing grounds of coastal communities around Malaita Province in Solomon Islands, communities are seeing the importance of the fish-aggregating devices (FADs) in providing them with alternative fishing grounds.
In Solomon Islands, small-scale commercial fisheries are dotted around the provinces, and focus on providing mainly sea resources such as sea shells, beche-de-mer, and shark fins for export.
These commodities are an important source of cash for local Solomon Islanders. However, in recent years, coastal communities in the Solomon Islands have seen drastic changes that have affected their daily fishing activities.
These changes gave birth to the local marine management area (LMMA) initiative, through which coastal communities around Malaita understood the importance of protecting their reefs from overfishing and other harvesting activities.
Malaita provincial government and WorldFish
Since 2018, eight communities in Malaita Province have utilised FADs to make their fishing easier. They are Suava Bay, Onepusu and Mandalua in North Malaita; Gwanatafu in West Fataleka; Fote, and Bio in West Kwara’ae; Ta’arutona in West Are’are; and Ambitona in East Kwaio.
The Malaita Provincial Fisheries office and WorldFish Auki have teamed up for the great partnership, which resulted in eight FADs being deployed in the seas near these communities in March 2018.
The FADs were deployed by a team consisting of people from WorldFish and Malaita Provincial Fisheries. The eight communities are believed to have put into practice LMMAs, to restrict use of reefs close to their villages from being fished or gleaned.
The aim of deploying the FADs to these communities is to provide the communities with an alternative fishing area to prevent the villagers from engaging in fishing activities in the LMMA. More communities in Malaita are now adapting the concept of LMMA to protect their marine resources from over-harvesting and the fear of marine resource extinction.
Today, due to the value of marine resources like fish and seashells in Solomon Islands domestic markets, people put more pressure on the reefs than ever in human history. Harvesting of marine resources for daily food and income over the years has so affected many reefs in Malaita that they have lost much of their rich marine life.
Some communities have begun to realise that relying heavily on the reefs needs to be stopped to allow reefs to revive, and their marine richness to return and continue to provide the current generation and future generations with food and income.
However, the challenge that materialises for adopting an LMMA is that it prevents communities that depend on reefs from looking elsewhere for fish and seashells to satisfy daily needs. This is becoming irritation, especially to those who depend on harvesting marine resources.
According to Martin Jasper from the Malaita Provincial Fisheries office in Auki, the FADs are actually meant to relieve fishing pressure from the reefs, especially when the reefs are put under an LMMA to regain their rich marine life.
“This is the second phase of the project implemented under the Coral Triangle Initiative and funded by Asian Development Bank,” Mr Jasper said.
“WorldFish in collaboration with the Malaita Provincial Fisheries deployed FADs to the eight selected communities that applied for the FADs.
“More than 50 communities applied, and only eight were accepted due to limited funds available,” he added.
Mr Jasper explains that before the distribution and installation of the FADs, an awareness tour and constructions of FADs and anchors was conducted in March 2018.
“This tour was for definite deployment of FADs and community-based resource management awareness that linked with FADs activities,” he said.
Following the deployment of the FADs, communities in North Malaita have told the Auki Provincial Fisheries office that they are benefiting from the FADs as the equipment made fishing easier for them, which means they do not have to fish in the LMMA.
In the meantime, Mr Jasper is calling on the eight communities to take care of the FADs so that they will continue to attract more fish to make fishing easier.
Not only that, he also extended the call to sea users, fishers, and the travelling public to respect the FADs because they are deployed purposely to provide alternative fishing ground for the communities to relieve pressure on their reefs.
Mr Jasper said there are few
recorded incidents of FAD vandalism, where people cut the anchor and ropes
attached to the FADs for no good reason.
“FADs have played a major role in communities practicing LMMA because without FADs people will not respect the LMMA and will continue to harvest marine resources in the management areas,” he said.
community’s FAD engagement
Learning from the success of the eight communities, the Lilisiana community in the Langalanga division of Malaita decided to follow suit. Like other coastal communities, the people of Lilisiana derived much of their protein from fish while selling surplus supply at Auki, Malaita’s provincial capital, to meet other household needs and wants.
