Tuna canning process.
Photo supplied by Palau’s MRNET.
of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism (MNRET) have attracted at least
20 participants in a tuna canning training to take place Sept. 22 to 27.
The training will be hosted by the Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR) and led by FoodStream
Earlier, MNRET has requested the Parties
to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to provide tuna canning training for small and
medium enterprises (SME) in Palau citing that as the nation gets ready for the
full implementation of a national marine sanctuary by January 1, 2020.
“As we are
preparing for full implementation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary
(PNMS), a central aspect of our focus is to build capacity and options for a
domestic pelagic fishery. This includes approaches to improve the business
feasibility of small-scale, locally-owned and operated vessels and businesses,”
MNRET Minister Umiich Sengebau said in a June letter to Maurice
BrownjohnCommercial Manager of PNA Office.
Palau is also looking into options to promote “Palau to the tourism market
through its conservation approach to sustainable pelagic fisheries, through
such initiatives as the Choose Pelagics Presidential directive.”
He said Palau is
also exploring the potential promotion of Palau’s FADs-free zone through
Pacifical, and “through unique, locally produced souvenir jars and cans, or
‘Fish With A Story’
He said micro canning will help improve
food security and provide employment and business opportunities for Palauans at
the same time, providing tuna canning training for small and medium
enterprises (SME) in Palau.
“The training is
aimed at individuals who intend to produce canned foods on the micro or small
commercial scale. Participants will learn how to preserve tuna and other
pelagic fish, as well as other seafood, meats, fruits, and vegetables,” MNRET
public announcement said last month.
The 5-day training
will be delivered through lectures, tutorials, group discussions, and practical
sessions. Topics covered include Introduction to Canning; Pre-cooking Tuna in
Commercial Operations; Retort Systems and Container Handling; Packaging Systems
for Processed Foods; Microbiology of Canned Foods; Principles of Thermal
Processing; Retort Operation & Production Records; Water Chlorination and
Canning Sanitation; and Regulations relevant to Thermal Processing.
successfully complete the whole week of training and pass all exams will be
issued a Retort Supervisor’s Certificate.
training is looking for participants who can commit to the full week and pass
written exams and a practical exam. The course requires high school-level Math
and English skills.
company FoodStream has conducted tuna processing training in Fiji and Papua New
Guinea, Marshall Islands Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia.
in the Pacific started four years ago, Brownjohn said. He said there are
volumes of “by-catch,” from tuna fishery although not suitable for large
commercial exports but can still be perfect to eat and can be canned locally.
He said jars could also be utilized to preserve food.
said the training provided by FoodStream is the same qualification as you were
trained in a reputable cannery in Thailand or somewhere else.
said in Palau, small scale canning is also a way to attract tourism.
tuna canning operation, “you are able to produce a shelf-stable product made
in Palau,” Brownjohn said.
is able to offer a jar, a fish, and a story behind it.”
Economic benefits can come in different forms: royalty returns from selling fishing rights to foreign nations, and providing fish for the domestic market at a time when food security is an issue.
The third possibility is jobs in the fishing industry. UN figures show unemployment rates in the Pacific can run as high as 60% in the worst affected countries, with women and youth being the hardest hit.
Dr Tu’ikolongahau Halafihi, Chief Executive Officer at Tonga’s Ministry of Fisheries, outlined a new approach his country is taking, to increase employment by encouraging local operators into longline fishing.
“We need to manage and develop the local industry, and shift our reliance away from foreign vessels,” he said. “Currently we have about 70 locals employed in fisheries. A new approach could boost the employment of marine engineers, crew, fishermen, and observers.”
“There will also be new opportunities for women, in marketing and administration.”
Dr Halafihi (also known as Hau) said that Tonga currently has only one local longline operator and seven foreign vessels, and their new plans provide for 20 licenses, 10 each for foreign vessels and locals.
Employment is the major benefit, but one side effect of a stronger domestic fishing fleet will be to increase compliance and reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This is a significant because Tonga does not have the capacity to enforce laws with foreign fleets.
Hau mapped out the steps Tonga will take: controlling of licences, incorporating the new measures in law, increasing the number of local operators using bareboat charters, seeking out donors to provide vessels, and training.
