24 October, Honiara – The 14 member states of the Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMPII) 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 OFMPII 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 OFMPII activities. A
detailed proposal for the next phase of the project is planned for June 2020.
Japan is known for its love
affair with seafood. If we say tuna, we think of sushi and sashimi – two of the
most famous dishes in Japanese cuisine.
Japan Ministry of Foreign
Affairs officials told visiting Pacific Islands journalists in Tokyo last month
that a sizeable amount of tuna Japan consumes are sourced from the Japanese
vessels licensed to fish in the Pacific region.
Japan is a major fisher of tuna
species in the Pacific region; Japan officials said: “fishing is very important
To protect valuable marine
resources and to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks, Japan’s Free and
Open Indo Pacific Strategy includes a commitment to peace and stability,
including assistance to the Pacific in enhancing maritime safety and stability.
This year, Palau and Japan are
celebrating 25-years of diplomatic ties that “friendship” Japan’s aid has
delivered a wide range of projects from infrastructure, health, education,
maritime security, and climate change.
According to the Forum
Fisheries Agency (FFA) data, the Japanese imports from FFA members was valued
at US $41 million in 2016, with Palau and Fiji as the main supplier of tuna
sashimi grade products to the Japanese market.
Japan has been an important
diplomatic partner to Palau in improving awareness of activities in its
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Boosting its marine surveillance, a Japan-funded patrol boat
called PSS Kedam in now serving as the additional patrol boat for Palau.
The new patrol boat Kedam
is funded with the grant by the Nippon Foundation at a cost of over $30
million, Kedam is expected to enhance Palau’s marine surveillance capabilities
and police its s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
At the Western and Central
Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), Japan is one of
the key players pushing for measures to conserve fish stocks, recognizing its
economic importance to Pacific island nations.
Japan was also instrumental in
keeping catches of juvenile tuna to below 2002–04 average levels as a
The government of Japan
continues to assure island nations of support given that the Pacific islands
states are large ocean states that are custodians of the world’s largest tuna
The WCPO share of the global
catch of albacore, bigeye, skipjack, and yellowfin tunas is between 55% and
58%. In 2016 the total catch of tuna species s was 2.7 million tonnes which 56%
of global production of 4.8 million tonnes, according to FFA.
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.
Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. (left) Australia’s Ambassador to Palau , George Fraser and Maritime Surveillance Advisor, LCDR Clint Moore (right). Photo courtesy of the Office of the President Palau.
Palau is expected
to receive a new patrol boat from Australia in June 2020 to replace PSS H.I.
In a press
conference on October 2, President Tommy Remengesau Jr. announced that the PSS
H.I. Remellik will
be taken out of commission by February 2020 with the new boat coming in by June
which will be named PSS Remeliik II.
announced the replacement after showing the media a replica of the new boat.
PSS Remeliik was
donated by Australia 24 years ago and the new patrol boat will have a length of
139 feet, which is 35 ft longer than the 104 feet Remeliik.
The new boat can
also take a crew of up to 25.
In February next year, PSS Remeliik will bid its goodbye to Palau to travel to Australia.
The new patrol
boat is estimated to cost around $20 million.
The new patrol
vessel will join Japan donated PSS Kedam and two smaller boats to conduct maritime
surveillance in Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Before PSS Kedam,
Palau only has one patrol boat- PSS H.I Remeliik.
statements, Remenegsau said Kedam and Remeliik will help patrol its ocean and
assist tackling the challenge of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
“We are one percent of land, and 99 percent ocean. And that means, we are indeed a large ocean state, and the ocean is everything to us. It is our food security, it is our economic security, it is our cultural and social security, for it is our way of life.”
has been delivering patrol boats to other Pacific Island Countries. Other
recipients include Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tuvalu,
Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, FSM, the Marshall Islands, and Cook Islands.
Australia is also
complementing its patrol boat program with aerial surveillance service which is
part of the Australian Government Department of Defence’s $2
billion Pacific Maritime Security Program.
The program will
be in conjunction with the Pacific Patrol Boat program. Palau and FSM are
among the 12 nations in the Pacific that are part of the program. The other
nations are Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands,
Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Tropical tuna are one of the few wild animals we still hunt in large numbers, but finding them in the vast Pacific ocean can be tremendously difficult. However, fishers have long known that tuna are attracted to, and will aggregate around, floating objects such as logs.
