RMI President Calls For Unity Among Fishing Nations

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‘Solidarity’ of PNA bring ‘an upsurge of revenue’

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, June 16, 2014) - Solidarity of an eight-member Pacific fisheries bloc has resulted in "an upsurge of revenue" from tuna since 2010 and is key to taking management of the resource to the next level, said Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak Thursday.

He was opening the Parties to the Nauru Agreement ninth annual PNA fisheries ministers’ meeting in Majuro.

Loeak’s repeated emphasis on the benefits of unity underscored PNA’s early success at more than tripling income from tuna fishing to its island members, and its challenges as the members attempt this week to solve the increasingly contentious issue of allocation of fishing days between domestic and distant water fishing fleets.

PNA has set fishing day limits at under 50,000 days for the year to both sustain the fishery and drive the price, currently set at a minimum of $6,000 per day for purse seiner, the vessels that employ huge nets to scoop up schools of tuna. But just six months into 2014, some fleets have already exhausted their days and are clamoring to buy more.

Also on the table at this week’s ministers’ meeting is a proposal to raise the $6,000 fishing day fee up to $10,000.

[PIR editor’s note: Radio New Zealand International reported that "After two days of meetings in the Marshall Islands, fisheries ministers from PNA nations agreed to raise the fishing day fee from 6000 to 8000 US dollars per boat from next year, in an attempt to raise over $370 million. ... The ministers also issued a strongly-worded communiqué putting the US industry on notice that the $63 million it has agreed to pay annually to fish in the region wasn't enough."]

"The PNA has shown how valuable the tuna resource is," Loeak said Thursday. He emphasized the power of PNA as a group. "The need for enhanced, closer cooperation has never been more crucial if we want to continue reaping economic gains from our tuna resources," he said, adding that PNA was engaged in a "balancing act" to harmonize conservation measures with economic needs of each member. He said PNA needed to ensure that "we don’t bear the brunt of (management) measures we adopt," a reference to the need for distant water fishing fleets to shoulder a greater share of conservation requirements to sustain the tuna fishery.

In addition to raising the fishing day fee for 2015 and beyond, the meeting is expected to set the number of fishing days allowed for 2015 and 2016, review plans for implementing the first-ever "vessel day scheme" or VDS for longline fishing boats that will mirror the VDS that governs purse seiners in the region, and decide on distribution of days for the 40 U.S. flagged purse seiners that fish according to a recently approved treaty with Pacific island nations.

PNA members are: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Palau.

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