IN July 2011, PNA Ministers at their Special Meeting in Apia, Samoa, decided to designate May 2 each year as World Tuna Day.
In doing so they recognised the central role that they play as custodians of the largest tuna fishery in the world and arguably the only remaining healthy tuna stocks in the world. With the exception of bigeye tuna, and to a limited extent yellowfin tuna, the other tuna species are still relatively healthy.
Tuna also is key to relationships between the Pacific Island States and between these countries and the largest richest nations in the world. The PNA member countries have fisheries agreements with the United States, EU, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The political economy of this relationship cannot be underestimated. The contrast between the PNA countries on the one hand and these fishing sßtates on the other is between big and small, rich and poor, and weak and powerful.
Relations between the PNA countries and non-PNA countries, and even within the PNA countries themselves, Pacific Tuna & Regional Politics have also been affected by the varying interest that individual countries often have in regards to how they wish to benefit economically from their tuna resources. In recent years, the augmentation of rights-based approaches to tuna management, through the adoption and implementation a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), has transformed the power of the PNA countries in relation to the fishing states.
Nowhere is this as apparent than the outcomes of the renegotiation of the financial package under the US Treaty. Just two years ago, this treaty was worth $US21 million. In May 2013, because of the VDS, it was increased to US$63 million and this year, it is worth US$90 million. While there is a component of the treaty which the US State Department subsidises (US$21 million), it is argued that without the VDS, it would have been unlikely that such an outcome would have been possible.
The negotiations of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the Pacific ACP countries and the EU have faltered on account of amongst other issues, tuna. The EU have asked that the negotiations be suspended for 3 years while both sides take stock of their positions in respect of management and conservation of the region’s tuna resources.
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Dr. Transform Aqorau - CEO, Parties to the Nauru Agreement
WHEN Tonga’s Lavinia Vaipuna stretched a 30-second introduction to her regional fisheries meeting colleagues into a seven-minute country report, no one could fault her for making up for lost time.
Travel mishaps meant the Tonga Agriculture and fisheries IT Manager was still en route when FFA’s inaugural Regional Information Management Systems (RIMS1) workshop started.
She had waited 20 years for the regional space to open up where she could start talking about the information close to her heart – all the IT and databases challenges that underscore the work against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and keeps fisheries management ticking.
“I am so thankful it is finally happening – an IMS workshop where we can address our information management systems issues,” she says. Since Vaipuna entered IT work at Tonga’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries two decades ago, she has seen firsthand her nation’s entry into the digital and internet ages.
More than most, she is conscious of the challenges involved. “As an IT person collecting all the databases of offshore and inshore work, administration, financial work, observer data, tuna data...it all comes to me. So many (fisheries) journals touch on how information management systems are the key issue for us,whatever direction you look.”
In all directions too, fisheries management across the Pacific nations has eyed a growing list of platforms, databases, software, and monitoring and reporting tools to help keep track of fishing activity in their waters.
On top of terms like TUFMAN1, TUFMAN2, TUFMANMCS, VMS, TUBS, eTUNALOG, national fisheries data systems, and newer terms such as iFIMS and the cloud, for many countries, the growing scale of logins and platforms is increasing room for duplication, and highlighting the overlap between systems.
by LISA WILLIAMS LAHARI