The Solomon Islands are planning a similar approach. Ferral Lasi, Undersecretary Technical at the Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources, says the main idea is not to issue licenses to foreign vessels for fishing or export.
“We want to cut foreign longlining. At the moment, we have 91 longliner foreign vessels licensed but no domestic operators,” he says. “We hope to sign an MOU this year to start the 5-year process of changing the face of our fishing industry.”
He expects the benefits will be considerable.
“Local owners will make money, stimulating business. Employment will be boosted on vessels and in processing centres. We are looking at bringing $200-300 million into the economy of the Solomon Islands,” he says.
Ferral puts the current value of longlining at about $900 million, with license fees amounting to $20-40 million.
“It will all be linked to a national fisheries hub. For some fish (like bigeye) the value is higher if we manage the process of export ourselves, so we plan to handle, process, and export fish like this. There will be many people employed in the hub,” he says.
He says training programs are part of the plan, and also jobs for women.
“Our cannery employs a lot of women, and this will happen in the Hub. We are about to finalise a policy about gender and it will relate to all our activities,” he says.
This will be a total change for the Solomon Islands and will need a lot of work involving willing partners.
“We need to develop the concept, and a plan. The whole project will be handled by Solomon Islanders and phased in over a transition period. It involves Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC) and donor partners (including Conservation International). The memorandum of understanding (MOU) will spell out who will do what,” Ferral says.
Changes are also coming to the Cook Islands, as they move swiftly to adopt a new e-reporting system developed by SPC.
Marino Wichman, Data Manager at the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR), has been tasked with implementing a new electronic reporting system to manage the longline quota management system approved in 2016-17.
“The Ministry works closely with SPC and FFA to ensure our information management systems are at optimal operational standards for both our data technicians and industry operators. E-reporting is of particular interest, as the Ministry has now introduced longline quota for albacore and bigeye tuna.
“It can be quite tricky on the reporting side of things,” he says. “The old system of recording catches and entering fish data into the data bases was cumbersome. Paper sheets got lost, some data had to be re-entered up to seven different times, and delays meant accurate up-to-date information was difficult.”
Now SPC has made available a new app called Onboard.
Andrew Hunt, of SPC’s Oceanic Fisheries Programme, says Onboard helps captains of longline boats to complete their log sheets.
“Instead of filling out a paper-based form, captains submit the information electronically. Onboard has features like GPS and the camera to improve data quality, and captains can submit new reports while they are still at sea, providing daily updates of their data,” he says.
“It’s on an Android Tablet, and loaded up and given to captains of commercial vessels. Each day they’ll log their fishing activity into the tablet, recording what kind of hooks they’re using, and how many, and the types and weights of fish they catch.”
“And then when they’re finished they submit the data straight into the database.”
MMR has been trialling the system for its Cook Islands flagged vessels operating out of America Samoa and Rarotonga.
Mr Wichman says, “We found that captains liked the concept and took on board the onus of keeping records in a safe place to keep them updated, but they don’t like tablets, and want to use laptops.”
After discussion with MMR earlier in the year, SPC has now provided a PC version of Onboard for use on shipboard laptops and computers, which will enable the app to tie into existing satellite data feeds onboard vessels.
MMR Director Offshore Tim Costelloe says: “With the large size of our EEZ and the need to tie e-reporting verifications into weekly and daily reporting for our Quota Management System, we found that an app using a handheld device did not fit the needs and requirements of our legal framework. This latest PC version greatly improves the standard of delivery and will benefit all stakeholders with more timely reporting and better monitoring of catches.”
The Cook Islands licenses 54 longline vessels, of which 26 are Cook Islands flagged. The remainder of the longline fleet are charter vessels flagged to China under access agreements with the Cook Islands Government. MMR is aiming to have 100 per cent e-reporting coverage on all licenced longliners by the end of 2019.
“We still have some way to go, as it is new technology and we need to work out the kinks, but the end result will include up to date info sharing, better monitoring, and greater control of catch limits,” Mr Costelloe says.
The Regional Fisheries Roadmap report card for 2017 has been published and there is much to be optimistic about.
However, Pacific Forum leaders still have their work cut out for them this week as there are areas that need improvement particularly with regards to meeting their goals for increasing the value of the region’s tuna catch and growing the total direct employment in the fishing industry.
