HONIARA, 27 February 2020 – Solomon Islands and Fiji are expected to benefit from the One Ocean Hub (OOH) research program that recently began work in the Pacific.
The two Melanesian nations are among the initial countries that have been identified as recipients of the worldwide program that focuses on equitable and inclusive governance of the oceans and ocean conservation.
The University of South Pacific (USP) is the Pacific partner for OOH. The project manager for the hub at USP is Mr Viliamu Powell.
He says the Pacific hub team is made up of the academics Professor Derrick Armstrong, Professor Jeremy Hills, Professor Matthew Allen, Associate Professor Ann Cheryl Armstrong, Associate Professor Gilianne Brodie, Dr Morgan Wairiu, and Associate Professor Pierre-Jean Bordahandy. These academics are known as co-investigators (CIs).
Input from locals essential
“At this stage, the OOH team in the Pacific is in the work package zero (WP0) phase, which will be completed by April,” Mr Powell said.
“During the WP0, the team is working with stakeholders in Fiji and the Solomon Islands to identify key research challenges that affect vulnerable communities that depend on the ocean.
“It is important that these issues are drawn directly from the stakeholders and is not biased by preconceived notions of what constitutes a development issue.”
The USP CIs facilitated a three-day workshop in early February with stakeholders from Fiji and Solomon Islands. Participants came from government, universities, civil society organisations, and non-governmental organisations.
This forum built on a workshop held last December. That event provided insights into aspects of oceanic research that could be addressed through the OOH research. Of particular interest are gaps and intersections.
Mr Powell said the February workshop was used to refine discussions from the first workshop and, with stakeholders, to identify and develop research strategies that are appropriate for the Pacific.
“The major highlights came with the presentations from the different speakers, as they all provided valuable insight. Some of the key messages came from the principal of the Pacific Theological College, Reverend Professor Upolu Vaai, from fisheries law expert Dr Transform Aqorau, and Dr Cresantia Frances Koya-Vaka,” Mr Powell said.
“Reverend Professor Upolu reminded all the participants that it was important to think of research through a multi-dimensional lens, and how, in the Pacific, this was something that we already practise through our ways of communal living and our relationship with the land and sea.
“As for Dr Transform Aqorau, it was a pleasure to have such a highly respected academic and consultant contributing to the discussions to frame research questions in the Pacific.
“Dr Transform spoke of his experience in regional work through his time at the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), and his work within the civil service in the Solomon Islands.
“Through all of the work that researchers do it is most important to think of our Pacific people,” Mr Powell said.
“In her presentation, Dr Cresantia Frances Koya-Vaka reinforced the need to protect local people from exploitation. The rights and property of Pacific Islands’ indigenous peoples should always be considered when trying to conduct research in the Pacific.”
Chasing greater wellbeing and better livelihoods
Mr Powell said that, over the next four years, it was hoped the OOH USP team would provide tangible outputs that benefited specific communities in Fiji and Solomon Islands so they could improve their wellbeing and livelihoods.
“It is important that what is seen as beneficial is derived from the communities directly, so the research project will aim to address these areas. We hope that this initiative will be the beginning, and the results we obtain from the communities we work with can be replicated in other Pacific nations,” Mr Powell said.
Dr Transform Aqorau said that another purpose of the workshop was to talk about possible areas that could be supported in Fiji and Solomon Islands.
He was invited on the basis of his work in fisheries and, more recently, engagement in the local community around resource issues.
At the workshop, he shared his experience about governance and regime building for fisheries in the region.
“We had representatives from the Solomon Islands, Fiji, USP, PIDF, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Pacific Theological College, and from Kenya, France, and some civil society groups in Fiji,” Dr Transform said.
“This was actually the second framing workshop to identify what can be done, and so trying to narrow it down.”
He added that the benefits of the program to the Pacific Island countries was about working and carrying out research around areas to support local communities and increase their engagement to improve community well-being.
“Ultimately, the project will have to be embedded in both the government and [in the] local communities where the project will be situated,” Dr Transform said.
He said the project is unique in that it has three regional geographic focus areas: Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.
However, the challenge in the implementation of this kind of funding is to locate it in a local context while still meeting the higher-level need for trans-disciplinary results that donors want.
USP-based Dr Morgan Wairiu said that Solomon Islands and Fiji were already engaged in the development of the research plan and its implementation.
“These research tools or methodology can be used by communities and government to bring about sustainable development of ocean resources,” Dr Morgan said.
