Tri Marine affiliate National Fisheries Developments (NFD), Ltd., has been authorized to use the Fair Trade logo on its yellowfin and skipjack tuna sourced from the Solomon Islands, the company announced earlier this month.
Fair Trade certification was bestowed upon the Solomon Islands yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery as of 14 March. NFD’s five medium-scale purse seiners and four pole-and-line vessels that source tuna from the fishery are now permitted to use the Fair Trade logo on their catch.
The certification matches current customer interests, according to Tri Marine, which anticipates that consumers using its U.S. sales arm, the Tuna Store, “will now want to see Fair Trade Certified tuna on retail shelves.”
Fair Trade’s assessment of the fishery took more than a year, with NFD working “diligently to meet the rigorous Fair Trade standards for worker welfare and safety, as well as environmental sustainability,” Tri Marine said. The NFD Fishers Association was established during the process to ensure that the value of Fair Trade catch benefits the local communities around the Solomon Islands.
“We are proud to achieve Fair Trade certification and hope we can share the story of our fishery here in the South Pacific with customers around the world,” said Cynthia Wickham, the NFD’s pole-and-line fleet manager and local Solomon Islander, in a press release. “Fair Trade has helped our fishermen be better organized, ensure crew and stevedore safety, and improve overall community well-being.”
Neighboring cannery SolTuna was also included in the Fair Trade certification, and plans to process and pack Fair Trade-certified products from the fishery for the global marketplace. The products disseminated by SolTuna are “an important part of domestic food security in the Solomon Islands,” Tri Marine said. Key export markets reached by SolTuna include the European Union and the United States.
The new Fair Trade certification further bolsters the sustainability credentials held by both SolTuna and NFD, which are already Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified. Additional social accountability and organized worker protections are promoted by the entities’ Fair Trade status.
“We have been promoting responsible labor practices in our global tuna supply chains for years, including the application of World Bank/International Finance Corporation performance standards, and now Fair Trade standards in the Solomon Islands,” said Matt Owens, director of sustainability at Tri Marine. “Fishermen and fish processors are the backbone of our business and the economic drivers in their communities. Fair Trade certification provides an additional layer of worker benefits.”
“Tri Marine and NFD’s commitment to Fair Trade is a powerful example of responsible practices in the fishing industry,” added Julie Kuchepatov, seafood program director at Fair Trade USA. “We are proud to share the common goal of empowering Fair Trade fishermen and look forward to seeing more Fair Trade seafood available to consumers.”
Approximately 2,400 Solomon Islanders are employed by NFD and SolTuna, in effect making them the largest private sector employer in the country and an important contributor to economic growth, the companies said. Regional tuna resources are sustainably managed by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Parties to the Nauru Agreement, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
Fisheries Managers from across the Pacific met in Honiara last week to discuss strategies for ensuring sustainable and profitable longline fisheries in the Pacific.
Although scientists currently rate the southern longline fishery, primarily targeting southern albacore tuna, as biologically sustainable with no overfishing, there is concern about the economic viability of this fishery.
This fishery is currently affected by poor economic conditions, due to the relatively low value of the fish, the relatively high costs of Pacific island based fishing operations, and declining catch rates. This is of concern given that many Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) have domestic longline fisheries.
Low profitability is also an issue in the tropical longline fishery, which limits the economic benefits that Pacific island coastal States can get from their longline resources.
Last week’s workshop, facilitated by Alice McDonald, consultant at NRE People, sought to explore the issues facing longline fisheries, and develop some strategies for overcoming these issues.
The Oceanic Fisheries Management project (OFMP2) supported the workshop, which aims to have a regional longline strategy ready to present to the Forum Fisheries Committee in July next year.
Participants in the workshop identified the following key objectives:
Avoiding a collapse in the target tuna fish stocks
Ensuring economic sustainability – employment and livelihoods
Minimising environmental impacts
Respecting human rights, including safety of observers on boats
Improving monitoring, surveillance and compliance, especially given the uncertainty of data about Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated (IUU) fishing
A MRAG study into longline fishing of tropical tuna species indicates that the two biggest IUU risks are from misreporting or non-reporting of catches (49%), followed by post harvest activities (39%), including illegal transhipment of fish at sea. Only about 3% of IUU is likely due to unauthorised or illegal fishing.