However, their heavy reliance on the resource depleted the supply of fish in the nearby reefs. This situation forced the fishers of Lilisiana to paddle further out to sea to fish.
The fishers blamed that the change in weather conditions, saying they had muddled up the regular migratory fish pattern. The presence of seasonal fish species such as yellowfin tuna, rainbow fish and even kingfish appear to be unpredictable to most, even to the elites in the trade.
As a result, fishing becomes harder and fishers often return home with very small catche that are sometimes enough for family consumption only. Whenever a fishing trip is unsuccessful, it badly affects family income.
In 2017, the fishermen of Lilisiana formed a group called the Auki Bay Fishermen Association (ABFA). ABFA was established to create an avenue for fishers of Lilisiana to support their families through the provision of food and income.
The group created a FAD in January 2019 and had it deployed at sea.
The FADs assist local fishers to gain access to tuna stocks, and minimise their travel costs (boat fuel and time). FADs also improve safety at sea by reducing the need to fish far away, and encouraging fishers to fish at least some of the time in a “known” place.
ABFA is the first fishing association in Malaita Province to create a FAD at the village level without assistance from the Ministry of Fisheries.
ABFA chairman Joe Talanimoli told Malaita Star Magazine during the official launching of the FAD in January this year that making a FAD at the village wasn’t easy.
“To make a FAD at the village level without funding support is not an easy task because everything costs money,” Talanimoli said.
However, through collaborative and collective efforts from more than 100 ABFA members, they managed to complete the FAD which cost them over $8,000 within two weeks.
“Most of the materials required and used for the FAD were sourced from villagers at affordable cost,” the chairman added.
Now that the FAD was finally deployed at sea, ABFA members could now look forward to improving their catches to support their families, he said with a smile.
Following the launch, ABFA appointed a body that is responsible for maintaining the FAD.
Since the introduction of the initiative two years ago, the communities had benefited greatly from the FAD initiative. Auki market, as well as Honiara Central market, are the usual destinations of FAD catches.
However, to ensure that everyone gets maximum benefits from the initiative, all fishers and community members were told to look after the equipment so that it would continue to support them meet their family needs and wants. The communities were also cautioned about penalties under the Fisheries Act if someone was found tampering with or vandalising the equipment.
HONIARA, 27 March 2020 – Solomon Islands may soon have its second tuna cannery as initial work on the Bina Harbour project takes off.
The harbour project is a government priority for 2020.
The cannery is due to start operating in 2023. It is understood that the proposed facility would process 26,950 metric tons of fish a year. The project will be complemented by a large commercial wharf suited for international exportation, and a significant fuel depot to support the fishing fleet that will provide fish for the cannery.
The project has faced several challenges from different sectors over the past years during the early planning phase. Now, a cross-sectoral approach with a strong notion of “working together” with all relevant stakeholders is being undertaken.
This week, the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DGCA) said it is committed to the successful implementation of the Bina Harbour project in Malaita Province.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s press secretariat said that this commitment was evident, as significant progress had been made so far.
Counting the positives, there was a successful reconciliation ceremony held in 2019, identification of the ideal site for a water source, identification of the landowners of the harbour access, a study on financing options, and the identification of a project office site.
“DCGA is serious in taking on board
the many challenges faced by past successive governments in moving this
national project forward,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Currently, consultations are being held between the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC), the World Bank Group, International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), Malaita Provincial Government, and the resource owners.
While the MFMR remains the leader and focal point of the national project, consultations to progress the project now involve all sectors and parties directly and indirectly related to it.
The government believes the positive impacts this national project will have on the country is huge.
When operational, the tuna factory is expected to employ more than 1,000 employees.
“Ideally, we want our Pacific athletes attending the games in 2023 to eat fish products produced in Bina,” the statement said.
