Palau is building its capacity to ensure a consistent supply of tuna to its own people.
Most tuna fished in Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has been exported into the sashimi market, and locals have been left with rejects and low-grade fish. But now, with the Palau National Marine Sanctuary protecting 80% of the country’s EEZ, the Palau is building its domestic tuna fishery. The director of the marine sanctuary, King Sam, says it’s longline vessel will be joined early next year by a pole-and-line vessel. Belau Offshore Fishers supplies the domestic market. Its president, Okada Techiton, says the company is improving freezing capacity so that, when fresh fish is no longer available, there will always be a supply of frozen tuna and other ocean fish.
This 3.5 minute video reports on efforts to protect Palau’s National Marine Sanctuary now that foreign fishing fleets have left. Bernadette Carreon reports on progress and Richard Brooks videos and produces this special report on World Tuna Day.
It is so big you can fit not one, not two, but five of Earth’s moons inside it and have room left over. If that doesn’t sound impressive, then how about fitting the whole of the planet Mars in it and having 20 million square kilometres of room spare?
Spread throughout this planet-size swimming pool are some 25,000 small and isolated islands, mostly in its western and central region. And teeming within their many millions of square metres of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) are the commercially important tropical species of tuna that feed a large portion of the world.
Three of these islands are the atolls of Fakaofo, Nukunonu and Atafu that make up the Tokelau group. Together, they add up to 12 square kilometres of land – a miniscule string of pearls adorning Tokelau’s 318,000 square kilometre EEZ.
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic spread to all corners of the world, only a handful of countries managed to stay COVID-free. Tokelau was one of them. For most of the countries that remained free of the disease in 2020, that fragile status is being maintained at crippling economic and social costs. The lucrative tourism sectors of the small nation’s Pacific cousins of Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, and Tonga were decimated. It has made their fisheries revenue that much more valuable.
Tokelau is an exception
But Tokelau is the exception.
Its domestic economy does not rely on tourism. Instead, an estimated 80% comes from fisheries revenue alone. With their fisheries income mostly unaffected by COVID-19 so far, the people of Tokelau have been living in pre-pandemic normal since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic on 11 March 2020.
Yes, there are small doses of pandemic reality: COVID-19 drills in the three atolls, construction of managed isolation facilities, border controls, disruptions to the supply chain, and citizens repatriated – but they are small morsels of the enormous realities outside 318,000 square kilometre moat.
There is one reality that Tokelau shares with the outside world: that the commercial performance of the Pacific fisheries has been largely unaffected by COVID-19. With time, it has become clear that this reality has not happened by luck or in a vacuum. It is the culmination of years of hard work and a special working relationship, trust even, among its group of Pacific island officials, select fisheries experts, and their networks of partners.
One of these groups is the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), which is made up of eight Pacific island nations and Tokelau, who, under their cooperative arrangement, manage the largest tropical tuna fishery in the world. Working in conjunction with the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and various other partners, they have somehow kept tuna stocks in their waters in healthy numbers while increasing revenues. (Revenue from tuna fishing grew from around US$60 million in 2010 to US$500 million in 2018.)
The secret to success, according to former PNA CEO, Mr Transform Aqorau, is relationships. In a 2016 statement, he said: “The secret lies in the close friendships and relationships that exist amongst your officials. These are not just friendships borne out of a common bond by the work we do, but transcend to our families and siblings in some cases. These friendships have allowed us to work together even where we disagree with each other. We still value each other’s company and still share a meal and drink at the end of the day.”
One individual who has been part of that group since 2010 is Tokelau’s fisheries adviser, Mr Stan Crothers.
In this writer’s mind, Stan symbolises the hard-nosed yet unconditional love that fisheries officials have. They have dedicated themselves to claiming as much of the benefits rightly due from the region’s fishery to local people and their future generations.
With Stan’s involvement, Tokelau was accepted into the PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme in 2012. The immediate impact of that association saw the annual fisheries revenue increase by 100%, from NZ$2.7 million to NZ$5.5 million in 2013. The revenue continued its upward growth, from 2016 plateauing at around NZ$20 million a year. In 2019, its NZ$21.6 million contribution made up 77% of the total domestic economy, up from 27% in 2010.
Stan, like many of his fisheries compatriots, prefers effort and results to do his talking.
But it means that most of the citizens of countries like Tokelau, who now enjoy a more equitable economic share of revenues from their fisheries, have no idea of who has achieved this result or of the amount of work involved.
The reality is there’s a tuna war taking place. It’s a hugely complex battlefield requiring combatants with specialised skills and technical acumen, with a good and agile grasp of political brinkmanship. In this field, tiny countries such as Tokelau, which do not yet have the human capability and resources for these types of soldiers and generals, could be expected to be reaping NZ$2-$3 million a year in tuna revenue. Instead, the island has earned NZ$20 million a year for the past four years.
