Joint media release by Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and SPC.
Thursday 8 March 2012 –
In Honiara last week, Mike Batty, Director of SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, presented the findings of a six-month study on Solomon Islands tuna fisheries to Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) staff and key stakeholders.
The study shows that total tuna catches in Solomon Islands’ waters reached a record level of over 180,000 metric tons in 2010. Most of the increase was in skipjack and albacore tunas – two stocks assessed as being in good condition. A smaller part of the total was bigeye and yellowfin tuna – stocks about which there is some concern.
Another finding is that large purse-seine vessels fishing in Solomon Islands waters don’t find schools of tuna every day, but their catch still averages around 30 metric tonnes of tuna for every day they are at sea. This is worth around US $60,000 a day.
Dr Chris Ramofafia, MFMR Permanent Secretary, said that this type of information is very important for Solomon Islands.
“Accurate information about catch levels and the value of fisheries helps us negotiate more effectively and ensure that Solomon Islands receives fair compensation for allowing fishing vessels from other countries to fish in our waters.”
The study investigated how Solomon Islands can get the greatest benefits from valuable tuna resources. It is an important output from SPC’s joint country strategy with Solomon Islands. Funding for the study was provided by the European Union through the SciCOFish Project and by the New Zealand Aid Programme.
Other key findings of the study, explained in a presentation by Graham Pilling of the SPC Oceanic Fisheries Programme, concerned the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) and managing fishing in the Main Group Archipelago.
MFMR’s decision to restrict the use of FADs by large purse seiners has been shown to have important benefits for bigeye and yellowfin stocks, which are currently under pressure. Dr Pilling noted,
“The data suggest that catches of small bigeye and yellowfin tunas could be reduced by almost 10% with only a small loss in the value of the catch. This is because tunas caught around FADs are typically smaller and less valuable than those taken in free swimming schools.”
The SPC study also suggests MFMR take an adaptive or ‘slow steps – wait and see’ approach to managing fishing in the very important Main Group Archipelago waters – the areas around and between the main islands of Solomon Islands. Dr Ramofafia said MFMR agrees with SPC’s recommended cautious approach, noting that:
“We need to balance carefully possible expansion of commercial fishing with the need to ensure access to these important food resources by our coastal communities.”
In recent years the Solomon Islands Government has taken significant steps to help ensure sustainability of tuna stocks and improve economic returns for Solomon Islands. In 2011 it closed its exclusive economic zone to purse-seine fishing when the maximum level of fishing agreed with other countries was reached. Tunas swim great distances so Solomon Islands must work together with other Pacific Island countries and regional fisheries organisations to ensure conservation and management measures are effective. From 2012 the price Solomon Islands charges for access to the purse-seine fishery was increased to at least US $5,000 per day, and the number of licences issued for tuna longline vessels was restricted. Dr Ramofafia explained why these measures are important.
“We must manage our fisheries carefully to obtain the greatest benefits for Solomon Islands while ensuring our children and grandchildren will also reap the rewards of sustainable fisheries. The measures we are taking now will provide greater financial returns and other benefits for Solomon Islands while leaving more fish in the water for the future.”
Photo: Purse-seine fishing vessel
For more information please contact Mike Batty (Director, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, SPC)
or Chris Ramofafia (Permanent Secretary, Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources)