Fishery could be the lifeblood of Micronesian economy. It is clear that each island nation in Micronesia holds its marine resources as the most valuable resource. Inshore fishery still serves as the main subsistence base for protein for many of the islands and provides income for many islanders. Offshore fisheries, mainly tuna, could generate substantial revenue for government operations. Inshore and offshore fisheries require proper management as well as conservation practices and policies. Major investments in fishery were made and risks taken and not all of them were successful. Governments (FSM, Palau and the Marshalls) have taken an active role in fishery related operations for some time due to the complex nature of this industry. To date however, there is no viable fishery operation in the region that has reached its full potential.
Several questions could be raised on the issue of fishery in Micronesia including the following: Inshore fisheries as a subsistence economy is still important for many Micronesians not only as an important source of food but also as a source of extra revenue. Should this be reserved for Micronesians only or should be it opened for large-scale commercial fishing ventures? What impact will large scale fishing inshore have on the cultural practices that relate to the harvesting and exploitation of this resource if not on the subsistence needs of some communities? Are there proper conservation programs in place that will ensure sustainability of this resource? Is there a way to strike a balance between subsistence fishing and commercial inshore fisheries?
Offshore fisheries is a major revenue source for Micronesia. While the stocks are plentiful as some claim it to be, is it wise to let foreign distant water fishing nations exploit this resource at its present rate? When will Micronesian nations be prepared to assume ownership of these efforts to maximize profits from its fish stocks? To what extent can Micronesian nations rely on the marketability of tuna? Are there contingency plans for market fluctuations of these resources if this will be the main revenue source for most Micronesian nations? How much cooperative regional efforts will be needed to control and maximize the profitabilit
y of this resource?
Other general questions for both in and offshore fishery include: What national fisheries policies, both for inshore and offshore fisheries, and infrastructure are in place that will not only protect the resources but also the long-term benefit for Micronesia? Should government be involved in fishing operations or should government focus its efforts on improving shore-based infrastructure? Should Micronesia pool its resources to establish a profitable fishing venture in the future?
Is it Still Viable and What are the Alternatives? Peter Wilson, 9/18/99
Before commenting on this matter, may I qualify myself. I grew up fishing commercially in Hawaii on "aku" or pole and line boats. I studied fisheries at the University of Washington and the University of Hawaii. I fished commercially using SCUBA gear for about three years then went to work for Hawaiian Tuna Packers, a subsidiary of Bumble Bee Seafoods. They sent me to various Pacific islands such as Japan, Okinawa, Johnston, French Frigate, Palmyra, Midway, etc. scouting for new supplies of tuna. The Okinawan fishermen convinced me that the best fishing was in Palau and Truk/Chuuk. When Bumble Bee decided to not establish operations in Palau, I resigned and went to Guam where I established the Division of Fisheries. A year later I was hired to head up the fisheries programs in the Trust Territory. During my 13 years in the TTPI, I brought Van Camp to Palau to set up fishing operations. Seeing their success, I was able to get Bumble Bee to propose a similar venture in Truk, but it was decided they could do it themselves. I established a shipyard in Palau that built all types of vessels up to 75 ft. and exported them through the TT..
I also built the Micronesian Mariculture Center where we induced spawning in siganids and developed the culture of tridacna clams. I also started the dive industries in Chuuk and Palau, built fisheries stations in Chuuk, Phonpei, and Saipan, sent many Micronesians to Hawaii to work on the pole and line boats there, etc.
I then went to Oman for a year and prepared a national development plan that included the construction of a large cold store, ice plant and the acquisition of three trawlers. This program was implemented and Oman is not only self sufficient today, but also exports considerable quantities of fish to world markets.
I was then hired by the Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and sent to Papua New Guinea where I served as Director of Fisheries and Advisor to the Government for seven years. During this period, I built up the Division from a Branch of the Agriculture Division to full Divisional status, with a staff of some 200 and an annual budget of approximately US$6 million.
