Honiara, 4 September 2020 – Member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are actively working together to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 being transmitted through fisheries operations, allowing the industry to continue making a vital contribution to Pacific island economies.
Regional protocols have been developed through a strong partnership, led by the Australian Government’s Office of the Pacific, with the Office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Community, the Australian Government’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, and Marine Resources Assessment Group Asia Pacific, in close consultation with Members.
Infographics will be displayed on vessels and at ports to explain hygiene practices and goods-handling protocols, to mitigate against the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
At their meeting in August, Fisheries Ministers from FFA member countries emphasised the importance of supporting the fisheries sector to continue, given COVID-19 has had a major negative impact on tourism and trade in the Pacific.
“It is crucial for fisheries to continue operating at this time, providing much needed income to support the economic recovery as well as to enhance contribution to the food security of our people,” said Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, FFA Director-General.
“It is very encouraging that several Members have been utilising these protocols to inform their national activities during our regional surveillance operation that concluded today. We acknowledge and sincerely thank our partners Australia, PNA, SPC, MRAG Asia-Pacific and especially our Members for their continued support and assistance in developing this valuable tool,” Dr Tupou-Roosen added.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement also welcomed the new protocols.
“This is critical to the continuation of a viable fishery and the safety of our island nations in this pandemic, remembering always that complacency kills,” said CEO Mr Ludwig Kumoru.
These protocols are designed as an overarching guide to health and safety, and as minimum operating standards relevant to fishing sector operations in the Pacific. These protocols may be used by Members of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency, and/or flag and coastal States that operate in the region, to guide the development of national orders related to the fisheries sector under State of Emergency legislation and policies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
FFA assists its 17 member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. Find out more here www.ffa.int.
The fishing effort in the tuna-rich waters of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) does not appear to have been significantly impeded by the COVID-19 crisis, according to a report prepared by Brisbane, Australia-based resources consultancy MRAG Asia Pacific.
The report, which was completed in April, stated that travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic “has not resulted in a widespread decline in fishing effort”.
The 32-page report looked into the changes in fishery and market dynamics of the PNA member states — including Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands Tuvalu, and Tokelau — in the period of January to April 2020, as the pandemic took hold.
The report said that the information was drawn from PNA Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS), which focuses on the purse-seine fleet, and interviews with industry participants throughout the supply chain.
The FIMS data showed purse-seine fishing effort declined slightly in February 2020, compared to the period spanning November 2019 to January 2020, but has since recovered in March and April.
“Indications are that total effort (in exclusive economic zones plus territorial seas plus archipelagic waters) increased at a faster rate than effort solely in EEZs,” the report found.
“Preliminary data on levels of effort and the intensity of fishing effort (measured as the number of fishing days recorded per calendar day) in April 2020 are the highest in the 2019–20 period.”
It said, based on the data, fishing effort in March 2020, when port closures and quarantine restrictions were put in place, “was roughly similar to equivalent periods in March 2018 and 2019”. It also noted that overall fishing intensity in March 2020 was around 6.5% higher than the average for March 2018 and March 2019.
While fishing intensity is up, and the geographic location of fishing has changed, and the report found catch rates for January to April 2020 were 30% lower than in the same period in 2019. The report suggested a causal link between the lower catches and increase in fishing intensity — presumably a result of vessels taking longer to fill up in the low-catch conditions.
Fishing intensity increased in the EEZs of Federated States of Micronesia, Tuvalu, and Kiribati by 68%, 68%, and 12% respectively; with intensity lower in the high seas (14%), Tokelau, and also marginally in PNG.
“There is limited evidence from the data to indicate any of the variations are COVID related to date,” the report noted.
A steady decline in catch rates was seen at the end of 2019.
On 14 July, PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said fishing efforts have not slowed down despite COVID-19.
“Business hasn’t slowed down, uptake of days is still OK,” he said.
“Boats are still taking up the same number of days and even before COVID-19. So nothing has really affected us. Except some boats have stopped going into their ports, but those boats have shifted to other ports like Marshall Islands, to PNG, to FSM. So you see a lot less boats are going into Kiribati [and] those boats are now going into the Marshall Islands or going into FSM. So, in a way, COVID-19 hasn’t really impacted our operations or the PNA fisheries.”