“Apart from employment, the positive trickle-down impacts of this factory are that many local businesses and local farmers in the country would benefit in supplying food produce and basic needs to the factory and its employees.”
Landowners, disputes and reconciliation
Bina Harbour in Malaita Province was earmarked by the national government in its priority projects to establish a fish-processing factory, but land issues have delayed progress on the project.
Former Minister for Fisheries &
Marine Resources (MFMR) John Maneniaru said land disputes over the proposed
site in Bina Harbour had been dealt with by the High Court.
The High Court ruling in 2017 has settled the land issue, clearing the way for the government to pursue the project.
During his term as the minister, Mr Maneniaru said the ministry took the lead in the work on the project and had identified two plots of land on the site that should cater for developing the infrastructure needed.
It was obvious that the ministry had tried everything to progress the project, one of which was finding the best ways to accommodate all land-owning groups as the number of tribes claiming ownership keeps changing. However, in 2017 a milestone was achieved with landowners, when plots of lands and their rightful owners were identified.
In May 2019, a reconciliation ceremony was organised between the national government, Ministry of Fisheries, Malaita Provincial Government, and the resource owners of Bina in West Kwaio.
The reconciliation took place in West Kwaio, where representatives from the four groups signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to allow Bina Harbour development to go ahead without any further disputes.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for West Kwaio, Mr Titus Fika, thanked the landowners for signing the MOU, and described the event as a welcoming sign for development in his constituency. He said the MOU would allow Bina Harbour development to go ahead, and any dispute claims would be solved outside and would not disturb the development.
“I want to thank the national government for taking a leading step by revisiting the Bina Harbour project,” Mr Fika said.
“I think the government has demonstrated willingness to continue to develop Bina Harbour.”
The West Kwaio MP admits that he
admires the way the current government is taking a leading role in ensuring the
Bina Harbour project rolls on.
While he called on his people of West
Kwaio to respect the MOU to allow development to continue, he also encourages
the government of the day to continue to push behind the project to see it
The development partners: Australia, New Zealand, USA
In November 2019, a hydrographic survey was conducted to determine the depth of the harbour.
The survey, which was conducted by the Australia navy, is a major step in the development of Bina Harbour project. The survey is vital to gauge the depth of the water so that action can be taken on other considerations needed, especially the size of ships and the depth of their hauls.
Through its navy, the Australian Government is helping to map the underwater topography to determine what needs to be done to satisfy international maritime harbour requirements.
The Solomon Islands Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga said that the national government is doing everything it can to get the harbour project operational. He thanked the Australian Government for supporting the project and assured it that the DCGA government is committed to pushing the project forward.
The Deputy Prime Minister also took time to thank the people and the trustees of Bina land for their cooperation, and encouraged them to keep up the good work to see the project through.
MFMR’s Nesto Ghiro reiterated to the people of Bina and Malaita Province that the government is committed to the project.
Meanwhile, Malaita Province Premier Daniel Suidani said that his government was looking forward for the completion of the project, and he whole-heartedly thanked the Australia Government for stepping in and moving the project forward.
“This is welcoming news to my people of Malaita province, and I must thank the national government for its support towards the project and I urge the government to follow through on its promise and commitment to the people of Malaita,” the Hon. Suidani said.
“The province has been duly informed that the New Zealand Government has been helping out with the project alongside Australia. IFC and USA are also expressing their willingness to support the project. This is good news to the most populated province of Solomon Islands,” he said.
During a meeting with local journalists last September, the United States said it was also considering working in Bina Harbour with other donor partners under the USAID program.
When confirming her country’s assistance, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Ann Marie Yastishock unveiled some infrastructure development the US would step in to fund.
“We are looking at developing the Bina
Harbour area and also the possibilities of building the wharves in Bina
Harbour,” she said.
Ms Yastishock said that, under the program, USAID would be looking at possibilities to provide clean energy that ensured rural areas far from the energy grid would also have access to energy.