Findings will inform development
Meanwhile, Rosalie Masu, the Deputy Director of the Inshore Fisheries Division, who represented the Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources (MFMR) of Solomon Islands, said her country was very fortunate to be identified with Fiji to be part of the OOH initiative.
“The benefit of this research is that the findings will be used to inform development decisions for Solomon Islands,” Mrs Masu said.
“But the government must also be inclusive and part of the discussions in formulating the research designs.”
About the One Ocean Hub
The One Ocean Hub is an independent program for collaborative research for development.
Its vision is for ocean governance to become integrated worldwide to better protect the interconnected environments and lifeforms of the oceans, and so communities that rely on the ocean remain connected to it economically and culturally.
The project is funded until February 2024. It involves scholars from different fields of research at 22 universities and research centres in the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean. The hub is led and hosted by the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, UK. It is funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Global Challenges Research Fund.
OOH seeks to address specific challenges that vulnerable coastal communities face. The research is being conducted under five programs, and researchers intend to share knowledge between the regions to help vulnerable communities be involved equitably in decision-making about how the oceans’ resources are both used and protected.
The 16th session of the Pacific Tuna Commission (WCPFC16) that oversees waters producing 55% of the global tuna catch gets underway this week in Papua New Guinea. With a yearly value of over $5 billion to fishers in the region the annual event is incredibly important to the Pacific region, which makes up the largest bloc of the 33-member group.
The 21 Pacific island countries and territories make up 64% of the Commission membership. Not only are their waters the seascape where the majority of the tuna harvest takes place, but these are the same waters and biosphere that define their indigenous reference.
Those are two of the main reasons why the annual Tuna Commission congress is all-important to Pacific nations and to their people – the resource owners.
“As custodians of our land and resources, this is an important forum that seeks to establish rules and regulations that conserve and preserve natural resources, especially the marine resources, and PNG is proud to be part of the 16th WCPFC forum,” Dr Lino Tom, PNG’s Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources, told media earlier this week.
This feature is an attempt at introducing the Pacific resource owners: weavers, planters and fishers. Who they are; what and why the ocean means so much to them; and a number of reasons why they are not as engaged as they should be in their “tuna story”.
It is dedicated to Tuvalu’s Elisala Pita who passed away in August 2016, and to our brave forebears who fought, and continue to fight, for equity and sustainability of their offshore fishing resources. And in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) set up by Pacific nations to guard and protect its oceans and, ultimately, Pacific islanders’ way of life.
In the Samoan indigenous reference, Va Tapuia (sacred relations) means each living thing shares a common story of origin. It means that Va Tapuia governs relationships between people and the environment; that is, the land, the sea, the sky, the flora and fauna. For instance, water shares a genealogy with land, who in turn shares a genealogy with humans, the cosmos and the gods. This genealogy is sacred and invests a legacy of responsibility on all living things (trees, clouds, volcanoes, water, animals, people) to respect, through reciprocity, the divine balance or harmony they share.
Reciprocity: harmony’s Pacific meaning
History records “modern civilization”, the “West”, as birthed in the 15th century CE after the fall of the Roman Empire. And like those that preceded it, it is defined by the things it excludes. The people who do not fit.
The unfit, who civilization must prune to protect its sense of self. And so long as there is progress, the pruning is encouraged to continue. But progress and pruning bring with them an unwelcome side-effect – the increasing and unwanted human debris left behind in their wake: the excluded, littered muck on the outside looking in.
Every culture, except for Pacific islanders, has survived this way since early antiquity. And each has had to find an answer to the question that confronted it: What becomes of them, the human debris?
In the 17th century, the growing British empire’s “answer” was two-part: call them criminals, and throw them in a deep dark hole that hopefully would never run over. But justice demanded the “West” do better than that; that civilization be not judged by who it excludes, but by how it treats the excluded. Today, amidst trade wars, rampant diseases, mass killings, and wanton environmental destruction, we bear witness to that treatment.
Pacific civilisation, Polynesian in particular, traces its roots back to 800 BCE, 2,300 years before the “West” was born. It is defined by a culture based on the collective and on reciprocity. An “inclusive” society that embraces rather than excludes, living a way of life based on sacred relations.