Stan has been – and continues to be – the key that unlocked Tokelau’s multi-million dollar potential in fisheries. And with his work with the PNA, FFA and other fisheries partners, he has helped extend similar benefits to other Pacific island countries and territories.
And here’s the rub: All of Stan’s efforts for Tokelau and for other parties have been provided on a largely pro bono basis for the public good.
But perhaps the magnitude of even the vast Pacific Ocean is not large enough a symbol for the value and heart of fisheries workers. For it is they who make the difference. Day in, day out, they go to battle with the aims to sustainably manage the fisheries, to negotiate fair and equitable benefits for the Pacific people who own these resources.
Their work has so far made fisheries one of the few sectors in the world to successfully hold off the devastation of the still uncontrollable SARS-CoV-2 virus.
It is really hard work. And many in the public arena just do not know about it.
In an interview shortly after the latest Tuna Commission meeting in December 2020 (WCPFC17), Stan said, “I think I’ve had a total of around three work days over the past six months where I haven’t been on Zoom meetings to do with fisheries.
“So, I’m shot. But hey, I think a couple of weeks without Zoom meetings to get my eyes rested and we’ll be ready to go again in 2021.”
Grant Thomas and the Tokelau child with the million-dollar smile
Before COVID-19 changed the world, the new decade in New Zealand and Tokelau was heralded by the publication of the 2020 Queen’s New Year Honours List in January. Among the awardees was one Mr Grant Thomas Crothers, who became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) by way of services rendered to Tokelau and the fishing industry.
The citation stated that Grant Thomas was the “Deputy Chief Executive and Acting Chief Executive of the Ministry of Fisheries in New Zealand. Upon retirement, he began pro bono work in the Pacific Islands to ensure small island countries could reap sustainable outcomes from their fisheries resources.
“In 2009–2010 he started working with and advising the Parties to the Nauru Fishing Agreement (PNA) and Tokelau. He played a key role in helping to develop the Tokelau Fisheries Policy, a document that was formed through extensive consultation with the Tokelau community, which enabled Tokelau to join the PNA.”
At about this point, there will be a lot of confused people in Tokelau, with many asking, “What is this? Who is Grant Thomas?”
And that is because Grant Thomas is an alias that stands for “Stan”. So when the name Stan Crothers is called out loud, not only will Tokelauans immediately say, “Oh, our Stan?” but virtually the entire international fisheries sector right down to the little children on outboard boats skimming the lagoon stretch between Fakaofo’s Fale and Tai islets will also go, “That’s our Stan.”
But more than just a popular personality with a few choice words, Stan has shaped Tokelau’s fisheries sector from a six-figure annual revenue stream in 2011 to an eight-figure boon starting in 2016.
Stan’s “input has helped grow the Tokelau fisheries sector from just under NZ$1 million per year to NZ$20 million annually” in less than a decade. These funds make up approximately 80% of Tokelau’s domestic revenue, and have allowed the New Zealand territory to improve its infrastructure, build hospitals, boost education outcomes and make other gains. The one smidgeon of regret for Stan, though, is that not one cent of the fisheries revenue has gone into building up Tokelau’s Trust Fund that currently sits just below NZ$100 million.
But how did a sought-after expert come to swap lucrative consultancy work with international institutes to volunteer his time and efforts for Tokelau some 10 years ago?
The Hollywood drama-style answer is revealed at the end of this article. But first, a window into some of the quirks and characteristics of this highly reserved individual, which are best garnered from comments by those who work closely with him.
Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, Director-General, FFA
“Having experienced first-hand the significant contribution that Stan makes to our fisheries work, I was delighted that he is to be awarded this honour of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Stan’s contribution to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), particularly Tokelau, has been immense,” Dr Tupou-Roosen wrote.
“The extraordinary work that he has done with the leaders and people of Tokelau to turn around their fisheries management and development to reveal its true value and potential has been remarkable. Without a doubt, the merits of this wonderful collaboration will benefit the people of Tokelau today and for generations to come.
“In the wider region, FFA continues to benefit regularly from his vast knowledge and experience in our fisheries discussions. His commitment, passion and diligence for the people of the Pacific in our fisheries work makes this a most well-deserved award for Stan Crothers.”
Dr Josie Tamate, Deputy Chair, WCPFC, and Director-General, Niue Ministry of Natural Resources
“This is an excellent achievement for Stan!” Dr Tamate wrote.
“I have great respect for Stan, particularly his contribution to the management of the tuna fisheries in the WCPO and especially for Tokelau. He has a wealth of experience on fisheries management and negotiation that have flowed on to Pacific island and FFA island colleagues.
“We have learned from him, and his sense of humour is quite interesting, especially through the analogies and metaphors that he sometimes uses. Only Stan can make an intervention with reference to a ‘divorce and/or marriage’ during a serious fisheries negotiation … yet in many instances, it helped break the ice and pressure a bit. Congratulations, Stan.”
