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PNA decisions painful but necessary

Several issues to iron out in Honiara

We should be so lucky to have the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) having such problems like this—what to do with US$93 million and how to distribute this pot of money resulting from last year’s successful conclusion of negotiations with the U.S. government and its tuna industry? This is just one of several pivotal decisions facing the PNA when islands fisheries officials meet in Honiara on March 5-14. Over the past four years, PNA has forced a paradigm shift in the commercial fishing industry in the region, giving islands the greatest control they’ve ever enjoyed over the US$7 billion business. By requiring foreign fishing companies to adhere to a “vessel day scheme” (VDS) and setting a minimum fishing day fee—now at US$6,000—while setting limits on days, PNA has more than tripled revenue accruing to its eightmember nations. But success has its downside. The challenging issues before PNA “reflects the success of PNA members,” says PNA CEO Dr. Transform Aqorau, who is based at the organization’s Majuro headquarters.

Solidarity key to success: The solidarity of the eight nations—Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu— has been the key ingredient to PNA’s early success. In addition to the tripling of revenues, PNA at the end of 2013 began successfully marketing internationally certified sustainably caught skipjack in Europe, generating a premium price for the product. More distant water fishing fleets are flagging domestically and more fish processing facilities than ever before are operating in the islands, offering significant employment opportunities. Still, cracks in PNA unity were evident in 2012, when Kiribati kept selling fishing days to foreign fishing fleets over its agreed-to limit instead of trading with other PNA countries for unused days.

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