Salt fish trade gains new popularity in Solomons as pandemic grip lingers

Categories FeaturesPosted on

With the recent rise in popularity of the ‘salt fish’ trade in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara, fresh fish and tuna vendors in the city markets are struggling to please their customers and earn enough income.

This is just one of an increasing number of challenges Honiara-based fish vendors have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent years, it’s been observed that there is also a steady increase in fish prices, with small-scale fish markets storming the capital as competitors come from almost everywhere in the country. It is becoming more challenging for both fish sellers and consumers to find quality fish at a reasonable price.

One of the most popular and oldest fish markets in Honiara is the Vaivila Fishing Village Market in East Honiara. The other two fish markets are the Honiara Central Market and the White River Market in West Honiara.

Vaivila fish market is located along the coastline near the Vaivila fishing village, which was populated by people from the Lau and Langalanga regions of Malaita. 

Village chief Robert Satu says his family were among the first settlers at the village in the early 1950s. Most of the first settlers were employed to work in a hospital established nearby – on a location that now hosts the Woodford International School, opposite the fishing village market. 

Vaivila fishing village past and present 

Today, ‘Fisheries’, as it is known, is a huge village with a roadside market. Chief Satu is a longtime fisher and fish vendor at the market. He said that selling tuna from catches outside the Honiara seafront between the 1960s and 1980s was totally different from its state today, as far as the prices of fish or tuna is concerned.

“From the 1960s through to the 1980s, the price of a single tuna or heaps of fish at the fishing village market was as little as 5 cents up to $5.00. The coastal areas of Honiara from White River up Tenaru in Central Guadalcanal was rich with marine resources, especially fish,” Chief Satu said.

“During our fishing trips in the 1960s, it took us only one drop of the fishing net and you’ll get a canoe filled with fish for marketing or consumption. In those years, the tuna or fish stocks are high and my life as a fisherman is very easy. Compared to nowadays, there are very low fish stocks along the Honiara coastline, due to the increase of settlers as a result of the growth in the city’s population.”

Chief Satu blames overfishing plus environmental pressure such as the change in coastal environments and pollution as the main cause of damage to the fishing grounds outside Honiara. 

Chief of Solomon Islands village Vaivila, Robert Satu, is a longtime settler, fisher and fish vendor at the village. He stands at fish market with fish for sale in his hands. Photo: George Maelagi.
Vaivila chief Robert Satu is a longtime settler, fisher and fish vendor at the village. Photo: George Maelagi.

Another fish vendor at the Vaivila Fishing Village Market, Alick Kabolo, said, “For those of us that are residing along these shorelines, it is a major challenge for us because we have to go further out into the ocean to trawl. We never rely on others to bring fish for us to sell, but we ourselves go out to fish and come back to trade at the market to sustain our daily needs.

“Back then, when I completely sold my fish catches, it is the happiest day of my life because I know that my hard work pays off as a fisherman, unlike others that are relying on other fishermen to fish for them.”

Mr Kabolo said that today, with a rise in the cost of living in Honiara city, these fishers would worry about the cost of getting their catch to market. 

“They have to spend money for transportation, fuel, ice cubes, and pay market fees,” Mr Kabolo said. 

“All this spending can be very expensive. They still need to make profit from their sales to recover their expenses.”

The rise of the salt fish trade

Salt fish become popular in 2006–2007. Since then, its fortunes have fluctuated, and there have sometimes been concerns whether it was safe to eat. But it has been rising in popularity again as people feel the economic bite of COVID-19 restrictions. 

‘Salt fish’ refers to frozen, salted fish offloaded from purse-seine vessels during transhipment at the Honiara port. Most of these vessels fish in local waters or the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of neighbouring countries. 

The fish offloaded are species that aren’t the target, but are caught accidentally (as bycatch) during tuna fishing, and tuna that has been damaged and is no longer marketable elsewhere. These fish don’t go to waste, however, as locals sell them in the fish markets.