His Excellency Mr Ross Ardern, Administrator of Tokelau
“On a personal level and as the Administrator of Tokelau, I was so pleased to see Stan receive acknowledgement of his work in the fisheries sector in the New Year’s Honours list,” Mr Ardern wrote.
“His elevation to that of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit is richly deserved. I am particularly pleased that Stan’s family will be able to participate in the award ceremony in Wellington in the not-too-distant future as they, too, have played their part in supporting Stan and his work.
“Stan has epitomised what it is to be a public servant. The work that he has done in lifting the fisheries profile of Tokelau has paid significant dividends. It has given Tokelau the ability to focus on core infrastructure relating to schools, public service buildings and the education sector.
“Stan has passed a great deal of institutional knowledge about the technicalities of the fisheries sector to others – his great work will continue and all pacific countries will benefit from that.
“Thanks, Stan, for all you have done for the Pacific.”
And now, the reason behind Stan’s decision to help Tokelau in 2010, is given by Mr Feleti Tulafono, Tokelau’s Director for Fisheries, in his inimitable and colourful way.
Stan was an unknown individual to us, most probably because he was very high up in the echelons of the then New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries.
When Stan came into Tokelau Fisheries, we worked very closely with him. And as we got to know him better, we found out he was a former Deputy Director and Acting Director of NZ Fisheries. At this time, Stan was doing consultancy work for the World Bank in the area of fisheries. For me, I had a burning question that I wanted to ask Stan.
Feleti: Stan, what made you change your mind and agree to help Tokelau Fisheries?
Stan: When I agreed to the late Ulu, Foua Toloa and Fisheries Minister, Keli Kalolo’s invitation to travel to Tokelau to help Tokelau realise the potential from her fisheries and build that potential, I knew it would be near impossible. That it was going to be a very big undertaking because the proper legal, development and management frameworks were not in place. Most specifically, because of Tokelau’s current constitutional status [as a territory of New Zealand].
Feleti: So what made you agree to help us?
Stan: Well, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. On my first evening in Fakaofo, I was talking with the late Foua Toloa and Keli Kalolo. They had been trying very hard to convince me to help them and Tokelau. I told them, when we broke off to go to bed, that I would think about it.
The following morning I went for a walk around the village and I could see schoolchildren. Some walking and some joyfully running to the jetty where they board the school boat to take them to school on the other islet, Fenuafala.
I kept walking towards the jetty and two young schoolgirls came skipping along and one of them said ‘Good morning Stan!’ It took me by surprise because I did not know who they were.
It was later when I went to see the then Manager of Fisheries, Mose Pelasio, that I came to know the young girl who said good morning was Mose’s youngest daughter, Te Kaumana’alofa.
The ‘good morning Stan’ from that young girl, at that moment while I was watching the young children cram into that small school boat was the turning point – I decided there and then to help Tokelau.
And so the arrangement began. To this day, Stan has not budged into a formal arrangement, preferring to honour the 2010 ‘shake of hands’ with Foua and Keli, a gentleman’s agreement for his services.
NUKU’ALOFA – There is no doubt that the Pacific’s ocean needs to be better managed so that respective countries in the region can gain the maximum benefits.
This is something the Government of
Tonga believes should be done urgently.
Almost everyone believes activities being carried out in Tonga’s waters, including the tuna industry here, have not raked in the maximum that the kingdom should be getting in terms of income and earnings.
Locals are of the thinking that overseas companies and operators are taking advantage of the lack of monitoring and policing – making money and taking that away overseas, without any contribution to the local economy.
“There is no doubt that a lot of activities have been happening in our ocean, throughout our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and we are not getting the full advantage we should be getting,” said Mr Paula Ma’u, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Meteorology, Environment, Information, Disaster Management, Energy, Climate Change and Communication (MEIDECC).
“This includes the tuna industry and fisheries in general. And we have decided that we needed to look into how best we can better manage our marine resources and activities so that we gain the benefits we should be getting.
“That saw the birth of the Tonga
Ocean 7, which is the name we have given our team tasked with putting together
the Tonga Ocean Plan.”
The Tonga Ocean 7 is made up of government ministries and departments that have come together with the common interest of ensuring that Tonga’s ocean and its resources are managed for a sustainable future.
They include the Ministry of MEIDECC, Ministry of Lands and Survey, Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Tourism, the Marine Department, the Ports Authority of Tonga, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
How will the Tonga Ocean Plan help the tuna industry?
The tuna industry in Tonga has faced
its fair share of ups and lows over the last 30 years.
Tuna fisheries have been identified as one of Tonga’s most important natural resources.
Former Minister for Fisheries Hon. Semisi Fakahau stated in the ‘Tonga National Tuna Fishery and Management Plan’ (2018–2022) that in recent years Tonga had experienced challenging times with the domestic longline operations.