The Tuna Fishery Report card provides high level advice on the current status of Pacific Tuna fisheries in relation to the goals, indicators and strategies adopted by Forum Leaders in the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries.
The report card focuses in the four main areas of: Sustainability, Value, Employment and Food Security.
Leading up to the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting, the Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (F.F.A), James Movick and the C.E.O of Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Tilafono David Hunter, told us the good news.
The results show that the region’s sustainability targets were being met.
It was revealed that tuna stock was not being overfished and that overfishing is not occurring.
The results were somewhat surprising according to the Deputy Director General of the Pacific Islands F.F.A, Wez Norris, but they were based on key developments that started ten years ago when the Sustainable Pacific Community (who do the stock assessments) first raised concerns and identified that the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries agency were not using the right growth information because traditionally the data used was inferred from other parts of the world and had no relevance to the Pacific.
“I don’t think that any of us were expecting that much of a difference,” he said.
“The project that was invested in a few years ago has been completed and what it’s shown is that the Bigeye Tuna is far more productive than was thought before so it grows more rapidly, reaches maturity quicker.
“Each fish stays reproductive for longer and the combination of those three things make it a stock that can therefore sustain a whole lot more fishing pressure than was thought before.”
The numbers for employment in the fishing industry (FFA Island members public and private sector) continues to grow, providing nearly 25,00 jobs in 2016.
However, Mr. Movick says that it was not quite the growth they were looking for and they were looking at ways to increase the spread of employment across the F.F.A members, noting that currently employment is concentrated in the processing industries within Melanesia.
“Most of the big processing facilities, particularly canneries are located in the Melanesian countries primarily because you need a large population based water and land… we are continuing to see some steady growth and the possibility of having similar size facilities in some of the other smaller island countries is certainly a possibility in a number of Micronesian as well as Polynesian states.”
In Samoa, F.F.A is looking at a number of similar frozen long-line facilities because with fresh frozen product there is much more opportunity across the region even if they will be fairly small facilities.
However, the addition of even a couple of hundred jobs would be of great value. Crew-based employment was also an area that they were looking at but Mr. Movick cautioned that there were some disadvantages.
“Yes that continues to be an area that Polynesians could try and develop some further opportunities there but what we have to keep in mind is that those countries that have fishing vessels and those countries that have licensing boats will want themselves to place crew on those fishing boats so there’s a combo of factors across the region that we have to look at specific to each country before one can assess if something is working.”
Mr. Movick wanted to emphasise that the report card is made up of composite figures for the whole region and that they were aiming to work closely with governments to get them to realise the importance of having a national report card and in addition they were also going to be developing similar data for each country so that they are able to track at a national level.
Being a small fish in a big pond is something that Mr. Movick acknowledges is a challenge especially with the deeply entrenched disagreements within the broad Western and Central Pacific Commission (W.C.P.F) membership.
To make the W.C.P.F.C more effective, Mr. Movick emphasised that the Forum leaders need to take a hardline approach with some member states during the conference this week.
“One of the key areas is that we continue to have deep arguments and an inability to reach decisions in the broad W.C.P.F.C membership because of the unwillingness of many of the Distant Water Fishing Nations to accept the zone line based management approach that we adopted in the Pacific,” he said.
“Too often they come in with proposals that would seek to have management measures based on flag state rights and flag state allocations which suits the distant water fishing nations but not the pacific island countries who don’t have those fishing boats and who don’t have those flags.
“So often times we end up having these very strong disagreements on the basic legal framework and principles right at the onset and nothing ever gets done as both sides become entrenched.”
On the eve of the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting, Mr. Movick said Forum leaders need to be mindful that Pacific Island countries have fought hard and long to ensure the rights of small island states and it is imperative to communicate that to distant water fishing nations.
“I think the forum leaders need to remind the distant water fishing nations that under the United Nations conference on the law of the sea, the fish stock agreement and the W.C.P.F.C Convention that the Pacific Island countries fought very hard and long all the way back to the Law of the Sea Convention to ensure that the rights of small island states in particular, would be protected with regard to their rights for management and access to their resources within their 200 mile zone and unfortunately we continue to face these problems in the W.C.P.F.C.”