Dec 18, 2017 Last Updated 3:10 AM, Dec 12, 2017

Time for compromise

Fiji calls for understanding

By NETANI RIKA, Pasay City, the Philippines

AS the self-nominated representative for Small Island Developing States, Fiji has found itself in a position where it may have to fight a lone battle for tuna conservation.

The 14th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting this year appears no closer to agreeing on uniform conservation measures as national priorities outweigh regional obligations.

Fiji – as a signatory to the Tokelau Agreement on South Pacific Albacore – has agreed to limit its catch to 12,000 tonnes per year, a drop of 2000 tonnes.

“That is our commitment to the region and the need to ensure sustainable fisheries so that all countries can benefit,” said Fiji Fisheries Minister, Commander Semi Koroilavesau.

“Fiji has taken drastic measures to reduce our catch. We’ve accepted the cuts because they are necessary but (other countries) do not agree to cuts.

“We understand their difficulties. Their budgets are based on their fisheries industry which can make up 50 to 60 per cent of annual national budgets.”

In the spirit of the Tuna Commission (WCPFC), Koroilavesau is reluctant to name the offending nations but his reference is to Tuvalu and Kiribati, tuna-rich countries to Fiji’s north.

In 2015 year the Fiji fleet caught 7608 tonnes worth USD30 million.

By comparison over the same period Kiribati took in 149,314 tonnes worth USD233 million.

The total catch in Kiribati’s waters, including that caught by its foreign fleet, came to  641,119 tonnes worth a staggering $911million.

Tuvalu’s fleet caught 5175 tonnes worth USD9 million while the total catch in its waters came to 80,205 tonnes worth USD103 million.

“On the side lines of this and other meetings Fiji has been asking for some consideration so that we can also benefit from tuna fisheries but we can’t force anyone,” Koroilavesau said.

“The tuna that comes into Fiji waters travels from the north so we fully support the closure of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADS) for three months and a cap on the harvests by national fleets.’’

A FAD is a man-made object used to attract ocean going pelagic fish. Over 300 species of fish gather around FADs.

Some countries at the WCPFC have expressed reluctance to adhere to catch limitations and the closure of FADs, among them Kiribati.

Koroilavesau admitted that there was tension within the membership over the issue of FADs and harvesting.

“These issues have been pending for some years and we are hoping for a conclusion and some compromise,” the former navy officer said.

“We need consensus to agree on the basic facts of issues facing the commission.”

Koroilavesau said that despite the strong objections of other nations he remained optimistic.

“It’s important that there is support for limits, especially for a country like Fiji which relies on fish which travel through the waters of other sovereign nations before reaching us,” he said.

“If our neighbour agreed to limitations that would lead to an increase in the number of fish which we can harvest.

“A three-month FAD closure – and it looks like Kiribati has agreed to that – will have a huge impact on our stocks and the fisheries industry at home.”

That closure signals a shift in Kiribati’s stance on day one at the 14th WCPFC when Fisheries Minister, Tetabo Nakara highlighted the impact such a limitation would have on his country.

"Access fees from tuna fishing contributes more than 80 per cent toward the total government's annual expenditure that supports, amongst others, crucial funding for our education system, medical care, other basic needs that the government is obligated to deliver as services to its 110,000 inhabitants, as well as salaries of civil servants," he said.

With two days of talks remaining, it’s unclear how many other countries will be willing to make concessions.

Fiji looks North

Kiribati, Tuvalu on Fiji’s tuna radar

By NETANI RIKA, Pasay City, the Philippines

FIJI will seek approval to conduct exploratory tuna fishing in Kiribati and Tuvalu waters for the next five years.

The move comes as Fiji notes a decrease in tuna stocks within its 1.3million square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone.

Fiji’s Fisheries Minister, Commander Semi Koroilavesau, met his Tuvalu and Kiribati counterparts at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission here today (Tuesday).

But there is some resistance from Kiribati towards Fiji’s approach while Tuvalu has been more receptive.

“We have asked for a trial period starting with one boat fishing in Tuvalu and Kiribati waters for 12 months initially,” Koroilavesau said.

“Kiribati wants USD12,000 a day per vessel and we believe that’s too much for a boat which must sail from Fiji to the Northern Pacific before returning to off-load its catch.

