A fisheries information management system, touted as a key element for Pacific islands to control the tuna fishery, has been purchased by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).
Developed by Quick Access Computing of Australia, initially in collaboration with the National Fisheries Authority in Papua New Guinea, the Integrated Fisheries Information Management System (iFIMS) has become the tool used by all members of the PNA to manage the multi-billion dollar skipjack tuna fishery in the western and central Pacific.
PNA leaders had been debating purchasing the system to own it outright for the past two years. PNA ministers at a meeting in September approved the plan to purchase the system, which reportedly has a price tag over $US10 million.
PNA recently established a new company in the Marshall Islands, FIMS Inc, to manage the system, said FIMS board chair Mathew Chigiyal, who works for the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority in the Federated States of Micronesia.
The change in ownership of the fisheries information management system will not affect fisheries departments, industry and other existing users, who would continue receiving services as valued clients, said Mr Chigiyal.
The iFIMS system was described last year as a “game-changer” by PNA chief executive Ludwig Kumoru.
“We are able to control and manage our fishery because we now control the information through iFIMS,” he said.
For decades, Pacific Island fisheries officials were “driving blind” for lack of information on the commercial tuna fishery they were mandated to manage.
Catch data, vessel locations, transshipment activity, use of fish aggregating devices – this and more was controlled by fishing nations, with little information available to inform management decisions by island fisheries departments about their resources.
The development of iFIMS, however, revolutionised management of the tuna fishery by PNA. The system was initially developed by Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority (NFA). It now contains sections for data for the NFA, PNA, fishing industry and flag states that have oversight of fishing fleets.
“This is the world’s first information platform that integrates fisheries management, compliance and marketing,” said NFA vessel monitoring system manager David Karis, who developed the web-based platform.
Prior to electronic reporting, it could take three to four months for daily catch logs filled out by purse seine vessel captains to arrive to fisheries managers in the region.
“Now, through iFIMS, we have this information in real time,” said Mr Karis.
“About 240 purse seiners are reporting real time catch data daily.”
The Marshall Islands fisheries department is pushing two initiatives that could transform the country’s engagement in the multi-billion-dollar commercial tuna fishery in the region.
One initiative, to gain access to the lucrative European Union (EU) market, has long been desired by industry.
other, the fisheries department’s aim to gain a bigger piece of the tuna
revenue pie, is likely to cause industry concern, at least in the short-term.
Gaining access to Europe would require the establishment of the first “competent authority” in the Marshall Islands (RMI) that, once in place, can facilitate fish exports to the European Union, the world’s largest seafood market.
A competent authority is an entity that provides independent verification through inspections of vessels and processing plants, laboratory testing, and catch documentation to confirm that tuna catches for export meet EU requirements. The EU requires seafood exports from the RMI or other third countries to meet compliance requirements through a recognised competent authority.
“The key is to establish national standards that meet international standards,” says Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) Director Glen Joseph, who is pushing the competent authority process forward.
Majuro has established itself as a hub for the tuna industry in recent years: over 300,000 tons of tuna was transhipped through Majuro in 2018. It was worth close to half a billion dollars at last year’s world market prices.
Industry players have encouraged the Marshall Islands to establish a competent authority to expand export options for the tuna industry, which now exports to markets in the United States, Canada, and Asia.
It will pilot Marshall Islands participation in the entire value chain of tuna from the sale of fishing days to vessels to the delivery of tuna tonnage to processing plants.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) has revolutionised island management of and engagement in the purse-seine fishery since it came into play in 2010. Mr Joseph says the VDS is a platform that allows for greater participation by individual PNA members or groups of islands. At the moment, the Marshall Islands, through MIMRA, sells several thousand fishing days annually to fishing companies, sales that generate around $25 million annually.
But Mr Joseph wants to move the Marshall Islands beyond simply selling fishing days to engaging in additional steps in the chain from catch to processing – all of which contribute a piece of the multi-billion-dollar value of the tuna industry in the Pacific.
Both the competent authority and participation in the tuna value chain are “opportunities we can harness and cater for”, Mr Joseph says.
“We can use them as leverage to catch more benefits [for Marshall Islands]. The Vessel Day Scheme itself gives us the confidence and leverage to participate throughout the value chain.”
PNA’s establishment of its brand and marketing arm, Pacifical, is a prime example of how the islands can gain greater benefits, says Mr Joseph. Pacifical has co-branded with global tuna companies to distribute sustainably caught tuna from PNA waters into a range of markets, including Australia and Europe.
“If the competent authority is done right, tuna boats can off-load in Majuro and participate in direct market access [to the EU],” Mr Joseph says.
MIMRA has engaged an expert on competent authority operations and is beginning the steps necessary to establish the entity for the Marshall Islands. Currently, four Pacific nations have competent authorities: Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea.
While the competent authority has long been promoted by industry because of the obvious export opportunities it opens up, there will likely be less enthusiasm from industry for increased Marshall Islands participation throughout the tuna value chain.