In the past, people used bamboo rafts to attract tuna, fishing them while they were gathered underneath. Today, the modern equivalent – called fish aggregating devices, or FADs – usually contain high-tech equipment that tell fishers where they are and how many fish have accumulated nearby.
It’s estimated that between 30,000 and 65,000 man-made FADs are deployed annually and drift through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean to be fished on by industrial fishers. Pacific island countries are reporting a growing number of FADs washing up on their beaches, damaging coral reefs and potentially altering the distribution of tuna.
Our research in two papers, one of which was published today in Scientific Reports, looks for the first time at where ocean currents take these FADs and where they wash up on coastlines in the Pacific.
Attracting fish and funds
We do not fully understand why some fish and other marine creatures aggregate around floating objects, but they are a source of attraction for many species. FADs are commonly made of a raft with 30-80m of old ropes or nets hanging below. Modern FADs are attached to high-tech buoys with solar-powered electronics.
The buoys record a FAD’s position as it drifts slowly across the Pacific, scanning the water below to measure tuna numbers with echo-sounders and transmitting this valuable information to fishing vessels by satellite.
Throughout their lifetimes FADs may be exchanged between vessels, recovered and redeployed, or fished and simply left to drift with their buoy to further aggregate tuna. Fishers may then abandon them and remotely deactivate the buoys’ satellite transmission when the FAD leaves the fishing area.
Fishing licence fees can provide up to 98% of government revenue for some Pacific Island countries and territories. These countries balance the need to sustainably manage and harvest one of the only renewable resources they have, while often having a limited capacity to fish at an industrial scale themselves.
FADs help stabilise catch rates and make fishing fleets more profitable, which in turn generate revenue for these nations.
The abandonment or loss of FADs adds to the growing mass of marine debris floating in the ocean, and they increasingly damage coral as they are dragged and get caught on reefs.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t know how the distribution of FADs affects fishing effort in the region. Given that each fleet and fishing company has their own strategy for using FADs, understanding how the total number of FADs drifting in one area increases the catch of tuna is crucial for sustainably managing these valuable species.
Where do FADs end up?
Our research, published in Environmental Research Communications and Scientific Reports, used a regional FAD tracking program and fishing data submitted by Pacific countries, in combination with numerical ocean models and simulations of virtual FADs, to work out how FADs travel on ocean currents during and after their use.
In general, FADs are first deployed by fishers in the eastern and central Pacific. They then drift west with the prevailing currents into the core industrial tropical tuna fishing zones along the equator.
We found equatorial countries such as Kiribati have a high number of FADs moving through their waters, with a significant amount washing up on their shores. Our research showed these high numbers are primarily due to the locations in which FADs are deployed by fishing companies.
In contrast, Tuvalu, which is situated on the edge of the equatorial current divergence zone, also sees a high density of FADs and beaching. But this appears to be an area that generally aggregates FADs regardless of where they are deployed.
Unsurprisingly, many FADs end up beaching in countries at the western edge of the core fishing grounds, having drifted from different areas of the Pacific as far away as Ecuador. This concentration in the west means reefs along the edge of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are particularly vulnerable, with currents apparently forcing FADs towards these coasts more than other countries in the region.
Overall, our studies estimate that between 1,500 and 2,200 FADs drifting through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean wash up on beaches each year. This is likely to be an underestimate, as the tracking devices on many FADs are remotely deactivated as they leave fishing zones.
Using computer simulations, we also found that a significant number of FADs are deployed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, left to drift so they have time to aggregate tuna, and subsequently fished on in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This complicates matters as the eastern Pacific is managed by an entirely different fishery Commission with its own set of fisheries management strategies and programmes.
Growing human populations and climate change are increasing pressure on small island nations. FAD fishing is very important to their economic and food security, allowing access to the wealth of the ocean’s abundance.
We need to safeguard these resources, with effective management around the number and location of FAD deployments, more research on their impact on tuna and bycatch populations, the use of biodegradable FADs, or effective recovery programs to remove old FADs from the ocean at the end of their slow journeys across the Pacific.