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Pacific Small Island States trailblazing fishery management for sustainable oceans


Sustainable fishing: Over the years, PSIDS have arrived at consensus among themselves placing themselves in a stronger position to institute measures that regulate fishing and at the same time generate substantial revenues from their resources. UNDP photo

In the run up to the Ocean Conference which just started, this blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life below water

Two things came to my mind as I made the long flight from Bangkok to Canberra to participate in the Project Steering Committee meeting of the Pacific Oceanic Fisheries Management Project. First, how future livelihoods and sustainability of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) will be affected by global actions, and second, how the ongoing Ocean Conference presents an opportunity for the global community to create more positive outcomes for local communities.

The SIDS have a strong stake in the Ocean Conference as their societies, culture and economies are intrinsically linked with the ocean. Since long before the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals were formulated, UNDP has supported regional initiatives to enable the PSIDS to sustainably manage their natural resources, foremost of which is their oceanic fisheries.

The 14 PSIDS cover about 40 million km2 of ocean, about 10 percent of the earth’s surface. This area holds the world’s largest tuna stocks  – by some estimates about 34 percent of the world’s tuna catches and an annual value of US$3.4 billion.

Having recognized the importance of regional cooperation to manage their migratory fishery resources, the PSIDS have developed globally trailblazing regional governance mechanisms.

The UN Fish Stock Agreement (2001) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention (2004) are recognized as a sea change in the management of global tuna stocks. But even before they came into effect, tuna fisheries in the Pacific Island Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) were governed by common regional standards and agreements.

Over the years, the PSIDS arrived at consensus among themselves placing themselves in a stronger position to institute measures that regulate fishing and at the same time generate substantial revenues from their resources.

  • ‘Vessel day schemes’ set limits on the number of vessels in their EEZs and the number of fishing days. These measures reversed the decline in tuna stocks and pushed up access fees to foreign fleets. As tuna stocks elsewhere collapse, the value of a daily access fee has risen from $400 to $6,000 (as of 2014). 
  • In June 2014, fishing day fees rose from $6,000 to $8,000. In 2015, access fees collected from foreign purse seine fleets, which use a wall of netting deployed around an entire area or school of fish, estimated at over $450 million, representing a 20 percent increase from 2014 and an 800 percent increase a decade ago. For these SIDS with relatively small economies, this amount is hugely important.

The above measures are made possible through global, regional and sub-regional agreements with support from UNDP, the Forum Fisheries Agency and other regional partners. Countries have expressed their continuing need for this kind of support to strengthen their capacities to ensure the sustainability of their valuable oceanic fishery resources.

At the Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Ocean Conference in March, H.E. Mr Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly reminded the PSIDS that it was their steadfast commitment and leadership that led to the inclusion of SDG 14 (Life below water) in the 2030 Agenda. Further, it was the Pacific that demanded a process of accountability so that the world stayed true to the noble aims of SDG 14.

The Pacific Islands region showing Pacific SIDS Exclusive Economic Zones. Note that this map does not show political boundaries but rather the magnitude of PSIDS’ ocean spaces relative to their land masses.


Talk to us! What positive outcomes do you expect from the Ocean Conference that could pave the way for the attainment of SDG 14 targets? Leave our response in the comments below.

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