The fisheries sector in the Pacific constitutes a significant component of the region’s economy. Yet it also holds unrealised potential to increase its contribution to the economic growth and sustainable development of Pacific Island Countries. This potential to expand the returns from the sector can be realised through the further harnessing and optimisation of value both in the public and private spheres.

At the 2015 Pacific Islands Forum, Pacific Leaders reaffirmed the central importance of increasing economic returns and ensuring the sustainable management of fisheries’ in the region. Leaders endorsed the Regional Roadmap for sustainable Pacific Fisheries and directed that increases in economic returns be achieved within five years. To this end, a joint Task Force composed of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) leads the regional programme. The Pacific Community (SPC) was invited to join the Task Force given its role in tuna fisheries research, fishery monitoring, stock assessment and data management which complement the work of the Task Force. The role of these regional agencies includes providing technical support and capacity building at the national level as well as advice and coordination of regional/sub-regional activities and agreements.  The Task Force has four key components with responsibility for each component assigned to respective competent agencies and they are (i) reform of the management of longline fishery; (ii) increasing the value of employment and ensuring effective labour standards are in place; (iii) facilitating investment and trade; and (iv) value chain participation.

In their 2016 Communique Forum Leaders noted “that coastal fisheries management continues to receive inadequate attention at the national level,” and “agreed to expand the broad heading of “fisheries” to include coastal fisheries, noting links to communities, food security, health issues and in particular non-communicable diseases.”

Longline fishing is a commercial technique involving a long line with baited hooks attached at regular intervals. A 2017 report commissioned by FFA looks at the Tuna Longline Industry in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean and its Market Dynamics

The Tokelau Arrangement for the Management of the South Pacific Longline Fishery is the regional response to managing the southern albacore longline tuna fishery… was signed in 2014 by Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency is the regional organisation responsible for supporting the Arrangement. It provides advice and coordination for countries that are signatories to it.

Like the purse seine skipjack fishery, Parties to the Nauru Agreement are now implementing the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) to manage their longline fishery that targets yellowfin, bigeye and albacore.

The seven (7) PNA members and Tokelau participating in the longline VDS are continuing to move forward into full implementation after a trial period.  At the recent Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) session there were indications of acceptance of the longline VDS as the base for in-zone longline management within the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. One PNA member continues to develop a complementary catch-based system and continues to work with the rest of the VDS participants in developing a memorandum of understanding on the collaborative development of a hybrid model that combines both the longline VDS and the catch limits.

The Pacific Community (SPC) plays an important role in this work through their scientific advice and technical support for fishery monitoring and data management.

Responsibility for this work rests with the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Pacific Community (SPC). The Forum Fisheries Agency provide regional advice to members as well as developing standards and training opportunities. The Pacific Community manage the fisheries observer programme training support, certification and standards, and capacity building in fisheries science, data acquisition and data management.

In 2017 the Forum Fisheries Agency including the training on crewing, by means of a workshop conducted a workshop focussed on training crewing. The objectives of the workshop were twofold:

  • To develop a proposed strategy to promote Pacific Islands crewing and increase Pacific Island employment opportunities in the fisheries sector; and
  • To develop draft regional minimum standards for Pacific Island crew working conditions;

In mid-March 2018 Forum Fisheries Agency members attending a monitoring control and surveillance (MCS) working group initiated discussions relating to the question of the inclusion of minimum crewing standards in the Minimum Terms and Conditions of licensing, as a means of creating a benchmark applied by all vessels licensed to fish in member EEZs.

There are a number of industry standards being developed (ISSF, Thai Union) and the next step is for the FFA to consult with global industry players so that new standards and immerging plans do not conflict with the requirements of the tuna supply chain.

In terms of investment, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Forum Fisheries Agency are working together to coordinate support and advice for improving the business environment and enabling private sector investment at national level.
A focus for the Forum Secretariat is on trade policy and agreements that contribute to improving access to existing markets and facilitating access to new markets by securing tariff preferences/favourable terms of trade, and promoting and facilitating exports in international markets.
The Forum Fisheries Agency is looking at securing and maintaining market access to key markets like the European Union, by supporting national compliance with certification requirements.
In terms of creating greater trade opportunities through value chain participation the Forum Fisheries Agency is working with the Parties to the Nauru Agreement office on advice and coordination for extending Pacific Islands’ management control. Both agencies are working with the Forum Secretariat to support initiatives around branding, certification, and eco-labelling. Technical support for this work comes from the Pacific Community.

The Pacific Community (SPC) are the regional agency responsible for coastal fisheries through their Coastal Fisheries Programme.

The Programme’s goal is: “coastal fisheries, nearshore fisheries and aquaculture in Pacific Island Countries and Territories are managed and developed sustainably”. The CFP is made up of three sections: Aquaculture, Nearshore Fisheries Development and Coastal Fisheries Science and Management.

The Coastal Fishery Report Card for 2017