“Indications from Tuvalu are a little friendlier but this is work in progress and we’ll just have to see where it goes.”

The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates Fiji's annual marine fisheries to be 36,400 tonnes.

Given the introduction of on-shore processing facilities in Kiribati, Tarawa may be reluctant to open more of its waters to regional and international fishing fleets.

Koroilavesau said there was a possibility of Free Trade Agreements or Preferred Nation Status arrangements to benefit Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati.

“Some of those arrangements fall outside the mandate of the Fisheries Ministry but we need to look at how as Pacific island communities we can maximise benefits to regional communities,” he said.

If Fiji’s northern neighbours do not open their EEZs, Fiji will explore the option of accessing high seas pockets beyond Tuvalu and Kiribati in order to catch Albacore Tuna.

Fiji borders Vanuatu to the West, Solomon Islands to the North-west, Tuvalu to the North and the French territory of Wallis and Futuna to the North-east.

Forty per cent of the Fijian EEZ borders international waters.

Koroilavesau said rapidly falling fish stocks were of a major concern to Fiji operators.

“We have some small operators in Suva (the capital) and Lautoka who are heavily reliant on catches from local boats so we need to get out of Fiji waters to access resources.” he said.

“Ideally we would trial one boat for 12 months in Kiribati and Tuvalu national waters and based on catch results look at increasing that to two or three vessels in the following year.

“Fiji is willing to look at what it can do to accommodate our neighbours in terms of business opportunities in return for access to the fisheries.”

Fiji has opted to find creative ways to support its fishing fleet including the distribution of USD1.6 million in fuel rebate to seven companies.

Named the Tuna Support Fund, four cents per litre of imported fuel was transferred to a State account for distribution to selected fishing companies.

The action was taken ostensibly to allow Fiji-owned firms to compete withforeign fishing which received fuel subsidies from their governments.

Fiji Fish Marketing Group Ltd executive chairman Grahame Southwick said the rebate might not solve all their problems.

“This gives us a bit of breathing space. We are happy now; this will take us through to the next critical years as we try and solve other problems,” he said.

With 30 years of experience in the industry, Southwick said the main problem affecting Fiji fisheries was overfishing due to excessive licensing.

“Controls within Fiji waters are quite strong but it can be a little bit better,” Southwick said.

“But it’s the foreign fleet fishing around Fiji on our perimeters, which is not sustainable.

“Too many boats are fishing in the high seas surrounding us preventing fish from coming into Fiji.

“Before the situation can improve, the regional over fishing and the fleet has to be slashed by at least 50 per cent.’’

Southwick estimated this problem would take five to 10 years to resolve.

Enter Koroilavesau and the Fisheries Ministry which now wants to take the Fijian fleet into foreign waters.

Koroilavesau said talks between Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati would continue over the next three days and he looked forward to a positive outcome.

Race for FFA job

Pacific lawyers to replace FFA chief

By NETANI RIKA, Pasay City, the Philippines

A TWO-WAY race is on for the position of Director-General of the Forum Fisheries Agency.

With the contract of incumbent James Movick ending in 2018, the search for his replacement appears to be narrowed to current Republic of the Marshall Islands Attorney-General, Dr Filimon Manoni, and Tonga’s Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen.

Manoni is a former FFA Legal Adviser while Tupou-Roosen currently serves in that position with the FFA headquarters in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Nominations for the position will close this week.

Tonga has started to lobby for Tupou-Roosen at the 14th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting at Pasay City in the Philippines.

CEO of the Tongan Fisheries Ministry, Tuikolongahau Halafihi, said his country’s nominee was a highly qualified candidate well-suited to the position.

“Dr Tupou-Roosen has vast experience not only in the laws regarding fisheries but also in the working of the FFA in which she has held a senior position for some time,” Halafihi said.

“Tonga would like to see her in the role of Director-General and we are talking to delegates here at WCPFC for their support.”

The second candidate – Manoni – is not new to the FFA but has a reputation for a hard stand on corruption in his home country. Although originally from Papua New Guinea, Manoni has worked in the Marshalls for a very long time.

Manoni’s no-nonsense attitude will be seen as a strength by the 17 FFA member-countries who constantly battle against large Distant Water Fishing Nations in legal negotiations and treaties on the use of regional fisheries.