“Some other areas will be the constructions of schools and health centres, as well as some areas on clean water supplies,” she said.
Ms Yastishock said that these were types of “soft” infrastructure because they had to understand those things like maintenance issues and how to procure them online.
“The issue here is we are looking at
the governance type of issue,” she said.
IFC the main financier
Early this year, a team from the IFC, the private business arm of the World Bank, made a historic visit to Malaita, during which they met the premier and officials. The team which of six is putting together a project proposal to attract the investor best suited to the Bina Harbour project.
ICF, a triple-A rated organisation, has continued to play an important role in the project since signing an agreement with the Ministry of Fisheries last yearn.
It is also welcome news for Malaita that IFC will take steps to invest in the project itself. This move is cordially welcomed by the Premier and his provincial executive because of its potential to grow the provincial economy. IFC says it will ensure that the Bina tuna-processing plant is subject to the best global practices, and that the investor selected would be among the best in the world.
The aim is to meet international standard requirements, and that needs a lot of careful work on the part of IFC. The targeted market would be the European Union (EU). The province and IFC are well aware of the EU’s market, which includes requirements for high standards of production, processing and hygiene.
Premier Suidani said that the province was ready to assist in whatever way it could to make sure the project was up and running for the betterment of the people of Malaita and Solomon Islands.
The Malaita Provincial Government (MPG) noted that the World Bank-funded road-improvement project now set to roll from Gwaunaru’u to Bina would boost the Bina Harbour project via improvements in accessibility and movement of materials and people alike.
“With the involvement of IFC, MPG is very confident that the development of the Bina Harbour tuna-processing plant is in good hands,” Premier Suidani said.
“The spin-off from the project would surely bring development to Malaita Province.”
In Solomon Islands, some women were doing well in jobs with greater responsibilities such as technical supervisors or managers in the SolTuna cannery at Noro, or had built up trading businesses and fleets of fishing vessels.
And, in 2019, three women started work as cadets on the National Fisheries Development fishing fleet. Until then, the agency employed only men on its fishing vessels.
Generally, however, few women work on tuna fishing vessels anywhere. In Solomon Islanders, they make up a large part of the workforce once that catch is landed, dominating work on processing lines in factories, and selling raw or processed fish in local markets.
They said some women were also found in technical, financial and managerial roles, but usually in lower-paid, less powerful positions than their male colleagues. This was the same for tuna that is exported and for tuna sold in local markets for local consumption.
The researchers said that the largest employment opportunities in the tuna fisheries, on fish-processing lines for women, and as general crew of fishing vessels for men, were poorly paid. Two-thirds of the workforce of SolTuna are women, but most of them are in the lowest-paid jobs with the least authority.
The researchers said that the International Finance Corporation had worked with SolTuna since 2015 to improve opportunities for women, as well as their working conditions.
Women’s work in the tuna fisheries was made more difficult because they were expected to fit paid work around their obligations to care for families and homes, with strong social and cultural values shaping women’s and men’s views on where women could legitimately seek work.
Most women who sell tuna in the Gizo and Noro are involved in small, family-run businesses. (This was different to the situation in Indonesia, where the value chain is more complex and offers more opportunities for women to be involved in or run larger businesses.)
If women were going to take up paid work across the tuna industry in greater numbers, jobs needed to be flexible so women could also meet their extensive family responsibilities.
SPC has published short reports into ways that women can have a greater say in fisheries management in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
The reports are a snapshot of information on and analysis of the how women participate in fishing in the four countries.
Each report summarises the steps the country has taken so far to improve women’s involvement. These are mostly in policies. It also highlights strengths and weaknesses in current arrangements, and discusses political factors and social norms that prevent or deter women from becoming more actively involved.
These points are used to list ways in which women could become more equal participants in both decision-making about and control of fisheries resources. They include learning from women themselves what they need and want, targeting women when delivering extension services, and implementing gender-equity policies that already exist.