Derek Ta’uika Tagosia, e-Reporting and Monitoring Coordinator for the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries & Marine Resources, reported on the success of their e-reporting, now installed and operational on over 100 locally based fishing vessels.
“Electronic reporting is entering and sending of catch and other data from the vessel to the office via satellite devices,” he said. “Before that we were using manual reporting where a log sheet is handed out to the captains and they fill it in manually using pens or pencils and we found a lot of challenges – handwriting is not clear, some missing fields, some missing pages, some using dialects.
“One of the biggest problems we had with manual logsheets was the delay in receiving those logsheets; we received them weeks late, or even months. But moving into e-reporting we managed to receive those logsheets – in just a click of a button.
“You can have the catch record for that day and the data for that catch, for that day.”
Experiences with longline fisheries in Samoa and Papua New Guinea were also presented, providing an opportunity for participants to share lessons learnt from successful initiatives and discuss strategies to overcome persisting challenges.
The workshop group listed the most urgent actions they thought needed to be taken in the regions longline fisheries including:
Strengthening MCS for longline fisheries, including increased implementation of electronic reporting and electronic monitoring
Promoting zone-based management
Locking in high seas allocations
Tightening transhipment measures, especially in the high seas
Specifying sovereign fishing rights
Gaining agreement on target reference points
Working towards a harvest strategy that recognises existing zone-based management measures
Developing management approaches that increase economic revenue and benefits
Understanding the stocks and linking scientific research to Monitoring, Compliance and Surveillance (MCS) needs
Defining and protecting maritime boundaries and baselines
Getting stronger agreement about crew welfare, perhaps through a Resolution at the next Tuna Commission (WCPFC) meeting in December.
Chair of the meeting, FFA’s Deputy Director General, Matt Hooper said that resource owners, the PICTs, were currently paying for most of the costs of managing the longline fishery but were not enjoying a share of the economic returns.
“We need to look at ways to improve the economic rents from tuna fisheries, and if we are successful in that endeavour we may be in a position to recoup some of the management costs from industry.”
Ronald Toito’ona reporting from the Thriving Pacific Workshop
Pacific leaders from fishing agencies, industries and businesses, conservationists and academics participated in a workshop this month to determine the next steps needed to realise a vision for a thriving Pacific economy, built around a healthy tuna fishery and marine ecosystem.
Peter Seligmann, chairman of Conservation International, moderated the Thriving Pacific Workshop. He is also the Founder and CEO of Nia Tero, a global collaboration to advance indigenous peoples and local community stewardship of vital ecosystems.
The goals of the Workshop were to deepen a shared understanding, adoption and commitment to sustainable fisheries by transforming the value chain and establishing a Natural Currency Standard for Pacific Tuna. Tuna is a key ecological resource deeply intertwined with the lives, livelihoods and ocean health of one of the largest fisheries on Earth.
The former Parties to the Nauru Agreement (CEO) Executive Officer and Workshop participant, Dr Aqorau said in an exclusive interview that the idea of a “National Currency Standard” is an initiative that is being developed by Nia Tero with the support of Walmart Supermarket in the US. He hopes this will lead to a strategic partnership either with the PNA as a collective group or individual PNA members.
The idea of a National Currency Standard finds its inspiration in having a Standard that reflects the values and aspirations of the indigenous communities of the Pacific region for whom tuna is a vital source. For Walmart, the largest purchaser of tuna on the planet, it is about securing a sustainable supply of tuna and supporting Pacific Islands communities.
“This will build on the progress of ratings and programs but go further in supporting cooperative governance for these shared resources,” said Dr Aqorau. “It is about securing supply and ensuring equitable benefits accrue to the communities who own the resource.”
“The idea is to link the standard to the Sustainable Development Goals [SDG]. The Standard should recognise and support regional aspirations as reflected in the Regional Roadmap, Blue Economy, Blue Pacific and the region’s shared goals. The region’s goals are to support the cultures and socioeconomic development aspirations of the Pacific Islands, which are encompassed in existing regional strategies.”
“The Standard should be backed up by full transparency and traceability, using existing Chain-of-Custody protocols and taking advantage of available technologies. The Standard should be built on the foundational principles, of environmental sustainability and social accountability, and drawing on the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) principles. But the Standard will apply it in a more robust manner, taking a broader, more comprehensive view in terms of the application of the principles, with full transparency to address weaknesses,” Dr. Aqorau said.