Mr Kumoru added that PNA needs to keep its operation going, but is prioritising the safety of its observers as well.
Although COVID-19 has not gravely affected the purse-seine catch, challenges are looming as a result of market uncertainty associated with the pandemic. The MRAG report noted that with restaurants in Asia and North America having periods of shutdown, or seeing dramatically reduced clientele, demand for sashimi tuna—– which is generally caught by the longline fleet — has dropped sharply.
And the report said the continued port closures and travel restrictions could eventually affect fishing efforts in the PNA, and also result in lower demand for fishing days under the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS).
The VDS is the foundation of the PNA’s economic revenues, bringing in about US$500 million (€438 million) annually to the PNA member states.
“It seems likely that, collectively, the impacts of these logistical issues, if prolonged, will have an impact on fishing effort (although at this stage it’s not clear how much, and the impacts do not appear to be evident in the overall effort figures to date). For those fleets/companies who purchased fewer days at the start of the year, logistical difficulties may ultimately influence demand for VDS days for the remainder of 2020,” the report said.
Forum Fisheries Agency Investment Manager Tony Sullivan said eventually the economic impacts of the pandemic will be felt in the fisheries industry. Those increased costs stem from higher freight costs, being forced to move exports overseas, employment costs, and other one-time expenses associated with the pandemic.
“What I don’t have available currently is what the actual economic impacts of this are, and it is probably a little bit too early to tell, but we know that it is going to be significant in terms of export revenue, employment, and businesses actually being able to sustain themselves through this pandemic crisis,” Mr Sullivan said.
HONIARA – In the provinces of Solomon Islands, a rising interest in fishing by people in coastal communities is helping keep the country’s fishing industry active amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Makini Dentana, has confirmed that the fisheries sector is the only industry currently generating revenue in the Solomons.
“The good news is that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic crises globally, our fisheries industry, especially Soltuna, is still generating revenue to the country,” Mr Dentana said.
Records from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) show a steady increase of revenue collected from fisheries exports and licence fees by both inshore and offshore fisheries activities in recent years.
But with the current closure of the Solomon Islands border and other pandemic restrictions, there has been an increase in fishing, as most working-class people have been laid off or made redundant due to COVID-19.
And despite the restrictions and the introduction of the State of Public Emergency (SOPE) by the government in April, purse-seine vessels that continue to fish in the Solomon Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are still transhipping at the Honiara port.
The main fish market in Honiara remains open, and continues to benefit from the tuna industry, just as it did before the arise of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. This market is also where most of the fish stocks from the provinces end up.
The country needs the fisheries: according to the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, the local economy is projected to shrink by 4.99% by the fourth quarter of this year.
Fisheries one of four sectors that hold up the economy
In July, former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, an economics expert, said the fisheries sector should be prioritised to sustain the country’s shrinking economy.
In an interview with the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Lilo said that, while COVID-19 continued to ravage the global economy, small economies like that of Solomon Islands would be hit especially hard. The country needed to set its priorities to make the most of gains.
“The fisheries sector will put our economy back on track. The most immediate one that comes to mind is the processing fisheries sector. I want us to put more focus on the fisheries sector,” Mr Lilo said.
“A good part of our territorial boundary is made up of waters where we can fish, and we need to focus on both offshore and inshore fisheries. That will put our economy back on track.”
He said the fisheries industry was different to other important industries such as tourism, which involved complicated processes in order to operate. The fisheries industry could operate more freely, but needed continued commitment from the national and provincial governments.
“With fisheries, the resources belong to the state, it only requires both the national and provincial government to attract the right investors to establish processing facilities here, say in all provinces,” Mr Lilo said.
In recent times, the national government has identified fisheries as one of the four sectors with agriculture, mining, and tourism that stimulate most growth in the Solomon Islands economy.
The government hopes the four sectors will earn adequate incomes for the national purse to replace income earned from exporting round logs to China, as economic planners envisage all harvestable forests will have been logged in three or four years.
The logging industry currently provides about 50% of the government’s annual income.
With the inception of focus on the four sectors, the government aims to set up 50 fisheries centres and 50 economic zones in the 50 constituencies countrywide.
For the fisheries and tourism sectors, contacts have been established between ministries and foreign investors, mostly in Asia.