I established a new National Fisheries Policy for the Government and established regional Provincial Fisheries Councils and a National Fisheries Advisory Board to advise the Minister on fisheries policy matters. I also headed a Working Group that negotiated the Per Trip Licensing System for tuna vessels operating in Papua New Guinea's 200 mile fisheries zone. This system has now been adopted by most of the Coastal States in the Western Pacific.
I also prepared a detailed plan for the development of the coastal fisheries resources of Papua New Guinea which called for the construction of fisheries stations with ice plants, freezer and cold storage facilities in key locations around the coast of Papua New Guinea. I formulated a Gulf Fisheries Development Plan and had built four field research laboratories at Daru, Baimuru, Kavieng and Angoram. With AID funds, I also built Fisheries Stations in Kimbe, Samarai, and Lae.
I also planned and had renovated the present Fisheries Research Station and had built a new two-story fisheries administration and conference center that now houses the Fisheries staff.,
I prepared Government "Position Papers" relating to the establishment of the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency and participated in the drafting of it's Convention.
I conceived and got established the Nauru Agreement consisting of the major tuna resource owners in the Western Pacific - PNG, FSM, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Solomon Islands - to allow them to jointly control the richest tuna resource in the world.
In order to resolve legal and political differences between PNG and the USA relating to the management of highly migratory species, I organized a four man PNG Mission to Washington, D.C. This Mission advised the U.S. on the negative effects of U.S. Law and Policy on political relations between the United States, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific nations.
The Mission held meetings with high-ranking administration and Congressional leaders and caused a high level of awareness in the United States Department of State that United States Western Pacific tuna policies need re-evaluation.
I also audited the operations of the Japanese prawn fleet operating in the Gulf of Papua and when they refused to halt their transfer pricing operations, action was taken to terminate their fishing business. That industry is now in the hands of local companies.
I also headed negotiations with Star Kist to establish operations in PNG. However, when they determined their seiners could catch all the fish they needed, and that they no longer needed a Okinawan pole and line fleet in PNG, they withdrew from PNG.
I established Global Ocean Consultants, Inc. in 1982 and then established a tuna processing operation in the Republic of the Maldives on a small atoll with no power, no water, no harbor, no dock, no housing and no experienced personnel. We introduced computers, accounting systems, the training of vocational teachers, and all staff members by bringing in experienced personnel to train the local workers in all of the activities required to operate such a facility.
After five years, the plant was operating under the management and supervision of its own staff and exporting a high quality product to EEC markets.
My company has also improved operations of existing canneries in the Seychelles - before Star Kist took it over - in Ghana, and in Senegal. We have also planned canneries in Indonesia which are in operation, a refrigeration plant in Kosrae and another in the Mauritius. We also helped plan cannery operations in Papua New Guinea, but financing fell through as the Agency did not believe PNG could meet its financial obligations. An independent review by two universities confirmed the commercial viability of our plan.
RESPONSE TO FORUM INTRODUCTION
The tuna fisheries in the Western Pacific generate some $4 billion dollars a year when all aspects of the industry are considered. Islanders now receive less than 2% of this amount.
Servicing the vessels in the region could generate many millions of dollars for islanders, however, they lack the basic infrastructure required to support such operations - docks, refrigeration, ice, and experienced management.
Seiners spend $475,000 a trip. The 170 seiners operating in the Western Pacific therefore spend about $400 million in ports outside of the region. Longliners spend about $20,000 a trip and make about 10 trips a year. Therefore, the 1,000 longliners spend some $200 million a year in and outside of the region.
Very little of the income derived from the operation of the longliners finds its way into island pockets as their operations are managed by the foreign operators. They do pay some rent, but very few jobs are created.
To resolve this problem, island leaders must recognize they have to utilize experienced independent industry experts with a proven track record. This lesson has yet to be learned in many islands. Officials who have been in charge of fisheries in FSM and elsewhere and have lost millions remain in office.