The former PNA boss said, in establishing and assessing against these principles, the Standard should draw on best practices from globally established ratings and certification systems for fisheries. The Standard should also incorporate criteria developed specifically for tuna by other organisations, such as the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.
Dr Aqorau further stated that these are exciting times in the global tuna industry as well as challenging, given the social and cultural issues coming to the fore in the global discourses on tuna.
“I am a fervent believer in the reshaping of our fishing rights to empower our peoples who are the custodians of the largest and healthiest tuna stocks in the world,” said Dr Aqorau.
Meanwhile, according to Dr Aqorau the next steps will be to sensitise the idea with our peoples so that is actually driven from within the region.
Background: the desire for long-term sustainability in the Pacific Islands
As the population of earth grows toward 8 billion, sustaining renewable sources of protein becomes more critical. The importance of the Pacific tuna fishery to the security and prosperity of Pacific Island countries requires an intense focus on sustainability to ensure ocean ecosystems are kept healthy and continue to provide benefits to Pacific Islanders.
Building upon the work done in Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries, a small group recently developed a draft blueprint for a Thriving Pacific, focused on bringing together proven innovations to reward sustainability in the marketplace and support effective governance that benefits Pacific Island communities. This blueprint relies on collaborative efforts among business, non-profits, and governments. We know from other conservation initiatives that only by working together with local stakeholders can a truly sustainable solution be found.
Thriving Pacific Workshop
Convened by Conservation International, Nia Tero and Emerson Collective, this workshop on Thriving Pacific brings together leaders from across the Pacific Island tuna supply system—fisheries management entities, supply chain companies, fisheries conservation experts and retailers. It aimed to provide insights and perspective to form a practical, market-based approach to account for the full value that Pacific tuna represents for the people who depend on it as a food, whose well being and livelihoods are affected by it, and the ocean ecosystem with which it is intrinsically linked. The discussion at this Workshop will inform the work ahead including a set of regional meetings in the Pacific Islands in 2019.
Theory of Change
To realise the vision of the Roadmap, a small number of aligned resource owners, value chain companies, and retailers must envision and act in a coordinated way on three things:
A definition of sustainable tuna that includes the highest standards of cultural, social, environmental and economic best practices (“Natural Currency Standard”)
A concurrent strategy to hit the ‘reset’ button on consumer awareness of ‘sustainable tuna’ in the USA and other major markets to drive consumer demand and market penetration of the Natural Currency Standard (e.g., ‘Got Milk?’, ‘Pork, the other white meat’ campaigns)
A practical, economically viable approach to rethink the supply chain by improving supply chain efficiencies, reducing waste, and ensuring transparency and traceability to scale and support a product portfolio that adheres to a Natural Currency Standard
A Natural Currency Standard
Although the present economic value of Pacific Island tuna fisheries is well understood, the broader natural capital value of these species is not embedded in the market and governance systems for these resources. Furthermore, existing ratings and certification programs have been developed without incorporating the aspirations of indigenous cultures, experience of private sector partners, and support for cooperative governance of a shared resource. Harnessing these experiences can help incorporate the true value of tuna species and help ensure sustainable management of this critically important resource. We propose to develop a Natural Currency Standard (NCS), establishing a globally recognised set of criteria to support environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and cultural perpetuation.
We will draw on best practices from globally established ratings and certification systems for fisheries, such as the Marine Stewardship Council, and incorporate criteria developed specifically for tuna by other organisations and platforms. These environmental best practices will consider the broader ecosystem role of tuna and incorporate predicted climate driven shifts that will affect management, ensuring that a healthy fishery and ocean ecosystem will continue to produce tuna indefinitely.
A new, comprehensive social responsibility standard is encompassed in the Monterey Framework, which has three core components:
(a) Protect human rights, dignity, and access to resources;
(b) Ensure equity and equality, and
(c) Improve food and livelihood security.
The NCS will incorporate these social responsibility dimensions, addressing egregious practices such as slavery and other labor/human rights abuses and supporting social improvements in tuna fisheries.
The Pacific Islands’ shared goals to support the cultures and socioeconomic development aspirations of the Pacific Islands are encompassed in existing regional strategies that have been developed and approved by all Pacific Island leaders.3 The NCS will incorporate the regional aspirations encompassed in these guiding frameworks and strategies, as well as a full range of sociocultural values.
