Majuro 25 January 2019: Expansion of the vessel day scheme (VDS) to cover longline fleets, development of new business plans to guide work of the Parties to the Nauru Office (PNAO), and stepped up management of fish aggregating devices are among key areas of work the PNAO and the Parties will focus on in 2019.

   “PNAO is moving to implement directives from our Ministers,” said PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru. “2019 will see a great deal of work to strengthen the PNAO to increase the efficiency of management of the many elements of the vessel day scheme and the fishery as a whole.”

   In December, PNA Ministers endorsed a new strategic plan that will see PNAO develop business plans to implement PNA’s three-prong tuna management strategy. Mr. Kumoru said PNAO is already working to develop the business plans so implementation of the strategic plan can roll out in 2020. The strategic plan is based on three core objectives — a stronger PNA Office, growing PNA influence on tropical tuna management, and identifying and capturing additional economic development opportunities.

   Work in numerous other areas is on PNAO’s 2019 agenda. These include:

   • Implementation of the vessel day scheme for longline vessels: With all PNA Parties now on board to implement the VDS for the longline industry, Mr. Kumoru sees the pace of implementation picking up in 2019. In addition, he noted, at least one non-PNA nation with a significant longline industry is keen to join the PNA VDS program. Although details are still to be worked out, “under the right circumstances, additional countries implementing the longline VDS will have a positive impact on management of the longline fishing industry in the region,” said Mr. Kumoru.

   • Electronic monitoring of longline vessels: The key to improved management of the longline fishery, especially in the high seas, is improving monitoring.  Federated States of Micronesia President Peter Christian in late 2018 declared the FSM’s commitment to achieving full tuna fishery transparency by 2023 through electronic monitoring. He has challenged PNA Members to meet this same goal through the Technology for Tuna Transparency (T-3) Challenge. In 2019, PNAO will be moving forward on the decision of Ministers to establish a PNA electronic monitoring program.

   • Eliminating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing:  Marshall Islands President Hilda C. Heine called on the region to end IUU fishing in five years by adopting five strategies over five years — a “5-for-5” program to abolish IUU fishing by 2023. This is a high priority for PNA Members, said Mr. Kumoru. “The success of PNA tuna management programs have greatly improved the sustainability of tuna stocks in the PNA region and the value of tuna fishing in PNA waters,” said Mr. Kumoru. In 2019, the PNA will increase its focus on eliminating IUU through strengthening Communication, Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Diplomacy.

   • Implementing a ban on high seas bunkering in 2020: During 2019, PNAO will be working with industry in preparation for implementing the PNA Leaders directive to end refueling on the high seas. From 1 January 2020, all bunkering must be performed in port or in designated locations within the exclusive economic zones of PNA Parties, said Mr. Kumoru. “We are implementing a decision of PNA Leaders that addresses broad issues around the tuna fishery,” he said. “These include reducing potential pollution and increasing monitoring of fishing vessel refueling that can help ensure there is no human and drug trafficking or smuggling occurring during these refueling operations. In-port refueling also increases economic spinoff opportunities for PNA Members. Currently a substantial amount of bunkering happens on the high seas where it goes unregulated and unmonitored.” The present unmonitored bunkering system increases the risk of other illegal activities beyond fishing, especially in the high seas, such as people smuggling and drug trafficking. 

   • Monitoring and management of fish aggregation devices (FADs): Over the past several years, PNAO and the Parties have focused increasing attention on monitoring FADs. “Because of this, we are starting to appreciate the rapid evolution of technology and the central role FADs play in increasing the efficiency of commercial fishing and the biological impacts of FAD use,” said Mr. Kumoru. “Without understanding and monitoring FADs, we are only half-managing our tuna fishery.” For vessels to register with the PNA, PNAO is now requiring that fishing companies provide FAD serial numbers and list which vessels each FAD is associated with. PNAO has sponsored a series of FAD workshops over the past two years and has scheduled a FAD workshop for mid-February in Majuro to further its work in managing FADs in the tuna fishery.

   • Future capitalization of the VDS: In another VDS-related development, PNA Parties are considering the concept of capitalization of the VDS to add value to the system. For this, PNA Parties are looking at various options for increasing the certainty of the VDS, including the option of establishing fishing day allocations for each of the Parties for an agreed period of time, said Mr. Kumoru. “Establishing a long-term allocation of fishing days for each Party would provide more certainty to industry and countries in managing the VDS,” he said.

   • Encouraging collaboration of Parties to pool fishing days: Sale of pool fishing days for 2019 set an all-time record — well above the minimum fishing day price of $8,000 established by PNA. For 2019, five PNA Parties pooled fishing days to achieve the higher price for multi-zone access. “We’ve seen the value of pool days increase greatly over the past several years and encourage Parties to continue to expand these innovative ways of adding value to the VDS,” said Mr. Kumoru. “It is demonstrating the true value of the fishery.”

   • Value adding and entrepreneurship for domestic development: Mr. Kumoru sees the need to “grow entrepreneurial thinking” within PNA Parties to encourage greater domestic participation in the fishing industry. “Business people and entrepreneurs grow the economies of our islands,” said Mr. Kumoru.  “We need to involve our own business people to build the economy.” The PNA CEO said he would like to see “our own people encouraged to develop commercial opportunities based on the tuna fishery. Instead of just bringing in outside investors, let’s reach out to our own entrepreneurs to show them the opportunities.” Mr. Kumoru said building an entrepreneurial mindset of people in the islands will lead to increasing the value of the fishery domestically and building business opportunities, which translate directly to more jobs and local economic activity.

   “PNAO has a big agenda for 2019 that aims to build on the strength of the VDS, which is the foundation of PNA’s management of the tuna fishery,” said Mr. Kumoru. He said he looked forward to engagement with each PNA Party and various stakeholders in developing these many opportunities during 2019 and beyond.