Wednesday, March 4, 2015

04/03/2015: The Pacific islands ‘tuna cartel’ is boosting jobs by watching fish

I met Ali on a flight from Fiji to Funafuti, an atoll in the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, Matthew Dornan writes for The Conversation.

He was on his way home from Korea, having completed four months as a fisheries observer on a Korean tuna fishing vessel. Sitting across from Ali was another observer, also on his way home. He had been away for longer still (five months), aboard a Spanish vessel staffed by Ecuadorian crew, and was flying back from Kirimati island, part of another tiny Pacific nation, Kiribati.

Ali is one of 50 Tuvaluan fisheries observers whose job it is to monitor the activities of fishing vessels from distant nations such as China, Japan, Korea, the United States, Taiwan, and the European Union. These vessels pay for the privilege of fishing in Tuvalu’s waters. As one of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement – along with Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Palau – Tuvalu’s licence fees are set as part of the Vessel Day Scheme.

Vessels pay for the days in which they are allowed to fish, with (tradable) days allocated to PNA member countries. Benchmark fees were US$6,000 (A$7660) per day in 2013 (three times higher than in 2009), and have risen to US$8,000 as of 1 January 2015.

The scheme is controversial in some circles. The Nauru Agreement nations have effectively closed fishing in the 'high seas' – the pockets of international waters that lie between member states – by mandating that any vessel that fishes in their national waters must abstain from fishing in the high seas. Given that about 60 percent of tuna from the western and central Pacific ocean is caught in the exclusive economic zones of PNA members, the majority of vessels abide by the rules.

By flexing its collective muscle, the PNA 'tuna cartel' – the source of more than half of the world’s tuna cannery supply – has been able to generate significant benefits for members. Access fees or their equivalent (in benefits from domestic processing or associated “aid”) have been estimated at US$218 million in 2013 and US$91 million in 2009, after the vessel day scheme was introduced, compared with US$60 million in 1999, US$67 million in 2006, and US$71 million in 2007, before the scheme was introduced.

Read more HERE.

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