Fish vendors in Honiara struggle as sales fall
When the first SOPE was declared, Fishing Village market in east Honiara and White River market west of Honiara city were forced to close down.
Only the Honiara Central Market has been allowed to continue operating, but under strict rules. This has allowed fish vendors to continue to work. But nearly all fish vendors have left Honiara for their home provinces, as part of a repatriation exercise by the national government conducted when the lockdown began.
Local vendors have continued to work, and now, three months on, those from other areas are slowly returning. However, the Sunday Isles newspaper recently reported that a cash-flow problem was hitting the vendors hard, as the number of customers was well below the usual and was affecting daily earnings.
“Local vendors at the Honiara Central Market are attracted to this occupation because of the possibility of earning relatively medium to high incomes,” the paper wrote.
“The impact of the state of public emergency on Honiara’s formal sector, which includes many fish-market vendors, will be huge.”
It said that vendors’ economic survival was threatened. They had already had “months and weeks with less cash flow as their customers spend less on their fresh fish” and would have to go through more if the SOPE was extended.
Sunday Isles reported fish vendor Henry Fafaluta as saying, “I find it very challenging during these past months by trying to earn the amount to cover the expenses I spent daily for fuel.”
He explained that normally his earnings depended entirely on his catch.
“If the catch is good then, I will surely earn good money that day, but compared to now, even if my catch is good, my earnings will still be low, due to the cash flow problem we experienced now.”
The person in charge of the fish section at the Honiara Central Market, Betty Fraser, said that she had seen vendors struggling in the current situation.
“Vendors struggle every day to get the amount of profit to cover their expenses, some for their catch, and others for purchasing from the fishing vessels. With that they also try their best to at least earn a little extra to take back home to their families at the end of the day,” Ms Fraser said in the Sunday Isles.
Ambrose Sade normally gets fish discarded during transhipment in Honiara and sells it at the Honiara Central Market. He has observed changes in the way customers have bought fish in recent months.
“During the SOPE active period, I was fully engaged in fish sales here at the market. Everything is normal, except that the number of customers coming to buy fish at the market is a little below my normal take,” Mr Sade said.
“Cash flow is definitely an issue for me and the other fish vendors. Otherwise, everything is just normal here, as we are still keeping the fish-vending activities going.”
Vendors hope that an economic stimulus package proposed by the national government will be implemented soon and help to keep them going until sales pick up again.
WASHINGTON, 23 June 2020 – US Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs Douglas W. Domenech today announced the publication of three technical notes from the Graduate School USA’s Economic Monitoring and Analysis Program (EconMAP) providing an initial assessment of the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.
“While each of the three Freely Associated States continues to remain free of COVID-19 cases, the slow down and near termination of transportation across the region has had strong repercussions on their economies,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech.
“It is hoped that the data and analyses in these technical notes can help illuminate impacts as FAS leaders draft fiscal measures and implement mitigation strategies to maintain financial and economic stability now and as they emerge from the impacts of COVID-19.”
Funded through the US Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs (OIA), the projections made in the EconMAP technical notes assume that travel will remain limited for all three of the FAS through fiscal year 2021 or until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed.
The technical notes also utilize economic modeling techniques that project the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic without consideration of any external donor assistance and in the absence of any confirmed domestic cases. Should any of the three FAS report COVID-19 cases and develop community transmission, the projected negative impacts of the pandemic could be compounded.
As laid out in the reports in more detail, the following highlights reflect initial expected COVID-19 impact in each FAS in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
The Republic of Palau
The Republic of Palau – Heavily dependent on tourism with 20 per cent of all its workers employed in the tourism industry, Palau attracted 90,000 foreign visitors in fiscal year 2019, with the tourism industry contributing 20 per cent to gross domestic product. Prior to the pandemic, Palau’s fiscal year 2020 first quarter tourism numbers were on track to grow more than 30 per cent and estimated to attract 116,000 visitors for the year. Instead, it is now projected that Palau will experience a 51 per cent reduction of tourists, with a total expected of about 44,075 visitors, and a further 89 per cent reduction in fiscal year 2021.
Overall, Palau is expected to experience a 22.3 per cent decline in GDP and a loss of 3,128 jobs, primarily in the private sector.
