Keeping a success story going: Sustainable fisheries management in the PNA region | WWF
Keeping a success story going: Sustainable fisheries management in the PNA region

Posted on 10 April 2016

The eight nations of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) are home to globally important tuna fisheries, and WWF is collaborating with stakeholders to improve management capacity in the region. Here, WWF tuna officers from two PNA nations talk about the work that’s needed on the ground.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a coalition of eight Pacific Island nations—the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands (SI), and Tuvalu—hosts some of the world’s most important tuna fisheries.

Last February, the PNA was recognized as one of the Seafood Champions at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Malta, where the organisation was called “a great success story in fisheries conservation, management, and social justice.” According to SeaWeb’s website, the PNA region controls around 50% of the global supply of skipjack tuna, and member countries have been working together to better manage these fisheries.

Seaweb also notes that the PNA has taken steps towards requiring vessel monitoring systems in ships plying the region’s waters; penalising fish aggregation devices (FADs), which lead to higher incidence of bycatch; and adopting an electronic reporting system allowing near real-time management through tablet computers.

Capitalising on the strength of the PNA, WWF has launched a project on national and regional sustainable tuna fisheries management in the Pacific. This project is focusing on the waters of PNG, SI, and other PNA member countries. The overall goal is to work with stakeholders to continue improvements in fisheries management.

WWF is exploring opportunities to work with national fisheries agencies and industry on improvements in the purse seine, longline, and pole and line tuna fisheries in SI and PNG.

Other important components of the project are WWF’s continuing collaboration on advocacy and policy with the PNA, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), and the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF).

A big job

Effective engagement of the Pacific tuna industry will be a big job for tuna officers now working in WWF offices in PNG and SI.

“The tuna industry in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean is a critically important sector for Pacific nations in terms of income generation, sustaining livelihoods, and national revenue,” says Sharmaine Siaguru, WWF PNG Tuna Officer in Port Moresby. “However, the industry has also been experiencing challenges which are threatening not only the sustainability of the fisheries, but also marine ecosystems—ineffective policies that allow illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing to increase, overfishing, and harvesting undersized tuna and bycatch, to name a few.

“WWF PNG’s approach is to engage other stakeholders such as the PNG National Fisheries Authority, which, in addition to being responsible for tuna management in PNG, also promotes tuna industry development,” Siaguru says.

The Solomon Islands also has its work cut out for it. “In 2015, the SI government was issued a yellow card warning from the European Union (EU) for non-compliance with its laws to combat IUU fishing,” said Rachel Wang, WWF SI Tuna Officer in Honiara. “Much of SI’s tuna exports are sent to the EU, so this yellow card prompted immediate policy action by the Solomon Islands government. A new Fisheries Management Act was passed in April 2015, paving the way for investment strategies and management plans relevant to tuna fisheries management and development.”

Given the recent changes in national tuna policies and management plans, there is huge potential for Solomon Islands to secure more benefits from their tuna fisheries. Wang notes, “Higher employment rates and revenue generation are expected from onshore development opportunities, secured international market access, and well-managed fish stocks. In light of this potential growth, WWF-SI would like to see the tuna fishing industry develop within a sustainable framework. To support this, we will work with government and industry partners, and engage supply chains to create incentives for Solomon Islands fisheries to move towards an improved state.”

By 2019, this project aims to ensure the successful fulfilment of the conditions for the PNA skipjack tuna MSC certification, and to have at least two additional tuna fisheries in PNA countries qualify for MSC or engage in a recognized Fishery Improvement Project (FIP).

“I believe MSC certification has been instrumental in transitioning fisheries to a higher standard, in addition to capturing the importance of sustainability throughout the entire chain of custody,” says Wang. “Recent growth in the demand for sustainable seafood has provided strong incentive for fisheries to meet MSC standards and enter assessment.

Three principles of MSC Fisheries

“Retaining an MSC certification for the skipjack fisheries in the PNA region would mean that the region is believed to have met the three principles of the MSC Fisheries standard—sustainable fish stocks, minimising environmental impact, and effective management,” seconds Siaguru.” This will also require the WCPFC to support the adoption and implementation of explicit Limit Reference Points and Target Reference Points (TRPs) for all  Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO)  fishery  stocks  under  WCPFC  authority,  as  well  as  considering  steps  toward implementation of effective harvest control rules.

Both WWF offices aim to work closely with national governments, industry, and other stakeholders. “In recognizing that tuna is a transboundary, migratory species, key regional partners include the PNA, the CTI-CFF, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Pacific Community (SPC), and the WCPFC,” says Wang.

The important thing is to follow the PNA’s formula for success, and keep local control of resources in order to maintain sustainable fisheries. “The most important consideration for keeping things this way,” says Siaguru, “would be to ensure transparency, and continued technical capacity building in terms of keeping the work force trained and well-equipped.”

Siaguru has been in the field for five years, but is “still learning a lot,” she says. “Our island nations depend on fisheries to sustain our livelihoods, and being part of a group of people who have taken that step to try and preserve such fisheries is gratifying.”

Wang, who has worked in conservation for six years, started out in the field of evolutionary ecology before moving on to fisheries management. “There are many aspects of my work that keep me engaged in fisheries conservation, specifically at WWF. I recognise that I have been given the opportunity to make a difference in an industry whose future holds either great promise or great demise.”
Southern bluefin tuna
© / David Fleetham / WWF