Data loading...

Lack Of Investment Blocking Pacific Islands Tuna Industry

WCPFC efforts to well manage Small Island Developing States (SIDS) tuna industry clashes with financial returns expected by developed countries.

A recent approved resolution by the Commission, which intends to address the aspirations of those small nations and participating territories in developing their tuna fishing activities, proposes investments by developed Member Countries in fishing vessels, onshore development of domestic fishing and that by 2018, those nations will have a bigger share of the benefits than what is currently realized of the total tuna catch harvested in WCPFC’s Convention Area.

However, many industry players still see the conservation measures being implemented as obstacles for investing in those countries, which currently benefit not more than 5% of total value of tuna harvested by foreign countries through fishing licenses.

Twenty two of the Commission’s 37 Members, Cooperating Members or Participating Territories of WCPFC are SIDS and territories as follows: Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Participating territories are: Tokelau, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas and Guam.

As part of WCPFC efforts to engage all those with interest in western and central Pacific tuna in coordinated conservation and management arrangements, Science Manager, Mr. SungKwon Soh, was present at the World Ocean Conference Symposium last week in Manado, Indonesia, to provide a historical review of tuna fisheries management initiatives by SIDS in the WCPO.

The WCPFC, through Dr. Soh, presented a document in which gives a broader view of early and current management efforts in the area, especially by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA).

However, tuna resources within SIDS EEZs are extended far beyond the Pacific Islands region to the high seas and East Asia - due to its highly migratory characteristic. In the past, the lack of an organization that included not only SIDS but members from the major distant waters fishing nations in East Asia/West Pacific constrained efforts to effectively manage the region’s tuna stocks throughout their range. WCPFC was established to address this shortcoming.

The WCPFC resolution intends to encourage more pro-active direct engagement of Small Island Developing States and participating territories in the development of tuna fisheries in the WCPO: “Developed Member countries shall ensure that conservation and management measures will not be implemented to constrain coastal processing and transshipment facilities and associated vessels of SIDS and territories, nor shall it be implemented to undermine legitimate investment that has occurred legally in FFA member countries”.

According to a presentation given by Mr. Joe Hamby, the Managing Director of Tri-Marine International (Pte) in Singapore, at the European Tuna Conference 2009, investments in the SIDS fishing industry are not always easy decision though.

He affirmed that although US$ 61 million was invested in tuna canneries on Pacific Islands during the past three years, there are many factors preventing developed countries to put financial effort in the area – including the new conservation measures being implemented by WCPFC and infra-structure.

Even though challenging, Mr. Hamby presented creative solutions such as joint venture ownerships of fishing vessels and other onshore investments besides processing plants that could provide better financial returns to developed nations and benefit SIDS at the same time.

The Executive Director of WCPFC, Mr. Andrew Wright, sees the efforts of the developing island countries and territories as focusing on long term legitimate investment – with his emphasis being on “legitimate”.

He thinks SIDS are changing their business strategies from one previously focused on vessel owners and operators seeking access to the EEZs of coastal States under licensing arrangements, to one that involves closer affiliations with processors – as has been happening over the last 5 years in Papua New Guinea and Marshall Islands: “There’s no doubt that investment needs to be more cautious and strategic in an environment of finite resources, where responsible management of the stock within sustainable limits is surely in the interest of legitimate long-term investors” he considers.