The fiscal deficit for Palau, resulting from the loss of tax revenues such as the payroll tax, gross revenues tax, hotel room tax, and import taxes, is projected to be about US$40 million; however, this impact is partially mitigated by Compact grants and trust fund revenues. Construction and infrastructure projects already planned for Palau are anticipated to serve as an important economic stimulus when the cyclical negative impact of COVID-19 on Palau’s economy is being realized.
The Federated States of Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) – While the FSM does not enjoy the same level of visitor arrivals as Palau, the majority of the COVID-19 impact will also be felt in the private sector, namely in the transportation and tourism sectors. The hotel and restaurant industries are projected to fall by 46 per cent in fiscal year 2020 and then an additional 75 per cent in fiscal year 2021, reflecting the absence of tourists and minimal interstate visitors. Similarly, the transportation sector, which includes shipping, port services, aviation, and airport ground handling, is projected to decline by 27 per cent in fiscal year 2020 and an additional 14 per cent in fiscal year 2021. Notably, the total projected loss to the FSM economy will be the most severe decline in the FSM economy since the start of the amended Compact period in 2004.
Ultimately, the FSM is expected to experience a 6.9 per cent decline in GDP and a loss of 1,841 jobs, reflecting an 11 per cent reduction of employment levels in the FSM compared to fiscal year 2019.
Optimistically, given the FSM’s strong fiscal position at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the application of targeted internal and external assistance, including Federal assistance, to bolster health sector investments, improve resiliency in the health system, provide budgetary resources to offset revenue losses during the pandemic, and to provide direct support to affected individuals and businesses, will be sufficient to offset much of the projected threat to the FSM economy and to its fiscal position going forward.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) – The overall RMI economy relies very little on tourism and visitor arrivals with the hotel and restaurant sector representing only 2.3 per cent of GDP. It is, however, more heavily dependent on the public sector, which includes important fisheries activity and sovereign rent receipts. The Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority is already seeing declines ranging from 30 to 50 per cent across aquarium fish exports, the tuna loining plant operations, purse seining operations, and shore-based support to the longline fishing industry. With airline travel to the RMI near complete shutdown, wholesale fuel operations are projected to drop by 45 per cent, reflecting the loss of nearly all of its aviation fuel sales.
Overall, the RMI is projected experience a 6.9 per cent decline in GDP and a loss of 716 jobs.
The projected impact on tax revenues, employment, and job loss coupled with potential significant reductions in fisheries revenues may result in a sizeable fiscal shock in the range of US$14 to US$20 million, larger than previous fiscal downturns experienced by the RMI. The RMI will benefit significantly from donor assistance that can help mitigate the projected negative impacts on the economy as a whole and to avoid a dangerous deterioration of its fiscal position.
Breadth and depth of impact in three countries
In all three countries, the breadth and depth of economic impact will be substantial in the tourism, transport, and fisheries sectors, again under the current modeling with each country still reporting zero COVID-19 cases. Although Palau is hardest hit due to its tourism-centered economic structure, the FSM and RMI are also deeply affected. The EconMAP team expects to update the technical notes to eventually quantify the full range and impact that internal mitigating efforts and external donor assistance will have in each FAS, eventually providing a full report to better understand the combined impact of assistance and the net impact of the COVID-19 response.
The full and complete COVID-19 technical notes for the FSM, RMI, and Palau can be accessed at http://www.pitiviti.org. EconMAP technical notes are intended to provide a concise and timely analysis of an immediate situation for decision-makers, utilizing currently available data sets and macroeconomic tools developed in close collaboration with stakeholders.
All three FAS governments are working closely with Federal partners in the United States government, including the Department of the Interior, to invest in strengthening their health systems and to mitigate the impact on affected individuals and businesses. For a partial list of US Federal assistance to the FAS related to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit https://www.doi.gov/oia/covid19.
Funded through the Office of Insular Affairs’ Technical Assistance Program, EconMAP is managed by the Graduate School USA’s Pacific & Virgin Islands Training Initiatives. EconMAP produces annual economic statistics and economic reviews for the RMI, FSM, and Palau, as well as occasional technical notes on emerging issues.
The Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, @ASIIADomenech, and the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the US territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. Additionally, OIA administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.
For more information, contact Tanya Harris Joshua, Deputy Policy Director, Office of Insular Affairs – Policy Division, US Department of the Interior, ph. 202 208 6008 | mob. 202 355 3023.