Creating consumer demand for sustainability
Commodification of tuna presents major challenges to the sustainable seafood movement, particularly where canned tuna is concerned. Consumers have higher expectations and demands for sustainability and companies that incorporate sustainability into their business have outperformed their peers in the marketplace. To better support sustainability in Pacific tuna fisheries, we need to learn and understand more about the desires, attitudes and trends of consumers. Given that many consumers are confused about their choices when purchasing seafood, there is an opportunity to shape the space favourably to support sustainable practices.
There are many opportunities to explore marketing high quality skipjack tuna from the Pacific Islands to support a transformation in practices and benefits for local economies. In the USA, entire protein, dairy, nut and fruit categories have been successfully rebranded, awakening the category from a flat to declining market-share to margin and sales growth. Much like pork, milk and almonds prior to concerted marketing campaigns, we believe that sustainable skipjack is not getting its deserved status in the marketplace despite investments in fishery management and is being overlooked as one the world’s most healthy, tasty, nutritious and sustainable forms of protein.
Rethinking the supply chain
Market pull-through is essential for the success and durability of systemic change in a supply chain. In the Pacific Island tuna value chain, aligning the sustainability principles of major retailers with the development aspirations of the Pacific Island region generates significant opportunities to rethink the supply chain.
Technology will be key to improving efficiencies and solving key sustainability issues in the supply chain. Building on proven approaches, technology can improve monitoring and traceability along with lowering the cost of energy and water that benefit producers, processors, brands and consumers. Process innovations and local investments that shorten time to market, improve access to labour pools, and/or improve the ability to store product can also play an important role in supply chain improvements. These improvements lower cost of handling and bring more financial benefit to local islands.
Ultimately, properly aligned incentives can help to encourage responsible management for long term benefits. There are a range of bright spots and long-term investments that can be scaled, as well as a set of frontiers in innovation and business models that can be explored to re-think and re-imagine the tuna supply chain of the 21st century.
In the context of the programming directions for International Waters in the GEF, the project makes significant contributions to FFA activities in support of both the blue economy and improving the management of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).
Cooperation in the management of tuna fisheries by Pacific Island countries is a direct application of the principles of the blue economy. This concept aims to promote economic growth, social inclusion, and the preservation and improvement of livelihoods while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability of the oceans. It is closely linked with Sustainable Development Goal 14, specifically 14.4 and 14.7.
The Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) tuna fishery is the largest tuna fishery in the world and the 2.7 million ton annual WCPO tuna catch accounts for sixty percent of global production with sixty percent of this catch coming from the waters of FFA Members. Tuna fisheries are a key resource for all Pacific Island countries – for many the only renewable economic resource. The WCPO is the only tuna fishery on the planet in which all four target stocks are currently rated as sustainably fished with no overfishing occurring.
The Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) is a fisheries management system that establishes rights in the shared fishery for coastal state and has been driven by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a sub-regional grouping of FFA member countries. The consolidation of VDS which allows members to sell the rights to purse seine fishing days in their waters has seen SIDS revenues from the purse seine fishery increase from from 220 million in 2012 to 480 million in 2016, accounting for more than 40% of government revenue in five member SIDS and supporting 25,000 jobs in FFA Member countries in 2017. Of those employed in the processing sector 80% are women.
The Regional Fisheries Surveillance Programme is a unique collaboration between the members of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) to address illegal, unreported and unregistered (IUU) fishing in support of SDG 14.4. A range of regionally agreed systems and tools and best practice technology applications provide a high level of monitoring, control and surveillance and the agency is active in a range of activities supporting IUU mitigation such as the implementation of electronic monitoring and reporting systems on WCPO vessels.
In terms of activities supporting improved management of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), the OFMP2 project supports the annual FFA Management Options Consultation (MOC) meeting in which FFA Members Countries actively participate in WCPFC decision making and includes the improved management of ABNJ. MOC processes have provided the opportunity for supporting the adoption of high seas Special Management Areas and promoting strengthened catch and effort limits on the WCPFC high seas for tropical tuna fisheries, as well as an allocation process that will take account of the WCPFC Convention’s recognition of the special requirements of SIDS.
OFMP2 has also assisted PNA countries to develop the capacity to implement their prohibition on PNA-licenced purse-seiners from fishing in the two western high seas pockets.
Wider FFA promoted and supported measures such as FAD closures, 100% observer coverage in the purse seine fishery and coordinated approaches to high seas boarding and inspection activities also support more effective management of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.
