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.

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 Parties to the Nauru Agreement operates a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)–certified free-school-caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna fishery in the western and central Pacific fishing zones of its member nations.

In 2016, tuna-fishing fleets complying with MSC certification requirements delivered over 60,000 metric tons of sustainably caught free-school tuna to market, said PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru. “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 fish aggregating devices (FADs) means tuna are being fished sustainably.”

A “free-school” catch means a catch by purse seiners without the aid of FADs. This is verified by onboard fisheries observers at sea where the free-school tuna is rigidly segregated in the hold of a purse seiner, and a rigorous chain of custody system is in place, through transhipping to a processing plant and finally to the retailer, so that consumers know with absolute confidence 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 from the start, said MSC certification is the ‘gold standard’ for fisheries sustainability. “MSC-certified skipjack and yellowfin from PNA waters now accounts for over 90% of all MSC-certified tuna being traded globally,” Brownjohn said. “PNA’s MSC chain-of-custody system is now seen as the global standard for free school caught tuna.”

From the initial MSC certification in December 2012, it took another year for PNA to develop and implement the rigorous chain-of-custody and traceability system before tuna was marketed as MSC-certified sustainably caught fish.

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, which in turn is paying dividends to PNA members from this Pacifical 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.”

Unloaders working on the next shipment of tuna to the markets; Solomon Islands. Photo credit: Francisco Blaha