The recent Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) 18th Annual Ministerial Meeting in Honiara, Solomon Islands was successfully concluded with a 14-point communique seeking to further strengthen the Parties position amidst increasing regional and global challenges.
Hosted on the theme “Sustainable Tuna Fisheries for Economic Growth and Development”, the meeting gathered together eight ministers from the powerful nine-member regional tuna fisheries block with the Federated States of Micronesia represented by a Senior Official.
The Ministers appreciated the continuing achievements of the PNA in 2022 and 2023 and were thankful that the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) and other management arrangements had generally proven resilient to some major impacts. The purse seine fishery and the VDS revenue from tuna fishery had been stable through the COVID pandemic and a very strong La Nina period.
These achievements were built on close collaboration among the Parties to ensure that PNA tuna management and development arrangements were successful.
The key outcomes from the meeting of Ministers included the followings:
The Ministers were pleased that the pay rates of the PNA Observer Agency for observers would be substantially increased from the start of the 2024 fishing year. The increase was a recognition of the importance, quality and increasing complexity of the work of observers and that the observer pay rate had not been increased for some time.
The Ministers warmly recalled their gathering in Majuro in February 2023 to celebrate the new PNA Headquarters Building. The Ministers view the Building, fully funded by the Parties, as a clear symbol of the confidence and success of the PNA. They appreciated that the Majuro Office of the PNA Observer Agency and the CEO of FIMS Inc. were already located in the Building along with the PNA Office. Ministers were informed that the Building had been enriched with the artefacts representing PNA communities and cultures that had been provided during and after their meeting to open the Building. Ministers also expressed their appreciation to the host government for the welcome they received and their continued support to the PNA Office.
The Ministers commended Officials and the Office for the quality of the PNA Office reporting and financial and business management processes. These were particularly important because of the critical role of the PNA Office in administering the VDS, managing funds held on behalf of the Parties, and supporting the efforts of Parties more broadly to maximize the individual and collective economic returns from their tuna fisheries.
The Ministers welcomed the updated scientific advice from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community that the four major tuna stocks in PNA waters continue to be reported as healthy and none are assessed as overfished or subject to overfishing. They saw the stability of catches, effort and catch rates in the purse seine fishery as a good sign of the health of the tuna fisheries in PNA waters. They noted that the Western and Central Pacific remains the only oceanic region in the world where the tropical tuna resources are being fished sustainably and expressed their appreciation to all those participating in these fisheries for contributing to this shared outcome through the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Ministers reiterated their commitment to ensuring the sustainability of the regional tuna resources and the valuable fisheries for those resources on which PNA and Tokelau communities heavily depend.
The Ministers recognized the importance of the Marine Stewardship Council as a partner with PNA in conveying the message of the sustainability of PNA tuna fisheries to seafood consumers globally. Ministers supported the PNA Office maintaining the MSC certification in support of PNA Party based initiatives and looked forward to the recertification by the MSC of the PNA purse seine fishery.
The Ministers welcomed the development of the Pacific Islands Tuna Provision Initiative as an innovative and mutually beneficial approach to collaboration between Walmart and PNA tuna resource-owning Countries and thanked the Marshall Islands and The Nature Conservancy for leading this initiative.
The Ministers affirmed their strong continuing support for the WCPFC in its work on the conservation of regional tuna resources and management of regional tuna fisheries. They welcomed the adoption by the Commission of the skipjack management procedure and looked forward to similar progress for other key tuna stocks. They also encouraged the Commission to focus on continuing to strengthen the control of longline fishing in the high seas, including recognition of the PNA longline VDS.
The Ministers appreciated the growth in employment, onshore operations and exports from domestic tuna industries as they had seen in Noro, Western Province. Ministers agreed that it was time to build on the achievements in managing PNA tuna fisheries to generate revenue and conserve stocks and show that PNA can catch, process and market their own fish to become self-reliant in these areas as well.
The Ministers confirmed the importance of the Federated States of Micronesia Arrangement to provide preferential access to each other’s vessels as a central element in their strategies for domestic tuna development. They encouraged Officials to continue their review of the Arrangement to ensure it remains effective and fair in facilitating and supporting Parties’ development aspirations.
The Ministers expressed support for the development of a climate change strategy for the PNA to respond to the challenges posed by the effects of climate change on their shared tuna fisheries, including a focus on climate justice. Ministers affirmed the approach taken to understand the equity aspects of climate change action that recognizes the shared values and strengths of the PNA. This will provide the appropriate platform for the PNA to take action to address the challenges posed by the impacts on PNA tuna fisheries of climate change caused by the actions of others.
The Ministers welcomed the enhanced commitment by the Government of the United States to the Fisheries Treaty with Pacific Island States. The large increase in the value of the United States Government contribution to the Treaty recognized the value of the tuna fisheries resources of Pacific Island States and would benefit all Pacific Island Parties to the Treaty. Ministers looked forward to further development of the arrangements in the Treaty for broader cooperation for the mutual benefit of the Pacific Island Parties and the United States.
The Ministers agreed to appoint Mr. Eugene Pangelinan as the Independent Chair of the PNA Compliance Committee (PCC), replacing Ms. Rhea Moss-Christian who had stepped down from the chairpersonship after being appointed as the Executive Director of the WCPFC. Ministers expressed appreciation to Rhea for her work as the inaugural PCC Chair and wished her well in her very important new role, as the Executive Director of the WCPFC.
The Ministers welcomed the presentation of the research and development plans by Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS) Inc., to ensure that it continues to be a world leading information management platform for fisheries management.
The Ministers recognized the need for PNA Leaders to convene more regular meetings to keep them informed of strategic tuna fisheries issues of importance to the PNA.
The Communique was endorsed and signed on 16 June 2023 at Kitano Mendana Hotel in Honiara.
PNA countries are the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Tokelau with its Headquarter in Majuro, Marshall Islands.