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PNA meeting to focus on western and central Pacific tuna fishery

Source: Media release, PNA

Majuro, MARSHALL ISLANDS — Just days after the UN Oceans Conference in New York City called for action to protect the world’s oceans and to address over-fishing, leaders from the islands that control waters where 50 percent of the world’s skipjack tuna is caught are meeting in the Marshall Islands to focus on management of this vast western and central Pacific tuna fishery.   

Fisheries management meetings of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) kicked off Saturday 17 June in Majuro with officials meeting through Tuesday 20 June in preparation for the annual PNA Ministerial Meeting.

From 21-23 June, fisheries ministers from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tokelau will adopt policies governing the multi-billion dollar western and central Pacific tuna fishery. 

The annual PNA Ministerial meeting will hear stock assessments on the state of all tuna species in our fishery, updates on business developments and the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), and then adopt policy to guide conservation and management of our fishery, said Ludwig Kumoru, CEO of the PNA, who is based in Majuro.

PNA members have for years been leading efforts to sustainably manage our fishery for the benefit of current and future generations.

Many important items are on PNA’s agenda for its annual ministerial meeting in Majuro, including:

•  Scientists with the New Caledonia-based Pacific Community (SPC), which oversees stock assessments in the region, will be delivering a report on the status of tuna stocks in the region.  

• Setting the number of fishing days for both purse seine and longline vessels (known as “total allowed effort”) under the Vessel Day Scheme for 2018 and 2019, as well as agreeing on the “parties allowed effort”, which is the number of days allotted to each of the eight members and Tokelau under the VDS.   

•  Review of PNA proposals to address the expiring Tropical Tuna Measure through the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The current conservation measure in place expires at the end of 2017 and will be a major point of discussion at the WCPFC annual meeting in early December. The PNA will review harvest control strategies for tuna specifies in the fishery with the intention of making recommendations to the WCPFC for a conservation measure to replace the one expiring this year.   

•  Review of value-added business initiatives, including PNA’s Pacifical co-brand with large food businesses such as John West in Australia that is marketing sustainably caught tuna from PNA waters that is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council tuna caught without use of fish aggregating devices (FADs).  Tuna provided under the MSC/PNA free school fishery’s strict chain of custody rules is increasingly in demand the volume sold in 2016 increasing to 59,586 tons compared to 6,896 tons the previous year. PNA forecasts over 100,000 tons of skipjack caught in this sustainable manner will be sold in 2017 as market demand continues to increase.  

Various organizations representing tuna industry interests have recently targeted PNA’s free-school fishery for objection and criticism during a regular review process this year. PNA is responding to the industry challenges of its MSC-certified fishery and will brief fisheries ministers on developments.

“This is an all-out assault on the integrity of the Vessel Day Scheme and the sovereign right of the (PNA) Parties to manage our exclusive economic zones,” said PNA Chairman Glen Joseph, the Director of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority.

“PNA has carefully managed its MSC-certified free school fishery as demonstrated by our ‘chain of custody’ system, which is setting a global standard for excellence.

“Expansion plans for the PNA Office in Majuro will be presented by host Marshall Islands, which is planning to build a new facility to house the PNA Office to reflect its growth as an organization since the office was opened in Majuro in 2010.

“The PNA has consistently led the way in fisheries conservation and management measures,” said Mr. Kumoru. “Our Vessel Day Scheme works as a conservation method by limiting fishing effort while affording our members increasing benefits from our fishery, not only in revenue but also in spin-off business ventures such as small scale tuna canning.”