Oceanic & Industrial Affairs

The benefits of active engagement in tuna fishery

Management of the oceanic tuna fishery through PNA's Vessel Day Scheme has dramatically increased revenue generated while expanding engagement of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority in management of the commercial fishery.

This has involve everything from increasing the number of MIMRA's Fisheries Observers and the use of electronic data for monitoring catches, to joining other PNA members in "pooling" fishing days for sale and taking regular enforcement action in violation of domestic fishing laws and regulations.

Although all revenue sectors rose (except for one that remained the same from the previous year), MIMRA's 59 percent increase in revenue in 2015 was driven by the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS).

"Altogether, MIMRA generated $31.7 million in revenue in 2015 compared to $19.7 million the previous year. The VDS-related revenue accounted for 77 percent of this total"

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VDS revenue increased from $12.2 million in 2014 to $15.2 million in 2015, while "Fishing Rights" revenue nearly tripled from $3.4 million to $9.2 million. The latter category reflected the positive development of the Marshall Islands joining several other PNA members to "pool" VDS fishing days that were sold above the $8,000 minimum fishing day fee benchmark since pooled days provided buyers with multilateral access to the fishing zones of all countries included in the pool demonstrating another benefit of the Marshall Islands participation in PNA's VDS management of the fishery.

Altogether, MIMRA generated $31.7 million in revenue in 2015 compared to $19.7 million the previous year. VDS-related revenue accounted for 77 percent of this total.

The other area with a large increase over 2014 was fines for enforcement of various fishing violations, which rose from $825,000 to $3.2 million in 2015.

The joint venture with Marshall Islands Fishing Company earned MIMRA $260,495, down from the $1.1 million in 2014.

Of the total revenue of $31.7 million, MIMRA provided $15.8 million to the national government.

In 2015, Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands, cemented its role as the busiest tuna transshipment port in the western Pacific.

The number of tuna transshipments during the year increased over 40 percent compared to 2014, leaping to 704 from 495. This continues the trend from the past several years of increasing tuna transshipment activity in Port Majuro.

Taiwan-flagged vessels accounted for nearly one-third (225) of the purse seine transshipments in 2015, a big increase on the 136 transshipments in the previous year, and a nearly four-fold increase on their 2013 total of 59.

The next biggest user of Majuro in 2015 for transshipments was the United States with 138 transshipments, up from 118 the previous year.

 

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"Close to 500,000 tons of tuna was transshipped in Majuro in 2015. MIMRA fisheries Observers were on hand to record data on all transshipment, which is a key part of producing statistics for ongoing tuna stock assessments."

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"The ongoing activity throughout the year created numerous spinoff economic benefits as vessels and their crews were in Majuro, using local stores, taxis, restaurants and hotels, and refueling and re-provisioning."

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Chinese vessel usage of Port Majuro continued its upward trajectory to 123 transshipments, nearly double the 2014 total of 66. Marshall islands flagged vessels made 110 transshipment, down from 125 the previous year. The balance was accounted for by vessels from Papua New Guinea (53), FSM (21), Philippines (12), Vanuatu (10), Tuvalu (8), New Zealand (3) and Kiribati (1).

A total of 444,393 tons of tuna was transshiped through Majuro in 2015. The largest volume species was skipjack tuna (384,993 tons), followed by yellowfin tuna (55,170 tons) and bigeye tuna (4,230 tons). Revenue from tuna transshipment rose in 2015 (to $677,000 compared to $547,000 in 2014).

This ongoing activity throughout the year created numerous spinoff economic benefits as purse seiners and carrier vessels and their crews were in Majuro, using local stores, taxis, restaurants and hotels, and refueling and re-provisioning. The Marshall Islands operated 12 purse seine fishing vessels in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). The number of fishing days used by these 12 vessels in the WCPO are declined from 2,481 in 2014 to 2,180 in 2015. However, fishing was more efficient with 86,885 tons caught - nearly all skipjack - compared to 75,918 tons the previous year.

Although an increase over 2014, the 2015 total was lower than 2011, when a record 90,259 tons was caught by 10 Marshall Islands flagged purse seiners. The Marshall islands had no longline vessels fishing in the WCPO in either 2014 or 2015.

