‘Tuna diplomacy’ is one of the game-changers for the Pacific
By Pita Ligaiula in Waikiki, Hawaii
HONOLULU, Hawaii – December 9, 2018: 11.15am (PACNEWS): Tuna has shaped regional politics and influenced the relationship between Pacific Islands States and major trading partners including China, Japan, United States and Taiwan and South Korea.
Each year the Pacific comes together with these powerful fishing nations to set the fishing rules for more than half the world’s tuna, as well as other ocean-going species at risk of being caught by accident by the fishing industry.
Diplomacy and solidarity among Pacific countries is key to Pacific success.
Ahead of this year’s meeting of the rule-setting body – the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission WCPFC), organisations representing Pacific nations are stressing their commitment to work together in solidarity.
With 60 per cent of the world’s main canning tuna – skipjack – caught in their waters as well as large quantities of fish for the fresh and frozen fish market, the Pacific is an important grouping.
However, decisions at WCPFC are made by consensus, so achieving results is often difficult.
The CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement which represents the eight tropical tuna countries plus Tokelau, emphasised collaboration with the 17-nation Forum Fisheries Agency as they hold a series of meetings in Honolulu to prepare their negotiating strategies.
“The FFA Director General reminded us that we are doing this work for the benefit of our people,” PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said in a statement ahead of this year’s WCPFC which commences on Monday.
“We are the resource owners. This is why we work together to promote effective measures at the WCPFC for sustainable management of our fisheries resources,” he said.
Over the past decade, Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) comprising of eight countries (FSM, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, PNG, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu) developed a new model of cooperation, establishing a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) to limit purse seine fishing access to their waters.
The VDS scheme is the single most successful resource management model in the Pacific using rights- based control over fisheries resources.
Under the scheme, fishing fleets are required to purchase fishing days at a minimum of US$8,000 per day, provide 100 percent coverage of all purse seiners, provide in port transhipment of tuna and an annual three-month moratorium on the use of fish aggregating devices.
This has improved conservation and management of tuna caught in PNA countries while increasing the revenue share for island member countries from US$60m in 2010 to an estimated US$400m last year.
Ocean management or what is now being promoted the Blue Pacific narrative–where Pacific countries are called to exercise stronger strategic autonomy over the Pacific Ocean and its resources.
In recent years, the Pacific has witnessed increased geostrategic competition in the region and the Pacific Ocean is at the centre of this stepped-up engagements from new and emerging global players.
At the Pacific Leaders’ Summit in Nauru this year, leaders reaffirmed the Blue Pacific as the basis of ‘asserting’ the region’s solidarity on the global stage and secure potential development assistance to drive collective ambition and aspiration for the Pacific region.
In the words of the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi; “The Blue Pacific platform offers all Pacific countries the capabilities to address a changing geostrategic landscape. The opportunity to realise the full benefits of the Blue Pacific rests in our ability to work and stand together as a political bloc. And the challenge for us is maintaining solidarity in the face of intense engagement of an ever-growing number of partners in our region. We should not let that divide us! ”.
Under the flagship of the Blue Pacific identity –Pacific nations are again building a collective voice and asserting their common values and concerns. The Blue Pacific is about shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean –and the recognition that Pacific Island Countries manages 20 percent of the world’s oceans in their Exclusive Economic zone (EEZs).
To make this happen –Pacific countries realise the need to secure their maritime borders. The settlement of maritime boundaries provides certainty of ownership of the Pacific Ocean space –as Pacific people taking control of their domain, which is critical to managing their ocean resources, biodiversity, and ecosystems as well as fighting the impacts of climate change. Of the 47 shared boundaries in the Pacific, 35 Treaties have been concluded so far and few more countries are now finalising their border agreements.
The WCPF meets from 10– 15 December.
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