A shared vision for self-determination: the PNA story in print

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A Solomon Islander who is a household name in the Western and Central Pacific tuna industry has written the story of how the Davids of the industry prevailed against the Goliaths.

Fishing for success: lessons in Pacific regionalism is the story of how the Parties to the Nauru Agreement came into being, and is written by one of those involved in its formation: Transform Aqorau.

The book was published recently by the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. 

Dr Aqorau said in an interview with the Coral Bell School that it was “one of the happiest stories” to come out of the region.

“The huge increases in revenues, from our work in getting hard limits for the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), and in restructuring the VDS and running it as a business, demonstrated that we can manage our resources more effectively,” Dr Aqorau said. 

“I wanted to share this story because for a long time we were really played off by the foreign fishing operators. It was quite unfair how the distant-water fishing nations, for the better part of 30 years, did not pay us for the true value of our tuna.”

Dr Transform Aqorau on deck of a purse-seine fishing vessel. Photo: Giff Johnson.
Dr Transform Aqorau on board the purse-seine fishing vessel Lojet during a two-week voyage. Photo: Giff Johnson.

The PNA began operating from a small office in Majuro, Marshall Islands, in 2010. Dr Aqorau said that, at that time, the PNA states collected US$60 million in revenue from tuna fishing. 

Because of the agreement, in 2019 the same states earned revenue of US$500 million. 

It was an achievement “that donors, regional organisations and political leaders have been trying to do for years, but could not”, Dr Aqorau said.

“it is about how a group of countries, friends and colleagues – through their friendship, alliance, shared vision and desire to control their fisheries … – put their heads together and created the largest capitalised tuna fishery in the world.” 

He was motivated by wanting “to ensure that our peoples – the young, the old and feeble, the people in the village – get a fair share of the returns from our tuna resources”.

Dr Aqorau charts the early discussions on the agreement, and the opposition, challenges and victories along the way. 

The development of the agreement is threaded through many of the tuna conservation and management tools used in the region today. They include the Vessel Day Scheme for purse-seine and longline fishing vessels, and the Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS). They also include the achievement of the first Marine Stewardship Council certification in the region, and the related set up of the Pacifical tuna-marketing brand.

Some arrangements had been more successful than others, he said, but from the beginning the countries saw that the conservation of tuna populations and economic gain went hand in hand. 

“The story of the PNA has been a remarkable one, especially the success of the VDS and how its significant economic returns have made such a large impact on the development of Pacific communities,” Dr Aqorau said.

The eight states that are members of the PNA are Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Tuvalu fisheries Minister calls for PNA to put their house in order

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HONOLULU, 10 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)—-Tuvalu’s Minister for Fisheries has called on members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to put their house in order first, after the island nation was unhappy with the PNA budget.

Dr Puakena Boreham made a hard-hitting statement at the PNA meeting in Honolulu on Friday (7 December).

“Fellow Ministers you may recall that we were unhappy with the budget presented to us in Nauru for 2018 and 2019, and directed officials and the secretariat to come back to us with a solution for the shortfall in 2018, and a balanced budget for 2019. I understand that this has been done,” Boreham said.

“Looking forward, we need to ensure that we do not get into this position again. I recognise that the CEO inherited a confused situation with regard to the finances of the PNAO and is working to resolve the problems that this has caused.

“As members we also need to be more careful about demanding more work and new projects unless we fully understand the costs and how they will be met,” she told delegates at the meeting.

Dr Boreham also called for more consultation on the PNA’s strategic plan.

“In my personal opinion, it would have been useful to have some more consultation on this plan before coming to the point of approval – but I understand that our officials have reviewed it several times.

She also called for solidarity among PNA members to ensure their rights over fisheries resources management were not undermined by Distant Water Fishing nations (DWFNs) at the WCPFC meeting this week.

“I look forward to hearing more about the key issues. WCPFC is a slow and often frustrating process, but we need to work together as PNA members to ensure that our valuable rights to manage and develop our fisheries are not undermined,” Dr Boreham explained said.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea Fisheries Minister Patrick Basa told the meeting that as PNA members they had seen growth in collective revenue from US60m per year a decade ago to US$400million more recently.

He also called for PNA to consider subscription fees for member states to boost PNA office operations.

“We need the PNA Office to continue to function effectively and efficiently with necessary financial support. It is therefore incumbent upon the Parties to consider agreeing to some form of Administrative or Subscription fees from each PNA member,” Basa said.

“A good strategic plan is essential for the PNA and PNA Office going forward in the next 5 years. The Strategic Plan is important to the PNA to guide us in achieving the objective of the PNA– and that is to “increase economic value and derive greater benefits from our tuna resources. In this context, I commend the work that is being done by the PNA office. I would like to see the role of the PNA Office clearly stated in this Strategic Plan, the direction that PNAO will be taking in the next five(5) years and set clear guidelines on making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy.”

Basa also called for solidarity from PNA member countries who are also members of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)to maintain their common positions in terms of disproportionate burden on the small island developing states in living up to the measures adopted at the Tuna Commission.

The disproportionate burden is the extra burden or cost placed on resource owning states as a result of conservation measures.

“We must continue to advocate strongly our position on our Sovereignty, as Coastal States and ensure the Commission focuses on establishing measures in the High Seas as well as adoption of compatible conservation and management measures in the EEZ.

“I would also like to inform colleague ministers that the purchase of IFIMS is now before the Government of PNG for approval,” Basa told PNA Ministers

The PNA Friday passed its 2019 operation budget of US$4.5 million.

PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru says members don’t pay subscription for its membership to run its operations.

“From the start the parties do not contribute towards the office, the office go on commercial business they don’t contribute to support the PNA office we have always raised our money from a percentage of the (fishing) day’s traded through the office but our programs have expanded so now we are looking at how else we can raise money- we can’t keep on charging the fishing boats.

If we charge the company’s too much then we may actually discourage them from fishing so we have got to weigh that up and also the more we charge it’s like it’s money you are taking out of the pockets of the parties if you can help lower those fees they are pay more to the parties …we have to broaden the base,” he said.