SPC says the reports are intended to stimulate discussion about how to make improvements in the organisation’s Social Development Programme and Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division.
It says the recommendations are also relevant to the national government of the country, and the country’s external partners in development.
Women often don’t see themselves as fishers
In all four countries, many women do not see themselves as fishers, even though they provide seafood for the family. They and the men in their families see only the men as the fishers.
The reports note that women also have less time to be involved in paid work, community decision-making and development activities, as they do most of the reproductive work and caregiving in the family and the community, and don’t have time for other things.
SPC writes that “care must be taken to consult with women and ensure they have time to benefit from development at a pace they can manage”.
Social norms needed to be discussed if people’s thinking was to change. This was difficult work that would take time, especially as there was a lack of expertise in gender analysis in all four countries.
Opportunities in each country highlighted
Women are involved in community decision-making in places in all the countries, and this could be built on to increase their involvement.
In Tonga, women make up 40% of the community councils that manage the special management areas that the government has set up to restore coastal fishing areas that have collapsed. However, SPC notes, the women on the councils may not have the same power as men when making decisions.
In Fiji, women are involved in subsistence fishing and also work in the cannery, hold positions of power, and have extensive knowledge and skills that are different to those of Fijian men in the industry. However, SPC notes, they remain marginalised in decision-making and consultation, and receive fewer benefits.
In Samoa, women make up about 18% of fishers in villages, and are responsible for about 10% of a community’s fishing effort. They also do most of the processing after harvest. SPC notes that although the Samoan Government is hampered by the limited sharing of skills and knowledge between departments, it is working with development partners to improve women’s involvement in coastal and marine fisheries.
The reports cover all fisheries. However, as women are much more involved in coastal fisheries and aquaculture (and men in deep-sea fisheries), the discussion is more focused on these. SPC has a handbook on gender equity and social inclusion in coastal fisheries last year.
HONIARA, 17 February 2020 – China says it is prepared to strengthen the tuna industry of Solomon Islands and help the tiny Pacific Island nation benefit more from its fisheries resources as it welcomes the Melanesian state as one of its new diplomatic allies.
For 36 years, the Republic of China (ROC, or Taiwan) benefited from the Solomon Islands tuna industry. Last September, the government of Solomon Islands cut the diplomatic relationship between the two countries (in what locals call “the switch”) to form a new allegiance with the People’s Republic of China.
Although the severing of formal relations with Taiwan was said to be unlikely to affect collaboration in the private sector, four months later there is no mention of dialogue between the two former allies.
This has provided an opportunity for the economic giant, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as it steps into a formal role.
China is one of the biggest players in the Pacific Islands tuna industry. Just like Taiwan, China is a member to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
However, China’s presence in the Solomon Islands tuna trade was previously unheard of, and only Taiwan was said to be benefiting greatly from the tuna stocks in the Solomon Sea.
Now that mainland China has established a formal relationship with Solomon Islands, there is no doubt that the new friendship will help boost the tuna industry for both countries.
The future: tuna trades between China and Solomons
During a trip by Solomon Islands journalists to Beijing last December, the PRC’s Ministry of Commerce said the Chinese Government was ready to assist Solomon Islands with its tuna trades.
“We (China) know that Solomon Islands has rich fisheries resources, and tuna is one of your major products and you are one of the major producers of tuna as the industry accounts for a huge part of your gross domestic product,” a ministry spokesperson said.
“At the moment, Chinese companies have already gathered some experiences in fisheries cooperation with South Pacific countries, so we support and encourage Chinese companies that are competent and interested to participate in the investment cooperation with Solomon Islands.
“Although our two countries are separated by a wide ocean with thousands of miles apart, we believe that as we work together, as we join hands, we can develop more cooperation opportunities and realise common development for China and Solomon Islands.”
China is Solomon Islands’ largest trading partner and also its largest export destination, she added.
“Among the 10 Pacific Island countries that have diplomatic relations with China, Solomon Islands is our second largest trading partner and second largest source of imports,” she said.