The fishers of the fishing village live with the everyday struggles of spiralling fishing costs and finding enough fish to sell. The city-based fish vendors live with the struggle of relying on a supply of fish from the purse-seine vessels transhipping at Honiara. Some have resorted to the National Fisheries Development-owned fishing vessels that supply tuna for the SolTuna cannery at Noro, in Western province. They then transport the tuna and bycatch fish to the markets in Honiara.

However, the problems of the two groups are intersecting. The rise of salt fish trade is becoming a concern for the hardworking fish vendors at the Vaivila Fishing Village Market due to increase demand as a result of its cheaper price. 

Sheroll Galo and John Kennedy were longtime salt fish vendors in Honiara. Both said when they started selling fish, their startup prices ranged from $10 to $200 (Solomon Island dollars), depending on their size. 

“Most of us vendors in Honiara are relying on the purse-seine boats and passenger ships that are arriving from Noro every week. That said, we make more profits than those that are selling fresh fish at the market,” Mr Kennedy said.

Despite the restrictions and lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, the salt fish trade at Honiara’s Central Market has continued, as there has been an increase in the number of vessels transhipping at Honiara in recent months. This has been since the introduction of regional protocols that have allowed tuna fishing to resume in a COVID-safe way.

Sheroll Galo and John Kennedy were longtime salt fish vendors in Honiara. They are at a market, and positioned behind a table with 9 fish laid out on it, and in front of chiller boxes. Photo: George Maelagi.
Sheroll Galo and John Kennedy were longtime salt fish vendors in Honiara. Photo: George Maelagi.

COVID-19 and the challenges of fish trading 

However, despite this, COVID-19 is affecting most of these fish vendors. 

Small businesses have been particularly hard hit. When Honiara was declared an emergency zone in April 2020 and a state of public emergency was imposed, the vendors were told not to engage in any fish vending business in the capital. 

During the state of emergency, domestic ship operators and purse-seine vessels were warned not to provide fish to market vendors. The only vendors who continued with their businesses were those who brought in fish stocks in chiller boxes.

One of those is Emily Kawa. She is a frequent vendor at the Vaivila Fishing Village Market and Honiara Central Market.

“From four ice-chiller boxes, I’ve reduced it to two now. This is because not many people are buying fish at the Honiara Central Market,” Mrs Kawa said.

Another fish vendor hit hard is Brendale Bilusu, who hails from the famous Marovo Lagoon in the Western Province. He runs a fishing business. His target market is the Honiara Central Market.

Before COVID-19, Mr Bilusu used to enjoy the money he earned from selling fish. The money he raised supported his immediate and external family members. He said that, even in better times, running the fish business was not the easy feat others might think it is.

“There are lots of expenses you have to meet. These include hiring transport in Honiara, buying ice blocks, shipping freights for the ice-chiller boxes, as well as fuel expenses for outboard motor to go around and buy fish from fishermen and women in the villages along the Marovo Lagoon,” Mr Bilusu said. Life had become much tougher in the past few months.

“So it’s quite a tough business. But you know what, if it takes you more days to sell your fish, your expenses will also increase. You will need to pay for market fees as well as ice cubes to maintain the quality of the fish,” Mr Bilusu said.

The other problem he has encountered since the rise of the COVID-19 is slowing sales, which means he is left with fish for four to five days, during which time it deteriorates. To sell the fish while it’s at its best, he has had to lower his prices in order to attract customers. 

“Right now, I am also struggling to meet my family’s needs. I no longer received income like what I used to earn before this COVID-19. The COVID-19 is really affecting my small fish project,’’ he said. 

Mr Bilusu said the government should come up with ways to help people like him who are struggling during the pandemic. As more Honiara-based fish vendors like him are missing out on the government’s economic stimulus package, Mr Bilusu’s only wish right now is for the COVID-19 to vanish so that his small income could regain its status.

