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Audit: Lack Of Transparency In Tuna Fisheries Licensing Pacific Islands Nations, April 2, 13

A cooperative audit report released on Thursday identifies opportunities for Pacific island states to improve tuna fishery governance arrangements to help ensure they receive a fairer financial return from the sale of the tuna fishery resource while at the same time promoting the sustainable management of this valuable resource.
The cooperative audit was coordinated by the Pacific Association of Supreme Audit Institutions, the official association of government audit offices and similar bodies in the region. It sought to assess the effectiveness of the management of sustainable tuna fisheries within the Exclusive Economic Zones of nine Pacific island states.
PASAI executive director Eroni Vatuloka said the audit was undertaken “in response to evidence that a number of tuna species were under threat in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean because of unsustainable fishing practices threatening a multi-billion dollar industry that makes a significant contribution to the GDP of many Pacific island states.”
“The conduct of the audit also provided the opportunity for the government audit institutions in the nine states that participated to develop their performance auditing capacity. As a result, their ability to work toward the effective and efficient use of public resources at home was enhanced,” he said.
The cooperative audit report identifies a number of good management practices being employed in the fishing industry but also identifies areas for improvement.
One key area for improvement is for government objectives for the industry to be made clear in industry planning arrangements such as in tuna management plans that are used to guide and monitor fishing operations within a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
The report found that many of the fishery access agreements and vessel licensing arrangements with other nations lacked transparency or, as the report notes, were “shrouded in secrecy.”
Eroni Vatuloka said “for public accountability purposes it is crucial that these arrangements are open and transparent.”
He goes on to say that “sound accounting practices must be used to ensure that the revenues received from the sale of fishing rights are both accurate and properly and publicly recorded.”
Regular reporting to stakeholders of the results of managing the fisheries would help enhance public accountability.
The report also found that in many cases weaknesses in the collection, sharing and analysis of data compromised effective decision-making in the tuna industry at the national level.
The Pacific states that participated in the cooperative audit included the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and two states that are not named because of audit confidentiality matters.
Along with PASAI the audit was supported by the Asian Development Bank, the INTOSAI Development Initiative and the INTOSAI Regional Working Group on Environmental Auditing.