When PNA began full implementation of the VDS for the purse-seine industry 10 years ago, there was strong push back from certain parts of the industry and governments of distant-water fishing nations that did not like the changed management environment, which included the islands gaining a substantially larger slice of the tuna money pie. Revenue for the nine participating PNA islands has risen from $60 million in 2010 to close to $500 million last year.
“Now, vessels are paying us to access a portion of the value chain [fishing days],” Mr Joseph says.
“We want to take an integrated approach to fisheries development.”
MIMRA’s idea is that, instead of deriving revenue from only sale of fishing days, it can generate value – revenue – from the tuna resource at every stage in the process from catch to processing.
MIMRA’s concept for fuller participation is in line with “rights-based management”, which is what the PNA group has brought to the purse-seine fishery and is now developing for the longline industry.
“Some say, ‘You’re dreaming’. But these are our fish, and we want to take them to market. Some people said the VDS was a crazy idea. But look where we are today,” says Mr Joseph.
He pointed out that trading of fishing days among PNA members and pooling days together to give fishing vessels access to multiple zones, which increases the sale value of fishing day, are all working.
“Now, we are looking at trading rights,” he says.
“It’s a trial. We’re putting our neck out to see if it works. If we don’t try, we’ll never know.”
Tokelau and the Parties to the Nauru
Agreement (PNA) member countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at
last week’s meeting of PNA Ministers in Palau that allows the South Pacific
territory to join the FSM Arrangement(FSMA), an agreement which allows parties
domestic vessels who are licensed under the arrangement, to access the fishing resources of other
Tokelau is the latest participants, joining other signatories (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands).
Under the MOU, a framework for the
participation of Tokelau in the FSMA will be established. The arrangement also
enables holders of Regional Access Licenses under the FSMA to fish in Tokelau’s
exclusive economic zone and it also ensures license holders fishing in Tokelau
fisheries waters complies with applicable national laws of Tokelau.
Tokelau will allow all purse seine
vessels licensed to fish in the Arrangement Area under the FSMA to access its
exclusive economic zone.
As a participant to the FSMA, Tokelau
may participate in the Annual Meeting and any Special Meeting of the Parties to
the FSMA and may participate in the decision making but Tokelau will have no
voting right in the process.
The arrangement will take effect
on July 1, 2019.
PNA CEO Ludwig Komoru said the signing
of the MOU with Tokelau is a “very important step” which means in that the
countries in the FSMA arrangement can now go to Tokelau waters to fish.” Giving
both Tokelau and PNA countries “extra area to fish and extra revenues, so it’s
Tokelau is made up of three small coral
atolls – Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu.
Tokelau has an EEZ covering
318,990 square kilometers.
Tokelau does not have a commercial
fishing fleet however, it has a large artisanal fleet of about 50 – 60 small
12’ to 16’ ft. motorized aluminum boats.
In 2012, Tokelau joined the PNA’s vessel
day scheme, the country’s main industry is fishing.
On May 29-30, 2019, Fisheries Ministers
from PNA convened in Koror, Palau for their 14th annual
During the meeting, fisheries ministers
also considered several important issues at this meeting, such as the PNA
Office budget, PNA’s Strategic Plan, the 2020 Party Allowable Effort (PAE), an
independent Chair for the PNA Compliance Committee, the purchase of Fisheries
Information Management System (FIMS) from Quick Access, high seas bunkering,
Vanuatu’s request to join PNA’s Longline (LL) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS),
Tokelau is also a participant at these
meetings as a party to the Palau Arrangement (PA), which is the management
arrangement for the purse seine fishery.
PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services) — In response to Peter M. Christian, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, calling for complete transparency in FSM’s commercial tuna fisheries by 2023, from April 10 to 12, the Technology for Tuna Transparency or T-3 Challenge Electronic Monitoring Symposium was held at PMA Studio in Pohnpei State.
Sponsored by the FSM National Government through the National Oceanic Management Resource Authority, and by The Nature Conservancy, the Forum Fisheries Agency, and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, the symposium explored how electronic monitoring or EM fits into control and surveillance to support sustainable fisheries, how EM is presently being used in the Western and Central Pacific, EM in the seafood supply chain, how to scale EM for increased use in the FSM and the Pacific, and moving forward with a regional vision for tuna transparency through EM.
Marcelo Peterson, governor of Pohnpei State, provided the welcoming remarks. “If over 50 percent of the global tuna supply comes from our part of the world, then we must do everything it takes to ensure its sustainable management through the use of new technologies such as EM. EM will help assure us the long-term sustainability of these resources.”
National Oceanic Management Resource Authority Executive Director Eugene Pangelinan provided the introductory remarks. He noted that in attendance were ambassadors and ministers of sovereign nations, such as George Fraser of Australia and Alexis Maino of Papua New Guinea, and Dennis Momotaro, minister of resources and development for the the Marshall Islands, representatives of key local and regional partners such as the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and regional stakeholders such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Fiji Fisheries, the Australia Fisheries Management Authority, and global partners such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Fishing Watch, and many more.
