Fishery Group Threatens Sanctions On Distant Water Fishing Nations

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PNA: Foreign nations are hindering domestic fishery development

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, June 15, 2015) – Pacific islands that want to expand domestic commercial fisheries operations are threatening distant water fishing nations with sanctions for blocking their fisheries development.

Tuvalu’s fisheries Minister Pita Elisala announced in Pohnpei Thursday that his nation is not selling fishing days to distant water fishing countries that have blocked initiatives to develop their domestic fishery.

Elisala was speaking during the two-day Parties to the Nauru Agreement or PNA annual meeting of ministers that ended Friday in Pohnpei.

Last month, PNA officials wrote to fisheries officials in Japan and Taiwan and to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation requesting meetings to resolve what PNA CEO Dr. Transform Aqorau described last week as "an embargo against island domestic development."

The PNA is a bloc of eight nations — Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau — that control waters where about 50 percent of the global supply of skipjack tuna is caught.

Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands have attempted to get purse seiners from Taiwan, but these efforts have been prevented, said Aqorau. Japan officials met with PNA representatives last month to address the issue, while PNA is still waiting to meet with officials from Taiwan and ISSF, said Aqorau.

Elisala, who did not name what countries were preventing fisheries developments in Tuvalu, said Tuvalu is concerned with the way these nations have treated them and is refusing to sell them fishing days.

Each of the eight PNA members are allotted a percentage of a total 44,000 fishing days a year to sell to both domestic and foreign fishing fleets.

"Tuvalu has already started this process, by declining to sell fishing days to certain nations and fleets in 2015," he told the PNA ministerial meeting in Pohnpei, Thursday.

"Tuvalu is a small player in the PNA, and this move on its own is not likely to have much impact on the distant water fishing nation fleets concerned."

Elisala also observed it could have negative repercussion for Tuvalu that depends on donor aid from these same countries. "It is also a dangerous game, as it threatens broader international relationships, including aid flows," he said. "However we feel that distant water fishing nations need to be shown that we will not always submit to their threatening, bullying or blocking tactics, and we hope that other countries will begin to collectively use the strong bargaining power that PNA can exercise as a coherent group."

PNA officials in March proposed a punitive plan to cancel fishing licenses for one or two vessels from each nation that is identified as preventing expansion of domestic commercial fishing operations among PNA members. This is on the table at the PNA ministers meeting for approval.

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