Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), Interview with Maurice Brownjon

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) was established in 1982 between eight Pacific Island states, namely Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. These member countries are at the forefront of collective decision making about conservation and management of tuna. The PNA controls the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse seine fishery and is informed by the decision of its officials, Ministers and national leaders who realised their 200m Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) formed an almost continuous block covering almost half of tuna catches in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The PNA has achieved regional and global recognition for sustainable management stocks for Island countries and over the last five years, revenue has increased from US$60m to US$360m.

Parties to the Nauru Agreement

In April, the IUCN Oceania Regional office in Suva held a conference on the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) as part of the Ma’afu Street Seminar Series.

Maurice Brownjon, the current Commerical Advisor to the Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA) Office, based in Majuro, RMI, talks about PNA and sustainable management of fisheries in the South Pacific.

Q. What are the main commercial targets extracted from the Pacific Island countries that are dealt with under the Nauru Agreement?
The PNA is a Purse seine fishery, the main target species are Skipjack and Yellowfin catch. It is primarily a skipjack fishery, as it represents about 70% of the 1.6 million tonne. Yellowfin represents about 20% to 30%.

Q. As far as those extracting these fish who are the main commercial fisherman?
There are 298 fishery vessels in the region. We maintain 100% observer coverage, tracking and monitoring so I don’t know if there are any illegal vessels. As far as the flags of the vessels, the major fishing nations would include the United States of America, European Union, Taiwan, Korea, China, Japan, Philippines and some Pacific Island Nations.

Q. What is the arrangement between the countries providing these licenses and how much are they being paid for this resource?
The resource is primarily in the Economic Exclusive Zones (EEZ) of the eight Island nations. Annually, they would negotiate access for foreign fishing vessels to come and fish on the terms agreed. The minimum terms and conditions within the region are standardised and there is also a benchmark price, so there is a price floor where things cannot be traded.

Q. How much are these resources being resold for?
The value is around $2 billion to $4 billion but the PNA waters would produce around 50% of the global skipjack supply. When fish are processed we would be looking at more than double the retail value, therefore, we are potentially dealing with an $8 billion dollar fishery. Of course, it is subjected to fish price, but the revenue over the years has increased quite significantly. Today, the regional revenue would be an excess of around US$300m, whereas 5 years ago it was probably around US$60m. There are two ways of looking at it: It has elevated revenue to the islands for the harvest of their resources or, there is better recognition of the economic value of the fishery and better returns to the countries accordingly.

Q. Please tell us more about the Development Partners. Who are they? What is their role in the economic process?
There are various development partners in the region but the increasing participation, joint ventures and domestic laid vessels linked to access to resources preferential access and in some cases processing in the islands are primarily seen amongst the fishing nations themselves. It is an area to enhance because we need to see more processing and participation from our own people and then economic benefits will come from utilizing our resource. Today, it is a bit absurd for us to be providing the fishery, exporting the fish to Asia and then importing it back to feed our families.

Q. Who is benefiting primarily from this process?
Considering that the region produces about 50% of the global skipjack supply, I think our contribution to the global food security is quite significant. When this fish is processed overseas, it is providing employment and food security for those nations processing. That is the reason why it is important that we get more of this done in the Pacific so that we can meaningfully participate and also vertically integrate in the process.

Q. What are the current policy challenges and solutions that you want to see resulting from PNA discussions?
Our priorities in maintaining the fishery are, primarily, the sustainability and then to increase meaningful participation and economic opportunity for the Pacific people, providing opportunities such as crewing or processing.

Q. What message would you like to pass on about the situation with fisheries in the Pacific?
I think one of the things that a lot of people don’t globally realize is that the PNA nations exist. The general perception seems to be that the Pacific Ocean is clear blue water with no islands, but in fact we have 14.8million square km of the EEZ, quite significant populations, particularly in Papua New Guinea and some of the small islands to have members of only 10,000 people per country, so for them fisheries is very significant to to their economic survival. It must also be noted that, in the Pacific, some island communities will eat up to half a kilo of fish a day… every man, woman and child. Fish is the key to their survival and it has been for thousands of years and hopefully it will be for the next thousand years.

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