The GEF OFMP II is a key contributor to the success of the blue economy in the WCPO.
This story provides an illustration of how GEF IW projects are already addressing themes in the new GEF IW strategy for the 7th GEF Replenishment. In this case the story highlights how projects can address Objective 1. Strengthening Blue Economy opportunities. In GEF-7, investments will be strengthening nations Blue Economy opportunities, through three areas of strategic action: 1) sustaining healthy coastal and marine ecosystems; 2) catalyzing sustainable fisheries management; and, 3) addressing pollution reduction in marine environments.
An independent adjudicator in New York has dismissed an objection to the re-certification of sustainable tuna fisheries controlled by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, or PNA.
Its eight member nations control about half the global supply of skipjack tuna, the most commonly canned variety.
The objection was lodged by the International Pole and Line Foundation whose members are thought to dominate tuna supply to the United Kingdom.
The PNA’s commercial manager, Maurice Brownjohn, said the objection appeared to have been supported by donors in the UK.
“And this is a market where we are increasingly getting market share because of the ability of this region to provide independently certified and high quality chain of custody for validating certification claims of the products that come from this region”
Maurice Brownjohn said the objection was led by a Queen’s Counsel and a team of barristers exposing it as the action of commercial interests and not fishermen.
The re-certification was granted by the Marine Stewardship Council for the PNA’s skipjack and yellowfin fisheries and now covers waters belonging to the territory of Tokelau, which is not a PNA member.
Improvements in the design of fish-aggregating devices (FADs) could make a major difference in improving the sustainability and efficiency of skipjack tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean, according to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.
The Washington, D.C.-based NGO is pushing for better FAD management and practices, focusing on the skipjack fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. It asserts that improvements in the design of FADs could help to cut bycatch of overfished bigeye and yellowfin tuna, as well as other species like sharks, dolphinfish, and turtles.
From surveys by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) – an organization made up of Pacific Island nations that control a large amount of tuna resources within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) – as many as 50,000 FADs are likely now in use in the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery, up from 30,000 just five years ago.
FADs became more popular in the 1990s due to dolphin-free campaigns and regulations. Tuna seiners used to locate tuna by spotting and tracking down dolphins and seabirds feeding on the schools, but in catching the tuna they also netted and killed dolphins. FADs, which can be as simple as a bamboo raft trailing some disused netting, then came into common use. Fish tend to gather around FADs, though the reason for this behavior is not well known.
Some disadvantages of FADs soon became apparent. Many FADs end up abandoned, lost, or discarded, contributing to the problem of plastic litter in the sea. There is also a higher bycatch rate when fishing on FADs, with particular concern about juvenile bycatch of overfished bigeye and yellowfin tuna, as well as sharks, rays, and sea turtles. But two trends are currently transforming the traditional FAD into a more modern, and potentially less environmentally harmful, product.
The first is that attached GPS satellite devices now allow the use of drifting FADs (DFADs). While the cost of the GPS and sonar can be more than JPY 100,000 (USD 1,000, EUR 800) per unit, vessels pay large fees based on the number of fishing days they spend in an EEZ, so they find it profitable to make the most efficient use of their days. Additionally, attaching a sonar device to a DFAD allows fishermen to remotely monitor which ones have attracted a large biomass underneath. A vessel may then focus its effort on the FADs that will yield the most fish for their effort.
As advances in technology greatly increase the number of fish a single seiner may catch, regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission have been considering strategies to manage their use. Fishing effort is usually managed by vessel days and gear, but the increased use and efficiency of electronic DFADs may now merit their inclusion as regulated gear.
The ISSF has made that recommendation to the WCPFC, along with several others. In some fisheries, supply and support vessels set DFADs, so that fishing vessels can concentrate on catching fish. The ISSF recommends the regulation or banning of setting FADs from support vessels as one way to reduce fishing effort in its report titled “ISSF 2016-11: ISSF Survey Paper on the Treatment of Supply Vessels.”
As DFADs are equipped with transmitters, it should be possible to supply all of the data to fisheries managers to allow them to better understand the number and location of DFADs, better estimate stocks of fish, and to pick up oceanographic data such as water temperature and movement of currents, according to the ISSF.
