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London arbitrator approves world’s first certified purse seiner fishery
3:24 pm GMT+12, 19/12/2011, Marshall Islands
The approval Wednesday by an independent arbiter in London of a Pacific fisheries management program is being hailed as a world first that will provide financial incentives for fishing nations to sustainably harvest tuna in the region.

“This will change fisheries management as we know it,” Glen Joseph, the director of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority, said.

He was reacting to London-based independent adjudicator Melanie Carter’s decision to reject objections by some tuna industry players to a plan that will allow a cartel of small island nations to enforce new standards controlling the lucrative purse seiner fishing industry in the Pacific.
 
“The certification of free-school catches of skipjack tuna by purse seiners is the first of its kind,” Joseph said.

Carter’s decision sets in motion a plan developed by U.K.-based Intertek Marine Moody Ltd. for the skipjack tuna industry to meet global sustainability standards set by the Marine Stewardship Council. The Council is an international organization that works with fisheries, seafood companies, scientists, conservation groups and the public to promote best practices in seafood. Its certification program recognizes and rewards sustainable fishing.

“People want to know they are buying sustainably caught tuna and will pay a premium for it,” said Dr. Transform Aqorau.

Aqorau directs the Parties to the Nauru Agreement office in the Marshall Islands. The PNA plans to market “free-school” catches of skipjack tuna at a premium price to European and American wholesalers and retailers.

The eight PNA members — Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Palau, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu — control waters where 68 percent of all Pacific skipjack tuna was caught last year, and are leveraging that control into higher access fees and the new plan for certifying sustainably caught tuna.

The PNA focus on free-school caught fish will provide a financial incentive for fishing companies to reduce use of fish aggregation devices, or FADs, that are viewed as destructive to the long-term health of tuna stocks in the Pacific. FADs are floating platforms that fishing boats drop into the ocean to attract schools of fish. “By certifying free-school caught tuna, we can reduce the negative impact of FADs on tuna stocks,” said Aqorau.

“Right now (for distant water fishing nations) it is a race to get tuna to market to meet their quota so using FADs may be the best way to do that,” Joseph said. “But if catching free-school tuna gives more bang for the buck, which will they choose? If they can sell FAD-free certified tuna at $2,000 a ton compared to FAD-caught tuna at $700 a ton, which will industry do?”

Several United States and European industry organizations, including the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, had objected to the PNA plan during the required public review process saying PNA does not have the ability to manage the tuna industry and questioning the scientific backing for portions of the plan. But Carter dismissed these objections saying that the “certification body has adequately dealt with the matters raised.”

“This has taken almost two years of work,” said Aqorau. “It adds value to the fishery and most importantly creates an incentive arrangement for managing the tuna stocks because it will give a premium to free-school caught tuna.”

The challenge for PNA is to meet the Marine Stewardship Council’s high standards of accountability as it begins implementation of the management program, Aqorau said.  The PNA is required to develop a tuna harvesting strategy and catch limit benchmarks to guide the annual tuna haul, he said.



SOURCE: MARIANAS VARIETY/PACNEWS

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