IUU Fishing remains a concern for Pacific Islands Fisheries

IUU Fishing remains a concern for Pacific Islands Fisheries

 (PNA regional meeting in Honiara, March)

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major issue in the Pacific, threatening the sustainability of the region's fisheries and the livelihoods of those who depend on them. Despite efforts by Pacific nations to combat IUU fishing, the practice continues to persist, and the consequences are severe.

The Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA) is a regional organization made up of eight Pacific Island countries and Tokelau, which collectively manages the world's largest tuna fishery, with an estimated annual value of US$6 billion. PNA member countries include the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

One of the main mechanisms used by PNA to manage the tuna fishery is the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), which regulates the number of fishing days allocated to commercial vessels in PNA waters. The VDS has been successful in reducing overfishing and increasing revenue for PNA member countries. However, IUU fishing remains a significant threat to the sustainability of the fishery and the effectiveness of the VDS.

IUU fishing involves vessels fishing in PNA waters without permission or in violation of regulations. These vessels often use destructive fishing methods, such as purse seining and longlining, which can result in the capture of non-target species, including sharks, turtles, and other marine life. IUU fishing can also contribute to human rights abuses, such as forced labor and illegal fishing by foreign vessels in the waters of Pacific Island countries.

PNA member countries have taken a number of measures to combat IUU fishing, including the implementation of vessel monitoring systems, the imposition of fines and penalties, and the deployment of surveillance and enforcement patrols. However, these efforts are hampered by limited resources, including the lack of vessels and personnel to conduct effective patrols and inspections.

In March 2023, Pacific Tenders Magazine featured the PNA officials meeting in Honiara, Solomon Islands which discussed issues related to the VDS, including IUU fishing. The meetings focused on technical issues related to the implementation of the VDS and the compliance requirements for vessels operating in PNA waters. The officials also discussed the use of the PNA Fisheries Information Management System (FIMS) to monitor fishing activities in the region and ensure the sustainable management of tuna stocks.

Despite the efforts of PNA member countries, IUU fishing remains a significant threat to the sustainability of the Pacific tuna fishery. The practice undermines the effectiveness of the VDS and undermines the economic and social development of Pacific Island countries. Addressing IUU fishing requires a coordinated effort by all stakeholders, including governments, industry, and civil society. Only by working together can the Pacific region ensure the sustainable management of its fisheries and the protection of its marine resources for future generations.

- PT Magazine Issue 12

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