In the Samoan indigenous reference, Va Tapuia (sacred relations) means each living thing shares a common story of origin. When followed, Va Tapuia gives rise to other principles such as the Va Fealoa’I, or mutual respect; Tofa mamao ma le Faautautaga Loloto, or wisdom in the exercise of authority. It is this “reciprocity” in place of the West’s “progress” that gives rise to the Pacific interpretation of “harmony”. It is a reference with clearly defined components that ensures no one is excluded, no one is left behind – there is no human debris.
School of fish in Auckland: March 2016
In the world’s most populous Pacific city, Auckland, an old man smiles, eyes calmly surveying the throng of people busy setting up in the room. It reminded him of a school of fish swimming in the lagoon close to shore all those years ago.
His head still fully covered with hair that has almost completely turned grey, clearly, this is an important person, despite his simple appearance. Respected too, judging by the glances and the manner of endearments invited guests and peers show him. His Order of the British Empire, awarded in 2001, affirms him a person of distinction, international stature and influence.
As he sat there, calm and relaxed behind the front table, there was a glint in his eyes. An excitement made obvious by the satisfied veneer subtly painted over his demeanour. The impression one gets is that he had been party to something of great importance recently – yet the occasion on 15 March 2016 that finds him in Auckland’s Mercure Hotel was not about the telling of that tale.
As questions about what that “significant other” swirled, a call from the organiser that the event was about to start quieted the crowd.
The grey-haired gentleman was introduced.
Elisala Pita, tuna champion
“We are honoured to have here with us the Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee,” smiled Lisa Williams-Lahari, “and Tuvalu’s Minister for Works and Natural Resources, Honourable Elisala Pita.”
Yet those titles barely scraped the surface of the immense influence this man wielded in the vastness of oceans and historic negotiations over the Pacific’s 9.6million square kilometre tuna fishery. Or his pivotal role in 2013 that promoted Enele Sopoaga from leader of the opposition to Prime Minister of Tuvalu. Or of the ancient Polynesian wayfarers’ heritage coursing through his veins, and founded on a way of life built not on the individual and self-interest, but of a shared tofi (inheritance) with fellow islanders. A communal way of life, its roots traced back to around 800 BCE. Although fading, a way of life that is still practiced today.
Slowly, as is the contemplative way of Pacific elders, he leaned forward. With assurance borne of confidence as an experienced orator, he acknowledged his ancestors, and surveyed his audience. Then he spoke.
“Let me start off with a brief mention of the importance of the tuna fishery,” he asked politely.
In English, the strong and unmistakable orator’s tenor voice and accent overlaid with authenticity the topic of his address: why the Pacific’s tuna fishery is so important to Pacific island nations, people, and their struggle against the threats casting shadows and uncertainties in today’s modern world. Threats like illegal fishing, driven by self-interest, corruption, greed and desperation.
“For many Pacific islands, including my country Tuvalu, tuna is the only renewable commercial resource,” he continued without pause.
“The revenues Tuvalu receives from tuna fishing taking place in our waters represent about 45% of the Government’s 2016 budget. It does, however, require our joint efforts to protect and to sustain this revenue source.” (The joint efforts refer to working with another 15 Pacific independent states, plus Tokelau.)
Tuvalu has 26 square kilometres of land, and 900,000 square kilometres of ocean.
At the time of his address, Tuvalu’s vast ocean area was being serviced by a fisheries staff of three. And the cost of running its purse-seine fishery was estimated to be US$4 million a year.
To the north-east of Tuvalu is Kiribati. A country where its 810 square kilometres of land houses 110,000 people, inside its 3,600,000 square kilometres of waters. With only one patrol boat to police it.
Elisala re-emphasised that the immense expanse of ocean that Pacific countries are responsible for monitoring is fraught with many challenges: a complicated legal seascape, an even more complicated political seascape, and with limited resources at their disposal, both human and financial, the sustainable management of the fishery is nigh on impossible. The situation is made worse by foreign countries breaching not only their licence and terms of access, but also reneging on legal obligations to manage their fleets when harvesting tuna in Pacific island-owned waters.
“Tuna do not recognise our borders or our baseline maritime boundaries. Managing and enforcing a fishery where fish move freely in an area of water over 9.6 million square kilometres, with occasional tiny low-lying coral atolls in between, can only be achieved through regional collaboration,” Elisala said.
This was part of Elisala’s keynote address to launch the study, “Towards the quantification of illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Pacific islands region”.
When he sat down, one could now see why the old man was given those admiring and respectful looks before he spoke.
