The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) controls the world’s largest sustainable tuna purse-seine fishery. PNA countries provide around 50% of the global supply of skipjack tuna, the most commonly canned tuna.

The PNA members are: Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

PNA leads with tuna certified as being sustainably fished

(Adapted from Sustainably caught tuna tonnage forecast to double in 2017, PNA media release, December 2016)

The PNA members’ fisheries for skipjack and yellowfin tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as being free-school caught. A free-school catch is one where purse seiners fish without the aid of fish-aggregating devices (FADs).

PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said that, in 2016, tuna-fishing fleets complying with MSC certification requirements delivered over 55,000 metric tons of sustainably caught free-school tuna to market.

“We expect the volume to double to about 100,000 metric tons in 2017 based upon existing orders,” he said.

“With strong fishing industry buy-in for PNA’s MSC-certified fishery, we see the market for sustainably caught tuna continuing to grow. This benefits everyone: the fisheries industry, retailers, and PNA members. Most importantly, catching tuna without using FADs means tuna are being fished sustainably.”

A free-school catch is verified by onboard fisheries observers at sea, and the tuna caught this way are rigidly segregated from FAD-caught tuna in the hold of a purse seiner. A rigorous chain-of-custody system is in place, and marks the fish through transhipping to the processing plant and finally to the retailer, so that consumers know the story behind the tuna they buy in the store.

“PNA has gone above and beyond what others do (to ensure tuna caught meets free-school-catch requirements),” said Bill Holden of the Marine Stewardship Council.

He pointed out that MSC certification makes the PNA tuna fishery more transparent.

To meet MSC requirements, the fishery is audited annually, and every five years an extensive review is conducted. In addition, PNA has been proactive in addressing conditions of the certification.

PNA Commercial Manager Maurice Brownjohn, who developed the certification and chain-of-custody systems, said MSC certification was the “gold standard” for the sustainability of fisheries.

“MSC-certified skipjack and yellowfin from PNA waters now account for over 90% of all MSC-certified tuna being traded globally,” Mr Brownjohn said. “PNA’s MSC chain-of-custody system is now seen as the global standard for free-school-caught tuna.”

After MSC certification in December 2012, it took a year for PNA to develop and implement the rigorous chain-of-custody and traceability system before tuna could be marketed as MSC-certified.

Fishing vessels that deliver free-school-caught tuna that meets the strict sustainability guidelines get as much as $100 per ton extra, and retailers are able to sell this tuna at a premium because it is sustainably caught.

The PNA established Pacifical as its marketing co-brand for MSC-certified tuna. Pacifical is paying dividends to PNA members from its tuna marketed in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, USA, and elsewhere. Retailers are paying up to a 20% premium for MSC-certified Pacifical tuna compared to tuna caught using FADs.

“There has been huge buy-in by private tuna labels, and growing interest from brands globally,” said Mr Kumoru.

“Today, over 200 purse seiners are participating in the PNA scheme, which is why we anticipate the volume of MSC-certified tuna delivered to market to rise to 100,000 metric tons in 2017.”


Unloading tuna beneath tarp roof in Solomon Islands. Photo by Francisco Blaha.
Unloaders in the Solomon Islands working on the next shipment of tuna to the markets. Photo credit: Francisco Blaha.