Tuna Market Intelligence - Issue 48

14 December 2016


Skipjack tuna prices in Bangkok rallied in mid November to around $1500 per mt and are reported to be expected to increase to around $1600 per mt in December.
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Tuna Commission wraps up without completing to-do list

There was plenty of drama at the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Nadi, Fiji.  Foreign fishing nations all pushed for limits on the numbers of purse seine vessels designed to protect their fleets from the effects of the PNA purse seine Vessel Day Scheme which is causing a steady reduction in foreign fleets as domestic PNA vessels replace them under the Scheme.  PNA Members rejected these and other proposals designed to undermine the Vessel Day Scheme.

One of the outspoken Pacific nations, Tuvalu, said it was unhappy that it is enforcing bigeye conservation measures that cause it economic hardship while the bigeye catches of the high seas longline fleets that largely benefit from longline conservation are not properly controlled.

Tuvalu enforced a moratorium on use of fish aggregation devices (FADs) for a fourth month based on the WCPFC’s decision on bigeye conservation.

“Because purse-seining in Tuvalu is highly FAD-dependent, this has greatly compromised our fishery revenues,” Tuvalu’s Fisheries Minister Puakena Boreham told the Tuna Commission. She said while Tuvalu complies with the WCPFC conservation measure, “other WCPFC coastal states have failed to impose the FAD closure in their waters, and the system of bigeye catch limits for longliners did not deliver the bigeye catch reductions expected from the measure,” said Minister Boreham. “

Later, the EU tried to introduce a measure which would have given it the upper hand in fisheries negotiations, by making all bilateral agreements public.

Solomon Islands head of delegation Farrel Lasi told the WCPFC plenary that Forum Fisheries Agency members did not support the EU proposal, which also had support of the United States. Lasi said their opposition was not because they feared transparency but that it would give the powerful distant water fishing nations an unfair advantage particularly for “those of us who have competitive tender processes either in operation or in the process of development.”

Meanwhile, PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said an independent review of PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) issued last year said there were no obvious benefits from providing such information.

“It appears that VDS partners have little if anything to gain by making trade information available to the distant water fishing companies and nations,” the 2015 VDS review said, adding: “The European Union has a long history of using its powers to protect the commercial interests of its fishing industry in distant waters worldwide.”

After this and more to-and-fro between the Pacific Islands and the fishing nations (including EU, US, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and others) a composite text was prepared for further discussion on  a Bridging Tropical Tuna Conservation and Management Measure which will be progressed in 2017. Major features of the PNA proposal for the measure include  zone-based longline effort limits based on the PNA longline Vessel Day Scheme, tighter control of longline fishing in the high seas, including on a ban on transhipment of frozen bigeye there and maintenance of the 3-month FAD closure in Exclusive Economic Zones and the 12 month FAD closure in high seas, and catch retention.

PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said the PNA achieved a “majority of our pre-WCPFC goals”, noting in particular the agreement on a measure for observer safety,  andprogress on a harvest strategy for skipjack tuna. However, he lamented the lack of effective control on the bigeye catches of some major longline fleets.. PNA Members also rejected a number of proposals from fishing state sdesigned to undermine the VDS – a proposal from Japan to limit the number of boats, from US to get more high seas fishing days and from EU to get confidential agreement and trade information.  

American Samoa plant halts production this week

Tri Marine International’s Samoa Tuna Processors Inc. canning plant is scheduled to halt production December 16. Tri Marine will maintain a workforce of only about 100 out of 900 now employed. CEO Joe Hamby said he hoped tuna boats will continue delivering their catches to the StarKist canning plant in Pago Pago. “If (StarKist) doesn’t want it, we will take it, sort and freeze it, and sell to markets,” he said.

Catching and producing tuna in the Pacific is a “good story to bring to the market,” said Hamby. “Some suppliers appreciate this supply chain that provides jobs in the islands. But the harsh reality is that most of the market doesn’t care about this, they only care about the price. This is the tragedy of American Samoa.” He said Tri Marine’s “priority is to re-start the canning operation in American Samoa and if we can’t, we will sell it to someone who will.”

Nauru’s sad loss

Nauru Fisheries Minister Valdon Dowiyogo, passed away unexpectedly while on an official visit to Russia this month. Condolences from regional agencies poured in after the news of the loss of the 13-year veteran of Nauru’s Parliament. The son of former Nauru President Bernard Dowiyogo, he was 48.

PNA’s day becomes a UN international day

May 2 was declared World Tuna Day by PNA ministers in 2011 in Alotau, PNG. Last week the day’s status was elevated following UN ratification to make it an international day and part of the UN calendar.

PNA Chairperson Sonia Schutz of Kiribati said the PNA was gratified by the decision: “Adoption of the resolution will demonstrate global appreciation of the need for wise conservation and management of our tuna resources.” It will be interesting to see the Day, which has a @WorldTunaDay Twitter feed become bigger and more global next year.

Tokelau says Vessel Day Scheme allows them to support Samoan economy

Meanwhile the 5th smallest country in the world, Tokelau reported its gains have been mighty in the past few years. They attributed their success to its association with the PNA, successful multilateral negotiations for the recently inked US Treaty and better bilateral fishing deals.

Tokelau’s fishery generates 99 per cent of the country’s non-grant revenue, with the Purse Seine fishery generating 90 per cent of the total income estimated for 2016 at US$13.5million. Prior to becoming involved in the PNA Vessel Day Scheme, Tokelau’s average return from its fisheries was less than US$1million.

Fisheries Advisor Stan Crothers told Pacific journalist L.A.F Tauafiafi that the benefits of Tokelau’s fishing fortunes were now being spread to Samoa. Since Tokelau does not have ports or processing factories and its 25 licensed longline vessels fishing in its EEZ are catching a lot of fish most longline fish are landed in Samoa, supporting the processing plant in Apia.

“This is a great example where Tokelau and also Samoa are benefitting. People are employed; facilities and supporting services are utilized. So it’s a win-win. That is a success story based on Tokelau’s tuna fishery the majority of people don’t know… how Tokelau is adding value to Samoa’s economy,” commented Crothers.

Happy holidays from Tuna Market Intelligence

2016 has been a big year in more ways than one and its time to take a break. Our team would like to thank all our Pacific reporters, fisheries and industry leaders that have contributed to this newsletter and wish our readers a Happy Holidays. We’ll be back with the next edition in January 2017.

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Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA)
PNA Office PO Box 3992

Majuro, Marshall Islands
MH 96960
Phone: +692 625 7626/7627
Fax: +692 625 7628

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