He said: “How often do we get all interested parties in the same room on the same platform with equal opportunity to speak freely?… Let us start the conversation of regionally aligning all the moving parts…to talk about EM…. My wish is that at the close of this symposium we’ll all be more informed and inspired to…implement EM programs.”
Marion Henry, secretary of the Department of Resources & Development, spoke on behalf of FSM President Christian to provide the keynote address. “You have traveled from afar to be here today, which is a solid testimony of your commitment to address this growing problem within our midst…. I urge full and frank discussions and sharing of information on the use of EM to assist in our continuing fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and transnational crimes being committed in our backyards…. I believe that our countries, as resource custodians, must follow the trend by also utilizing EM for our own purposes and our own advantages…. Past our recognized borders, we collectively carry the responsibility for effective stewardship of this important resource for the sake of posterity and humankind.”
Alexis Maino, roving ambassador of PNG to the FSM, provided additional remarks. “The challenges of monitoring and controlling our vast maritime territories are many.… Today, we embrace the move towards a far more advanced stage of electronic monitoring systems which we hope will result in promoting elements of transparency for sustainable fisheries management. PNG welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively with other Pacific Island countries, including members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement at all levels to develop and implement electronic monitoring capabilities across the entire region.”
Participants attending the EM symposium enjoyed a variety of frank and open conversations, with sessions primarily comprised of panel discussions.
EM, at its core, is about putting video cameras on fishing vessels — and, in conjunction with machine learning and artificial intelligence, with assistance from on-the-boat work from observers and data analysis, greatly improves transparency, data quality, and decision-making with regards to a given fishery’s operation. To emphasize the need for EM, it was advised during the symposium that 90 percent of global fisheries don’t have the basic data they need to become sustainable — either environmentally, or economically; EM helps to provide the data necessary to make these fisheries sustainable. EM has shown in Australia, for example, a 25 percent increase in retained catch relative to dependent and independent reporting.
A group of educators and professionals led by Transform Aqorau recently announced the formation of Pacific Catalyst, a partnership designed to foster new policies and a fresh generation of leaders in the Pacific Island fisheries.
Aqorau, formerly the director of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), is the founding director of Pacific Catalyst, which will count on the participation of theUniversity of South Pacific, the University of Wollongong, Duke University, iTunalntel, and the Environmental Defense Fund.
“I have worked in a pioneering role in the region, providing a pathway for Pacific Islanders [so] that we too can make a contribution and not just constantly be relying on outsiders for support. So I am not afraid to take up new challenges,” said Aqorau, who was the first Pacific Islander to head the FFA, and later the first islander to lead the PNA.
Aqorau told SeafoodSource his experience as the head of the PNA will help Pacific Catalyst get off the ground quickly.
“In five years, with the intellectual horsepower and cajoling and all the infighting of having to work with a disparate grouping of countries, we increased the value of the fishery from USD 60 million [EUR 52 million] in 2010 to USD 470 million [EUR 407.5 million] by the time I left. This legacy is manifested in a new USD 3 million [EUR 2.6 million] headquarters being built for the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority and a USD 3 million headquarters for the PNA in Majuro,” he said.
Pacific Catalyst plans to use the University of South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, as its headquarters and the site of a future training center and think-tank. The group will initially focus on sustainable and innovative approaches to tuna fishing.
“[Tuna] is an interesting resource from the point of view of its political economy because it is a global industry. The players have very diverse socio-economic and political foundations and aspirations,” Aqorau said. “There are also cutting-edge technologies that are being engaged to monitor what is happening across the huge expanse of the ocean, so bringing all these challenges together makes for an interesting mix for analysis and solutions.”
By targeting younger generations in a university setting, Pacific Catalyst hopes to grow a new generation of policy makers and leaders in fisheries management. Aqorau said the group will provide fellowships along with mentoring and teaching, and tap newcomers into the extensive intellectual network he and his colleagues have built over the years.
“In the Pacific Islands, you have to identity individuals and mentor them. That is what Pacific Catalyst will try to do. We cannot think it will just happen. We have to provide them with ongoing support, encouragement, and engagement,” Aqorau said. “Ultimately, of course, we hope to create a think tank at USP, providing fearless and forthright policy analysis … to demand what is best for the peoples of the Pacific Islands.”
The eight Pacific Island nations and territory in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) tuna fishery, the world’s largest, have organized the tuna industry’s first large blockchain initiative, promising to give retailers, consumers and environmental groups information about vessels, captains, locations of harvest and when fish was processed.
The development was announced at the SeaWeb Sustainable Seafood Summit, in Barcelona, Spain, this week by Pacifical, the market development company that represents the eight nations, including the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, and also the territory of Tokelau.
The initiative, which is set to be launched by the end of July, is being developed with the help of Atato, a Thailand-based provider of blockchain services.
The fishery represents 25% of the world’s tuna landings, according to a press release. The initiative will cover more than 100 large fishing vessels and “the entire supply chain and chain of custody of about 35 million tuna fish caught annually in an area with a surface 40% bigger than Europe”, the release said.