FishWise Attends 2015 Pacific Tuna Forum
The Pacific Tuna Forum is a biannual conference held for the various stakeholders of Pacific tuna fisheries and brings together representatives from the industry, government, NGOs, and academia to discuss priority tuna topics in the region. ‘Achieving Optimal Economic Benefits Through Sustainable Tuna Management and Development’ was the overarching theme of the Forum this year and this past September 22-23, FishWise Project Manager Elsie Tanadjaja participated in the dialogs at the 5th Regional Tuna Industry and Trade Conference in Nadi, Fiji. Priority topics discussed in the Forum included the current tuna supply in the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), the declining trend in skipjack prices, recent industry developments, investment and market opportunities, management measures, and certification updates.
One important thread of discussion revolved around operational and investment challenges experienced in island nations. A large volume of tuna caught in the Pacific Ocean is fished from within the EEZ waters of less developed island nations including Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea (PNG). The ‘distant water’ fleets that fish tuna these waters come far away from Europe, U.S., China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Many of these tuna are then processed thousand of miles away in countries such as Thailand and Philippines before entering the markets in the E.U. and U.S. This situation has led island nations to seek new ways of increasing the economic returns to their communities. One example of this are new measures put forth by PNG that will require all tuna caught within its territorial waters in 2016 to be processed in PNG facilities or the nation will no longer allow vessels to fish there. However, current tuna processing costs in PNG are higher than those of Thailand and Philippines, largely due to higher resource costs for fuel, water, labor, etc. and a lack of suitable infrastructure. Although there are no immediate solutions, representatives from the industry, government, and local communities were present and participated in these lively discussions.
It was also notable at the Forum that there is increasing interest in social and human rights issues. While yet to be a major topic of discussion – only a couple of presentations directly addressed these issues – there was a sense that these issues will come to the forefront as top priorities in the near future. As FishWise and our partners dive deeper into seafood sustainability, traceability, and human rights issues, participation in global forums such as the Pacific Tuna Forum will be an important platform to connect and network with key stakeholders and initiatives.