In addition to better data sharing, the organization is encouraging the WCPFC to mandate non-entangling DFAD design to reduce shark mortality. Most DFADs in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean are made with bamboo rafts trailing large-mesh seine nets –considered to be high entangling-risk FADs. ISSF is promoting an industry-wide conversion to less entangling-risk FADs and non-entangling FADs. The former are made of smaller mesh nets, such as those used for anchovies and sardines, while the latter are made of ropes and canvas, with biodegradable materials preferred to address the plastic waste problem.
This conversion will help reduce mortalities of oceanic whitetip and silky sharks, which are the sharks found most frequently around DFADs. Because these sharks must keep moving to pass water over their gills, when they get caught in the net of a DFAD, they cannot swim and soon die. As the carcasses may subsequently become free and fall off the net, this phenomenon is called “cryptic fishing” bycatch, as it generally isn’t noticed or recorded.
One recommendation the ISSF isn’t making is an outright ban on FADs, as every fishing method has its own problems. Rather, they seek to improve their design and management. The PNA has applied FAD closures in the past order to protect overfished bigeye tuna from being taken as bycatch, but found that overall catches of bigeye did not decline, as fishing effort was refocused to the high seas after the ban went into place in its EEZ.
The ISSF has numerous other recommendations for the WCPFC and other RFMOs overseeing large tuna fisheries, including the use of scientific assessments in setting catch rates and greater observer coverage of the fishing fleet. The current push is on the WCPFC because other RFMOs have already established working groups to consider measures to manage FADs.
“In the WCPO, FAD sets account for about 30 percent of tropical tuna catches. There is a need globally for measures that help better monitor and manage FAD usage in every ocean region,” ISSF President Susan Jackson said. “Shark mortality and other FAD-fishing ecosystem impacts in the WCPO also have to be addressed, for which the wide-scale adoption of non-entangling FAD designs is a critical step.”
The western and central Pacific Ocean is home to the world’s most productive tuna fisheries, supplying global markets with canned tuna, sashimi and other tuna products. Industrial catches of skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye, and albacore are collectively worth approximately US$5.7 billion per year and account for 57% of the global tuna catch.
Unlike the predominately high seas tuna fisheries in other oceans, the tuna fisheries of the western and central Pacific overwhelmingly occur in waters under national jurisdiction – largely within a small group of Pacific small island developing states. These tuna fisheries are the only significant resource for some Pacific island nations, particularly the atoll countries, and have long been viewed as the primary development opportunity. Tuna can contribute up to 75% of government revenue, provide important employment opportunities and a critical source of food.
While the Pacific small island states hold sovereign rights over the most productive tropical fishing grounds, most of the catch is taken by vessels owned by companies from distant countries, such as Japan, the US, Taiwan, China, South Korea and in the European Union. These foreign vessels may either be based in Pacific island countries (due to licensing or joint venture requirements) or operate from a distant port.
Conservation is increasingly a concern as some tuna and associated species are threatened by overfishing. In addition, fishing levels often exceed maximum economic yields, significantly influencing productivity and profitability.
For the past two years, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has been negotiating a replacement conservation measure to manage the tropical tuna fisheries for skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye. The WCPFC was established by treaty in 2004 with a mandate to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the region’s tropical tuna fisheries. The WCPFC comprises all of the key coastal and distant water fishing nations (including Australia) and meets annually.
For the past week, approximately 700 delegates from more than 30 countries and territories met in Manila and argued over the replacement measure. Despite two years of preparatory work, and some inspiring leadership from the chair – Rhea Moss-Christian from the Federated States of Micronesia – delegates struggled to reach agreement due to ongoing fault-lines between the developing small island states on one hand and developed distant water fishing nations on the other.
The WCPFC faces a complex challenge. Consistent with the WCPFC Convention, scientific assessments have recommended a precautionary approach that protects tuna stocks and maintains the integrity of the ecosystem. The challenge is complicated not only by trans-boundary issues, also that each species of tropical tuna is caught by different gear in a tightly inter-meshed manner that is difficult, if not impossible, to separate. The migratory characteristics of these tropical tuna fisheries make it difficult to sufficiently limit catches of vulnerable bigeye, for instance, without impacting on fleets targeting the more resilient skipjack.