In the global world of tuna, worth US$42 billion a year, Elisala needs no introduction. World-renowned and recognised by the highest powers, he is one of the Pacific’s founding fathers who champions multi-million dollar benefits and favourable conditions in order to manage, protect and maximize the economic potential of the Pacific fishery. He was so good that even the United States hired him as their fisheries adviser early in his fisheries career.
Sadly, on 22 August 2016, just five months after his March speech, Elisala passed away in Funafuti, Tuvalu. His loss was made more poignant through the rekindled memories of other Pacific tupuna who fought hard and uncompromisingly in the years of the tuna war.
Elisala was Pacific old school. A direct descendant of ancient Pacific mariners who, without the aid of navigational equipment, settled the tiny islands of Oceania that dot its multi-million acreage of ocean. This deed was achieved hundreds of years before the first European explorers ventured into the region in the 17th century.
As with all others born on Tuvalu, the dominant geographical feature of Elisala’s childhood was the ocean.
It shaped his identity and perceptions, and contextualised his understanding of reality and the world. With roots anchored in the ancient Pacific’s communal way of life, he left home, one of the first Pacific generation to attend Western schooling in preparation for the new world. Yet embossed in his spirit were the ancient stories and lore of his mariner ancestors: of warriors, legends, tales of discovery as told by elders in the shadowed blanket of night lit by flickering tongues of flames from sooty kerosene lamps, the stars and moonlight.
Knowledge gleaned from these two worlds informed Elisala, and selected kin of his generation, with gave them ways to navigate that world and influence the reality that plays out now in today’s modern world of tuna, oceanic management and technologically advanced tools of harvest.
But for all the international and regional acknowledgements, accolades and Pacific milestones – sadly, they are virtually unknown to the weavers, planters and fishers of the Pacific.
Wouldn’t it be great if every Pacific islander knew about the monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) employed to protect their fisheries? It is the story of how Elisala and other Pacific leaders came up with the MCS suite of tools that is fighting the bane of IUU.
The MCS system is worth talking about. In fact, Elisala did tell the Auckland meeting how the MCS, used as a tool, saw “an astonishing number of achievements ranging from:
the first centralised regional satellite based Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)
innovative agreements and systems to share data and intelligence, and
cooperative mechanisms that allow us to share our limited surveillance assets.
“These are coupled with:
robust systems for data collections, including well developed yet growing programs for the placement of independent observers on fishing vessels, and
excellent support and coordination from our regional agencies like Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
“I am therefore extremely proud to note that the results of this study demonstrate that these programs have been effective. As you will hear, there is of course still more that can be done, but there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that without that historical and ongoing effort, we would be looking at a much different report today. We would be looking at a report that says:
rogue vessels come and go as they please,
that industry knows it can fish illegally with impunity, and
that the Pacific is losing more than its gaining.
“I am pleased to say that this report says none of those things.”
And this is the sad part: Elisala’s words describing the effort, innovation and hard work put in by Pacific leaders, fisheries officials – women and men – and their international partners, collaborators and friends to protect the Pacific fishery were not heard by the many ordinary weavers, planters and fishermen.
It is evidence that the “tuna story” and those involved in its composition and distribution have challenges and barriers they need to scale in critical mass.
For it is clear that fully maximised economic returns, achieving preferred levels of sustainable management for the Pacific fishery, will only happen if the weavers, the planters and the fishers are integral to the “tuna story”. That they become subscribers, writers, poets, songwriters, movie producers, advocators, owners of the tuna story.
Why is that so important?
The answer lies in the next two paragraphs. Bear in mind that this is not definitive, as there are other pockets of literature inked with the same narrative and message.
The first is from the IUU study launched by Elisala. It states:
“One of the ways to ensure Pacific countries get their fair share (of profits, exports, jobs) would be by increasing value rather than volume, by eliminating oversupply, and targeting higher value products and markets.”
leveraging that control to maximise the economic benefits generated from the fishery to national economies.
The “something else”
With the vastness of the Pacific fishery, the inadequate resources to manage and control it, and the weak political clout the Pacific holds internationally, the Pacific will never truly reach above aspirations. It needs “something else”.
And that something else exists and has been successfully used in similar situations at the highest level.
That something else is … A Movement – a groundswell of united voices so powerful that they influence a change of mindset, a change in lifestyle, a change in choices, and the political impact to act in solidarity to stand up and defend the Pacific’s tuna fishery. A movement that envelopes and packages the interrelated work and tools needed to sustainably manage, protect and maximise economic benefits of the Pacific tuna fishery into one singular call to action.