Island leaders must also recognize that they must establish regional management and development objectives. The resource is so large, no island need give up any development potential for there is no way they can utilize all of the fish being produced in the region.
By cooperating with one another, they have the authority vested in the Law of the Sea Convention and the UN Treaty on the management of Straddling Stocks to direct the vessels operating in their shared management zones to discharge all or a portion of their catches at designated ports. This will enable those islands with more fish than they can process to help island nations such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and others removed from the key fishing grounds to establish plants of their own based on the services they can provide and what they can produce.
Failure to work together will allow the Chinese to move into the islands and take over the management and utilization of the islanders most valuable resource. They are in Kosrae and the Marshall Islands now. How much longer until they start giving Chinese language lessons?
Scientific studies have proven that the Western Pacific tuna resource is, with the possible exception of bigeye tuna, not being over-fished and can support considerable expansion. Therefore, the industry must be considered viable. The question then is, how can it be made more beneficial for the islanders who own the resource.
The tuna resources in the Western Pacific are the largest and most valuable in the world. They provide about 60% of the world tuna supply. The value of the purse seine and longline catch on any given year is about $1.5 billion. Of this amount, the island nations jointly receive license fees which total about $65 million or about 4% of the value of the fish harvested in the region. However, the $65 million is divided among some 14 island nations and virtually no jobs are provided islanders by this immense resource.
Instead, the tuna is hauled some 3,000 miles to some 85 canneries in such locations as Thailand, Korea, Japan and Samoa. Thailand with virtually no tuna resource of its own has 22 tuna canneries. Its only asset, cheap labor. Tuna is also taken to canneries as far away as Puerto Rico and Italy.
There have been many who have doubted the ability of islanders to establish their own tuna processing operations. Some of these "experts" point to the many failures that have taken place in the Pacific. An ADB report stated that FSM has lost some $100 million in bad investments, other islands have similar records.
What then are the underlying factors one must consider in the establishment of tuna industries?
1. The price of tuna to the processor. The cost of tuna makes up 60% of the total cost of a case of tuna.
2. The cost of cans, carton and lables. These items make up 24% of the cost of a case and are a common cost to all processors.
3. The cost of labor. This ranges between 6% and 8% of the total cost of a case of tuna.
4. All other costs make up the balance.
Now, obviously the cost of tuna is the most important cost factor. This is an enormous advantage to those island nations that have large tuna resources as transporting the frozen tuna to distant canneries adds an additional 10% to 20% to the cost of the product.
As for the labor cost, this is very important, as it would not be profitable to process tuna in locals where the cost of labor precludes profitable operations. American Samoa labor is about the highest in the region, but they operate profitably.
Star Kist is reportedly now involved with a new loin plant in the Marshall Islands. This will reduce their labor costs as they can simply take the cleaned loins and put them into their packing machines. One of the problems with this approach - it is unlikely the Marshalls will be aware of the full value of their finished product on the world market as long as Star Kist buys all their output.
Another problem, the additional cost of packing the tuna into cans and preparing them for export would be negligible and would probably provide them greater profits.
Canneries also offer large employment potential. A plant that processes some 40,000 tons a year would be able to support the operations of 10 seiners. It would employ about 1,000 workers directly and several hundred others in support operations like chicken and pig farming, agriculture, vessel repairs, net repairs, etc.
If ten such plants were put up in the region, they would not be able to process half of the tonnage being taken by seiners today.
So, that brings up the next subject - what are the alternatives… Dr. Isamu Abraham, September 18, 1999
While I continue to read with a great deal of interest the reading materials provided as references under this topic, let me reiterate these three challenges: 1. To date, there is no viable fishery operation in the FSM region that has reached its full potential. 2. If this assertion is true, Is there a way to strike a balance between subsistence fishing and commercial off-shore fishing in this region? 3. How can fisheries development in Micronesia become profitable for the people in the FSM?