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.
The Marshall Islands fisheries department is pushing two initiatives that could transform the country’s engagement in the multi-billion-dollar commercial tuna fishery in the region.
One initiative, to gain access to the lucrative European Union (EU) market, has long been desired by industry.
other, the fisheries department’s aim to gain a bigger piece of the tuna
revenue pie, is likely to cause industry concern, at least in the short-term.
Gaining access to Europe would require the establishment of the first “competent authority” in the Marshall Islands (RMI) that, once in place, can facilitate fish exports to the European Union, the world’s largest seafood market.
A competent authority is an entity that provides independent verification through inspections of vessels and processing plants, laboratory testing, and catch documentation to confirm that tuna catches for export meet EU requirements. The EU requires seafood exports from the RMI or other third countries to meet compliance requirements through a recognised competent authority.
“The key is to establish national standards that meet international standards,” says Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) Director Glen Joseph, who is pushing the competent authority process forward.
Majuro has established itself as a hub for the tuna industry in recent years: over 300,000 tons of tuna was transhipped through Majuro in 2018. It was worth close to half a billion dollars at last year’s world market prices.
Industry players have encouraged the Marshall Islands to establish a competent authority to expand export options for the tuna industry, which now exports to markets in the United States, Canada, and Asia.
It will pilot Marshall Islands participation in the entire value chain of tuna from the sale of fishing days to vessels to the delivery of tuna tonnage to processing plants.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) has revolutionised island management of and engagement in the purse-seine fishery since it came into play in 2010. Mr Joseph says the VDS is a platform that allows for greater participation by individual PNA members or groups of islands. At the moment, the Marshall Islands, through MIMRA, sells several thousand fishing days annually to fishing companies, sales that generate around $25 million annually.
But Mr Joseph wants to move the Marshall Islands beyond simply selling fishing days to engaging in additional steps in the chain from catch to processing – all of which contribute a piece of the multi-billion-dollar value of the tuna industry in the Pacific.
Both the competent authority and participation in the tuna value chain are “opportunities we can harness and cater for”, Mr Joseph says.
“We can use them as leverage to catch more benefits [for Marshall Islands]. The Vessel Day Scheme itself gives us the confidence and leverage to participate throughout the value chain.”
PNA’s establishment of its brand and marketing arm, Pacifical, is a prime example of how the islands can gain greater benefits, says Mr Joseph. Pacifical has co-branded with global tuna companies to distribute sustainably caught tuna from PNA waters into a range of markets, including Australia and Europe.
“If the competent authority is done right, tuna boats can off-load in Majuro and participate in direct market access [to the EU],” Mr Joseph says.
MIMRA has engaged an expert on competent authority operations and is beginning the steps necessary to establish the entity for the Marshall Islands. Currently, four Pacific nations have competent authorities: Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea.
While the competent authority has long been promoted by industry because of the obvious export opportunities it opens up, there will likely be less enthusiasm from industry for increased Marshall Islands participation throughout the tuna value chain.
When PNA began full implementation of the VDS for the purse-seine industry 10 years ago, there was strong push back from certain parts of the industry and governments of distant-water fishing nations that did not like the changed management environment, which included the islands gaining a substantially larger slice of the tuna money pie. Revenue for the nine participating PNA islands has risen from $60 million in 2010 to close to $500 million last year.
“Now, vessels are paying us to access a portion of the value chain [fishing days],” Mr Joseph says.
“We want to take an integrated approach to fisheries development.”
MIMRA’s idea is that, instead of deriving revenue from only sale of fishing days, it can generate value – revenue – from the tuna resource at every stage in the process from catch to processing.
MIMRA’s concept for fuller participation is in line with “rights-based management”, which is what the PNA group has brought to the purse-seine fishery and is now developing for the longline industry.
“Some say, ‘You’re dreaming’. But these are our fish, and we want to take them to market. Some people said the VDS was a crazy idea. But look where we are today,” says Mr Joseph.
He pointed out that trading of fishing days among PNA members and pooling days together to give fishing vessels access to multiple zones, which increases the sale value of fishing day, are all working.
“Now, we are looking at trading rights,” he says.
“It’s a trial. We’re putting our neck out to see if it works. If we don’t try, we’ll never know.”
