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Three PNA countries close waters to foreign tuna fleets to maintain sustainable fishing limits

As 2011 comes to a close, three PNA countries have taken the bold step of closing their waters to foreign fishing vessels in order to maintain sustainable tuna fishing limits, reported the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).  Closing their fishing waters are: Solomon Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu.

The tiny atoll nation of Tuvalu was the latest to announce it was closing its fishery last week, notifying all foreign purse seine fishing vessels they are no longer permitted to fish for tuna in Tuvalu waters.

Tuvalu’s closure follows the decision by Nauru a fortnight ago to close their waters after they reached their fishing limits (comments by Nauruan officials available on ).

In June this year, Solomon Islands Cabinet decided to close their fishery (comments by Solomon Islands Acting Minister available on ).

A key part of the PNA’s conservation and management of tuna is limiting the number of days fishing vessels can fish in the PNA’s vast 14 million square kilometres of Pacific Ocean – an area which provides around 30% of the world’s tuna supply.

The PNA operates a Vessel Day Scheme for foreign purse seine vessels where a total number of days for fishing are set for the PNA area, and then divided between the eight PNA ocean states which can also trade days between them. If a PNA member country uses up their days, they must close the fishery and purchase fishing days from another country so as to keep overall fishing effort in the PNA area within sustainable limits.

In 2010, PNA committed to have hard limits on fishing, beginning in 2011, which resulted in fishery closures in three PNA members (Tuvalu, Nauru and Solomon Islands).  Solomon Islands then bought fishing days from the Marshall Islands through bilateral trading. Solomon Islands then sold these days to Korea so only Korean purse seine vessels currently fish in Solomon Islands waters in 2011. In 2011, Papua New Guinea too made use of the Vessel Day Scheme by buying fishing days from Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau so PNG can continue to sell fishing days in its waters and keep its fishery open.

PNA Director Dr Transform Aqorau said, “Despite the challenges they have as developing countries, Nauru, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands have enforced their fishing day limits by closing their waters to foreign tuna fleets. They have made a short term sacrifice of revenue in order to make a longer term gain of getting a higher price for their fishing days and to ensure fishing is kept in sustainable limits. We are all very proud of our leaders who have taken these hard decisions to help the PNA reach towards its goal of creating the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery.”

(Source: Anouk Ride, Media Consultant for PNA tuna