Based on a philosophy inspired by American philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience”, it is called the “non-violent movement of passive resistance”.
It won for Ghandi India’s independence. It won for Martin Luther King his dream. It won for Samoa sovereignty in 1962.
The single critical element to its success? Ordinary people. Not the elites: ordinary people who are the owners, who have the integrity, honesty, courage, and rights. It is they, when united in solidarity, that bring the truth to bear.
It is why the weavers, planters and fishers of the Pacific are of paramount importance in achieving control of the Pacific fishery. It is they, and only they, who can make such a movement possible and successful.
How do non-violent movements work?
According to Why violence? author Robert J. Burrowes, non-violent action works because of its capacity to create a favourable political atmosphere and a non-threatening physical environment, and its capacity to alter the human psychological conditions that make people resist new ideas in the first place.
“In essence, non-violent activists precipitate change because people are inspired by the honesty, discipline, integrity, courage and determination of the activists – despite arrests, beatings or imprisonment – and are thus inclined to identify with them,” he said.
“Moreover, as an extension of this, they are inclined to change their behaviour to act in solidarity.”
In the context of groups, like Pacific countries struggling to defend their tuna fishery, Mr Burrowes wrote that they should convey compelling messages that explain what people can do in their particular context.
“It is important that these messages require powerful personal action, not token responses. And it is important that these actions should not be directed at elites or lobbying elites,” he wrote.
“Elites will fall into line when we have mobilised enough people so that they are compelled to do as we wish. And not before.”
Ghandi’s Pacific fishery example?
An example of this non-violence protest that parallels the experience in the Pacific tuna fishery is that of Ghandi and the Salt March message that illustrated what an Indian independence stance against British rule would look like.
“At the end of the Salt March in 1930, Gandhi picked up a handful of salt on the beach at Dandi. This was the signal for Indians everywhere to start collecting their own salt, in violation of British law,” Mr Burrowes wrote.
“In subsequent campaigns, Gandhi called for Indians to boycott British cloth and make their own khadi (handwoven cloth). These actions were strategically focused because they undermined the profitability of British colonialism in India and nurtured Indian self-reliance.
“A key reason why Mohandas K. Gandhi was that rarest of combinations – a master non-violent strategist and a master non-violent tactician – was because he understood the psychology of non-violence and how to make it have political impact.”
And this is why regional agencies like Forum Fisheries Agency, its member countries and officials, and their champions such as the late Elisala need to solve the information barrier so the weavers, planters and fishers can be reached and engaged.
For it is they, not the elites, who have the honesty, integrity, and rights as owners to garner solidarity and international political support to effect required results and outcomes.
Some of the possible results that could be had:
reduction or elimination of illegal fishing
greater and broader industry and flag state support to MCS system for sustainably managed fishing, and
consumer preference for Pacific-owned brands and certified products at various levels of the value chain (valued at US$22.7 billion in 2014).
Challenges and barriers to reaching weaves, planters and fishers
There are two major barriers that need scaling if the tuna story is to reach the weavers, planters and fishers of the Pacific.
Fisheries officials, national offices and regional agencies
There is no doubt about the commitment, and the innovative, difficult and ground-breaking work Pacific fisheries officials, MCS practitioners, ministers, non-government organisations and their various partners dedicate to the cause.
The same is equally true of regional staff and their application to the cause at the FFA, the related regional sibling the Pacific Community (SPC) and, to a lesser extent, the University of the South Pacific (USP), Forum Secretariat, and a whole raft of international stakeholders.
However, what is noticeable at this level of the tuna story is how insular, narrow and specific their focus is. And that is a function of a few home truths.
That the complex, highly technical, drawn-out fieldwork and overlapping or collaborative nature of the work with other government agencies takes most of the officials’ time.
When added to that is the number of meetings that must be attended to ensure each country’s voice is represented and their interventions noted on issues where the majority of them, like the illegal Vietnamese blue boats, are live and developing – it means scarcity of time for anything else.
In a country like Tuvalu that level of difficulty is multiplied manyfold when taking into account that there were only three fisheries officials in 2016.
But that’s not all.
Officials are in a sector where those at the coalface are taking a giant leap to developing and using cutting-edge technology.
Surveillance and monitoring are fast-tracked into the digital world of hyper-telecommunications with many of the paperwork legacy systems transitioning and upgraded with urgency to digital information management systems (IMS) platforms. The hugely successful Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) employed by Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) is made possible by its highly developed Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS) that is able to manage and monitor the VDS.
