The PNA meeting opened with presentations from key industry players in tuna in the Pacific region.
Phil Roberts of TriMarine International underlined the need for the PNA to uphold limits on fishing, which introduced scarcity of tuna into the global market, so increasing the price of tuna. In the past 12 months, the tuna price has gone down, in part due to oversupply.
Henk Brus from Pacifical pointed to the global demand of retailers for sustainable tuna, including tuna caught in the PNA waters which was certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and marketed under Pacifical, which returns a portion of profit back to PNA.
Key to increasing the value of tuna is the PNA Vessel Day Scheme, which limits the number of days purse seine fishing vessels can fish per year, with each PNA member country having an allocation of days.
The current minimum price of a fishing day for foreign fishing vessels is $6000 USD and the Vessel Day Scheme is worth $240 million. The officials agreed to recommend to Ministers a range of new minimum prices for days.
Last week the PNA agreed on a total PNA-wide limit of 44,623 days in 2014 and to freeze the days at that level for 2015 and 2016. 7827 days will be taken off the top of this PNA Total Allowable Effort for allocation under the US Treaty.
While they tightened the Scheme this week, PNA also discussed improvements in technology that allows vessels to catch more per day and the need to review this under the various different arrangements.
To manage the Vessel Day Scheme and monitor other key PNA rules, the new electronic Fisheries Information and Management System (FIMS) was discussed and new functions were added. FIMS is used by national fisheries agencies to manage the Vessel Day Scheme including monitoring fishing in PNA waters.
The meeting last week agreed to show more information about domestic fishing (under the Federated States of Micronesia Arrangement) and to expand tracking of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) under FIMS.
Trials for tracking FADs have been conducted (with funding from Pew Environment Group) and technology is available to track these electronically, as the PNA currently does for fishing vessels.
Current FAD technology allows some sonar FADs to identify species of tuna, size of the tunas, and other detailed data, allowing for highly efficient fishing but this also creating risks for sustainability, particularly of bigeye tuna, the overfished sashimi fish. The PNA is looking at ways to strengthen its management of FADs using electronic resources.
The PNA meeting also discussed the operation of the PNA Office. Unlike most regional agencies which are dependent on aid funding, PNA is run as a business, with revenue raised from the Vessel Day Scheme Registration Fee and the Conservation Levy applied to the fishing industry, as well as commissions from trades of fishing days. The PNA Office made a surplus in the last financial year that will be returned to PNA countries.
PNA CEO Dr Transform Aqorau said at the meeting: “The PNA is not just a major force in conservation and management. It is an exercise in self-determination – for Pacific countries to control their resources and make decisions free from foreign influence. We control 50% of the global supply of skipjack tuna and so the PNA has a role to play in fish supply and creating scarcity and value of tuna.
“We have seen recently the financial benefits of PNA control, and the financial risks and costs when PNA does not exercise control as effectively as it could. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”
The PNA Ministers will meet in mid 2014 to discuss these issues further.