PNA head delighted with change of heart on VDS
The head of a Pacific fisheries body is delighted at an apparent change of heart over the worth of its Vessel Day Scheme for managing its purse seine fishery.
The chief executive of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, Dr Transform Aqorau, says he is delighted that there has been a change of heart over the merits of their Vessel Day Scheme.
Under the scheme the PNA's eight member nations sell fishing days in their exclusive economic zones to distant water nations who want to operate purse seiners to catch skipjack tuna.
Last year the emphasis was on moving away from the VDS to other management systems, such as New Zealand's catch based system.
But the benefits of the VDS at least in the skipjack fishery are being recognised and Dr Aqorau told Don Wiseman he is delighted.
TRANSFORM AQORAU: Yes because it really shows and confirms what we have been saying - that the VDS scheme is a highly successful scheme and we have got an independent review that shows that. We have been saying all along - we met last week in Tarawa and agreed to a totally allowable effort of 45,605 days at US$10,000 dollars a day - that is $450 million dollars. That is the largest tradeable asset in the region in which a group of countries come together and share, and there is no other forum in the Pacific Islands that gets together and talks about this valuable tradeable asset that continues to increase in value. And that is just the direct value of the asset that is going back to the countries. And the net value of that is about US$4.5 billion dollars, so it is crazy, in my view, for anyone to suggest that we should do away with that scheme.
DON WISEMAN: And as I say everyone seems to be quite emphatic that that is not what they are trying to do. They are talking about other systems for other fisheries.
TA: Which is the right way to characterise it because this is not a shared fishery across the region. You have a fishery, that is the albacore fishery, that is a catch based system that is not really working at the moment and that is the one that I think needs a lot of help, I don't think it is economically viable at this point in time and the economic returns that countries are getting from this fishery - it's a fishery that's in dire straits, so yes I agree that that is certainly the fishery that will be needing attention. Some of our members have an albacore fishery so they will have catch based limits applied to that fishery, but what we are talking about is the skipjack fishery, which is the purse seine fishery, which is what the VDS covers.
DW: There is no threat in terms of sustainability as far as skipjack goes?
TA: No. Skipjack in fact is more healthy fish stock there is. It is just that there are issues with regard to bigeye, but bigeye is being managed through a long line vessel day scheme. For now we are moving towards zone based effort limits and then eventually, this is for bigeye, you might move into catch based limits, once you are able to take control of this fishery and once you are able to see the economic benefit. The thing is Don if there are economic incentives, whatever system there is, whether it is catch or effort, countries would have the commitment to be able to make, but they have to see what the economic benefits are. And we are seeing that with the Vessel Day Scheme. So for the surface skipjack fishery yes, the economic benefits [are there] and the level of economic rents that are being generated are huge, and that is why it is nice to see that there is a reversal in what people are saying but that's not what was coming out last year. What was coming out was they were saying it was going to be catch, moving away and moving towards catch. I think that has to be explained properly and it's good there is a reversal in how it is being characterised now. Yeah I think there is a back tracking that we are seeing here from those that have been advocating. Now we are seeing a different way, but we have been able to show that in actual fact for the purse seine fishery - there is a report that has just come out from the FFA [Forum Fisheries Agency] advisors that there is no evident to show that the high catch rate actually led to the low price of tuna. There is a correlation between food prices, global food prices - because this is a global commodity.
DW: Although it is basic economics isn't it, if you have a big supply the price is going to come down?
TA: Yeah but then if you track the prices of global food prices generally, all those demands for global food supplies also came down, so what the report has said is that there is really very little between that as a proportion, and there is also very little correlation in between, like, if you are going to reduce catch rates here, in the Pacific Islands, then you are going to increase the price of tuna. And there is very little increase in the price of tuna. Which is the recent study from the FFA's economists which lays to rest the argument that people were making last year. I think that information was missing from Asia and led to all these things about the criticism of the VDS, so yeah I think it is a reversal in what people are saying, because the evidence is just simply not there.
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