After a slow start international demand for sustainably caught tuna is now growing fast.
The global environment organisation has just held a workshop in Solomon Islands bringing together key figures from industry and government to look at the way forward for the Pacific industry.
Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Speaker: Elsa Lee, International Business Advisor, Greenpeace
LEE: There is a big interest in the region to start a pole and line fishery again. There are some participants who had some worries about like there isn't local support, especially government and business support so the workshop has worked out an action plan that has gathered more people's thoughts and consulted with more regional stakeholders so we can move this forward. And hopefully, in the near future, we will have a sustainable pole and line fishery in the Solomon Islands and other Pacific Island countries again.
GARRETT: Many Pacific countries have boats suitable for pole and line fishing since the slump in the 2000's. Will it be possible to get some of them up and running again?
LEE: There is one very interesting thing that happened in the workshop that we had at the FFA, the fishing agency, that they are actually doing a lot of ground work already. They have a new pole and line vessels design ready to go. They have been talking to local stakeholders and fishing community that used to do pole and line fishery. So there is actually many, many interests already in the region. They are just waiting for some sort of policy support and investment support that they will be ready to go.
GARRETT: So for policy support you are talking there about governments. What do governments need to get the new sustainable local fishing industry off the ground?
LEE: I guess at this stage most of all they need to reserve more coastal archipelagic water for the community fishermen because, at this, stage the industrial purse seine fishery is still able to fish relatively close to the coast. So in that case, if they oppose support for zoning, reserving that only to sustainable pole and line fishery, then that will help them a lot. Another part would be on the business support, if there can be some sort of reforming the tax system to encourage small and medium enterprises, then that would also be very helpful to them.
GARRETT: So how much potential do you see for the sustainable fishing industry and for pole and line in terms of creating jobs or livelihoods for Pacific people or communities?
LEE: We think it has huge potential. The market for cannned tuna has changed dramatically so there is a big demand for sustainable and equitable tuna, mainly in the western market, as well as in New Zealand and Australian market. In that case, once they can have a pole and line industry going then the buyers are there. They are ready to come and pay the premium price this tuna will be able to attract.
GARRETT: How can Pacific countries get the balance right between the local sustainable fishery and the industrial fishery, that is mainly done by the distant water fishing nations?
LEE: Yes, that is something that we are actually working on. At this Forum, this Pacific Tuna Forum that Greenpeace is attending now, and is being heavily attended by the Forum fishing industry. In that case we will be heavily advocating them to move away from the industrial fleet and support the local fishery because in that sense only the benefits will be getting to the people and their community instead of just going into the tax revenue.