“In 2018, the two-way trade between our two countries amounted to US$750 million, which means Solomon Islands, relatively, enjoys a big surplus against China, and the surplus is enlarging in recent years.
“Now already some Chinese companies are cooperating with their counterparts in Solomon Islands, participating in projects such as infrastructure, fisheries, forestry, telecommunication, and also the mining industry,” the spokesperson said.
The PRC’s Ministry of Commerce also stressed that Chinese companies were also investing in the tuna industry of island states such as Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Micronesia. Investment is in numerous aspects of the supply chain, and includes tuna breeding, offshore fishing, refrigerating, and processing and retailing.
In 2018, the total online retail sales reached more than 9 trillion Chinese yuan renminbi (RMB), about US$1.3 trillion. The level of consumption in China is rising rapidly, which means Chinese consumers will have larger demand for high-quality products, China’s Ministry of Commerce said.
“This is a very big opportunity for other countries, including Solomon Islands, because you have many competitive products including seafoods, tuna and many other products that will have wider market access to China,” the spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce said.
China also said it would like to expand cooperation with Solomon Islands to include infrastructure, investment, and agriculture so that more projects can be carried out to allow local Solomon Islanders to develop better ability to achieve independent and sustainable development.
According to the spokesperson, there is great complementary between the economies of Solomon Islands and China. The Chinese Government was also well aware that Solomon Islands is a country with rich natural resources, and an urgent need to develop its infrastructure and also many industries, and China was ready to assist.
“China has the relative strength in terms of the size of market, and also capital and technology,” the spokesperson said.
“Now that we have established diplomatic relations, we believe that our mutual understandings and also our exchanges in different areas will be deepened and our mechanisms will be improved so that the potential of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries will be further tightened.”
China has also shown interest in enlarging the two-way trade because Solomon Islands is now an important supplier of timber and aluminium ore to China. The Chinese Government is also encouraging its investors to explore the possibility of importing more seafood from Solomon Islands.
The past: Taiwan benefited more than Solomons from Solomons tuna
In the 36 years before the switch, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said, Taiwan had given Solomon Islands funds to the value of hundreds of millions of US dollars as constituency development funds. But during the same period the country had harvested billions of dollars’ worth of tuna from Solomon Island waters.
Mr Sogavare reflected that, in this regard, Solomon Islands was a net lender to Taiwan.
According to Mr Sogavare, Solomon Islands had permitted its marine resources, especially tuna, to be harvested by Taiwan, besides advocating to the United Nations (UN) for the country’s right to self-determination.
Taiwan was also one of the major markets of canned and processed tuna products for Solomon Islands, as Taiwanese fishing fleets were affiliated members of the Tuna Industry Association of Solomon Islands (TIASI).
At one stage, when Taiwan was issued a “yellow card” by the European Union (EU) in 2015 for not tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, Solomon Islands was instrumental in assisting it work toward fixing the problem. The ruling was lifted after 3 years and 9 months, in part because Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources (MFMR) worked with Taiwan Fisheries inspector Mr Ian Lin to do inspections of and collect harvest data from Taiwanese vessels that fished in the Solomon Islands waters.
He pointed out that dealing with IUU fishing benefits the local economy, and also helps to ensure that from the fishing vessel to the table customers are getting fish the “green way”.
However, there is no doubt that Taiwanese fishing vessels have contributed a lot to the development of the fisheries sector by capturing more revenues for Solomon Islands.
In June 2019, roughly 55 Taiwanese fishing vessels had purchased licenses and were operating in Solomon Islands waters, according to the Embassy of ROC (Taiwan) in Honiara.
“These vessels come into Honiara and Noro every two months,” he said. This is only part of the picture, as other vessels also use these ports.
“Altogether, there are roughly 330 Taiwanese vessels visiting Solomon Islands every year for loading and unloading in our ports,” he said.
“During their visits they pay not only license fees, but also pay for housing, maintenance fees, livelihood supplies, recruiting local people for assistance, and so forth.
