Transparency for tuna

The eight Pacific island states that make up the Parties to the Nauru Agreement may look like dots on the map, but they command an expanse of ocean greater than the size of Europe and are global powerhouses when it comes to tuna.

PALIKIR/SAN FRANCISCO – A cluster of small Pacific islands is poised to make history in the management of global fish stocks. This week, when conservationists from around the world gathered at the fifth annual Our Ocean Conference in Bali, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) unveiled a bold promise and issued an even bolder challenge: full transparency in tuna fishing by 2023.

If FSM’s commitment is replicated, citizens of the Pacific could reclaim control over a natural resource that forms the backbone of the region’s economies. And it would promote future prosperity by helping to ensure that tuna stocks are fished sustainably and that foreign vessels fishing in these waters do not take more than is permitted by law.

The mechanism that FSM and The Nature Conservancy have presented this week is called the Technology for Tuna Transparency Challenge, a combination of monitoring and regional pacts aimed at improving fishing oversight. The initiative represents the first time a developing country has committed to 100 percent transparency in its fishery operations; if it succeeds, it could trigger a transformation of how seafood is managed worldwide.

FSM and the seven other island states that make up the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) may look like dots on the map, but they command an expanse of ocean greater than the size of Europe and are global powerhouses when it comes to fish. With control over half of the world’s supply of skipjack tuna and about a third of tuna stocks globally, the PNA is a veritable OPEC of the sea.

In FSM, efforts are already underway to use this market position as a force for good. Fish like tuna are important global commodities, but the industry is in steep decline worldwide. By committing to full transparency and pushing private partners to do the same, FSM will send a powerful signal that sustainable fishing practices are urgently needed to protect these crucial species.

But the real motivation behind FSM’s pledge lies closer to home. Tuna is more than a commodity here; it is what builds schools, pays teachers’ salaries, paves roads and keeps hospitals open. It is the socioeconomic foundation of communities on the frontlines of climate change and rising sea levels. In other words, this is an existential fight — for the wellbeing of people today and the survival of island societies in the future. Read full article.