Monday the annual meeting of the Parties to The Nauru Agreement (PNA) came to an end in the Tuvaluan capital of Funafuti. Eight small Pacific island states have been gathering to ally to better ensure sustainable management and economic revenue from the highly migratory tuna that resides in their oceans.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) includes Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Collectively, these countries control 25-30% of the world’s supply of tuna and about 60 percent of the western and central pacific tuna supply. The small island states are now preparing together in order to stand stronger against the larger countries when they arrive at the Western and Central Pacific Commission in Palau in December. In Palau, these countries must protect what, for most of them, is their only resource, against states and federations as, China, European Union, Japan, South-Korea, Taiwan and the United States of America.
Eugene Pangelinan, Deputy Director of the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority in in the Federated States of Micronesia responsible for management of oceanic tunas in the FSM EEZ (Federated States of Micronesia Exclusive Economic Zone) is attending the meeting to protect the interests and the main income of his country. Micronesia gets between 15 and 20 million dollars annually from selling fishing licences to foreign fishing vessels. As the meeting comes to an end, Pangelinan has mixed feelings about the outcome.
- We have agreed on further conservation measures to take in order to ensure that our fish stocks are not overexploited, Pangelinan says. But we have also agreed to increase our party allowable efforts under the Vessel Day Scheme so it’s an issue of concern that needs some addressing.
He explains further that scientists have found that the existing conservation measures are not achieving the expected effects.
- We want to further limit the time the use of fish aggregation devices (FADS) in our waters from 9 months a year to 6 months a year only for all foreign fishing vessels. This would be our contribution to further reductions as called for under the commission measure 2008-01., says Pangelinan.
The PNA countries plan to present their conservation measures at the meeting in Palau in December. If the group decides to implement the measures, the commission can pressure the other countries in the commission to implement compatible measures. Though 60 percent of the fishing in the West and Central Pacific Oceans occur in the oceans of the eight island states, they get little of the revenue.
- We small pacific islands don’t have the resources to take the risks of investing in big fishing vessels. But as our fish is often the only source of revenue that we have it is important for our long-term benefit to manage our resources sustainably and at the same time ensure that we are reaping a fair return for our tuna resources from fishing, Pangelinan says.
For him, the most important thing is to find common ground amongst the PNA group to be able to stand stronger in the negotiations of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and with distant water fishing nations who seek access to our tuna resources.
Some PNA countries have very little potential to develop their fisheries. Most lack land, water, electricity, human resources and technical capacity and other materials to do processing in their countries. So licensing remains the only option for now. Pangelinan explains that some larger PNA countries such as Papa New Guinea has seen a big growth in their domestic development including on-shore processing.
- PNA members are trying to see how other PNA countries who have limited capacity can also benefit from PNG’s progress, he says. The fisheries in the oceans of the eight islands are worth around 4 billion dollars annually and growing in total. Pangelinan emphasizes that what he and his colleagues want is just a fair return for their resources and to ensure a sustainable management of the fish stocks.
- We are working to avoid overexploitation of our tuna, as has happened in many international waters and in larger oceans like the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, he says. We have the benefit of regional cooperation and the fact that most of the fishing occurs in exclusive economic zones of PNA countries, PNA are in a stronger position to establish terms and conditions for fishing including imposing additional conservation and management measures for their zones, he says.
In order to ensure sustainable fishing, the PNA-group is selling fishing licences through a vessel-day-scheme.
-The value of the days depends largely on the zone that they want to fish in and the current market prices of tuna. Vessels also cannot just fish in one zone and therefore must also purchase licenses in several other countries and therefore the value depends on the availability of fishing days to sell. At the minimum the value of the day can be 5000 dollars and for some countries, even higher. Some vessels need to buy fishing licenses from several countries as they are moving across boarders. Countries can demand other things other than just fishing fees such as unloading in ports, etc. Under this scheme we are getting more of a fairer share than in the past. Before, when we were just selling annual licenses, we were not making the kind of return that we wanted.
However, the fishing companies are still getter a much larger share of the benefits than the countries owning the resources. As from last year the PNA group has agreed on a new condition for the fishing operators. PNA requires a 10 percent mandatory crewing of PNA nationals on all fishing vessels starting 2012.
- All vessels that are fishing in our waters have to have 10 percent locals in the crew from PNA countries. If not they will have to pay annual fines, he says.
Moreover PNA wants to use the tuna to create investments in Micronesia.
- We are working on measures to make the big fishing companies invest in canneries and other on shore investments in our country. We have the natural resources, the space and the water to develop our own tuna. We just lack the financial resources and technical capacity and fishing capacity, says Pangelinan.
The annual meeting of The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) is held in Funafuti, Tuvalu from April 1st to April 11th to discuss key issues around sustainable management and development of its tuna. The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) includes Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Collectively, these countries control 25-30% of the world’s supply of tuna and 60% of the WCPO tuna supplies. The purpose of the PNA is for the countries to cooperate to sustainably manage and develop this key resource.
Western and Central Pacific Commission: Australia, China, Canada, Cook Islands, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Taiwan, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu. Territories and Possessions include French Polynesia, Guam, Saipan, Wallis and Futuna, Tokelau and American Samoa.