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Ministers from the eight members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) agreed Friday 13 June to far-reaching decisions that will increase their nations’ economic benefits from the tuna fishery, while expanding management and conservation measures over tuna stocks.
The Ninth Meeting of PNA Ministers meeting in Majuro June 12-13, 2014 agreed to raise the fishing day fee from the current benchmark of US$6,000 to US$8,000 starting January 1, 2015.
“The decision to increase the benchmark fee next January will greatly benefit PNA members,” said Dr. Transform Aqorau, the organization’s CEO, after the meeting wrapped up Friday. “With the decisions approved by the Ministers in Majuro, PNA will continue to increase the share of the tuna industry flowing to our islands. In addition to economic benefits, capping the number of fishing days available in 2014 and 2015 will help sustain and conserve tuna resources for the future, while increasing the value of fishing days.”
The decision to raise the fishing day benchmark has implications for the United States Treaty and the PNA is putting the U.S. government and its tuna industry on notice that they will have to increase the amount provided in the treaty to meet the new minimum benchmark fishing day fee in order to continue fishing in the region in 2015 and beyond. “We won't agree to anything after 2015 unless it reflects the new benchmark price,” said Dr. Aqorau. The next United States Treaty negotiating session is in Auckland in July.
In increasing the fishing day benchmark to US$8,000, Ministers reaffirmed that the benchmark is intended to apply to foreign fishing vessels and that ongoing consideration was essential for domestic fleets.
Implementation of a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) for purse seiners fishing in PNA waters has resulted in a nearly four-fold increase in revenues to the eight member nations since 2010. The Ministers noted with appreciation the positive response to their call in 2013 for improved management of non-fishing days in the VDS, which has led to a standardized definition for non-fishing days throughout PNA waters and a tightening of previous loopholes that the fishing industry exploited in 2013.
“These changes have contributed to improving the effectiveness of the VDS in limiting fishing effort and making days more valuable in 2014,” said Dr. Aqorau. Ministers also noted that trading between Parties had increased and this improved the effectiveness and value of the VDS.
Other key decisions include:
• Ministers endorsed the recommendations from Officials to set the Total Allowable Effort for 2014 and 2015 at 44,623 days per year.
• Ministers welcomed progress on development of the first VDS for longline fishing vessels. At the meeting, the new longline VDS plan was signed by Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands.
• With the benchmark price set to increase to US$8,000 in 2015, Ministers agreed that the financial terms of the United States Treaty fall well short of what is now the regional norm. The Ministers called for amendment to the financial arrangement for 2015 and beyond to reflect the increasing value of access being provided to the U.S. fleet. The Ministers also reaffirmed that national laws must apply to U.S. vessels, in the same way that they apply to other vessels fishing in PNA waters. PNA Ministers supported the Forum Fisheries Commission decision to reach agreement on outstanding issues with the U.S. at the next session to be held in New Zealand in July.
• Ministers confirmed the economic importance of domestic purse seine development to some Parties to promote sustainable national economic development, including such developments as the FSM Agreement (FSMA). Ministers also noted the significant concerns raised by some Parties about the lack of adequate financial return for the value of access granted to FSMA vessels.
• Despite welcoming progress made by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in adopting and applying measures to conserve and manage tuna stocks, the Ministers noted with concern shortfalls in measures adopted at the last Commission meeting for conservation and management of bigeye tuna, arising largely from the continuing opposition by some fishing states to apply effective measures for management of high seas fishing. Ministers called on the WCPFC to ensure a greater contribution to bigeye tuna conservation from the distant water longline fleets that largely benefit from this stock from catches taken in the high seas.
• Ministers also expressed grave concern over continuing abuse of WCPFC measures by some fishing states to obstruct the domestic tuna development of Small Island Developing States and strongly supported the WCPFC requirement for Commission Members to support the ongoing development and strengthening of the VDS to manage the purse seine fishery. Ministers called on all members of the WCPFC to ensure that conservation measures do not transfer a disproportionate burden to Small Island Developing States in accordance with the WCPFC Convention and the WCPFC-endorsed resolution on the Special Requirements of Small Island Developing States.
• Ministers signed a resolution to formalise the amendment to the Third Implementing Arrangement that was agreed to by Ministers in July 2013 to remove the prohibition of fishing in the Eastern High Seas area adjacent to PNA waters.
The Ninth Meeting of PNA Ministers was held in Majuro, Marshall Islands on 12-13 June, 2014, and was attended by Ministers of Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Kiribati, Republic of Nauru, Republic of Palau, Independent State of Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu. Ministers thanked the Honourable Alfred Ghiro (Solomon Islands) for his leadership in chairing PNA Ministers over the past year and welcomed the Honourable Elisala Pita (Tuvalu) as the PNA Ministerial Chair.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are eight Pacific Island countries that control the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery supplying 50 percent of the world’s skipjack tuna (a popular tuna for canned products). They are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.
PNA has been a champion for marine conservation and management, taking unilateral action to conserve overfished bigeye tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including closures of high seas pockets, seasonal bans on use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD), satellite tracking of boats, in port transshipment, 100 percent observer coverage of purse seiners, closed areas for conservation, mesh size regulations, tuna catch retention requirements, hard limits on fishing effort, prohibitions against targeting whale sharks, shark action plans, and other conservation measures to protect the marine ecosystem.
For more information, contact Dr. Transform Aqorau, CEO, PNA Office, on email: email@example.com or by phone, (692) 625-7626.
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