Sam, as he would want to be called, said the COVID-19 pandemic had had a huge impact on his fish-vending business at the Honiara Central Market. He stands at a market with a calculator in his left hand and a fish in his right. Photo: George Maelagi.
Sam, as he would want to be called, said the COVID-19 pandemic had had a huge impact on his fish-vending business at the Honiara Central Market. Photo: George Maelagi.

New technologies promise monitoring breakthrough for transhipment at sea

Categories FeaturesPosted on

Republished from FFA Trade and Industry Newsvolume 13, issue 4, July–August 2020

Technologies such as vessel monitoring systems, onboard electronic catch monitoring and blockchain traceability continue to gain attention as tools for monitoring industry activity related to the fishing sector. 

Government and inter-governmental bodies (e.g. the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre), as well as the private sector and NGOs [non-government organisations], have developed and deployed these methods and are experimenting with next-generation approaches. 

In general, these tools aim to develop methods for monitoring elements of the fishing supply chain that are generally outside of the view and reach of authorities.*

Recent months saw a new tool in this realm join the ranks of new technological and data-based initiatives to contribute to progress in management – this one focusing on transhipment at sea. 

The tool – the Carrier Vessel Portal – was developed through a collaboration between two NGOs, the Pew Charitable Trusts and Global Fishing Watch (GFW). The partners describe Carrier Vessel Portal as the world’s first public, global searchable monitoring portal of carrier vessels. 

The portal is based on GFW work that combines satellite data on vessel location (AIS data that cargo ships are mandated to keep on board by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) and machine learning to study global transhipment patterns. The portal is public and searchable and includes vessel identity and authorisation status.

The developers hope that regulators, policy makers and researchers will utilise the portal directly for the monitoring and enforcement of transhipping. 

In releasing the portal, GFW and Pew have emphasised the multiple purposes it can serve, including: 

  • verifying carrier vessel activity
  • identifying suspicious or illicit behaviour
  • tracking vessel activity between RFMOs
  • and ideally, guiding reform.

In addition to the Carrier Vessel Portal, GFW has developed a range of tools and analyses to monitor the location and activity of fishing vessels, and is working to develop partnerships that will enable such tools to be used directly in the management sphere. (GFW has a list of papers published on its findings.)

Monitoring transhipment at sea has been a high priority for management in the WCPO, given it is estimated that more than US$142 million worth of tuna and other seafood products are lost in illegal transhipment annually, and missing and fraudulent reporting undermines management efforts and scientific data that is used to understand population dynamics and to inform management decisions. 

However, transhipment at sea has proved remarkably difficult to monitor, making regulations difficult to enforce. Generally, transhipment data are reported from governments to RFMOs, usually in summary form and often a year after the data are collected in-country. It has been demonstrated that official reports are often incomplete and thousands of transhipments on the high seas are unreported.

* For more on the use of electronic monitoring and blockchain technology, read the following:

COVID-19 threatens Solomon Islands’ global tuna industry

Categories News, NewsPosted on

HONIARA, 17 April 2020 – Solomon Islands is facing an economic crisis: with the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, the prognosis for the near to medium term is not looking good, says iTuna Intel CEO and founding director of Pacific Catalyst, Dr Transform Aqorau.

“The only revenue going to be coming into the Treasury is through the sale of fishing vessel days (VDS) to foreign fishing vessels and a little from existing logging operations. The latter are at levels that are much lower than 2019 but the forecast is not really bright,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“With regards to tuna revenues, we have to keep our fingers crossed that this natural phenomenon, which has seen tuna concentrated in our waters as a result of the shift of the warm pool, will remain in Solomon Islands over the next few years.” 

In normal years, the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, of which Solomon Islands is a part, generates about $25 billion in revenue from tuna a year. 

Tuna is the second largest revenue earner for Solomon Islands, behind the depleting logging industry. The tuna industry’s contribution to the Solomon Islands Government revenue on average is $260 million, of which 90% comes from fishing licences, the Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) has reported.

