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Solomon Islands Tuna Revenues “Only A Low Percentage Of The Catch Value” Solomon Islands, August 23, 12

Solomon Islands Fisheries lacks up to date laws and a Tuna management plan to address Solomon Islands regional fisheries environment and this has prevented the ministry from adequately planning the appropriate management of off shore fisheries.

The findings were contained in a report released by Solomon Islands Auditor General Edward Ronia in parliament in Honiara on August 20.

“OAG concluded that the lack of up to date legislations and Tuna Management Plan to adequately address Solomon Islands regional fisheries responsibilities and the current western pacific environment prevented the Ministry from adequately planning the appropriate management of off shore fisheries,” the report states.

It also confirmed some suspicions about the value of licensing fees and how it undervalued fish catches in the Solomons.

“License fees from both domestic and foreign vessels in 2011 provided about SBD$106 million in government revenue,” the report states.

“While this is a significant earner for the government, it is only a low percentage of the catch value.

“Fisheries also provide a major contribution to the Solomon Islands’ Gross Domestic Product.”

Total fisheries export earnings (tuna products including canned tuna, loining, frozen tuna; and all marine products) for the period January to June 2011 was SBD$114 million. This is 8.6% of total export earnings for that six month period.

“It is not clear to the OAG that, with the current 1998 Fisheries Act in force, the Ministry has focused on addressing economic returns to the Solomon Islands from off-shore fishing licenses and access agreements, and assessing whether they are appropriate to the value of tuna taken by vessels from the Solomon Islands Exclusive Economic Zone each year.

“Over the last year the Ministry has participated in a number of negotiations and discussions aimed at increasing the revenue to the Solomon Islands from fishing in the Solomon Islands Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The enactment of a new Fisheries Act and approval of a new Tuna Management Plan will consolidate these recent gains and put in place Solomon Islands legislative requirements that reflect sub-regional, regional and international responsibilities.

“The Ministry does not have a formal fishing license policy and guidelines.”

The release of the audit coincided with Parties to Nauru Agreement director Doctor Transform Aqorau calling for local fisheries to move away from selling licenses and to focus on selling the fish for what it is really worth. Speaking to a group of journalists at the PEW environment group tuna workshop in Honiara last week.

Dr. Aqorau, said national governments need to do away with aid mentality as it made them weak when making important decisions on their fisheries.

“What you should be looking at is rights based fisheries management where you dictate the terms in which people come and fish in your waters and not the other way around, which is what is happening now.”

“With the value we have created to this fishery there is a lot more we can do,” he said.

He said two years ago the total value of the fishery under the Vessel Day Scheme (the mechanism through which tuna fishing is managed and controlled) was USD 1.5 billion - and as a result of that PNA initiative the value of fisheries for PNA countries had increased to worth USD 3 billion today.

The PNA operates a Vessel Day Scheme for purse seine vessels where a total number of days for fishing are set for the PNA area, and then divided between the eight PNA ocean states which can also trade days between them.

Pacific Island countries are planning to earn USD 5,000 a day for access to their waters which would greatly increase revenue from licensing arrangements.

Dr. Aqorau had said the application of the PNA USD 5,000 minimum benchmark price for a Vessel day has roughly doubled fees, and some days have already been traded at prices up to USD 8,000.