“The rising fuel prices, low albacore prices, low catch rates, and economic pressures create a very difficult environment for domestic operators to remain viable, even with technical and policy support and advice from government,” he stated.
“That said, progress in developing
tuna resources for the benefit of the people of Tonga is vital.”
Hon. Fakahau said then that Tonga was working to “fulfil our national and international obligations and to further provide for the sustainable development and management of our domestic tuna fishery”.
In reality, there have been more lows than highs, especially in terms of the local industry’s survival.
Fisheries Chief Executive Officer Dr Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi said there needs to be a review of how Tonga has been managing its tuna resources and the general fisheries practices.
“We believe the Tonga Ocean Plan will
help in managing our ocean and its resources,” Dr Halafihi said.
“Records show that we are losing out with our fisheries, and there are possible declines in our fish population generally.
“In the past 15 years or so, we started implementing the Marine Protected Area and Special Management Areas projects, which were aimed at sustaining fisheries and marine resources around our country, in areas that we identified were critical to implementing these in.
“The Tonga Ocean Plan includes all
that has been done and looks at how better we can manage everything, including
income and what we are losing out on financially.”
Dr Halafihi, and the Fisheries Ministry, is a critical partner in the process that is currently being followed.
So critical that he is one of the three chief executive officers who are joint chairs of the Tonga Ocean 7.
The other two are Mr Ma’u of the Ministry of MEIDECC and Ms Rosamond Bing of the Ministry of Lands and Survey.
Mr Ma’ said the importance of the Tonga Ocean Plan cannot be overemphasised.
“The plan is critical for us as we really need to ensure that we are able to manage what we have and sustain that for the future generations,” he said.
Pointing to the tuna industry and the challenges it faces, Mr Ma’u said ensuring that areas where the tuna population thrive need to be protected.
The process to develop the plan
With funding from the Italian
Government, Waitt Institute, Ocean5 plus technical support from the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Vava’u
Environment Protection Agency (VEPA), the Tonga Ocean 7 team commissioned a
national consultation in 2018.
That consultation focused on what is currently being done in Tonga’s ocean and sea area, what will happen if we continue with the current trend, what the pros and cons are, what people believe should be done, and the benefits of having the Tonga Ocean Plan.
Starting in Ha’apai in October 2019, the consultation team then visited Vava’u, NIuatoputapu, Niuafo’ou, ‘Eua and then made the round the island consultation on Tongatapu.
Consultation team member and former
Fisheries Director Dr Vailala Matoto said they were surprised with the feedback
and responses from members of the public.
Respondents included men, women and youths from the different villages, tourism operators on the different islands, local fishermen and women, ship operators, and tuna industry players.
“There was general consensus that
there needs to be a change in how we are doing things and managing our
resources,” Dr Vailala said.
“The idea of the Tonga Ocean Plan was
unanimously endorsed at all the consultation meetings held, which was very
“The responses, suggestions and
reports were then given to the legal drafting team, headed by Ms Rosamond Bing,
who were tasked with drafting the legislations.”
The drafting team worked with all
stakeholders, especially members of the government legal fraternity, in
drafting the legislation.
Dr Vailala said that legislation will
now be taken to the communities for the second round of consultation this year.
Tonga intends to implement the ocean plan by the end of this year.
That plan will manage all activities
carried out within Tonga’s EEZ.
And there is optimism in that that there are better days are ahead.
“We are already seeing the results
from the SMAs and MPAs around the country,” MEIDECC’s Mr Ma’u said.
“There is a bright future ahead if we
are serious and act on what is now being planned.”
Dr Halafihi supported that comment and added that Tonga’s tuna fisheries should be in a better shape moving forward.
“We are positive,” he added.
That is the feeling around the kingdom right now as people anticipate the finalisation of the Tonga Ocean Plan and its implementation – aimed at sustaining Tonga’s tuna fisheries and marine resources for years to come!
At WCPFC16 … FFA Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen (left), FFC Chair Mr Eugene Pangelinan (centre) and PNA Chief Executive Mr Ludwig Kumoru. Photo: F. Tauafiafi.
Optimism on the push to adopt the climate-change resolution tabled by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
PNA supports climate resolution and calls for agreement to maritime boundaries.
The Tuna Commission negotiations enter the final day today with the Pacific country bloc optimistic of good outcomes on its priority issues.
The Director-General of FFA, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, said, “We are feeling very positive at this stage. We are feeling confident, but you never know until the last day.”
Top of the priority list is the push to adopt a climate-change resolution that was tabled on the first day. Signs are encouraging as questions on the text initially focused on actions by members and the Secretariat, and have been successfully navigated in accordance with the mandate of the WCPFC. The formal discussions take place today.
Chair for the Pacific’s Forum Fisheries Committee, Mr Eugene Pangelinan, said, “I am a bit more optimistic than what I was on the very first day.”
