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Tuna News from PNA

compiled by Samoa News staff


Seven PNA nations have signed on to extend the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) to long line fishing in addition to PNA’s well-established VDS for purse seiners and are looking to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission for support. The roll out of the VDS for long line fishing is going well and PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru adds that several countries outside the PNA are expressing interest in adopting the scheme for their own long line fisheries.

In defending the move to require longliners to adhere to VDS rules in PNA waters, Kumoru said, “We have to have management of longliners on the high seas.” Both he and Joseph described the longline industry as a significant “gap” in the region’s improving management of its tuna fishery. Currently the long line vessels are not required to have full observer coverage, and therefore do not collect or report data on catch or bycatch amounts. They also do not submit transshipment data.

The VDS has been key in keeping the stocks healthy in the Pacific region’s purse seine fishery and has also helped PNA nations reap huge economic benefits. Revenue to PNA countries has risen from USD 60 million to almost USD 500 million since the implementation of VDS.


PEW Charitable Trusts is disappointed with the tropical tuna management decisions made at the annual Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting.

Amanda Nickson, director of international fisheries for PEW states, “Tropical tuna management in the western and central Pacific Ocean took a disappointing turn when governments at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission agreed to a measure that does not achieve the scientific advice, leading to an unacceptable risk that the bigeye tuna population will drop below healthy levels. Despite substantive efforts by the Chair of the Commission, the outcome is disappointing, and once again highlights a lack of effective communication and negotiation between Commission members in the lead up to this meeting.”

Nickson continued advising, “Commission members should ensure negotiations start immediately toward a stronger measure next year, to ensure to precautionary, science-based management of its fisheries. The health of tropical tunas in the Pacific, and the communities who depend on them, requires it, and cannot wait another year.”

Included in the measure is a reversal to 2016 catch limits for line fishing, a 10 percent increase over the 2017 catch limit.  The purse seine fishery will submit to a three-month fish aggregating device FAD closure in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and two more in the high seas.

PEW states,  “the result is greater than 20 percent risk of the bigeye stock falling below the limit reference point (an agreed level of biomass that is undesirable) sometime in the next 30 years.”


Civil Society Organizations have called for banning transshipment by longliners on high seas at the Western and Central Pacific Commission (WCPFC). They have asked for the ban to be in place until a system is in place ensuring Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated activities are not occurring.

Jamie Gibbon, Officer for Global Tuna Conservation (GTC) at PEW told PACNEWS that 52 percent of longliners operating in the WCPFC have authorization to ship without any clear guidelines. He explained that, “One of the biggest issues in the region is that WCPFC initially envisioned transshipment as a rare occasion – that it will only occur at sea if that was the only way that a fishing industry could operate.”

Gibbon also commented on independent observers saying that “One of the other issues is independent observer reports are often not submitted to the WCPFC. Last year there were approximately 900 at-sea transshipments and only one observer report made it to the Secretariat.”

Fiji’s Fisheries Minister, Commander Semi Koroilavesau stated that the overfishing in the high seas from the world’s largest fishing nations, including China, Japan and South Korea, was threatening tuna stocks in the Pacific Ocean and called on the WCPFC for action.  He criticized the previous commission saying, “inaction of the commission is negatively contributing to over-capacity in the high seas resulting in low catches in the zone.”


Zone-based management of tuna fisheries in the western and central Pacific works effectively and there is no interest in replacing it with a different management arrangement, leaders of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) said recently.

In response to some distant water fishing nations who feel the Parties of the Nauru Agreement should honor “flag state” rights in their waters, PNAO states that the parties are in agreement over how they wish to manage their waters and have sovereign rights to do so. Marine Resources Authority Director Glen Joseph, who chairs the PNA, spoke for them saying, “The VDS (Vessel Day Scheme) is effective in both conservation and economic development.”

The eight PNA nations instituted the VDS for purse seine fishing in 2007. PNA members agree on a limited number of fishing days for the year based on scientific advice about the status of the tuna stocks. Since 2012, WCPFC has allocated PNA a pool of data based upon 2010 effort levels. Fishing days are then allocated by country and sold to the highest bidder. Conditions for using the purchased days include high seas closures to fishing, controls on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), protection for whale sharks and 100% coverage of purse seine fishing vessels with observers.

The vessel day scheme is unique to PNA but has proven to work well in terms of sustaining the healthiest tuna stocks in the world, collecting scientific data and generating revenue for their nations. As an effort control VDS also removes incentives to high grade and mis-declare catches which is a major compliance issue with Quota regimes.

Kumoru said developments in islands such as the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Marshall Islands — all of which are increasing their domestic “footprint” in the fishery — show the future of the fishery for the islands.

Mr. Kumoru added that one of PNA’s primary goals “is to make sure our people are involved in the fishery, not spectators.”


New Zealand’s Matthew Hooper has been appointed deputy Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). FFA’s Director General, James Movick was pleased to make the announcement and said that he will take over in mid-January.

Hooper grew up in Tokelau and FFA sees that as a big plus. Tokelau is a New Zealand territory comprised of three remote atolls, accessible only by boat. With a population of 1499, their main natural economic resource is the fishery of the exclusive economic zone. Hooper began working in fisheries in 1976.

According to Movick, another key reason for his appointment is Hooper’s past involvement and performance with the Treaty of Waitangi and settlement of the injustices done to the Maori people by the British Crown in the late 1800s.

Movik stated that, “He is well known and respected for his capability to work with people and it’s a very tricky situation to help resolve issues. And I think at the end of the day that was the principal basis for the recommendation from the interview panel comprised of five members of the Forum Fisheries Committee.”


Skipjack tuna prices have continued to fall on the back on increased deliveries due from the region. The December Bangkok prices are expected to be between USD 1,750/mt and USD 1,800. Meanwhile Manta, Ecuador prices continue high.

(Reprinted with permission from PNA)