BY GIFF JOHNSON
Marshall Islands Correspondent
MAJURO, Marshall Islands — The powerful Pacific island fisheries bloc known as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement is scheduled to officially open their four-story headquarters in Majuro Feb. 13.
The PNA, which controls waters where half of the world’s skipjack tuna is caught, held a “soft” opening for the headquarters building soon after it was completed in mid-2021 so that it could be used. The building was constructed by Pacific International Inc.
But the official opening had to wait for COVID border quarantine controls to be lifted.
With the border in the Marshall Islands now open without restriction, fisheries ministers and officials from the nine participating islands will fly into Majuro shortly before the Feb. 13 opening day, and then spend two days holding the organization’s first in-person annual meeting since 2019.
Since it was first established in Majuro in 2010, the PNA Office and the member countries have been responsible for a nearly 10-fold increase in revenue generated for the islands through a management scheme known as the “vessel day scheme” that regulates purse seine fishing in the region. In 2010, about $60 million went to these islands each year from the commercial tuna industry. Fast-forward to last year and the revenue is close to $500 million.
The “parties” to the PNA agreement are the Marshall Islands, the Federates States of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru. Tokelau is a participating member.
Glen Joseph, fisheries chief for the Marshall Islands; makes the point that PNA members are not only benefiting financially from PNA management of the fishery. “PNA is sustainably managing the fishery, conserving tuna for future generations,” said Joseph. “The four tuna (types) in the Pacific are all healthy and being fished sustainably.”
This is a result of PNA’s management and oversight of fishing operations in the region, said Sangaa Clark, the CEO of the PNA Office in Majuro. “The sustainability of the resource is the result of good governance and the innovative vessel day scheme regime under which effort is managed to maintain PNA nations’ sustainability goals for their future,” she said.
PNA’s vessel day scheme regulates the total number of fishing days that can be sold in a year, with each of the nine participating islands having a share of these to sell to the fishing industry or trade among each other. The limit on fishing days controls fishing by the purse seine industry at sustainable levels.
The Feb. 13 opening in Majuro is expected to see Marshall Islands President David Kabua, PNA Chairman Tuvalu Fisheries Minister Kitiona Tausi, and PNAO CEO Clark speak.
The four-story PNA complex houses staff who manage the vessel day scheme, fisheries compliance, PNA’s fisheries observer agency, financial accounting, and PNA’s fisheries information management system that generates data informing management decisions about the fishery. mbj