It all adds up to the situation where more is expected of fisheries personnel, and at the same time, Pacific countries are doing the best they can with the limited human and financial resources at their disposal. Which essentially leaves no time to look beyond their core work program to even try and engage with relevant layers of government, let alone the media, and weavers, planters and fishers directly.
It also reveals another barrier: that Pacific fisheries departments or divisions are usually merged within a wider government ministry. In the internal challenge to get a media advice, a press release or article drafted, there is usually an information officer who deals with the multiple departments. In many cases, there is no dedicated information officer. Which means the time-poor fisheries officer will need to draft the material.
In any case, the information needs to be drafted which then has to go through the approval process before it could be posted on the department Facebook page or website, which will need another dash through a separate can and technical process. The process can be delayed when the website administrator is not a journalist and changes a few things to make it look more aesthetic, but inadvertently changes the whole technical context of the information.
The difficulty is multiplied many-fold when the information is to be sent externally, for example when it’s a media release or an article for the local paper.
And heaven forbid if a journalist interprets the information in a way that is negative: the fallout will impact the official, their relationship with their bosses, the public perception of the issue, and trust of journalists generally. Most times, the extrapolation of these scenarios usually render it best for officials not to even start the process.
But in the case that all internal hurdles are successfully navigated, what is the assurance that getting the information to the media would, first, reach the weavers, planters and fishers, and, second, be in a format they understand, and is relevant enough to engage them to action?
Media channel for weavers, planters and fishers
It is this question that is important for national officials and regional communications officials to answer: are they using the right communications and media channels; and do they know what the information channels for weavers, planters and fishers even look like?
Sadly, the low rate of engagement success in this area says they don’t. And that the West’s media platforms and role as the Fourth Estate is not working for the Pacific’s grassroots.
To find the weavers, planters and fishers “media” platform, there is a need to analyse the “Western” model and then assess if the Pacific platform exists within that space.
The scope of this feature does not allow for an extensive treatment of this topic, but a brief narrative of the relevant communication element to tease out the “media/messenger” in a Pacific setting is important to include.
But first a bit of background as to where democracy and the Fourth Estate came from and why they are important today.
Western civilisation and the Fourth Estate?
Today’s modern world, the “West”, is the most extraordinary civilisation in all of history (so far). Its roots lay in medieval Europe from where a Christian feudal society developed after the fall of the Roman empire, and started sprouting in the 15th century, spreading to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania and pretty much to the rest of the world.
It has become a globe-spanning industrial society colonising and establishing control over its subjects through democracy and the rule of law.
It is distinguished by two unique features:
representative government (born out of the republican government idea from Rome, and the fragmented power structures fostered by medieval feudalism), and
science (a distinct and rigorous way of looking at the world).
The combination of the two has driven technological advancement and economic growth. While the rise of democracy, from the American Civil War (1775–83) maintains control and power by enabling individualism and free-thinking to revolutionise social change through the accompanied changes of thought and philosophy.
What does that look like?
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution became widely accepted, and encouraged the rise of a more secular outlook.
Sigmund Freud and others pioneered a scientific understanding of the mind and the emotions, previously regarded as the preserve of spiritual sphere.
Einstein’s theory of relativity changed people’s views of the universe.
Karl Marx and others analysed society in new ways, leading to calls for the creation of radically new economic and social structures.
The importance of the media was first recognized by Thomas Carlyle. He was the first to use the term “fourth estate” back in 1837 (in his French Revolution paper), in an attempt to quantify why the press would be instrumental to the birth and growth of democracy: by spreading facts and opinions, and sparking revolution against tyranny.
How the press does that in a representative democracy is threefold:
it informs citizens
it sets up a feedback loop between the government and voters, and
it provides a forum for debates to expose people to opinions contrary to their own by moderating and curating arguments presented by all sides. This is important because informed decision-making on the part of voters requires an awareness of multiple points of view, not just seeking out those with opinions the same as their own.
Basically, Carlyle’s argument vouches that the press makes the actions of the government known to the public. Voters who disapprove of current trends in policy can take corrective action in the next election. And that without the press, the feedback loop is broken and the government is no longer accountable to the people.
When these pieces of information are taken together, what we have is that the Western civilization of today, born in the 15th century CE, and democracy born in the 18th century, are only 1,100 and 800 years old. These are young ideas compared to the Pacific’s communal governance system, which traces back to more than 3,000 years ago.