Dr Aqorau is a Solomon Islands fisheries law expert, and a former boss of the Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA). He said that Italy and China, which were the two biggest importers of Solomon Islands tuna, had to date been the countries worst affected by the coronavirus. 

“This will no doubt have a percolating effect on our major exports and, ultimately, revenue,” he said. 

“No economy can survive without new money coming in, whether it is the form of donor aid or revenues from exports, as this will eventually impact on its ability to pay for import.”

CBSI reports on Covid-19 threats to local economy

The CBSI reported in March that the coronavirus would likely have a negative impact on the Solomon Islands economy. The spread of the pandemic and the considerable disruption it would cause would be exacerbated by the increasingly intertwined trade and investment relationships between China and its neighbours in the Asia–Pacific region. 

The report stated that “being a small, open economy, the Solomon Islands will likely be adversely affected through the trade channel and thereafter the economy, and even fiscal operations”.

This month, CBSI reported that the speed of the spread of COVID-19 and the extent of the pandemic around the world meant that it had to revise its near-term growth outlook for the Solomon Islands economy

Front of Central Bank of Solomon Islands building, Honiara
The Central Bank of Solomon Islands says that the COVID-19 is a huge threat to the country’s economy


The report said: “The downward movement in the global economy, as well ensuing public health measures and business closures, could see a significant decline in real GDP of between minus 3% to minus 5% in 2020. The current information at hand indicates that the economy is moving into a recession starting in the second quarter of 2020.”

The impact of COVID-19 was expected to affect almost all sectors of the Solomon Islands economy. Supply chains had been affected, with travel limits and disruptions to business activity.

Densely packed group of Solomon Islanders outside building with security shutters down. Photo: Lachlan S. Eddie.
Most businesses in Solomon Islands have scaled down operations as more workers are being laid off. Photo: Lachlan S. Eddie.

Trimarine’s Soltuna scales down operation

More workers from the fisheries sector are being laid off as the pandemic’s grip on the Solomon Islands economy tightens. Soltuna, which employs over 1,000 workers, is one company that is scaling down.

Speaking in Parliament last Tuesday during a motion to extend the state of public emergency to four months, Minister for Finance and Treasury Harry Kuma said fisheries exports to Italy in particular had indicated a declining trend from the end of the first quarter of 2020 .

He added that prices were likely to fall by 5%.

“This will severely affect the operation of Soltuna and the employment of mainly women and girls in the Noro Cannery,” the minister stated.

On a similar note, Trimarine’s spokesperson, Joe Hamby, specified that Soltuna production depended firstly on the supply of tuna from its sibling company, National Fisheries Developments (NFD).  

“As you can imagine, fishing is directly impacted by the weather. Cyclone Harold has severely interrupted NFD’s fishing operations. Soltuna cannot operate without a steady supply of good quality tuna from NFD,” Mr Hamby said.

He went on to say that Trimarine had learned a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic. This was because Soltuna’s management and staff were almost all Solomon Islanders, and Soltuna could continue to operate during periods when expatriates had to evacuate back to their home countries.  

For example, only one of the six tuna processing plants in Papua New Guinea was operating at the moment. The others had closed because they don’t have enough local management and technical expertise. Expatriates with those skills had gone home, Mr Hamby added.

Two female workers and one male worker at Noro tuna cannery, Solomon Islands
Workers at Soltuna cannery, Noro … nearly 1,000 workers have been affected as Soltuna scales down work during the coronavirus pandemic


“By contrast, despite COVID-19, Soltuna has continued to safely produce badly needed food for both the domestic and export markets.”

Dr Aqorau had projected that demand for canned tuna products would increase, including in China, where demand for fresh fish was declining as a result of the pandemic. 

“It will be an evolution in China, but the tuna industry will be in for some very exciting times in the future,” Dr Aqorau said.

Transhipment problems threaten the global tuna supply chain 

Frabelle Fishing Company in the Philippines is another company that is affected by COVID-19, as most ports in the Pacific are closed to transhipment.

