The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) – comprising eight Pacific island countries that control the world’s largest tuna purse seine fishery supplying 50% of the world’s skipjack tuna – closed its annual meeting with a discussion on ways to control tuna supply and therefore increase the countries’ economic returns.
Key tuna industry players in the Pacific region underlined the need for the PNA to uphold limits on fishing, by introducing a scarcity of tuna onto the global market, thus increasing the price of tuna. Over the past 12 months, tuna prices have fallen, in part due to over-supply but also because of the impacts of the economic crisis on some markets such as the EU. However, Globefish reports that the EU canned tuna market appeared to be better this year, as reflected in higher EU imports.
Pacifical, the global marketing company set up by PNA to trade their Marine Stewardship Council certified skipjack tuna, pointed to the development of the global demand of retailers for sustainable tuna – marketed under Pacifical – which returns a portion of profit to the PNA.
PNA Executive Director, Dr Transform Aqorau emphasised that PNA is “an exercise in self-determination – for Pacific countries to control their resources and make decisions free from foreign influence… the PNA has a role to play in fish supply and creating scarcity and value of tuna.”
The PNA has, no doubt, been able to increase its members’ revenues from fishing fees by implementing a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), through which it sells fishing days to tuna purse seiner fleets operating in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). However, until now, the VDS does not include a limit on fishing capacity, as it sees the ‘over-capacity’ as an element that triggers increased competition among fishing fleets, ready to pay more for relatively scarce fishing days. Given the limited capacities of PNA members to monitor and control the activities of the increasing fleet, this situation has led to a significant increase in tuna vessels (including newly built) fishing in the PNA area, resulting in more tuna on the global market. Apart from the long-term consequences this could have on the state of the tuna resources in the region, it is crucial that the PNA takes action to limit the number of vessels allowed to fish in its waters, to “organise the scarcity of tuna on global markets”. However, global action is required to diminish fishing capacity, because a limitation on tuna vessels applied in the PNA region is likely to lead to their displacement to other tuna fishing grounds, with probably limited effect on the total quantities of tuna supplied to international markets.