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Honourable Winston Peters and delegation. Photo: FFA.
HONIARA, 6 June, 2019 – The
Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) welcomed a high level delegation
led by the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Honourable Winston Peters, on
Wednesday 5 June as part of their visit to Solomon Islands. Minister for Pacific Peoples, Hon Aupito William
Sio; Member of Parliament (and former Minister of Trade) Todd McClay; NZ High
Commissioner to the Solomon Islands Don Higgins; and senior government
officials from the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs including CEO Chris Seed,
were also in the delegation.
The delegation met with FFA Director General, Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen and
Deputy Director General, Matt Hooper to discuss priority work areas for FFA including
initiatives to improve the economic returns to FFA member countries from their
tuna resources and the use of new technology in the ongoing battle against
illegal fishing. The new rules governing
labour conditions for crew on fishing vessels were also highlighted alongside
measures to improve the safety of Pacific Island observers working on foreign
The New Zealand delegation also visited the FFA Regional Fisheries
Surveillance Centre (RFSC). They were briefed on the critical role of the
Centre in monitoring, control and surveillance by FFA Director of Fisheries
Operations Allan Rahari and Lieutenant Commander Phil Rowe seconded to the RFSC
from the Royal New Zealand Navy.
New Zealand contributes around 40% of total donor funds to FFA, and its
annual support amounts to around USD $7.5 million.
In acknowledging the commitment from New Zealand, Dr. Tupou-Roosen said
“This visit was an opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to the Deputy
Prime Minister and the Government of New Zealand for their continued
significant support as a FFA member and key donor. It was also an opportunity to showcase FFA’s
work and its importance for the region in terms of securing long-term social
and economic benefits for our people.”
She added “We look forward to our continued work together with the
Government of New Zealand. As our FFA
Members have always maintained, it is cooperation that underpins our success.”
For more information
and photos contact Donna Hoerder, FFA Media, ph: +677 773 3097 firstname.lastname@example.org
About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries
its 17-member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall
within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise,
technical assistance and other support to its members who make sovereign
decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision
making on tuna management. www.ffa.int
Economic and climate resilience were key focus points of a meeting between the New Zealand and Cook Island government last week.
The 2019 Joint Ministerial Forum was held on Aitutaki and included Cook Island Prime Minister Henry Puna, his deputy Mark Brown and ministers Vaine Mokoroa and Robert Tapaitau.
The New Zealand delegation included deputy prime minister Winston Peters, cabinet minister Stuart Nash and foreign affairs undersecretary Fletcher Tabuteau.
Mr Tabuteau said the meeting focussed on a range of issues including infrastructure development, security, fisheries, the Pacific Islands Forum, climate change and health.
He said it was important for New Zealand to facilitate positive long-term outcomes in these areas.
“And actually part of the Pacific Reset conversation around the is how do we productively spend money now around resilience, sustainability , economic transformation so that in 10 years from now were not just spending another dollar on aid or recovery or things like that.”
Mr Tabuteau said there was also an emphasis on improving health support for Cook Islanders.
“How can we do more for you in terms of what do we do in New Zealand, and how can we extend that to the Cooks in a systematic way?”
It was the seventh time the meeting had been held between New Zealand the Cook Islands.
The Western and Central Pacific tuna stocks are all in healthy condition, according to scientists with the Pacific Community (SPC) at the recently concluded Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) officials’ annual meeting in Palau.
“This is in part due to strong long-term management of the tuna fishery in PNA waters through the purse seine vessel day scheme (VDS),” said PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru. He pointed to fish aggregating device (FAD) closures, limits on fishing days, and other PNA conservation measures that have contributed to the overall sustainability of the tuna fishery.
“In comparison to tuna stocks in other oceans, the Pacific tuna stocks are doing well,” he said. Bigeye, yellowfin, albacore, and skipjack are all said to be in healthy condition in this region, according to the SPC stock assessment for 2017.
Over the past several years, PNA has maintained the same level of fishing days without increase and this has shown in relatively stable catch tonnage in both the purse seine and longline industries.
In addition to a “Status of Stocks” report from SPC, the annual officials meeting in Palau dealt with numerous management issues, ranging from an economic overview of the fishery and VDS administration, to updates on harvest control rules for skipjack fisheries and the fisheries information management system.
