New fisheries roadmap to replace effort controls

The 10 year roadmap for sustainable Pacific fisheries endorsed by Pacific Leaders in Port Moresby last week hopes to replace effort controls management system with the quota system in the coming years.

Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, James Movick agrees the quota system will be a good basis to better manage the sustainable conservation of the region’s fisheries.

“The quota system itself will not result in an increase in the value but it will provide a better way of managing the sustainable conservation of our fisheries because you are trading actual catch rather than what we are doing right now, trading days, which is a proxy for an amount we catch per day. The problem for the last few years has been that while we have reduced the number of days available to vessels to fish, the amount of catch has increased because of the increased efficiency of the boats, Movick explained to regional journalists in Port Moresby last week.

He said the roadmap pushes Forum Island Countries to move beyond just selling raw fish to generate greater value to processing onshore within the region.

“We expect the rate of return from our fisheries to be around 13-14 percent this year. This is already in excess of USD$300 million. This is not a bad rate of return for a product commodity where most of the value is taken upstream compared to the processing stage.

“The aspiration of the region is to move beyond just selling raw fish to getting greater value from processing onshore within the region or deriving a share of the benefit from processing stage to the final sell stage. We need to increase the value in terms of the returns, said Movick.

Kiribati’s President Anote Tong said Leaders welcomed the re-examination of the current fisheries arrangement for the Pacific.

“We have always been concerned that the effort based management system was a bit dangerous because we are hearing reports of the severe over exploitation with some of the species with the technology becoming too efficient. The Vessel Day Scheme was getting a bit dangerous in terms of ensuring the sustainability of the resources, said President Tong.

He said New Zealand has kindly offered to help Forum Island Countries transition into a quota system.

“This is the message that we have come out as Leaders and if we do that, the returns will be significantly more than what we are getting today. In the longer term, we want is to take greater control of our fishing industry, said President Tong.

At the moment, countries like Kiribati are ‘simply selling access rights and not involved in processing,’ said the Kiribati leader.

“Apart from Papua New Guinea, not many countries in the Pacific, particularly the large resource owners, which are smaller countries, are not processing at the moment. Much of the fish is being processed in Thailand where employment opportunities are created there and not for our people.

“This is the strategy we are taking in Kiribati. We are beginning to process our fish and engaging with our partners to increase our returns from fish caught in our waters, said President Ton.

Last week, Pacific Leaders agreed that a joint taskforce made up the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and the Forum Secretariat lead the development of a programme to increase the sustainable economic returns of fisheries, including examining a quota management system and report back to Leaders in 2016.

New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key has offered a study visit for ministers of fisheries and officials from the Pacific to look at New Zealand’s quota system.

“At the moment resources earned by countries in the Pacific is based on selling access to fisheries on a daily basis. That’s fine but if you look at technology, they are changing and boats are becoming larger and more efficient and a greater catch is occurring. If that is the situation, then there is a real risk of the sustainability of the tuna fishery in the Pacific.

“If there was a transition to quota management as is the case in New Zealand, then you ultimately pay for what you catch and not on the amount time you spent in the sea. That is very valuable for the Pacific countries because they will pay for the value of the fishery and not just as a gatekeeper for the daily rates, said PM Key.

DG Movick said the roadmap hopes to achieve those ambitious targets within the time frame set out by the Leaders.

“They said they want sustainability and they have set reference target of three years for the major stock. They want to double the value of the catch to the Pacific Islands within the ten year period. They want to see the doubling of number of people employed in the fisheries sector. It is putting these numbers out there, that they are letting themselves to be challenged, said Movick.

Tuvalu’s natural resources minister, Eliasala Pita says it will be a challenge to achieve all the targets of the roadmap within the new time frame of five years.

“Achieving the goals of the roadmap is not easy to achieve. It will require the co-operation between the operators, the Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) and governments. While the aspiration is to achieve these in a shorter timeframe, it will be a challenge to try and achieve all within the time frame of five years, said Pita.

He is chairman of both the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).