The company’s CEO, Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jnr, said Solomon Islands was a major resource for tuna in the Western Pacific, as well as a major transhipment point. He said any restriction imposed by the government on fishing and fish transfers would surely affect the flow of goods to the markets.

Head and upper body portrait photo of Frabelle CEO Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jnr
Frabelle CEO Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jnr


“If we are operating unhampered, we are actually not losing so much, but if we go into port and we are made to wait for 14 days’ quarantine, we will be losing about US$10,000 per day in our operations cost while at port, plus the island nations will lose 12 of those 14 days in terms of vessel fishing days that fishermen are supposed to pay PNA,” he said.

“So, for every port call with quarantine, each boat loses about US$120,000, and the island nations will also lose about US$130,000 per day per vessel at port under quarantine.

“These are rough figures, but realistic,” Mr Laurel said.

He added that if Frabelle was not allowed to tranship in other ports, the company would have to run to ports that would allow them under certain conditions. But this would entail burning more fuel and losing more fishing days for both the fisherman and the island nations.

Three fishing vessels in Honiara waters, with trees in foreground and hills enclosing waterway in background. Photo: Ronald Toito’ona.
Fishing vessels conducting transhipment at the Honiara port. Photo: Ronald Toito’ona.

Inability to replace crew

Marko Kamber, of Caroline Fisheries Corporation, has also stated that another major issue that island-based operators faced was the inability to replace crew because of the travel bans in place.

“Also many island ports do not allow disembarkation of crews to fly home,” he said.

Korea-based company Silla is also facing hiccups with their operations, with difficulties due to restrictions imposed by island countries despite a 100% fleet operation, says Operation & Sales Manager Sancho Kim.

Mr Kim said their operation was affected by the 14-day quarantine rule and some countries were closing their ports, both air and sea, to block COVID-19 transmission. 

“It is obvious any one of those measures are affecting our operation negatively, causing delays in finding available ports to call for transhipment and maintenance operation,” Mr Kim said.

Honiara port in Solomon Islands is one of the main ports for tuna purse seiners’ transhipments. Solomon Islands’ exclusive economic zone has been a good fishing ground for tuna purse seiners this year, so far, leading vessels to call more frequently to Honiara for transhipment.

“It surely helped to improve the local economy to bring more economic activities into Honiara and also increase government revenue. However, Solomon Islands is also implementing a 14 days quarantine policy, which is forcing vessels to turn around to find other ports available to call.”

Purse-seine tuna fishing vessel offloading catch at Noro, Solomon Islands
NFD’s purse seiner Solomon-Topaz offloading tuna at Noro in a trial held during better times in 2018

The Marshall Islands and Thailand establish cooperation and exchange of information to prevent IUU fishing practices

Categories News, NewsPosted on

Republished from Francisco Blaha’s Blog FEBRUARY 23, 2019

I have been at the 6th Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop (GFETW) here in Bangkok since the 18 February. As we ( the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority, MIMRA) have been invited to present what we are doing in terms of our Port State Measures (PSM) system to authorise transhipments.

I say “we” because there are 4 of us; Sam Lawni (Deputy Director), Laurence Edwards (Legal Counsel) and Beau Bigler (Fishery Officer) and myself as an Offshore Fisheries Advisor. I was quite keen for all of us to come to this GFETW as conference only happens every two or three years. It was organised by the International Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) Network to improve and enhance the capacity and communications of MCS practitioners around the world. The fact that we are in Bangkok made it more special.

While a lot of effort has been focused on the control of transhipments at sea, transhipments from fishing vessels to refrigerated carriers in port are a vital element in the Pacific tuna fishery and a daily occurrence for us. Thailand is the biggest tuna processing country in the world, and I’d say that half of the transhipments we authorise in Majuro will be arriving here to be processed; we call it the “tuna highway”.