The people who are now living in the FSM must first commit themselves with a strong sense of ownership of a national policy to promote the goal of social and economic self-sufficiency for native people in the islands. In order to accomplish this economic potential, more local people must be identified and be made a part of the development of a well thought out strategic plan. This statement is made knowing full well that FSM had developed general plans and sectoral plans for the nation. These plans are now in existence for more than ten years. The strategic plan referred to here, however, must define for the people what is it that they want to accomplish, how are they going to attain the objectives specified in the national general plans, when will they implement such plans, who will be involved in the implementation of existing plans and why such an implementation strategy is necessary now.
I believe that the FSM has always been self-sufficient. Only recently that the definition of self-sufficiency has changed to equate it and its meaning with money. I believe firmly that in today’s standard, a community’s progress toward self-sufficiency must be based on the effort and ability of its people to implement the strategic plan, organize the plan and direct whatever resources that the nation has in a comprehensive manner that it is consistent with its established long-range goals.
Such a strategic plan need a group of committed, dedicated and resourceful Micronesians to meet on a regular basis and develop it, review it periodically, nurture it and implement it based on the wishes of the people who live in these tiny islands.
One must note carefully that a community’s movement toward self-sufficiency could be jeopardized if a careful balance between governmental, economic and social development is not maintained. We can not expand or provide quality education and health without a strong economics base. Conversely, inadequate support services and training to the young people in Micronesia could seriously impede productivity and local economic development. We must make sure that we provide the necessary preparation and education of our young people so that they will be the ones that implement the Micronesian strategic plan. I am not current on the FSM’s Right to Control its Exclusive 200 Mile Economic Zone within the Offshore Waters of the FSM. If there is in existence an EEZ, then the FSM must Impose Certain Restrictions Upon Fishing and Other Economic Activities within that Zone. The waters surrounding the Micronesian Waters in the Western Pacific Region is larger than the Gulf of Mexico, and is one of substantial ocean resources. In recent years the United States and other nations’ tuna fishing fleets have established themselves in the FSM Off-shore fishing area. The FSM does not benefit fully from the catches by these foreign fleets.
One must also remember that the North Pacific Region which includes the FSM and the Marianas area is a unique body of water with most unusual seabed. It contains the Marianas Trench, the greatest ocean depth on the face of the earth. These factors contribute to rich mineral resources potential. None of this rich sea potential is currently developed and used to the economic advantage of the people of these islands. We must think more than fishery development in this vast Region in the North Pacific area.
In addition, the offshore waters surrounding the island chain abound with jacks, mahi-mahi, marlin, skipjack, tuna, yellow-fin, wahoo, etc. Presently, there are only a few local islander commercial fishermen operating in this area. The number of local commercial fisherman in our waters should be increased if we are to benefit from this rich ocean. The strategic plan should spell out the details and activities that will lead to attaining some of these possibilities.
In the next round of re-negotiation of the Compact for the Freely Associated States I envision that it will serve the country (FSM) well, not to ask too much money from Uncle Sam. Ask, instead, Uncle Sam to assign Technical Advisors in various fields in Fisheries development to be assigned to the FSM, where they will assist the local fishermen develop this untapped potential. The FSM needs to secure Technical Advisors in: Aquaculture, Agriculture, Fisheries, Packaging and Marketing, EEZ or Law of the Sea, etc. These Advisors will work to develop local counterparts, so that when they leave after fifteen years, the Micronesian people can conduct their own fisheries and economic development programs and become self-reliant.
Jesse Raglmar, September 25, 1999
I am speaking as one who has been involved in the fisheries policy area since 1982, when as Deputy Chief for Mulitlateral Affairs and later as Assistant Secretary of External Affairs for Asia, Pacific, Africa and Multialteral Affairs until 1995 when I left foreign affairs to become Director of Planning and Budget in Governor Figir's Cabinet. I have served and continue to serve on the MMA firstly as the At-Large member representing the FSM National Government, and now I represent the State of Yap, and am serving as the current Chairman of the Authority.
