Header image: National Fisheries Development purse seiner Solomon-Topaz offloading tuna at Noro, Solomon Islands, during a trial in 2018

HONIARA – Solomon Islands Government has reinforced its commitment, through the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), to the development and sustainable management of its tuna resources as a top priority – and called for the involvement of the public to make it a reality.

The Minister for Commerce, Industries, Labour, and Immigration, Fredrick Kologeto, said in an address at the World Tuna Day celebration in Honiara that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) would take the lead.

Mr Kologeto spoke on behalf of the fisheries minister, Nestor Giro.

“It is the ministry’s belief that with a sustainable tuna resource we will continue to benefit from the use of this resource: as food on our table, as a cash crop to meet our families’ socio-economic needs, and as an export commodity to support the needs of our country,” Mr Kologeto said.

“Collectively, it remains our duty to ensure that our people receive maximum economic and social benefits from our tuna resources.”

Mr Kologeto called for public support from citizens to take responsibility in managing the country’s tuna resources as everyone’s business.

“The responsibility to manage this resource in a sustainable manner is entirely on us. We are all in this together.

“As stakeholders in this important resource, let us align our commitments towards ensuring sustainability of our tuna stocks. Let us all work together to achieve this,” Kologeto told the gathering on 6 May.

He said that increasing demand for tuna globally meant the resource needed to be sustainably managed.

“This is important, as our country makes a lot of revenue from this resource, and because of this resource many of our people can be employed. This is evident in the fishing and processing sector,” Mr Kologeto said.

“Many of our people can be fed and many of our people can earn a living. Tuna, indeed, is a source of food and livelihoods to our many coastal communities.”

He said that MFMR was “delighted” to see current development and sustainable management of the tuna resources in Solomon Islands.

FFA acknowledges cooperation in sustainable tuna management

Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director of Fisheries Operations Allan Rahari, in his speech at the World Tuna Day event, drew attention to the power and success of regional cooperation.

“FFA members should be proud of our collective actions to sustainably manage the four key tuna stocks in the region,” Mr Rahari said.

The four economically important tuna are bigeye, yellowfin, albacore and skipjack tuna. In the most recent assessments on tuna populations in the WCPO, the Pacific Community (SPC), which leads the assessments, reported that all four species were considered to be in a healthy, sustainable state, as none were considered to be overfished.

“This can be attributed to the cooperation across the FFA membership. It has led to many successes in managing our fishery, including through times of crisis such as the current extraordinary times. I wish to acknowledge Solomon Islands Government, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, which has played a key role in this,” Mr Rahari said.

Mr Rahari said value of tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) by the national fleets of FFA’s totalled US$1.7 billion. This made up 29% of the total value of the catch in the WCPO.

“The catch value taken from FFA members’ waters has increased to 49%, and this contributes to growth in government revenue from access and licence fees to US$550 million in 2020. This is mainly driven by the purse seine fishery. Work remains to address underperformance in the longline fishery,” Mr Rahari said.

Tuna industry commends regional fisheries bloc

Tuna Industry Association Solomon Islands (TIASI) spokesperson Russell Dunham said that the tuna industry in Solomon Islands had continued to flourish because of close working relationships between the main fisheries organisations in the region and local industry.

Mr Durham acknowledged MFMR, FFA, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office (PNAO), and stakeholders such as SPC for their lead in maintaining healthy tuna fisheries in the country.

“The industry in the Solomon Islands continue to develop over the years mainly as a result of the money from the tuna resources, and because the industry works really closely with an active ministry of fisheries in Solomon Islands,” Mr Dunham said.

“The industry acknowledges that we have the support of FFA stationed in Honiara, which has been helping the Pacific region in the sustainability of our tuna resources.

“We acknowledge that we have a very strong scientific body that looks after our resources, the SPC, and more recently the PNA in managing the Pacific tuna fisheries resources.”

These organisations and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission had been helping the industry by providing the foundation on which the industry operated.

“Fortunately, that task [that we work at] allows the industry to develop, because we do have a sustainable fishery,” said Mr Dunham, who is also a National Fisheries Development employee based in Honiara.

Solomon Islands was very fortunate that all four tuna species were present in its waters.

“Solomon Islands is also very fortunate that we have all three major commercial ways of catching tuna: the purse seine, longline, and pole-and-line fishing. There are not so many Pacific Island countries that are fortunate to have access to these.”

He said it was important to manage tuna well across the region because it was a migratory resource.

“Sustainable management of tuna resources is important not only for the country but for the industry as well,” Mr Dunham said.

He said TIASI was looking forward to developing the industry further by enhancing the value of tuna as a resource that was often undervalued in terms of what the local industry could do with it in the global market.

Solomon Islands fish workers - copyright Francisco Blaha
Solomon Islands fish workers in the canning line. Photo: Francisco Blaha.