From the “transhipment port” perspective, PSM best practices require the port to take a series of steps prior to authorising port use for transhipment, including: a standardised and integrated process of advance notice and arrival fishing vessel intelligence-based risk analysis using available remote sensing capacities, a transhipment authorization protocol, the estimation of volumes transhipped, and the departure clearance of the carriers with full traceability of fish on board and hatch plan totals.

From the receiving port perspective, as is the case in Bangkok, it must be considered that the fish on board the carriers have “not been previously landed”. Thailand’s Department of Fisheries (DoF) under the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) principles has to evaluate compliance on the legality of the catches of each of the fishing vessels being transported on the carrier, plus the volumes on departure from the last transhipment port. This is to assess the possibility that the carrier would have received fish on board since the last declared port departure. As in many other cases worldwide, the processing states do not have access to all the compliance tools used by the flag states of the fishing vessels, and perhaps most importantly the coastal states where those catches were taken. Having a direct link of collaboration with the regional port states where those vessels transhipped initially facilitate the fulfilment of their obligations under PSMA.

On the other side, only on receiving the fish at the processing plants in Thailand are the verified weights per species per vessels known. Before this, volumes and species composition are based on estimates from the logsheets and observers/monitors estimations. In fact, a 2017 FFA study on the quantification of IUU for the region identified underreporting of catches as the region’s biggest threat in terms of IUU. Yet Thailand’s DoF as part of their e-Traceability program collects all the “weigh in” values of the fish originating on each fishing vessels inside every arriving carrier. This verified information available in Thailand is vital to further understanding the magnitude of the underreporting problem in the Pacific.

6th Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop (GFETW), Bangkok. Image: Francisco Blaha

Based on the understanding of this reality, the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA), as the fisheries body of the most important transhipment port in the Pacific (>400 a year), approached Thailand’s Department of Fisheries to establish an MoU for cooperation and exchange of information of common interest and mutual benefit.

The MoU, signed on 22 February, is the result of over a year-long engagement I have been fostering between these 2 countries I work substantially with. Both sides identified that reciprocal exchange of fisheries data was an area of critical importance that would require mutual collaboration between key players. In this case, the Marshall Islands (Majuro) being arguably the busiest transhipment port in the world and Thailand (Bangkok) as the largest tuna processing and port State.

With the signing of the MoU, the Marshall Islands, through MIMRA, will now be able to receive verified weights of tuna catches that are transshipped in Majuro and offloaded in Bangkok from Thai fisheries inspection officers on a regular basis.

In essence, this will enable officers on both sides to trace the catch both ways to ensure its legality throughout the entire chain of custody, thereby preventing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. This verified information is vital to further understand the magnitude of the catch underreporting problem in the region.

The MoU is in line with the Marshall Islands IUU-Free Pacific initiative as declared by H.E. Madam President Dr. Hilda C. Heine last year. Having this direct link of collaboration with a key player like Thailand further facilitates the fulfilment of obligations under the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which the Marshall Islands, through MIMRA, is currently considering signing and ratifying in the near future.

At a personal level it has been a huge 10 days as I facilitated a workshop for PEW and WWF full of people I admire, then presented at global fisheries MCS workshop on what are we doing in the Marshall Islands , and realise that I’m a consultant to both the gold (Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency) and silver (ThaiDoF/OceanMind) winners of the stop IUU awards! and then facilitating the Marshalls-Thailand MoU.

High seas transhipments of tuna targeted for action

Categories @WCPFC15, Media releases, NewsPosted on

Honolulu 13 December 2018 — Pacific Island fisheries leaders want the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to effectively address a serious management gap in the tuna fishery: high seas tuna transshipments.

  The existing Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) measure governing transshipment was adopted in 2009 and is intended for review next year. 

  Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members, including the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) bloc, want to see a WCPFC review process that is comprehensive and results in significant strengthening of the current measure.