“Each visit probably brings more than SBD$20,000 revenue extra to Solomon Islands, and will benefit our economy and improve the employment rate in the country.”
The switch and Taiwan’s investment
Mr Sogavare said that despite the switch, his government would continue to support Taiwanese investments in the country.
“They are entitled to incentives and the protections guaranteed by our laws. We would encourage more Taiwanese investors to invest in the country, something they have not been actively doing over the 36 years of diplomatic relations,” Mr Sogavare said.
“Their investments have been by political governments and in political interests. The people of Taiwan are welcome to send cultural groups to Solomon Islands for cultural exchanges.
“These exchanges are not affected by the diplomatic switch,” Mr Sogavare once said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the cost of doing business with China would become cheaper and more efficient.
“According to the recent Central Bank of Solomon Islands report, we have a total trade value of SBD$2 billion, which is by far our largest single trading partner, well above all other trading partners combined.
“Our trade with ROC (Taiwan) is only SBD$142 million, which is a minor fraction compared to China,” he said.
Is tiny Solomon Islands ready for giant China?
Now that China has shown its full interest in helping Solomon Islands bolster its tuna trade and economy, it is up to the Sogavare-led Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement to play its part.
In his statement after the switch to Beijing, Mr Sogavare said Solomon Islands is bound to reap huge benefits never seen before in the history of such a young nation.
However, Mr Sogavare had already been warned over his country’s engagement with China, well before the switch.
Deputy opposition leader Peter Kenilorea Junior has said that the country is not ready for a diplomatic relationship with China.
“The Solomons has many unresolved domestic issues related to land ownership and resource management,” Mr Kenilorea said.
He said the country’s weak laws and regulations leave it vulnerable to exploitation.
“We have already issues in terms of our lax immigration, lax labour laws, lax regulations, land issues, logging issues that have come in and caused a lot of hurt socially as well without much gain.
“And to repeat that again at a much larger scale is something that I just don’t feel we are prepared for.”
Mr Kenilorea told Australian media that the economic advantages of aligning with Beijing were clear, but he feared his country’s institutions were not ready to deal with a “powerful and dominant China”.
“I’m concerned about readiness in terms of our own governance, to really be on terms with China,” Mr Kenilorea said.
“We need to strengthen those governance systems … knowing full well our strategic location in the Pacific, and the strategic resources that we do have.”
During an interview with a top government official at the Office of the Prime Minister & Cabinet, he said, “We must prepare to deal with the Chinese demands and requests. The government must establish mechanisms with some form of regulations and legislative reforms to accommodate its new relationship with China.”
In her personal reflection following the Solomon Islands journalists’ trip to China, senior journalist Dorothy Wickham said she saw China as a country with money to burn and a point to prove.
During the trip, Ms Wickham said she was convinced that political leaders in Solomon Islands were not ready or able to deal effectively with China.
“Solomon Islands’ regulatory and accountability mechanisms are too weak,” Ms Wickham said.
“We have already shown some spirit with our attorney-general rejecting a hasty deal to lease the island of Tulagi, the capital of one of our provinces, to a Chinese company, but I fear how fragile and weak my country is against any large developed nation, let alone China.”
Ms Wickham added that Solomon Islands has always prided itself on setting its own course in international relations, recognising Taiwan for three decades, and in the 1980s, as a newly independent state, standing up to the Americans over an illegal fishing boat fiasco.
“In the end, it will be history that judges our leaders and whether the switch from Taiwan to China was the right move, and if they handle it in the country’s best interest.
“My hope is that in the meantime, the price extracted from our island nation is not too steep or too painful,” she said.
Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that the Chinese government consistently requires Chinese companies to abide by international laws and local laws during their cooperation with their local partners.
It will be interesting to observe what transpires from the new China–Solomon Islands bilateral ties in the three-year transition of 2020–2023. This is especially in terms of the tuna trade and how tuna talks between both countries will be sustainably managed.