Winner, Seafood Champion Awards Vision Category
A coalition of eight Pacific island nations nominated for successfully putting into place and enforcing effective fisheries management strategies and state-of-the-art technologies to protect their globally important tuna resource. Through unprecedented collaboration, cooperation, and a collective vision, the eight Parties to the Nauru Agreement nations are securing and strengthening fisheries rights for more sustainably harvested and managed tuna resources from the Pacific Island nations.
Some of their steps above and beyond the norm include:
- Requiring a Vessel Monitoring System which allows continuous monitoring of all vessels fishing in the region
- Initiating a FAD (Fish Aggregating Device) penalty charge which incentivises avoidance of FADs, which have a higher proportion of associated bycatch
- Developing an innovative electronic reporting system, including an electronic observer platforms using tablet computers
- Banning the setting of purse seines on cetaceans or whale sharks
The PNA’s success is a great success story in fisheries conservation, management, and social justice.
PNA Members are: Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
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The PNA controls the world’s largest tuna purse seine fishery. They control around 50% of the global supply of skipjack tuna and came together in recognition of the need to better manage the tuna resources of the region through their collective power and influence over their respective Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). Consistent with the research of Nobel Prize economist Elinor Ostrom, the PNA has soundly exhibited how local control of resources can and does lead to sustainable management by the resource owners with a corresponding economic windfall.
The PNA, through the leadership of their ministers and the direction of the executive, have charted a course for a sustainable future for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean tuna fisheries. They have acted in advance of or where the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) has failed to act including:
- Instituting high seas closures to fishing and controls on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs);
- Introducing catch retention requirements to prevent wasteful dumping of lower value tuna;
- Establishing 100% observer coverage on all purse seine vessels fishing in the PNA region;
- Establishing effort-based mechanisms to reduce capacity in the purse seine fishery through an input control known as the Vessel Days at Sea (VDS) system;
- Requiring a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) which allows continuous monitoring of all vessels fishing in the region;
- Initiating a FAD penalty charge which incentivises avoidance of FADs, which have a higher proportion of associated bycatch;
- Initiating FAD tracking, monitoring and registration as a means of managing FADs, which complements VMS data for vessel positions that can be interfaced with vessel position data and also provide comprehensive oceanographic and fisheries information;
- Developing an innovative electronic reporting system, including an electronic observer platforms using tablet computers;
- Banning setting purse seines on cetaceans or whale sharks; and
- Firmly establishing a limit reference point and target reference point in PNA waters while strongly advocating the same before the WCPFC.In short, the PNA is aggressively pursuing novel tools to effectively manage their fishery for the long term. Through the VDS, PNA members agree on a limited number of fishing days for the year, based on scientific advice about the tuna stock status. Fishing days are then allocated by country and sold to the highest bidder. The PNA has also independently sought and secured MSC certification of the Free-School portion of their fishery while advocating for reduced reliance on FADs, which are the primary driver in the depletion of overfished bigeye tuna in the region, and is currently pursuing MSC certification of yellowfin tuna. I can think of no other institution globally that has exhibited a greater vision for the future than this group of eight nations, some of which are wholly dependent on the sustainability of the tuna resource for their future existence. The PNA’s current and future success represents the single greatest success story in fisheries conservation, management, and social justice in recent decades.
What local and/or international partners does PNA work with?
- Greenpeace International
- Pew Charitable Trusts
- Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
- Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)
- Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)
- Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA)
- TriMarine International
- Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
How well does the PNA demonstrate the qualities of the category?
The PNA has demonstrated a vision that significantly advances sustainable seafood through policy and conservation tools by bringing disparate government interests together in a coalition such that they control control over 50% of the global supply of skipjack tuna. By doing so, they have a greater say over the sustainability of the resource than they ever would individually or as part of the existing RFMO structure. Sustainability is not just a word for these countries, it is a reality of their future existence! They have made sustainability possible through conservation tools such as the VDS, eReporting, and satellite monitoring.
In what ways has PNA positively affected, or mitigated negative impacts of, the seafood industry?
The PNA has independently implemented measures to reduce the impact on overfished bigeye tuna as well as to affect capacity limits on the directed skipjack tuna fishery. They have taken up advancements in technology including electronic reporting, comprehensive observer coverage using tablet computers, and comprehensive satellite monitoring. Chain of custody and traceability systems for their MSC product represent one of the most robust on the planet. In taking these actions, they are leading in efforts to conserve tuna stocks in the region and the world.
In what way do you feel the PNA’s story could inspire others and communicate successes achieved in sustainable seafood?
Whether implementing basic capacity management or fisheries management principles, the PNA is doing everything possible to ensure that tuna stocks under its authority are managed sustainably. Most PNA nations are wholly dependent on the tuna resource simply because it is the only resource they have. Without the tuna fisheries, many countries, like Tuvalu or Nauru, would have no other economic opportunity. Thus, it is in their self-interest to sustainably manage their resources. What is more inspirational in the seafood world today than countries working collectively to ensure their long-term sustainable future? Consumers can be confident that tuna from the PNA is sustainable!
How would the PNA’s work serve as a replicable model for others who want to have a similar impact?
The PNA follows the example set by communities that have endeavoured to regain control over their fisheries such that they can manage those fisheries sustainably. They’ve shown that they can work together to implement measures designed to protect the sustainability of the resource. They took action where no one else would! Unity is a powerful concept that could and should be replicated across fisheries management structures.
“Being a Seafood Champion Awards finalist is very humbling and something that I feel very proud about, because I know that we put in a lot of work to ensure the sustainability of these stocks, and I didn’t expect that we would get this far.
“At the end of the day, we have nowhere else to go—we have to ensure the sustainability of our stocks. Fishing boats can go to other oceans. We can’t. We don’t have that luxury. So we are here to stay, and therefore we are here to ensure that the resources in our waters are protected for the welfare of our people.”
—Transform Aqorau, Chief Executive Officer, Parties to the Nauru Agreement