The question is whether the fishing industry in the FSM is viable or not and are there any alternatives for development? I think that the fishing industry is a most viable industry but its development has to be done in a coordinated fashion supported by government but run by the private sector. The support of government should not be in financial support only but in making the regulatory environment more open and clear of all impeding factors such as tax burdens and other business related regulations which must become transparent and reasonable to facilitate business growth including the infusion of foreign investment in fisheries and other sectors.
I think we have done what we can to support the development of the domestic fishing industry in the region when we pushed for and got the Palau Arrangement adopted by PNA and FFC to not only limit the number of foreign purse seining in the region but created a category for domestic fishing vessels and domestically based foreign fishing vessels with preferred access treatment and then the adoption of the FSM Arrangement on regional fishing access not only gave domestic vessels preferred access to the zones of the parties but it allowed for foreign vessels to become domestically based and increase their contribution to national fisheries development, i.e. in investment, employment, business opprotunities and so forth.
The FSM fishing industry will succeed when the environment is cleared of all the debilitating problems of management and when the Government takes on that important facilitating role to help in the training of manpower, reducing or eliminating tax burdens that continue to hamper the development of the industry and stop the subsidy for government owned agencies, and support start-up fishing industry, secure loans and other financial assistance.
Most of the present government owned facilities are heavily in debt, either to Mobil, Black Construction or some others and together with other ensuing problems, these corporations are failing to get above water, so of speak, and yet they continue to get some sort of subsidy from the government. If privatization is the way of the future, these facilties and corporations should become fully privatized and run with no subsidy from government. This can become a turning point in the developemtn of the fishing industry if this is done. Perhaps these particular corporations may fail but some others will quickly replace them and so forth as the nature of business. But the important incentive is that get what I get because of what I do and that will sober plenty people up rather quickly and whip them into action, I hope.
The fisheries that has potential for onshore development, employment and business is the longline fishery but that continue to falter due to many factors but one is the unreliability of air freight and the other is the high cost of air freight out of the FSM. There is no domestic fleet and thus the industry depends heavily on the transhipment of foerign fishing vessels in our port and with the first problem, the transhipment in ports outside the FSM has continued to take place and even with their payment of a penalty, the other more important benefits such as employement and other business opportunities are not realized.
So the problems of the FSM fishing industry is management and confused regulatory environment and not that fishing industry is not viable--it is.
The issues that Mr. Pete Wilson is talking about are valid but he is talking about the fees we get from licensing foreign fishing vessels. Yes, perhaps we should do better in getting more from these access agreements but that is not the way of the future and the access agreements are part of our managament tool and cannot continue to be the main provider of bread and butter but that the bulk of that revenue should be derived from the commerical business activities in the fishing industry sector.
Tourism development is another very important indsutry for the FSM, which must be carefully developed but it is not an alternate to fisheries because both sectors are increasingly important in terms of their expected contribution to the nation's development. Fishing industry will continue to be very important to the FSM and its development by private sector and timely and committed support from government will bring about a quick turn around in the industry.
Peter Wilson, October 10, 1999
Jesse Raglmar's comments certainly reflect some of the problems facing the full development of FSM's fisheries resources. There is no question the resource and industry is viable; the question is how to establish viable industries in FSM.
I most certainly did not mean to stress getting more money from access fees, that is a small part of what on-shore development of the industries will bring. However, to gain control over the FFV operating in the region will require regional cooperation with adjacent island nations. Failure to cooperate in this manner will mean these foreign interests will play one nation against the other to get the best deal. They have been doing this for years.
The LOS and the UN Treaty on the management of straddling stocks allows cooperating island nations to manage the high seas areas that occur between and adjacent to their shared EEZs. This authority will allow them to direct licensed vessels to discharge all or a portion of their catches at designated ports - provided the proper support infrastructure and management is available to service the vessels.