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A purse seiner (right) offloads its tuna cargo onto a carrier vessel that will transport the fish to offshore canneries. Majuro has become the world's busiest tuna transshipment port,

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Total provisional catch by purse seine, longline and pole and line vessels fishing within the Marshall Islands exclusive economic zone (EEZ) dropped in 2015 to less than half of the record volume in 2014.

The drop in tonnage largely reflected location of tuna during an El Niño year when rising ocean temperatures pushed the fish east toward Kiribati waters and the adjacent high seas.

The number of foreign purse seine fishing vessels and longline vessels licensed to fish in Marshall Islands waters also declined in 2015: purse seiners 162, down from a high of 185 the previous year, and pole and line vessels 13 compared to 20 in 2014.

"Approximately 50 longline fishing vessels are based locally and provide mainly bigeye and yellowfin tuna to the processing facility for export by air freight several times each week."

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Foreign longline vessels remained stable at 50.

The main reason for the decline in foreign purse seiners fishing in the Marshall Islands EEZ was the drop in 2014 to five in 2015.

Japan, the only country to employ pole and line fishing, saw its fleet fishing in domestic waters drop from 20 to 13.

The Pan Pacific Foods tuna loining plant production dipped in 2015 compared to the previous year. A total of 2,469 tons were produced, with the majority of this tonnage (1,821 tons) exported to Thailand and Mexico for canning. In 2014, 3,768 tons of cokked tuna loins and related products were exported to various markets.

The Marshall Islands Fishing Venture, a subsidiary of Luen Thai Fishing Ventures, operates a dockside tuna processing operation in Majuro largely for export to international sashimi markets.

Approximately 50 longline fishing vessels are based locally and provide mainly bigeye and yellowfin tuna to precessing facility for export by air freight several times each week.

The Fishing Venture processed 3,274 tons of fish, mainly bigeye (1,708 tons) and yellowfin (871 tons) in 2015, down from 6,356 tons in 2014.

Catch Figures

Purse seine catch in the Marshall Islands EEZ dropped dramatically, from 70,235 tons in 2014 to 26,694 tons in 2015. Close to half of this catch was by US-flagged vessels.

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Fisheries Revenue

Fisheries revenue continued the upward trend of the past several years, with revenues rising 59 percent from $19.9million in 2014 to $31.6 million in 2015 primarily as result of implementing PNA's Vessel Day Scheme.

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Majuro Expansion

Majuro expanded its position as the busiest tuna transshipment port in the Western Pacific during 2015. The number of transshipments rose dramatically, from 495 in 2014 to 704 in 2015. This resulted in 444,393 tons of tuna being transshipped through Majuro compared to 315,909 tons in 2014.

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Observer Numbers

The number of Marshall Islands Fisheries Observers continued to grow as a result of MIMRA-supported trainings through the College of the Marshall Islands and with the support of the Pacific Community (SPC). A total of 62 Fisheries Observers monitored 182 purse seine trips in 2015.

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Fishing Days

The number of fishing days used by Marshall islands flagged purse seine vessels in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission convention area declined from 2,481 in 2014 to 2,180 in 2015. However fishing was more efficient with 86,885 tons caught compared to 75,918 tons the previous year.

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License Numbers

The number of foreign purse seine fishing vessels and longline vessels licensed to fish in Marshall islands waters declined in 2015: purse seiners 162, down from a high of 185 the previous year, and pole and line vessels 13 compared to 20 in 2014. Foreign longline vessels remained stable at 50.

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By-Catch

Fisheries Observer data for Marshall islands purse seine vessels showed these vessels had interactions with six turtles, 10 whale sharks and 20 marine mammals. Of the marine mammals, 16 were dead. The rest were released alive.

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"Revenue generated by MIMRA from the Vessel Day Scheme and other commercial fisheries activity soared by 59 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year."

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Commercial catch data in the RMI EEZ in 2015

Tonnage

Catch tonnage declined for all three types of commercial fishing gear used in the Marshall Islands' EEZ. The catch was just over 30,000 tons in 2015 compared to over 80,000 tons in 2014. This reflected, in part, tuna migration patters that were affected by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

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