To tease out the Pacific media role in the way Thomas Carlyle saw it within democracy in 1837, the Samoa way is used as a reference.
This is done for two reasons.
First, because of mounting evidence, both oral and scientific, that the settlement of Polynesia originated from Samoa around 800 BCE (but if it’s Tonga that’s fine too). It ended with the settlement of New Zealand around 1300 CE. And second, because it means the traditional and communal way of life unique to Samoa would have also spread along the settlement path. A Pacific way of life, history, religious practice, and language that is one of the most well-known internationally.
Characteristics of weavers, planters and fishers
The most basic unit of the Samoan system is not the individual – it is the aiga, or family.
The term aiga is contextually different to the “West’s” definition of family. ’Aiga includes not only the immediate family (father, mother and children), but also the whole union of families of a clan and those, who although not related, are subject to the aiga’scontrol.
At the head of each aiga is a matai. It is a chiefly title (suafa) by and through which they exercise their rights in the family over which they preside.
Although it is common for each ’aiga to have a number of matai titles, one particular title, the Sa’o, is the most important and serves as the paramount matai title to which all others of the aiga defer.
With Samoans consisting of groups of families with close ties and history, the influence of the matai is felt not only in the village but also in the district and beyond.
That power and influence extended to life and limb. But that has been altered and absorbed by the advent of Western civilization through the democratic government of today where the matai’s authority is now confined and balanced against.
It is from this aiga unit that the structure of Samoan society is founded. Briefly, parts of its traditional structure are described below.
A Village Chief Council is part of Samoa’s faamatai system of governance. It is the highest level of authority in the village where decisions are passed by consensus. It maintains village traditions, and organises village affairs. Its decisions and deliberations are carried out and informed by various committees and groups.
The Women’s Committee is responsible for administering women’s duties and role, which include: traditional hospitality for guests and beautification of the village through scheduled visitations to ensure each family house and the surrounding are clean; managing village events and schedules, child rearing and initiatives such as training, education, handicraft production and the like.
The Village ’Aumaga (untitled men) protect and serve the village in all faasāmoa ceremonies and keeping up traditional agriculture and fishing methods. Tautua (service) is the core function of the ’aumaga. They serve the matai council, develop the family land, provide food through plantation and fishing, and ensure the welfare and protection of the family.
The Aualuma (unmarried women) are charged with gardening, weaving, cooking and beautifying the village. Traditional ceremonial such as the ifoga play an important part in peace-keeping, and the traditional kava ceremony contributes to maintenance of good relationships. Cultural practices such as community correction through the village council are to ensure social cohesion and order in a Samoan village.
What is clear is that information and its channels were original parts of the social structure, not later additions. And the central conduit through which information is received, interpreted, and disseminated to all the various parts of society is the matai.
From the Samoan perspective, it is the matai and the traditional structures of its villages that are key to reaching and engaging the weavers, planters and fishers.
Have Pacific fisheries officials, regional communications officials, their international networks, and media practitioners built this into their information content and channels of communications?
They must. For even as the West’s influence has compromised, absorbed and taken over some of these traditional societal structures, the isolation and youthfulness of the islands region means that disseminating information to the weavers, planters and fishers still rely on traditional structures.
It is the matai element and similar social structures in other Pacific countries that need to be incorporated into communications and media platforms to scale current information barriers.
Success of any movement will depend on the engagement of weavers, planters and fishers for it is they who have the voice and power to make the political impact and initiate action to manage and protect the Pacific fishery.
How to get there
As in all things, the common element to long-term success in the Pacific is: trust and face to face.
And that leads us to the final message Elisala Pita left just over three years ago.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me close by saying that the fight against illegal fishing is one that we cannot afford to lose as it is bound to our future prosperity and wellbeing. It is a hard fight; it is hard to even tell how bad the problem is, but it is a fight that we have made significant ground on, and one that we will continue to challenge.”
When he sat down, the glint in his eye was still there. For in February just before heading down to Auckland, he had just secured the US treaty after a hard-fought arm wrestle with the United States.
As James Movick, the FFA Director-General from 2012–2019, said:
“The role of that generation in setting up fisheries management from which we benefit today is a debt that we owe to Minister Pita and other pioneering colleagues.
“Minister Pita will be particularly remembered for his active and committed chairmanship of the committee of Pacific Fisheries Ministers over the past year (2015–16). His strong leadership, personal engagement and steady support contributed significantly to the successful adoption of the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries that was endorsed by Forum Leaders in 2015; and the successful renegotiation of the fisheries treaty between Pacific countries and the US in June of this year.”