“The initial discussions were somewhat concerning, but this is a negotiation and if we are to get an agreement we will need to exercise some flexibility. Given the Convention and the objectives of the WCPFC (Tuna Commission) and what we’re trying to achieve, this is turning out much better than I thought.”
Alignment with COP25 climate change outcomes
Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen said of the big emitters and other member countries from outside the Pacific, that “they have been consulted here by our members and have been supportive of this resolution”.
“It has come down to drafting, making sure that what is included doesn’t undermine any national positions being put forward at the COP25 climate-change meeting in Madrid, Spain. So there is a real big effort to get this resolution through.”
Mr Pangelinan said that, if there agreement were reached on a final resolution today, “that would be a great outcome for FFA members in terms of getting special attention within the WCPFC effort about climate-change issues, and fisheries in particular”.
It will also support further development of the science in the area, allowing the Tuna Commission to make informed decisions on the impacts of climate change and how the it can respond to those impacts.
The members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) fully support the resolution and the need to address the impacts of sea-level rise on the maritime boundaries of Pacific countries.
The Chief Executive of PNA, Mr Ludwig Kumoru, said, “Climate change affects all of our members. Issues such as maritime boundaries come into play when you talk about climate change. For PNA, one of the issues that is not mentioned specifically is sea-level rise and how it affects the EEZ boundaries.”
The major potential impact of changes to maritime boundaries are economic.
“They would lose their economic means,” Mr Kumoru said. “That is why we are making sure that, through FFA, through the region, it goes through to the United Nations, that our boundaries are agreed. Then even if the Pacific islands disappear their boundaries are there and they still get money [earned] from within those boundaries.
“So, from that point of view and all other issues with climate change, PNA supports the climate change resolution.”
Other Pacific priorities on the table are:
skipjack target reference point (TRP), the revision of which is still to be agreed
high-seas limits and allocation
mobulid rays conservation and management measure (CMM)
Compliance Monitoring Scheme
The 16th annual meeting of WCPFC is expected to close today, Wednesday, 11 December.
Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F Tauafiafi’s participation and coverage at the WCPFC16 was made possible by the Forum Fisheries Agency, Pew Charitable Trusts, and GEF OFMP2 project.
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.
Members: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
ABOUT WESTERN CENTRAL PACIFIC FISHERIES COMMISSION (WCPFC)
The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPF Convention) which entered into force on 19 June 2004.
The WCPF Convention draws on many of the provisions of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement [UNFSA] while, at the same time, reflecting the special political, socio-economic, geographical and environmental characteristics of the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) region. The WCPFC Convention seeks to address problems in the management of high seas fisheries resulting from unregulated fishing, over-capitalization, excessive fleet capacity, vessel re-flagging to escape controls, insufficiently selective gear, unreliable databases and insufficient multilateral cooperation in respect to conservation and management of highly migratory fish stocks.
The Commission supports three subsidiary bodies; the Scientific Committee, Technical and Compliance Committee, and the Northern Committee, that each meet once during each year. The meetings of the subsidiary bodies are followed by a full session of the Commission. The work of the Commission is assisted by a Finance and Administration Committee.
Members: Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu.
Participating territories: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna.
Cooperating non-members: Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Liberia, Thailand, Vietnam.
HONIARA, 24 October 2019 – Pacific Community (SPC) fisheries scientist Sam McKechnie says SPC’s research shows an easterly move for skipjack and yellowfin tuna species in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean that will be clear by 2050 and pronounced by 2100.
According to a September 2018 SPC report, the prediction is driven by the degradation of fish spawning habitats due to higher ocean temperatures.
McKechnie presented current projections of the impacts of climate change on tuna movement during the 7th Global Environment Facility Steering Committee last month.
Part of SPC’s climate modelling focuses on the effects of climate change on bycatch species such as sharks, seabirds and turtles. While not of commercial interest, these animals are immensely important for ecological diversity and food security.
McKechnie said that the SPC research optimistically shows that some species, like the yellowtail kingfish, may be able to adapt to predicted changes. This capacity occurs when there is higher genetic diversity in a species and it is able to thrive in warming waters. Yellowtail kingfish can be bred easily in captivity, making it an excellent test subject for studying the impacts of climate change on large species that live in the open ocean.
Management of fish stocks in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific countries and on the high seas depends on understanding current stock levels. It also depends on estimating catch levels so that Pacific countries can capitalise on the fisheries economically and socially, while maintaining sustainable limits. Programs developed by SPC, for example TUFMAN 2, support rigorous documenting on vessels to ensure accurate catch reporting.
“There’s a big update coming in the next couple months that will be rolled out,” McKechnie said.
“TUFMAN has been extremely valuable for us and there’s more components that have been added recently […] that will hopefully increase the value of the data and that there will be less mistakes.
“The better this interface gets, the easier it is to validate.”
