World Bank eyes our tuna

Islands need to exploit resource to be key driver of economic growth

THE World Bank has just released a futuristic report on the tuna fishery of the Pacific Islands, only confirming what owners of the tuna stock in the islands have been harping about in the recent past. Authored by American researcher John Virdin of Duke University in North Carolina state, the report confirms that the Pacific Islands are owners of the only healthy stock of tuna remaining in the world, accounting, in his calculation, 34 per cent of world’s tuna catch every year, at an estimated value of US$3.4 billion.

“From this endowment, PICs (Pacific Island Countries) received net economic benefits on the order of US$500 million in 2013, majority of which came from the purse seine fishery in the waters of countries near the equator,” Virdin said in the summary of the World Bankcommissioned report.

“While not distributed evenly, these benefits have been significant for some PICs, for example with public revenues estimated to be equivalent to 36 per cent of GDP in Tuvalu, 32 per cent in Kiribati, and 10 per cent in FSM, and constituting a much higher proportion of the total public budget (e.g. 63 per cent in Kiribati in 2012).”

The exponential growth in the number of foreign and local fishing boats being allowed to fish in PIC waters was again underscored by the report. In 1980, there were 34 purse seine boats fishing in the Pacific, which jumped to 180 in 1990, 220 in 2006 and 344 in 2014. From a total catch of 100,000 metric tons of tuna in 1980, these boats were catching over 2 million tons 34 years later, in 2014.

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