Fishing for bigeye tuna in the Pacific
A bigeye tuna is brought onboard a longline tuna vessel in the Pacific © Jonne Roriz/The Nature Conservancy

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Taking Fisheries Management Beyond the Scale

Micronesia to commit to 100% transparency of tuna fishing

Marking a major milestone for global fisheries management, the Federated States of Micronesia (‘FSM’) – supported by the international conservation organization The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – today announced a shift to 100 percent transparency for its globally-significant tuna fishery, and challenged its fellow Pacific Island nations to follow suit. 

Speaking at the Our Ocean 2018 conference in Bali, President Peter Christian of FSM unveiled his country’s commitment to full tuna fisheries transparency by 2023 through a combination of state-of-the-art Electronic Monitoring (EM) and human observer coverage in all industrial fishing vessels operating in its territorial waters.

Today’s announcement represents the first time a developing nation has made this type of commitment across its commercial fisheries, signifying a worldwide shift in fishing practices and setting the stage for a global seafood market transformation that will benefit both people and nature.

Not only is FSM committing to have all fleets active in its waters comply with full transparency by 2023, but the island nation is also challenging its neighboring Pacific Island countries to meet this same goal through the Technology for Tuna Transparency (T-3) Challenge. The T-3 Challenge will impact global markets given that FSM is part of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), eight countries in the Pacific that control over 50 percent of the world’s supply of skipjack tuna. Planning to eat canned tuna at your next meal? Odds are good that it’s from this region.

President Christian said: “Our bold commitment to transparency and sustainability in our fisheries can help recover tuna stocks and reduce bycatch of other species like sharks and sea turtles, so that marine ecosystems, and the Pacific Island communities dependent on them, can thrive.  If the government of FSM and our PNA partners are successful in implementing EM through the T-3 Challenge, we’ll help to secure the sustainability of half of the global tuna supply. This should also help countries like FSM leverage our licensing arrangements for onshore investments that will bring benefits to the Pacific Island people.”

This giant step forward and subsequent launch of the T-3 Challenge by FSM is critical because so many countries are still effectively ‘flying blind’ when it comes to management of fisheries. Lack of hard scientific data makes it difficult to establish precautionary fishery rules that will ensure the sustainability of fish stocks to feed future generations. Nations also face gaps in access to compliance monitoring data needed to ensure that commercial fleets are playing by these rules. Simply put, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Tuna are critical to the socio-economic well-being of the people of FSM, as the country earns more than half of its national income from these fisheries. Revenues from fishing fund the construction of roads, schools, hospitals and the provision of critical public services.  As such, it’s essential that these fisheries be managed sustainably and that Pacific Islanders earn their fair share from the largely foreign fishing vessels that ply their productive waters.  To make sustainable management work, there is a distinct need for robust fisheries data and monitoring.

EM systems utilize technology including video cameras, remote sensors, Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, and hard drives installed on fishing boats to automatically track a range of data, including retained catch and discards. This technology provides an invaluable tool for fisheries managers and their private sector partners to obtain much-needed, detailed data on fishing effort, target catch composition, and bycatch of non-target species that come in on  these vessels. EM enables stakeholders to ensure product traceability and manage oceanic resources in real-time; it also offers users critical science and compliance data, bolstering seafood supply chains with transparency about on-the-water operations. For consumers, EM can provide them with greater assurance that the tuna on their plates was caught legally, sustainably, and without slave labor.

TNC, which has been supporting FSM with its use of EM and fisheries management, applauds President Christian’s commitment, which builds on PNA’s adoption of an EM program this past August. TNC is also calling upon the global fishing industry and its seafood supply chain partners to help defray countries’ startup costs of adotping EM, so that the need for tighter transparency and sustainability reporting doesn’t force island nations like FSM to sacrifice the socio-economic well-being of their people in return for the resilience of their abundant oceanic resources.

“By pushing markets to contribute to sustainable resource harvesting in FSM, we are sending a clear signal to both global businesses and consumers about the importance of EM and the dangers of overfishing,” said Mark Zimring, Director of TNC’s Indo-Pacific Tuna Program. “The goal of this challenge is to help achieve sustainable management in the world’s largest tuna fishery. EM provides policymakers, fishery managers, and the private sector with the data they need to manage ocean resources sustainably and bring transparency to seafood supply chains so that everyone from suppliers to buyers can make smart, informed decisions and have confidence that their sustainability commitments are being fulfilled on the water.”

To that effect, TNC has started a challenge of its own – a $2.5 million fundraising goal to directly support Pacific Island countries who chose to match FSM’s commitments – beginning with a $250,000 donation from the organization in an effort to encourage industry, philanthropy, bi-lateral and multilateral organizations to also make financial commitments. 

It is the hope of President Peter Christian and TNC that this announcement will send a powerful signal to markets not only in the Pacific but also around the world that a commitment to full fishery transparency is the best way forward for businesses, for people, and for the future of the oceans we all depend on.    

 

 

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) – made up of the four island states of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae – has a population of 103,000 people and shares maritime borders with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Guam and Papua New Guinea. The capital, Palikir, is located on the island of Pohnpei. Learn more here.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.