Eugene Pangelinan, the Executive Director of the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA), thanked SPC for support in this area, as electronic reporting is a priority for the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
“We have been pushing forward on implementing the electronic monitoring on all our commercial fisheries, foreign and domestic, by 2023,” he said.
Fisheries representatives from Tonga, Cook Islands, Fiji and FSM expressed appreciation for the SPC’s work in data collection and regional training workshops during Tuesday’s meeting.
Members said these activities, supported through the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2), have informed decision-making and improved electronic monitoring.
HONIARA, 24 October 2019 – The 14 member states of the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2) gathered on Tuesday to plan for the final year of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) initiative. During the 7th Global Environment Facility (GEF) Steering Committee meeting, participants reflected on project’s achievements during the year and made plans for the future.
FFA representatives talked final targets for the OFMP2 project before it wraps up in 2020. Next year, the project will focus on limits and allocations for tropical tuna on purse seine and longline vessels, longline electronic monitoring, and transhipment review.
Manager, Hugh Walton said one of the main concerns for the next phase of the
project was high seas management.
Fishing Nations (DWFNs), particularly China and Taiwan, want to retain that
right for the high seas transhipment.
“They have to
be able to prove economic disadvantage […] it’s not documented, and it’s not
tested, so it’s a huge loophole and we’re trying to close it.”
The Parties to
the Nauru Agreement Office CEO, Ludwig Kumoru, also emphasised that the project
could only move forward with long-term high seas allocations in place. Current
allocations ensure that available resources are equitably distributed between
fisheries who target the same species outside country Exclusive Economic Zones
Mere Lakeba, Director
of Fisheries, Fiji said that catering to countries’ individual needs was
important moving forward. Hugh Walton, OFMPII coordinator said that this would
be a priority.
the last proposal, the OMFP sent consultants to each country and produced a
template of situational analyses of what was going on in each country to identify
“There is no
one size fits all, and we would not aspire to a one size fits all approach,” Walton
Walton also spoke
of project successes including the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and
the resulting Strategic Action Programme (SAP) produced by Professor David
Vousden of Rhodes University.
The TDA and
SAP have shed light on the current challenges for the management of Pacific
EEZs, and presented Pacific countries with the steps that can be taken to
mitigate the issues.
The report put
root causes of current fisheries issues down to a lack of high seas compliance,
climate change impacts, and pollution from coastal and inland activities.
It also notes
a positive: migratory tuna stocks are currently at sustainable levels due to
the management and efforts of Pacific fisheries over the last 20 years.
All 14 member states have sent letters of endorsement for the Project Implementation Form (PIF). The PIF was submitted to the GEF on October 11, and outlines plans for continuing OFMP2 activities. A detailed proposal for the next phase of the project is planned for June 2020.
Kayangel State, one of the sites of the coastal surveillance system. Photo: Richard Brooks
The United States is stepping up its
presence in Palau to protect it from a range of threats like illegal,
unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) with the official launch of the
coastal surveillance system (CSS).
On Oct. 2, the United States Defense
Department, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Palau government held a
ribbon-cutting ceremony to announce that the CSS in outlying states of Kayangel
The CSS is to help Palau monitor maritime
traffic and vessels’ presence in its EEZ especially with the nation about to
close a huge portion of its waters to commercial fishing by January 1, 2020.
CSS according to marine law enforcement can operate the system and see vessel
movement and help the nation achieve maritime security and enhance capabilities
to deal with threats at sea.
systems were installed in Angaur and Kayangel and in the future in other
Southwest Islands States where there have
reports of IUU fishing in these areas.
Scharamek, Academic Program Management Officer of Scripps said that Palau would
be the first nation in the world to test the new surveillance system.
US, which funded the radar, will also install the system in three more sites in
the Southwest Islands of Hatobei and Sonsorol States.
said because of the distance of those states from Koror, where the marine law
is, the system can help respond to issues faster.
Vice President Raynold Oilouch said the system would help the country combat
maritime security issues such as IUU and provide the needed technology to be
able to monitor vessels of up to 75-mile radius.
with the official launching of the CSS, the US deputy military commander for
the Pacific, Army General John “Pete” Johnson said that the US is stepping up
its involvement in the region to help deal with economic threats like illegal
was in Palau last week to attend the celebration of Palau’s 25th Independence
Day on Oct. 1.
are committed to the defense of Palau in any aspect regardless of the threat,”
The UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates IUU fishing accounts for up to 26
million tons of fish a year, translating to between $10 and $23 billion.
Remengesau has earlier said that “The Palau sanctuary law is more than a conservation
policy. It also enhances our capabilities to combat pirate fishing,” IUU
fishing is a global problem that requires global solutions,
Marine Sanctuary will cover an area encompassing 500,000 square kilometers and
roughly 80 percent of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The law takes
effect in 2020 and, 80 percent of the country’s EEZ will still be a no-take
zone, while 20 percent is designated as a domestic fishing zone.