PNA officials discussed options for increased participation in the fishery and diversifying revenue streams through various initiatives, all of which are made possible by VDS management of the fishery, it said.
The Parties continued to discuss options for increasing the value of the VDS, including options for investing revenue. A presentation was provided by an investment fund manager active in the region during the meeting, which “continued the process of exposing PNA members to options for consideration”.
The time is ideal for the Western and Central Pacific region to put in measures to ensure robust tuna stocks for the future.
The most recent assessments on the tuna stocks in the region by the Pacific Community (SPC) show they are all in the green zone, with fishing activity at sustainable levels.
Bubba Cook, Western and Central Pacific Tuna Programme Manager at WWF (World Wide Fund), says taking the right measures will help the region address issues that other regions have failed to address, notably depleted stocks.
“We have a chance to get management right. The resources are robust and stock levels are in the green zone,” Cook says. “We don’t want to end up like other places around the world where they have seen the stock collapse and have to talk about recovery.
“These countries have seen the economic consequences. We are in a really good position to sort out problems other regions have not addressed successfully.”
The state of tuna stocks
Assessments of the four major tuna stocks have been completed recently: yellowfin and bigeye tuna in 2017, skipjack in 2016 and albacore in 2015.
Dr John Hampton, chief scientist and deputy director of SPC’s Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME), says they usually assess the stock level of at least one species every three years in order to evaluate different management strategies.
According to the assessment, skipjack tuna stock stands at 58 per cent, yellowfin at 33 per cent, albacore at 40 per cent and bigeye tuna at 32 per cent. Pacific bluefin is at historic low at 2.6 per cent.
“When we say the stock level is at 40 per cent for albacore, it means fish are at a level 40 per cent of what the stock would have been if we never had any fishing,” he says.
“At the moment, skipjack tuna, yellowfin and bigeye are not overfished, and nor is overfishing occurring.”
A new understanding of the growth rates of bigeye tuna meant that the scientific assessment of these stocks changed last year. The assessment of bigeye tuna was amended from ‘overfished’ to ‘not being overfished’.
“It’s quite a big level of depletion before we say it’s overfished, which means that these stocks are pretty resilient,” he says. “A stock is not classified as ‘overfished’ until the spawning population is reduced to less than 20 per cent of the unfished level.”
A rebuilding plan for Pacific Bluefin has been implemented by the Northern Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The initial target is to increase the spawning biomass to the 20% level. This has involved catch restrictions particularly on those fisheries catching very small Pacific bluefin tuna (PBF). The International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean has responsibility for assessments of PBF.
Future forecast on tuna stock
In Dr Hampton’s view, the main scientific advice and current management aims to keep things stable at current levels. In case of albacore, he says they would like to increase the size of the stock “a bit”.
And in order to achieve that, the catch has to be reduced. Finding agreement is a difficult issue for the FFA and the member countries.
“The problem with the albacore fishery is an economic problem rather than a biological problem”, he says. “They are sustainable as a stock in the long term”.
Some of the longline boats based in Pacific island countries face difficulty in being profitable at the current catch rates and economic conditions that prevail in the fishery.
Costs are high, but prices are low and so are catch rates. The poor catch rates are a consequence of the larger fish being depleted and they are the ones normally caught by longline fishers.
To make the fishery more profitable, fishing nations would have to allow the larger fish time to develop and that means reducing current catch rates. It has proved difficult to reach agreement on this.
“But if you get a better price for the albacore than is currently being paid there is less of a need to reduce current levels of catch,” Dr Hampton says.
“The problem with albacore is that fish are sold to canneries at $2.50 to $3 a kilo, whereas if fishers sell it at a fresh fish market they get three times the (cannery) price. These markets do exist in places like New Caledonia and Tahiti, and so the longline fisheries based there can make a good profit.”
Politics sometimes clashes with good management
Bubba Cook says it is important to keep politics out of management measures if tuna stock are going to remain sustainable in the future.
“The use of harvest strategies or harvest control rules based on a particular benchmark takes politics out of the issue,” he says. “It allows science and actual policy and management perspectives to set the limits.”
This will give the region a process that actually responds to the biological and economic conditions in fisheries.
“When you get some of the politics out of fisheries, you can actually see better management of our fisheries,” Cook says.