Tupou-Roosen’s advantage will be her years of experience working with the FFA and its legal team.

Manoni has been nominated by the Marshall Islands.

Meanwhile, FFA Deputy Director-General Wez Norris’ term ends this year and he is expected to be replaced by a New Zealander with extensive experience at the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome.

 A marine scientist who studies a common fishing device’s impact on the world’s oceans – and how to minimise that impact – and a fisheries policy expert urge immediate action to adopt proven innovations.

By Gala Moreno, Ph.D. and Claire van der Geest

 About 60 per cent of the world’s canned tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. That means that the treaty-based organisation in charge of managing the world’s largest tuna fishery, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), has considerable responsibility when it comes to the sustainable harvesting of this living natural resource.

It is by no means an easy job to ensure that a highly migratory species like tuna is managed responsibly and with minimal ecosystem impact in the largest ocean region in the world. For the most part, WCPFC has been up to the task.   

But the Commission has yet to adopt an innovative solution that research shows will significantly reduce the unwanted mortality of non-target species like sharks. One policy change—the adoption of a measure to require the use of what are termed “non-entangling fish aggregating device (FADs)”—could do just that. And, even better, such non-entangling designs do not adversely impact the success of fishing operations that rely on FADs to aggregate tunas.

The WCPFC has been a leader in tuna conservation for many years—from adopting 100% observer coverage for purse-seine vessels and a unique regional observer programme, to establishing a centralised vessel monitoring system (VMS). Its member states lead, too, such as the Pacific Islands Forum Fishing Agency (FFA) and Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) members, who have put in place innovative measures in their waters to control fishing effort, collect data, and manage FADs.

Now it is time for the WCPFC and its members to take a further step. WCPFC must follow the lead of three other Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and adopt a measure at its annual meeting in December 2017 requiring the use of non-entangling FADs designs.  

Understanding a Key Fishing Device

First, it is important to explain what a fish aggregating device, or FAD, is. FADs are floating objects at sea that vessels use to aggregate tuna. Over 40 per cent of the global tuna catch is made with FADs, which are in use by large-scale commercial fleets as well as in artisanal and sport fisheries as a way to improve efficiency.

Picture1

A shark entangled in the netting of a traditional FAD.

But not all FADs are created equal. Though FAD designs vary greatly around the world, traditional man-made    FADs have consisted of rafts and often-extensive underwater structures with netting and other materials.          They  can be anchored to the ocean floor or drifting. This design has created problems when the mesh size is    too wide or when tears in netting create holes large enough to trap sharks and other marine animals.

Working Together to Address FAD Impacts

But there are always answers to these kinds of ecological problems if we look hard enough. That's why organisations like ISSF have devoted countless hours and resources to understanding and addressing FAD impacts. Through on-and off-the-water experiments and workshops with fishers and scientists, we've found many options that are increasingly embraced by the world's tuna fishing fleets.

There is a spectrum of designs for non-entangling FADs. The main qualifier for a non-entangling FAD versus a traditional FAD is that non-entangling FADs should have small-mesh netting or no netting at all on the raft and in the water beneath the raft. Instead, they should use materials like canvas, rope, bamboo or palm leaves. These FAD characteristics can significantly reduce the entanglement of non-target species like sharks and turtles.

Designs are constantly evolving and improving. The most ideal non-entangling FAD is also a biodegradable one, built with materials that are less likely to cause ecological damage. The materials used to build traditional FADs tend to be long-lasting and inorganic: nylon mesh, fishing nets and PVC pipes, which contribute to marine debris, reef damage and ocean pollution when they sink, disperse or wash ashore. Using ropes or cotton canvas instead of netting can reduce entanglement, and biodegradable materials like balsa wood instead of plastic PVC piping can prevent plastic marine pollution.

Picture2

 A summary of recommendations for FAD designs from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF).

It’s important to note that research on biodegradable FADs is ongoing; this is not a call for WCPFC to adopt their use immediately or as urgently as non-entangling ones. But biodegradable designs are the next-and-near frontier in FAD design innovation—something we are working hard on with a diverse set of stakeholders, including industry, scientists, and fishers. Given their pollution-preventing potential, biodegradable FADs also are supported by the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project, sponsored by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the European Union and others like the International Pole and Line Foundation, with whom ISSF is working on pilot projects. Rest assured, we’ll be calling for the adoption of biodegradable FAD measures, too, at WCFPC and every tuna RFMO in the very near future.