THE BUREAU of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) launched in 2018 the National Tuna Management Plan (NTMP). What is the NTMP all about? Will it benefit our ocean resources? Our Filipino fishers? Our population? Does it have an impact on our lives? These are interesting questions and beg meaningful answers.
According to BFAR, the NTMP is aimed at establishing a sustainably-managed and equitably-allocated Tuna fisheries by 2026 that will promote responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products. By now, I think we can all agree that responsible fishing practices and trade of Tuna products will help ensure continuous provision of gainful livelihood and substantial income to Tuna fishers while providing growth opportunities to associated business, and most importantly, food security for the growing population of the country. That is what the plan envisions.
In the plan, BFAR says that as one of the major Tuna-fishing nations, the Philippines should be able to balance its need for growth and development (which drives its increasing Tuna fishing requirements) against the need for sustainability (which requires it to engage in internal cooperative arrangements in managing Tunas and other highly migratory and transboundary fish stocks). Balance is always the key. You don’t keep the balance, something’s bound to keel over. It’s not only applicable to the fishing sector, even to agriculture, the environment like preservation of trees versus road widening, among others.
Data from the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) show that in 2017, 55 percent of the world’s Tuna catch totalled 2.6 million MT. 80-85 percent of the WCPFC catches were derived from Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs); 30 percent from West Pacific East Asia; and 10 percent from the Philippines. Given these statistics, there is a need for transnational fishery cooperation. Big word. What’s transnational fishery cooperation? It is plainly implementing increased joint management measures designed to protect the Tuna and other Tuna-like and migratory resources across various countries. That’s right across various countries for Tuna fishing has already gone global. It’s no longer confined to Philippine municipal waters and the EEZ. This cooperation is played out even within Philippines waters as evidenced by the high degree of inter-dependence among its Tuna fisheries, the plan further explained.
The WCPFC covers the following countries: Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Chinese Taipei, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, and Vanuatu, Members; American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, Participating Territories; and Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Liberia, Thailand, and Vietnam, Cooperating Non-Members.
The plan further stated that increasing catch levels in Western and Central Pacific Ocean have led the WCPFC to adopt, for implementation by member-countries, the Philippine included, a growing number of Conservation and Management Measures (CMMs). It applies to the catching, processing, and marketing of Skipjack, Yellowfin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Albacore Tuna, and Pacific Bluefin Tuna. It covers both municipal and commercial fishing employing purse seine, ring net, long line, handline (hook and line), and other fishing methods and gears that are operated in Philippine waters including the EEZ. Likewise, it covers certain operations of Philippine-flagged vessels fishing beyond national jurisdictions (high seas and/or jurisdiction of other coastal states).
According to the plan, Tuna fishing in the Philippines involves both municipal (<3 GT) and commercial (>3 GT) fishing vessels. Municipal handline, troll line, and gill net, among others, are used to catch oceanic Tunas. Small-scale and medium-scale commercial vessels (3.1-150 GT) like the purse seine, ring net, and handline are the primary fishing boats which fish beyond municipal waters and the EEZ. Philippine-flagged purse seine/ring vessels (not more than 250 GT), currently limited to 36 Tuna catchers, operate in High Seas Pocket 1 (HSP1) in consonance with WCPFC policy.
Now, what is the coverage of HSP1? Why is this a big thing in Tuna fishing? HSP1 or the high seas is bounded by the EEZs of the Federated States of Micronesia to the north and east, Republic of Palau to the west, and Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to the south. Our Filipino fishers are allowed to fish in this area subject to CMMs issued by the WCPFC. S
THERE are 455 commercial fish landing centers in the country. These include the Philippine Fisheries and Development Authority and local government unit-controlled ports, as well as private wharves.
The General Santos Fish Port Complex is the country’s major tuna unloading port, where 189,944.2 metric tons (MT) of tuna were unloaded in 2017.
The Navotas Fish Port Complex in Metro Manila is the country’s second largest tuna port, where 6,821.56 MT of tuna were unloaded in 2017, the plan further reported.
BFAR targets to put up 729 community fish landing centers nationwide. This is a good plan because the construction of such will provide a proper and hygienic hub for the fishermen to land their catch; serve as a monitoring site; a training ground for the fisherfolk; and, in part (via its roof deck), as facility for sun drying and smoking of fish during peak months. Now, 411 units are already completed and 89 are operational, as of May 2018. Of course, we are pushing BFAR to complete the target number and make them all operational to benefit the fisherfolk.
Moving forward, seven out of nine tuna canneries in the country with a combined capacity to process raw tuna at 950 tons per day or about 189,000-216,000 tons annually, are located in General Santos City. With annual fresh tuna landing of 90,000 tons (average for the last three years) coming from Philippine fishing grounds and the HSP1, the tuna canning industry plays a very crucial role as a big and sustainable market for the tuna fishing industry. This information is derived from “Tuna: At the Heart of General Santos” coffee table book, published in September 2018.