Successful conservation will involve sharing the burden. Given present levels of overfishing, some or all WCPFC members must compromise and under international law, the commission must ensure that conservation measures do not place a disproportionate conservation burden on developing states. Simultaneously the global community has recognised the importance of fisheries to small island nations by 2030 under the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Over the past week, developed distant water fishing nations paid lip service at best to the special requirements of small island nations. While Japan and the Pacific small islands countries drove negotiations for strong conservation measures, the US and China demanded increases in their limits above recommended levels. Under pressure from the US to limit participation, the chair cut most negotiations to heads-of-delegation only, undermining the ability of some small island countries to effectively participate without technical support staff, and destroying any pretence of transparency.
To reach agreement, Japan effectively gifted some of its unused limits from previous measures to China, while the US created a pool of all the unused potential limits from its Pacific territories to enable its Hawaiian longline fishing fleet to almost double its allowable quota.
The overall package of measures will not limit fisheries to scientifically recommended levels. But it does include two key provisions that offer hope. First, it establishes target reference points for skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye that will enable the development of long term harvest strategies. Second, the WCPFC agreed to establish a high seas allocation process to equitably distribute rights to the high seas fisheries. The Pacific small island nations had already allocated and limited their exclusive economic zone fisheries under the sub-regional Palau Arrangement. Now it is time to allocate rights for the high seas fisheries.
The two provisions allow the WCPFC a chance to resolve its ongoing conflict and answer important equity questions that are fundamental to conservation negotiations in the Pacific. This would modernise fisheries management, to explicitly determine what conservation burden each state should carry depending on their development characteristics. This approach is already evident in climate change negotiations, where there are principles of differentiated responsibilities between developed and developing states.
Equity concerns are fundamental. The WCPFC currently struggles to address these concerns in an ad hoc process for each conservation measure, leading to deeply political and economic arguments within a management and science framework that is not suited to this task. This framework inevitably becomes politicised as members propose conservation measures that best protect their own interests, and refute conservation arguments that don’t.
Hopefully, the WCPFC has now let a little light in. The new harvest strategy and allocation processes will open the way to negotiate transparent and equitable rules to manage these crucial fisheries.
Pacific island countries could lose up to 80 per cent of fisheries
Most countries in Pacific depend on fish for food and livelihoods
Yellowfin and skipjack tuna among important species that could move away
Many Pacific Island countries and territories will lose 50-80 per cent of marine species by the end of the 21st century if climate change and global warming continue unchecked, reports a new study.
“Potential fisheries catches will decrease by more than 50 per cent in many regions in the South Pacific,” says William Cheung, associate professor, University of British Columbia, and co-author of the study published in the November issue of Marine Policy.
A decrease can happen in both scenarios — business-as-usual (increase in temperature above 3 degrees Celsius by 2100) and strong mitigation (below 1.7 degrees Celsius by 2100) — but to a lesser extent in a low emissions scenario. According to the study, fisheries catches are expected to fall by more than 50 per cent by the year 2050 for some countries: the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Niue and Tuvalu.
Such losses will be dramatic as most countries in the Pacific are dependent on fisheries for food and livelihoods. Fish contribute up to 50 per cent of the animal protein diet on some islands. National economies will also be strongly affected. Yellowfin tuna and skipjack tuna may shift their distribution eastward and poleward throughout the 21st century, “with the potential disappearance of these species altogether from the western warm pool region,” the authors write.
“For many species, observations already show that the rate of movement towards the poles is more than 50 kilometres per decade,” says Philippe Cury, a senior scientist at IRD (French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development), who was not involved in the study.
Projections published by Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission earlier this year (in August 2017) suggested a more moderate decline in fish resources in the west tropical Pacific, estimating a 14 per cent drop on average by 2050 and a 50 per cent decrease by the end of the century.
The impacts of sea warming are well-documented. It disturbs the reproduction, growth, and metabolism of marine species, and transforms the food chain. At the base of the ocean food web, phytoplankton are projected to decline due to higher surface temperatures near the equator. Decreasing oxygen concentrations will limit the ocean depth that fish can occupy, leading to habitat compression. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide gas released into the atmosphere is also making sea water more acidic, affecting the calcification of coral and invertebrates, and so decreasing the habitat and food of reef-associated fish.
Because this rate of change is unprecedented, scientists expect that fish will be unable to adapt. Marine life in the tropical western Pacific is even more vulnerable to these changes because of a seasonally stable environment. As water temperatures climb up to 30 degrees Celsius, the western Pacific Ocean is susceptible to fish migration.
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.”