Majuro: The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are gearing for their annual meeting in early March, with an ambitious agenda in motion for 2015.
With PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) controlling the purse seine fishery and generating the largest-ever share of fisheries revenue to the eight member nations, PNA is focusing efforts in 2015 on consolidating these gains and setting the stage for expanding control over tuna resources.
The overriding vision of PNA, says CEO Dr. Transform Aqorau, is “securing control of rights to our tuna resources through the application of limits.” With this as PNA’s mission, 2015 will focus on “consolidating our gains and working on our weaknesses — governance and institutional — both at the regional and national levels,” said Dr. Aqorau on the eve of this year’s annual meeting that will be held in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia.
The annual meeting will run from 4-13 March, 2015 and actually encompasses three meetings: The Parties to the Palau Arrangement, the Parties to the FSM Arrangement, and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.
“The mission,” said Dr. Aqorau, “is ensuring the transfer of rights to the fishery into the hands of the PNA by having PNA flags on fishing vessels and crew on every fishing vessel, and the processing of PNA-caught fish in PNA countries or associated plants.”
As the VDS is the foundation of PNA’s management of the purse seine fishery, a major review of the scheme was completed in 2014. The report’s recommendations will help guide the work of PNA this year and beyond, said Dr. Aqorau.
A key move that will go to PNA fisheries ministers for final endorsement at the annual meeting is the plan to begin registration of and charging for use of fish aggregation devices (FADs) from January 1, 2016.
The majority of tuna caught by purse seiners are caught around FADs. With tens of thousands of FADs in operation in PNA waters, charging will have dual business and conservation purposes: increasing the revenue stream to the Parties while being a disincentive to their use.
As part of consolidating its successes to date, Dr. Aqorau sees the PNA Office and the Parties working to develop and expand in five key areas:
• VDS administration and development. This will include action to streamline processing of non-fishing days, developing options for fishing day auctions and tenders, establishing electronic sale of days through PNA’s Fisheries Information Management System, and establishing a working group on bio-economics and rent.
• Conservation and management measures. This will include amending agreements to implement FAD charging and registration in 2016, working with Japan to seek market-based measures to conserve bigeye tuna, reviewing high seas catch limits, and greater involvement of the Parties in the annual review of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of PNA’s purse seine free school skipjack fishery.
• Media and communications. This will include greater media promotion of PNA initiatives, publishing papers from PNA, and expanded use of the PNA website.
• Business and commercial initiatives. This will include a review of Pacifical and its corporate relationship with PNA, developing program documentation for a crewing program for purse seiners, reviewing the PNA Observer Agency and its agreements, and contributing to reshaping the US Treaty through a discussion paper.
• Scientific support services. This will include reviewing PNAs memorandum of understanding with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, looking to broaden support services with regional and national institutions with technical expertise, and provision of scholarships to Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu to the University of Vietnam in fisheries economics and climate change.
As the PNA Office and the Parties work to increase their participation in the fishery, including domestic ownership and flagging of vessels, an ongoing problem has been an abuse of capacity by distant water fishing nations, said Dr. Aqorau. “Smaller islands want to participate in the industry by having domestic boats,” he said. But even with the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission taking a position against countries blocking island nations from getting fishing vessels, the PNA sees some Asian nations preventing PNA Parties’ access to vessel ownership. PNA is considering punitive measures against countries responsible, said Dr. Aqorau.
“We will see a greater PNA focus on the economics of the fishery this year and beyond,” said Dr. Aqorau. “The value of the VDS continues to increase. I would not be surprised if it hits half a billion dollars in the near future.”
In light of the success of the VDS, the key next step for PNA is strengthening the national and regional mechanisms for administering and enforcing the VDS, and focusing greater attention to the economics underpinning the fishery in line with the goal of helping PNA Parties secure control of rights to tuna resources.