Moreover, 90 percent of the national tuna production is located in Mindanao, providing jobs and annual direct revenues of $400 million. General Santos City, as the center of the tuna industry, hosts 15 of the 19 fish processors and exporters of the country. With all these data, we can safely say that indeed, General Santos City has rightfully earned the moniker, “Tuna Capital of the Philippines”.
The plan covered issues related to tuna fisheries. Inputs from the 18th National Tuna Congress in 2016 and the regional cluster consultations conducted in 2017 and 2018, respectively, are incorporated, thus:
a) Sustainability of Tuna Resources – Current indicators of oceanic Tuna Species (Skipjack, Yellowfin Tuna, and Bigeye Tuna) provide optimism on improved resources in the Western Central Pacific Ocean or WCPO. However, uncertainties and risks accompany Bigeye Tuna. Increasing catch and fishing mortality on key Tuna species require careful management.
b) Resource Use conflict (between commercial and municipal fisheries) – Competition between the various fisheries and sectors has caused issues on equitable distribution of fishing access. An example is the use of payao by commercial purse seine and ring net vessels resulting in handliners moving farther away and eventually losing fishing ground in the municipal waters.
c) Limited post-harvest facilities resulting in high post-harvest losses
d) Limited socio-economic benefits and alternative livelihood opportunities to tuna fishers
e) Limited market and stringent trade/market/credit requirements (including EU and US market standards).
f) Need to strengthen governance on tuna fisheries management.
g) Illegal unreported unregulated or IUU fishing.
All these crucial issues need to be addressed and resolved, and BFAR, being the fisheries authority of the country, mainly responsible for commercial fishing in national waters and the EEZ, and managing the high seas/distant water tuna fishing fleet, is the rightful government office to push for the resolution of these issues in partnership with stakeholders and the industry.
Meanwhile, the LGUs are authorized to manage fishing and fishing activities in municipal waters. They can adopt regulations for the conservation, management, and exploitation of tuna in municipal waters.
For more information about the specific Goals and Objectives of the plan, you can contact BFAR, Capture Fisheries Division through Tel. No. (02) 9294894 or visit their website at http://www.bfar.da.gov.ph/.
For comments, you may reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org./PN
Judge Tomas Heidar of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea addresses the regional judicial symposium on IUU fishing and the international law of the sea
HONIARA, 5 August 2019 – Judge Tomas Heidar of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), who serves as president of its Chamber for Fisheries Disputes, today delivered a keynote address to the regional judicial symposium on the topic “IUU fishing and the ITLOS advisory opinion”.
This appears to be the first time a judge of ITLOS has participated in a regional judicial conference.
Judge Heidar described how the ITLOS Advisory Opinionfrom 2015 on the request of the Sub-regional Fisheries Commission elaborates on the responsibilities of coastal states and flag states in combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Honourable Judge Heidar said: “The ITLOS advisory opinion in particular gives teeth to the relevant treaty provisions on flag-state obligations and has already had an impact on state legislation and practice.
“It offers guidance to coastal states for holding liable the flag state of a vessel conducting IUU fishing activities in their EEZs for a breach, attributable to the flag state, of its due diligence obligations prescribed in the advisory opinion.”
The Director-General of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, said: “The contributions of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on the interpretation and application of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea are noteworthy.”
Dr Tupou-Roosen added: “The ITLOS advisory opinion provides useful guidance on the management of fisheries resources.
“The advisory opinion is clear that coastal states have primary responsibility for management of fisheries resources, and that flag states also have responsibility to exercise due diligence over their flagged vessels.”
The judicial symposium is being attended by members of the judiciary from the Pacific Islands region, and international law experts, and will discuss, in particular, the responsibility of states, the responsibility of international organisations, and the responsibility of persons in the governance of fisheries.
The judicial symposium is being held from 5–8 August 2019 at the FFA Conference Centre in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
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 sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. www.ffa.int
Climate change will cost Pacific island countries and territories about $60 million in lost tuna-related revenue by 2050, Johann Bell, senior director of Pacific tuna fisheries at Conservation International, reportedly told the Pacific Islands News Association.
The estimate is based on recent modeling done with tuna biomass within the exclusive economic zones of the Pacific island countries and territories, assuming a 15% movement of skipjack and yellowfin to the east, he said. As a result, he explained, regional governments will receive less revenue because foreign fishing fleets will take more of their tuna catch from the high seas where they do not have to pay licensing fees.
Bell was reportedly speaking at the conclusion of the Pacific Community workshop for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, an event held in Noumea, in the French territory New Caledonia.
In 2016, license fees revenue for all the Pacific island countries and territories was about $465m, he said.