The latest issue of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Trade News summarises issues and perspectives discussed at the 4th Pacific Tuna Forum, held last September and attended by more than 220 delegates from 25 countries, on the theme “Broadening the tuna investment base in the region”.
On this occasion, representatives of the Philippines and Singapore tuna industries highlighted that growth in the fishing sector has largely been driven by “bold, entrepreneurial and skilled fishermen from the principal Asian tuna fishing countries – China, Korea, Philippines and Taiwan”; on the processing side, “the impetus has largely come from PICs [Pacific island countries] themselves, through leveraging fishing access to attract onshore processing investments.”
They also emphasised that currently, large-scale longline operations are losing money due to the static demand from the Japanese market. Similarly, small-scale longliners are only, at best, making small profits. In contrast, high prices are making purse seiners profitable despite increasing numbers of vessels. A moratorium on fleet expansion was suggested, “with a careful balance between growth of Pacific Islands’ domestic fishing fleets and existing distant-water fishing fleets.”
The main change is that since 2008 the value of purse seine fishing access in Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA) waters has more than doubled, thanks to the introduction of the VDS. FFA Trade news highlights that “As the fishery continues to expand with new vessels under construction, PNA members are under increased pressure to accommodate additional vessels with fishing days. Currently, fishing days are allocated to fleets by PNA members through bilateral negotiations; in future, more sophisticated allocation models may develop, such as auctions or tenders, with the potential to allocate days to individual vessels rather than entire fleets.”
Regarding the development of the processing sector, comparative advantages and disadvantages have been detailed; low-cost tuna raw material – as the fishing grounds are close to the processing units – and duty-free market access to the EU are considerable advantages. Unfortunately, costs of production for products like canned tuna or loins are relatively high, because of high transport, labour and utilities costs. The FFA analysis suggests that the potential for growth may be more in value-added processing of higher value fresh and frozen tuna products.
The 5th Pacific Tuna Forum will be held in Fiji in 2015.
There is a need for Pacific ACP countries to carefully assess the proposals that have been made during this Forum, to ensure that long-term investments will contribute to increased benefits for local populations, while maintaining healthy tuna resource bases, because without healthy resources, long-term trade prospects would be in jeopardy. The proposal to put a moratorium on fleet expansion means, in effect, putting a cap on fishing capacity. This may be difficult to achieve for various reasons, including that PICs legitimately want to develop their own fishing capacity, while existing players may find it difficult to decrease their presence. Moreover, if allocation models, such as auctions or tenders, were developed to allocate days to individual vessels, there would be a great temptation for overcapacity, in order to create more competition for the auction of fishing rights. This would lead to higher prices.