Islands must work toward getting greater share of $4b tuna fishery

The contribution of tuna fisheries to the national gross domestic product (GDP) of Pacific Island countries has grown impressively in the past five years, says the Pacific Islands region’s leading fisheries expert.

James Movick speaking at the forum.

James Movick, Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and founding chairman of the Pacific Islands Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) delivered the keynote address at the Pacific NZ Fisheries Forum in Auckland on May 15, hosted by the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF) and PITIA.

Outlining the state of the tuna industry in the Pacific Islands region, Mr Movick said the industry had high political visibility at both national and regional levels round the Pacific. This was because of both its growing contribution to Pacific Island economies and because of perceived issues around sustainability, illegal fishing operations, monitoring and regulations.

Tuna fisheries is worth an estimated US$ 4billion a year, with just a pittance of 15 percent of that amount accruing to the Pacific Islands in whose exclusive economic zones (EEZ) the catch is fished.

Commenting on the numbers of tuna species around the region, Mr Movick said while Skipjack tuna numbers “were in good shape,” thanks to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), Yellowfin tuna was in “dangerous territory going toward overfishing.”

The Bigeye, Albacore and Bluefin varieties were affected by distant water fishing boats, “particularly as incidental catch by purse seiners particularly because of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs),”  he said. Bulefin was overfished almost six per cent. “It is important to get distant water nations to reduce their catch.” He also said some big nations like China were subsidising their fishing fleets.

He said regulatory organisations needed to reform some of their decision-making processes to make it easier to agree on workable measures for dealing with issues of overfishing.

Greater iwi  and indigenous participation in tuna fisheries in the region was a theme that received strong support in the panel discussions following the keynote addresses throughout the day.

PTI NZ Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade congratulated PCF on hosting the forum. “PTI sent a large contingent to participate in this important forum focused on increasing the Pacific Island share in the tuna industry.

“It was not ironic, therefore, that on the same day as this event, Papua New Guniea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced that his government will be reviewing all its tuna fishing contracts stating quite clearly that the future of tuna fishery in PNG will ensure landing of the catch in PNG and therefore the processing will also occur in PNG. In our view PM O’Neill is taking the steps to ensure his country gets a fairer share of the tuna market.”

Other keynote speakers at the daylong forum were Keynote speakers included New Zealand’s Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development Matua Shane Jones. He presented a cogent overview on fisheries in the Pacific, and the situation in New Zealand, on both of which he has decades of experience. Rangimarie Hunia, Director, Te Ohu Kaimoana (Maori Fisheries Commission) spoke on issues affecting the industry from the New Zealand perspective. Panel discussions followed.

Speaking to Pacific Periscope at the end of the forum, PCF Chief Executive Officer Mac Leauanae said, “One of the takeaways for us was the engagement of youth, as there is an obvious lack of youth in fisheries, apart from deckhands on the boats, and there are no initiatives in place to encourage youth into the sector. The other main highlight was hearing about the potential opportunities between Maori iwi and Pacific within fisheries.”

Asked if PCF would consider promoting initiatives for greater iwi-PICs cooperation, he said, “We would look to promote this aspect, particularly around connectivity – how to connect Maori with Pacific – and coordinating this.”

Some 100 delegates attended, with 10 Pacific countries including New Zealand were represented, Mr Leauanae said. The PITIA annual general meeting was held the next day.

For more information email Joe Fuavao PTI Trade Development Manager at joe.f@pacifictradeinvst.co.nz

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