Action on a Widely Accepted Innovation

Our research about the feasibility, effectiveness and the need for widespread adoption of these new designs is extensive and supports the idea that an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new position should be taken in all fisheries. Based on the research, non-entangling FADs are the best method we have for reducing entanglement or “ghost fishing”. And our research and consultation with numerous fleets and vessel captains around the world indicates that using these designs does not reduce how much tuna is aggregated beneath a FAD.

In fact, a growing number of fleets are already on board with the concept of non-entangling FADs. Skippers Workshops organised all over the world by ISSF have also shown that fishers, ship owners and skippers are not only not resistant to using non-entangling designs—they are already using them.

Picture3                                                         This chart shows the growing acceptance to use of non-entangling FADs among tuna fishing fleets.

We talked with fishers in nearly all major tuna purse-seine fleets, and based on their positive or negative comments, recorded an average acceptance level. The response to the use of non-entangling FADs in most recent surveys has been encouraging, to say the least.

The WCPFC is the biggest tuna fisheries management organisation in the world, and requiring the fleets of member nations to transition to non-entangling FAD designs would have far-reaching, positive impacts for the region. The Commission’s meeting this week is a perfect opportunity to do the right thing for the marine life and ecosystems upon which so many industries and coastal communities depend.

                                                                                                                         ###

 Dr. Gala Moreno’s research focuses on the effects of fish aggregating devices (FADs) on tuna and their ecosystems, and on discovering ways to reduce FAD impacts. She has worked with purse-seine fishers from the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, absorbing their knowledge of tuna behavior and fishing strategies, for almost 20 years.

 

 Claire van der Geest helps guide ISSF policy engagement in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. A marine ecologist and international development practitioner with almost 20 years’ experience, she is focused on fisheries policy and development of best practices, particularly related to minimising the impact of fishing on the marine ecosystem.

Japan, here we come

 Flights open

By NETANI RIKA, Pasay City, Philippines

DIRECT flights from Fiji to Japan are expected to boost sales of tuna from the Pacific and create larger profits for regional exporters

Fiji Airways is expected to announce the resumption of its Narita flights on Wednesday.

In 2009 Fiji’s national carrier withdrew its service to Japan, citing a downturn in the tourism market.

The news of the resumption was greeted with enthusiasm at the 14th Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting today (Monday).

Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Fisheries, Sanaila Naqali, described the Narita service – due to start in mid-2018 – as critical to the industry.

“Direct flights should translate into lower costs for Fijian exporters so that is good news,” Naqali said.

“Access – and we mean affordable access – to key markets is an absolute necessity for a successful export operation.

“There are a number of Pacific countries which will now be able to send their product through Fiji for transportation to Japan. So it’s good for the region as a whole.”

Naqali said new strategies – including transport links and cost-effective business plans were essential if the tuna industry for Fiji and the Pacific is to remain viable.

Until 2009 tuna loins were exported from Fiji on the (then) Air Pacific service to the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo.

When the service was withdrawn, most of the tuna export traffic was picked up by Air New Zealand which uplifts freight from Nadi and transfers it to Tokyo through its Auckland hub.

Since then Kiribati has brought its national processing plant on-line in Tarawa and exports loins to the European Union. Most of this product is flown by Solomon Airlines which recently introduced flights to Tarawa from Honiara with onward connections to Brisbane.

Last month Fiji Airways began a campaign in the Japanese tourism industry to create awareness of its plans to operate the Narita route.

The First Secretary of the Fiji Embassy in Japan, Isikeli Nadolo, said the airline held a seminar in Tokyo for industry representatives.

“This is in anticipation of the direct flight, creating awareness and making the necessary connections and network with the people in the travel and tourism industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, Japanese seafood imports declined in the first half of 2017 on the back of rising costs of the product.

In the first six months of 2017, Japan imported USD6.2 billion worth of seafood – an increase of eight per cent over the same period in 2016, according to International Trade Centre.

But import volumes declined by 2.8 per cent over the period to 380,883 metric tons.

The decreased tonnage and increased value of imports has been due to rising cost of fishing licences in the Pacific.

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