Fisheries officials who belong to the bloc of Pacific island countries that have the largest exclusive economic zones in the Pacific, the PNA, Parties to the Nauru Agreement agreed at their annual meeting in Kiribati last week to recommend to their fisheries ministers that the vessel day scheme be continued.
A release from the PNA says this decision followed review of an independent study of the PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), by Toroa Strategy Limited of New Zealand.
The review compared the effort-based VDS to a quota limit system and concluded: “The VDS is a fully functioning fisheries management regime without peer for its class of fishery…There is no clear benefit from changing the VDS from a Day scheme to a catch scheme now or in the near future.”
Statements from both StarKist, Tri Marine International and the American Tunaboat Association have recommended that the vessel day scheme be replaced.
PNA Chief Executive Dr. Transform Aqorau says “No one in the PNA is asking to change the VDS,”
“It is coming from countries outside of PNA.
“The VDS is not something we are going to give away. This is a system with a value of US$450 million annually — why would we replace it with something we don’t know?”
Mr James Movick, the Director General of the Fisheries Forum Agency which administers the US South Pacific Tuna Treaty under which US purse seiners are granted access to fishing grounds of Pacific island countries including those of the PNA members, said recently that fisheries ministers have given FFA the mandate to gradually transition from the Vessel Day Scheme to catch-based in determining fishing license fees .
PNA controls waters where 50 percent of the global supply of skipjack tuna is caught.
Its members are Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
Tokelau is not a full member, but has joined PNA in enforcing the VDS in its fishery.
The statement by the PNA that it will retain the vessel day scheme indicates that negotiations for a permanent US South Pacific Tuna Treaty would prove formidable.