19 Sep 2013

Pacific Tuna Forum focuses on broadening investment in fisheries

4:33 pm on 19 September 2013

Pacific fisheries representatives have met in Honiara for the 4th Pacific Tuna Forum to discuss how to broaden the investment base of tuna fisheries in the region.

But Greenpeace has expressed concern that despite an increased drive for domestic investment and value-adding, Pacific Island nations risk losing out on real sustainability and development for their people.

Mary Baines reports:

Greenpeace's Duncan Williams says Pacific Island countries have one of the largest tuna stocks in the world and need to receive a fair share of the returns.

"DUNCAN WILLIAMS: At the moment, larger-scale distant water fishing nations from China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan take the bulk of the returns back. They fish using a 'pay, fish, and go' model, where they pay for an access fee and they take away a bulk of the sector."

Mr Williams says smaller-scale, socially responsible tuna fisheries should be developed so that the benefits are kept in Pacific Island economies. He says Pacific governments should revitalise more local sustainable industries such as pole and line fishing.

DUNCAN WILLIAMS: At the moment the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea stand ready to actually implement and develop their pole-and-line fisheries over the next few months and over the next couple of years. We'd just like to encourage the governments to look at developing pole-and-line fisheries, it's more sustainable, it employs a lot more local people and even small scale communities can get involved in the industry.

Mr Williams says the distant water nations business model conflicts with the push for sustainability.

DUNCAN WILLIAMS: Pacific Island countries need to start limiting licences that they issue to distant water fishing, with the long-term view of actually cutting back on distant water fishing licensing altogether. In the short term there needs to be zonal-based measures where areas need to be reserved entirely for domestic and local tuna fishing operators.

Mr Williams says the only way that Pacific Island countries can achieve higher revenues from the tuna sector is if distant water fishing fleets are pushed out. But the deputy director of the Forum Fisheries Agency, Wez Norris, says the FFA is working hard to develop fisheries management frameworks that deliver opportunities for local communities.

WEZ NORRIS: The way that that is panning out is through rights-based management. This is creating tangible property rights in the fisheries and vesting those property rights in the developing coastal states so that they have a greater influence and control over fishing, and they can then onsell those rights to the fishing vessels.

Mr Norris says such a scheme increases competition for access to fisheries, which then increases the benefits that Pacific Island countries can leverage. He says they could be cash returns or development opportunities, such as on-shore processing. He says the FFA is also developing an information system so Pacific nations can work together to track unlicensed fishing vessels in their waters. Mr Norris says it is important to broaden private investment in the Pacific tuna industry because employment, food security and government revenue rely on it.

WEZ NORRIS: Sustainable fish stocks are the absolute starting point for any increased economic development for the Pacific Island countries. And until we can be very confident that the management regimes that we've got in place are sustainable and capable of delivering benefits, then it's always a big challenge to take the next step and talk about attracting investment from the private sector.

Mr Norris says the forum has provided a good opportunity for industry members to get together to discuss these big issues.