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Will Tuvalu Create A Crack In PNA’s Unity? Tuvalu, January 11, 13

Tuvalu’s recent request to the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to be exempted from a ban on the use of Fishing Aggregate Devices (FADs) could have been based on their own economic reasoning but it once again rear the ugly head of individual interests as opposed to a united front when Pacific Islands nations head to important meetings.
Tuvalu is a member of the Parties to Nauru Agreement, a strong bloc of eight nations who head some of the most effective conservation measures in the Pacific and probably the rest of the world.

It is also a member of the larger Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) consisting of 17 Pacific Islands nations.

Both the PNA and members of the Forum Fisheries Agency headed to the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in the Philippines last month with strong intentions to cut down on the use of such devices as they attract juvenile bigeye tuna. However Tuvalu sought exemptions from the ban on the use of FADs.

Their submission to the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Manila on December 5, stated that Tuvalu’s annual national government budget is around A$30 million—smaller than that of many of the fishing companies attending the meeting.

Fishing Aggregate Devices are simply structures floating in the ocean designed to lure fish underneath them allowing large purse seiner vessels to set their nets around the devices to catch the fish underneath them.

“At least 25% of our national income is derived from tuna fishing in our waters, and we need and expect this revenue to grow in order to support our national development,” the Tuvalu statement read.

“Sixty five percent of purse-seine fishing in Tuvalu is undertaken on FADs, making us probably the most FAD-dependent country in the region.
“For this reason, we are extremely sensitive to measures that affect the use of FADs, because they may also affect the profitability of fishing operations based on them and the attractiveness of our waters to the fishing industry on which Tuvalu’s livelihood depends.
“Based on data from the past three FAD closures, SPC has now been able to estimate their (FADs) impact on the fishery in our waters…there is a need to reduce small bigeye and yellowfin catches by 27%, total tuna catches by 10% and catch value by 9%.
“The purse-seine catch in Tuvalu waters in 2011 was 51,800 tonnes, valued at $106 million. Nine percent of that value or about $9.5 million, is being lost because of the three-month FAD closure—and that estimate is based on the assumption that fishing effort does not leave our zone altogether, which may not be the case.”

The Tuvalu submission argues that the banning of FAD goes against the tuna commission’s convention, which seeks to ensure that decisions should not affect them or become a burden to developing state parties like Tuvalu.

No exception: PNA
Representing eight islands nations including Tuvalu, the PNA was adamant that the FAD ban be maintained.

Chairperson Nanette Malsol said they could not make an exception for Tuvalu though their request had been on the table going into the meeting.

She said under PNA’s conventions if a nation could prove they suffer substantial economic loss, they could gain an exemption.
“They did the same thing last year and asked PNA to consider their request—so we waited for them to provide us with economic statistics on the matter,” she said.
Malsol said the matter came under strong scrutiny and opposition during the small group meetings at the Manila meeting, as it clearly showed that nations like Kiribati, Cook Islands, Tokelau were seeking the same exemption.
“If Tuvalu asks then Kiribati and others will also ask and this does not help us in our efforts to try and cut down on these FAD activities.
“If we allow Tuvalu to use FAD, then other vessels fishing in banned waters will flock to Tuvalu giving them an advantage over the other PNA nations.
“We will also continue to work through leading industry initiatives—such as certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) that our skipjack tuna caught without FADs is sustainable—to help supply tuna with the best environmental and social standards to the world.
“While the tuna commission has failed to take its responsibilities seriously regarding the fate of tuna, PNA will continue to ensure its skipjack tuna is sustainably managed and push for a better conservation and management measure at the next WCPFC in 2013,” Malsol added.
PNA Secretariat director Dr Transform Aqorau said FAD closures have different effects on different countries.

“It doesn’t affect fishing vessels because they simply move to where they can easily catch free school tuna, but it is not the same for countries who can’t move and therefore will suffer from lower returns, so it is more complex.”

Greenpeace wanted a total ban on FADS and had staged their own protest at the convention venue to drive home their position.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans campaigner Duncan Williams said the main idea behind their FAD call was scientific evidence.
“It is impacting on the juvenile bigeye and you are taking out the babies of that species and juvenile which should be kept to replenish the stocks that are being caught.
“The SC8 scientific committee supports our call that more stringent measures are needed for FADS.
“The Pacific bigeye has been overfished and the science is clear that FAD fishing is capturing juvenile bigeye and other endangered species including silky and oceanic whitetip sharks,” Williams said.
“Compliance and monitoring would be a problem to police—whereas an outright ban is’s simple and effective in terms of implementation.
Greenpeace says FADs is a serious threat to the future of the region’s tuna fisheries and the bycatch of non tuna species and this threatens the viability of the entire marine ecosystem.
“The only real solution to end the oceanic destruction caused by FADs is to ban them altogether.”

Greenpeace described the final decision as a failure, from their perspective, to sufficiently extend a ban on the use of destructive fish aggregating devices (FADs) in purse seine fisheries.

WCPFC stand
At the end of the day the final decision is made by the WCPFC or Pacific Tuna Commission taking into consideration these issues and requests.
While a total ban was considered, the commission decided to continue the three-month ban (July to September) and an additional fourth month option for October with conditions attached.
WCPFC director Dr Glenn Hurry said they would have to take Tuvalu’s request into consideration moving forward.
“The Tuvalu resolution, with Tokelau and Kiribati, to a degree was to do with fishery because they are geared around the use of FADs,” Dr Hurry said.
“If they are not using FADs in Tokelau and Tuvalu, it becomes very hard to catch fish so what they are applying for is based on disproportionate burden because in other waters people can still catch free schools of fish using helicopters to catch their fish but in Tokelau and Tuvalu you can’t do that.
“A total ban in Tuvalu and Tokelau means they can’t catch fish. They say this is a burden as it is important to their national budgets and their issues are something the commission is going to have to consider moving forward and the issue of disproportionate burden will start to come up and in the next couple of years, the commission will have to come up with ways of dealing with it.”