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PNA CEO: Tuna Fishery Rights Must Be Managed More Like A Business

At a key speech to the Pacific Tuna Forum held in Honiara, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO said the PNA Vessel Day Scheme had not yet reached its full potential, and that governments staff now need new economic and trading skills so they can run the fishery more like a business based on sustainable principles.

While the PNA Vessel Day Scheme had increased the value of the fishery from 1.9 to 3.8 million USD since 2010, CEO Dr. Aqorau said there were still gaps in implementation and understanding of Pacific governments, foreign fishing nations and industry that meant they had not maximized the benefits of the scheme.

Dr. Aqorau called on industry to support the PNA: “I would ask the industry here that you work within the rules, regulations and spirit of the Vessel Day Scheme.” He said that the threat of not complying with the rules was now coming from several sources: “There are others out there scrutinizing us and holding us accountable for what we do and have very powerful instruments to impose sanctions on us. I am talking about the European Union’s illegal fishing regulations, where the door can be closed to one of the biggest markets for our products if countries are seen to be non-compliant with regional organizations.”

Foreign fishing nations had to recognize the Vessel Day Scheme as the number one fisheries management tool and stop proposing alternative schemes, said Dr. Aqorau: “With the PNA Vessel Day Scheme, we have borrowed the West’s idea of taking private property rights and adding value to them, what is wrong with that? But when we try to apply those principles you gave to the world you say we can’t do that. So, that has to change.”

Then finally he said Pacific Island governments must change the way they operate so they can make the most of the economic opportunities in selling access to fisheries through the PNA Vessel Day Scheme: “To try and change 30 years of governments doing business is not easy because staff in government are so comfortable negotiating bilateral access, but these staff now need new kinds of skills - we need economists, trading experts to assist the process so they can run the fishery more like a business.”

If implementation and compliance of the Vessel Day Scheme improved, the potential and opportunities for PNA was huge, concluded Dr. Aqorau: “If in the last 4 years the PNA has been able to double the value of the fishery under the Vessel Day Scheme, just imagine what we can do if we strengthen it further. We would end up with a fishery that is efficient, sustainable and with large economic benefits for all concerned.”