Written by Lealaiauloto Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi
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.
Global fish stocks are in decline, but a new tuna management scheme by the Federated States of Micronesia offers a blueprint for recovery. By working to manage half of the world’s skipjack tuna stocks sustainably, Pacific Islanders are leading the way in ensuring that fish, and people, are protected for generations to come.
A cluster of small Pacific islands is poised to make history in the management of global fish stocks. This week, when conservationists from around the world gathered at the fifth annual Our Ocean Conference in Bali, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) unveiled a bold promise and issued an even bolder challenge: full transparency in tuna fishing by 2023.
If FSM’s commitment is replicated, citizens of the Pacific could reclaim control over a natural resource that forms the backbone of the region’s economies. And it would promote future prosperity by helping to ensure that tuna stocks are fished sustainably, and that foreign vessels fishing in these waters do not take more than is permitted by law.
The mechanism that FSM and The Nature Conservancy will present this week is called the Technology for Tuna Transparency Challenge, a combination of monitoring and regional pacts aimed at improving fishing oversight. The initiative represents the first time a developing country has committed to 100% transparency in its fishery operations; if it succeeds, it could trigger a transformation of how seafood is managed worldwide.
FSM and the seven other island states that make up the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) may look like dots on the map, but they command an expanse of ocean greater than the size of Europe and are global powerhouses when it comes to fish. With control over half of the world’s supply of skipjack tuna and about a third of tuna stocks globally, the PNA is a veritable OPEC of the sea.
In FSM, efforts are already underway to use this market position as a force for good. Fish like tuna are important global commodities, but the industry is in steep decline worldwide. By committing to full transparency and pushing private partners to do the same, FSM will send a powerful signal that sustainable fishing practices are urgently needed to protect these crucial species.
But the real motivation behind FSM’s pledge lies closer to home. Tuna is more than a commodity here; it is what builds schools, pays teachers’ salaries, paves roads, and keeps hospitals open. It is the socioeconomic foundation of communities on the frontlines of climate change and rising sea levels. In other words, this is an existential fight – for the wellbeing of people today and the survival of island societies in the future.
FSM’s rich tuna fishery already provides half of the country’s income, but it could deliver even more. That is because too much of the value of tuna caught in local waters is being captured by foreign fishing fleets. Transparency is the key to bringing more of this wealth home. With electronic and human monitoring, we can stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which robs the region of more than $600 million a year. Contrary to popular belief, most poaching is not the work of pirate operators; the major culprits are licensed foreign vessels that underreport or deliberately misreport their catch.
State-of-the-art electronic monitoring will also help ensure the sustainability of fish stocks and the communities they support. Currently, a lack of reliable monitoring data makes it difficult to establish protective fishing limits, and even harder to enforce them.
To remedy this, FSM plans to deploy remote sensors, GPS systems, cameras, and tracking devices on every longline vessel in its waters within five years. This will enable the collection of information such as catch composition, discards, and bycatch, which in turn will help minimize the accidental capture of sharks, turtles, and marine mammals. Crucially, these tools will also give authorities the data to manage ocean resources in real time. By joining FSM in these efforts, the PNA could raise the bar for transparency and set a new standard for fisheries management.
We already know that cooperation and conservation can reap big rewards. For example, since PNA-member states launched the Vessel Day Scheme in 2007 – which sets limits on fishing by foreign fleets – their annual tuna earnings have increased from about $60 million to more than $500 million. Pacific fisheries ministers are hoping to raise revenue even more by working with The Nature Conservancy to co-implement a system similar to one used in western Alaska, where the Community Development Quota Program (CDQ) has helped poor communities generate income by investing in fisheries-related businesses.
The commitment to full transparency and the launch of a CDQ-type initiative for PNA states are intended to keep more tuna wealth in the Pacific. By promoting better fishing practices, we can increase regional revenue flows to rebuild and restore fisheries, boost food and job security, and strengthen resilience to climate change.
We believe that fish, marine ecosystems, and people can coexist and thrive, and that the road to sustainability runs through community empowerment. We hope this vision will be shared by FSM’s Pacific neighbors, consumer advocates, and fishing partners gathered in Bali this week. Protecting a third of the world’s tuna stocks could be just the start of the global transparency revolution needed to protect our oceans – and our future.