Improving tuna governance institutions by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement

Published on
January 13, 2016

New economic policy instruments adopted by in transboundary Pacific tuna management hold potential to for fostering further regional cooperation

The Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of free school (or non-FAD) fishing are widely seen as key innovations in managing tuna fisheries in the waters of the Western and Central Pacific. The potential impact these instruments on stocks is yet to be seen. How effective they will be depends in large part on how they are implemented by the coastal states who own and manage the stocks.

A new study by Agnes Yeeting and colleagues in the BESTTuna programme demonstrates that the VDS and MSC certification present a means of setting economic incentives to manage tuna resources. Their results indicate that while these economic incentives are private in nature, aimed at fishing vessels, their design and implementation are strongly linked to the decisions that states make.

Yeeting argues while the long term goal are sustainable fish stocks, in the short-term the VDS and MSC provide the PNA states with a means of capturing greater control over tuna management from distant water fishing nations. This is a key step for the PNA members because of the dominant role these distant water fishing nations play in the region and the very small proportion of value of tuna that coastal states have been able to capture.

The VDS is a state based approach implemented to control fishing effort through limited fishing days. With the VDS, the PNA states have created scarcity and increased the value of fishing days in their waters. Evidence shows that access fees have increased from 3-6% to 14% of the total landed value in the last 5 years.

The MSC certification is a market based approach adopted through public private partnership between PNA and Dutch Company ‘Pacifical’. The aim is to promote and market MSC certified skipjack in the EU market.

The result of implementing these two policies has improved the overall governance and transparency of the fishery. The findings also show that the by using both instruments Pacific island states are better able to negotiate with traditionally more powerful distant water fishing nations exploiting the tuna in their waters.