   Ina letter last month to WCPFC Executive Director Feleti Teo, Forum Fisheries Committee Chairperson Tepaeru Herrmann expressed the concern of FFA members that insufficient regulation, monitoring and reporting of tuna transshipment, particularly on the high seas, was contributing to distort the reporting of catches.

  Ms. Herrmann said the current system of unmonitored transshipments on the high seas also exposed WCPFC members, cooperating non-members and participating territories (known as CCMs), and the wider Pacific region, to increased risks of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and transnational criminal activity.    

   Subject to not infringing on the right of CCMs to regulate transshipment occurring in areas under national jurisdiction, the WCPFC has a responsibility to effectively regulate transshipment activities to address these risks, she said.

  The aim of FFA members is to see all transshipments in the WCPFC area occurring in port. The FFA’s position is consistent with Article 29 of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention which provides that “the members of the Commission shall encourage their vessels, to the extent practicable, to conduct transshipment in port.”

  The PNA already requires all purse seine vessels operating in their waters to transship tuna in ports, which allows for monitoring of catch and other compliance measures to be enforced. PNA is also gearing to implement a ban on high seas bunkering for fishing vessels by fuel tankers beginning in2020. Currently, however, only a fraction of longline vessels transship their tuna catches in the ports of FFA members.  

   The current level and regulation of high seas transshipment activity is inconsistent with the objective of the WCPF Convention, said FFA Director General Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen and PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru in comments Thursday during the ongoing annual meeting of the WCPFC in Honolulu.

   Under the current WCPFC measure, there is to be no transshipment on the high seas except where a CCM has determined it is impracticable for its vessels to operate without being able to transship on the high seas. The measure requires CCMs to inform the WCPFC of any of their vessels transshipping on the high seas.

   The WCPFC measure requires a declaration prior to transshipping on the high seas, and a report after the operation is completed. A Final Compliance Monitoring Review report,which will address compliance with these and other provisions of the measure,is to be issued as part of the review of the 2009 measure scheduled for next year.

    The basis for approving high seas transshipments is that prohibition would cause significant economic hardship to vessels. This would be assessed in terms of the costs incurred and if in-port transshipment would require the vessel to make significant and substantial changes to its historical mode of operation as a result of the prohibition of transshipment on the high seas.

   “There is no proper mechanism for review of the transshipment justification and there is a shortfall in compliance with WCPFC reporting provisions,” said Dr. Tupou-Roosen.“This situation is untenable and results in high risks that catch data is not accurately and effectively reported.”

  She said FFA members are anxious to see the review of this 2009 transshipment conservation and management measure undertaken with diligence and a focus on compliance.

   She also noted the initiatives of many members to roll out electronic monitoring systems on longline vessels as a means of improving coverage for a sector of the Pacific tuna fishery that is currently not well monitored.

   “In2013, FFA facilitated the first electronic monitoring trials for longline vessels in the region in collaboration with SPC and industry. This trial coupled electronic systems with human observers to compare data in the context of WCPFC observer requirements,” she said.

More recently, four members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement — Palau, FSM, Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands — have engaged in a trial of electronic monitoring of longline vessels,using video cameras and training fisheries officers to use software programs to evaluate the film collected on longline vessels.

   “We need an outcome from this review (of the high seas transshipment measure) that properly addresses the reporting risks and results in the receipt of timely,complete and well-documented data from transshipment activity,” said Mr. Kumoru.

“Our position is to move as quickly as possible to a complete ban of all high seas transshipment. PNA already requires all purse seiners to transship their catch in port. We think all transshipments should take place in ports in our region. In-port transshipment generates economic benefits for our members as well as eliminating IUU and other risks inherent in unmonitored high seas transshipments.”

For more information on the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, contact Mr. Ludwig Kumoru, CEO, PNA Office, on email: ludwig@pnatuna.com,or ring PNA media coordinator Giff Johnson at (808) 699-1690 to arrange interviews with the PNA CEO.

For more information on the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, contact FFA media coordinator Donna Hoarder on email:donna,hoarder@ffa.int.