PNA’s Pacifical Partnership: A Game Changer in Sustainable Production

Published on
January 18, 2016

A new study has documented the way in which the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) has created the conditions for its individual states to use the MSC sustainability certification in expanding its role as the owner of the richest skipjack tuna resource in the world.

Through the use of its partnership with trading company Pacifical, authors note that PNA nations have reinstated their state role by introducing themselves as a company in the tuna value chain.

Steven Adolf, lead author of the study conducted at the Dutch Wageningen University notes that in doing this, the PNA countries get more grip on the sustainable production of the resource through a public-private partnership, and also on the revenue that they can earn through that. He explains that this is a new way for states to deal with sustainability issues on this scale, and under comparable circumstances, this might serve as an example for others.

Despite objections, the report notes that the MSC certification of the PNA free-school purse seine skipjack tuna fishery was officially signed in December 2011. But as the PNA, firms and NGOs involved in the certification process all pointed out, the initial resistance during the assessment then took the form of active non-cooperation and exclusion of the certified product by the main actors in the chain.

Overcoming obstacles in entering the global market, nearly five years on from the MSC certification, sustainable Pacifical co-branded canned free-school skipjack tuna from the PNA nations is now sold in 10 different national markets globally, with plans in place to substantially increase this number.

In the particular case of the PNA and its partnership within Pacifical, authors state that MSC certification has been used by the small island developing country member states in their attempt to (re) asset management control and ownership over transboundary fish stocks in their EEZs.

In doing so, it is noted that they have also “sought to increase domestic returns from these tuna resources through a 50 percent share in Pacifical c.v., a trading company which holds the exclusive right to trade MSC compliant purse seiner skipjack from the PNA.”

This has meant that the PNA members states have not ‘outsourced’ sustainability governance to private sectors, but instead have established themselves as key market actors by aligning with a range of public and private actors, the paper explains.

The Authors conclude that the PNA in acting on  MSC certified tuna fishery is far from a passive actor in transnational global value chains. Through Pacifical it seeks greater agency in three ways. The paper explains that first, Pacifical expands the position of member states from owners of the skipjack stock in their EEZ, and clients and holders of the MSC certification, to a central commercial role in the chain of fishers, traders and processors, and marketing the Pacifical brand to retailers.

Secondly, Pacifical compliments the management systems of the PNA by feeding back information from the chain of custody traceability system, and in doing so is said to have increased surveillance over vessels, crew and processing factories.

Thirdly, by branding cans of the MSC certified skipjack tuna, the study notes that Pacifical is designed to create a direct link to consumers by promoting the PNA as a recognizable production source of sustainable tuna and social accountability.

The findings of the report are thought to be significant for what can be labelled as ‘governance impact’ of voluntary sustainability certification. “It seems probable that in similar cases of sustainability measures in other fisheries, or even other commodities, conditions might exist for states to play similar roles,” it adds.

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