This will ensure proper usage of the island ports and this increased usage will result in greater landings and this will bring down air-freight charges and other operational costs that remain high due to infrequent and low tonnage use.
However, none of this can happen without a well conceived plan. And, such a plan must be prepared by independent industry experts with a proven track record that have no ties to the major fishing and processing companies. In my humble opinion, too many plans have been made by "economists" that point out all the problems that must be overcome, but fail to point out how to go about establishing such industries.
The most difficult and costly operation in the Western Pacific tuna fishery is that of operating the vessels. Seiners cost nearly as much as a tuna cannery and while longliners are less expensive and can produce sizable revenues, manning them with a productive skipper and reliable crew is most difficult.
However, there are well over a 1,000 longliners operating in the region along with some 170 purse seiners. Therefore, production is taking place; the problem is how best to utilize it.
Purse seiners have a daily operational cost of about $2,500 whether they are tied up at the dock or out fishing. Therefore, it is important that they spend the maximum amount of time possible fishing.
The bulk of the tuna caught by seiners and longliners is produced in the region between Palau, FSM, Marshall Islands and Papua New Guinea. However, the only ports in which the seiners can take on supplies are Samoa and Guam.
I discussed this problem with the skipper of the Mara Amalia, a seiner that has been operating in the Eastern and Western Pacific for years. The skipper said in a letter to my associates and I quote part of it,
"I have been fishing in the Western Pacific for the last three years and the Eastern Pacific for the past fifteen years. During the past five years I have been skipper of the MARIA AMALIA and two other vessel. I have found it very costly to have to travel to American Samoa or Thailand to unload and take on provisions for another trip. These long trips and waits to unload cost us dearly in lost fishing time and operating profits.
The island nations in whose waters the tuna resources occur should make every effort to establish the facilities required to service the large fleet of purse seiners operating in this part of the world. If I could come into a port on the fishing grounds to sell my fish and take on fuel and provisions at a price, which is competitive with such ports as Guam and Samoa, you can be certain I would be in at every opportunity. What is more, I feel certain many of the other skippers fishing in this part of the world would be close behind me.
What is of most importance, in my opinion, is the ability to come in and unload my catch, take on my supplies, and get right back out fishing. This has proven to be difficult in local island ports because of the complete lack of cold storage and processing facilities, the high cost of harbor fees and other government taxes, the inefficient and uncooperative officials with whom one must deal in order to get anything done, and so on.
What is required is the proper type of support facilities such as a large cold store, a cannery to buy and process our fish, a wide range of provisions and spare parts required by seiners, electronic repair services, net repair services, ship repair services, etc. run by experienced personnel who know our problems and how to help us overcome them.
If you and your associates can provide such services, I will virtually guarantee that not only my vessel, but many of the others operating in this region, will be lining up to make use of your facilities, for it is in our financial interest to do so."
It should be obvious to those responsible for the development of the region's tuna resources that no boat can operate from a port without a reliable source of supplies and repair facilities. However, FSM and other island nations have not had any experienced fisheries personnel directing the development of their resources. Proof - $100 million wasted on bad investments.
In order to establish a major fishing industry, it is essential that the required infrastructure be provided. These include a large deep water dock, bulk fuel storage facilities for low cost fuel, a large cold storage and ice plant, net repair facilities, reliable air cargo service, low cost but efficient labor and VERY important -- experienced managers.
FSM has spent many millions of dollars on such capital improvements as trucks, cars, administration buildings, etc., but no money has been expended on the provision of the infrastructure required to attract the fishing vessels. Some 12 seiners were purchased by various authorities, none have operated profitably. Some $11 million was spent on a plant to process reef fish when any fisheries expert would know the local supplies would never support such an operation.
FSM and other island nations have refused to retain the services of experienced industry specialists that have no conflict of interests to help them plan and build the facilities required to establish their fishing industries.
To prosper from the sea, FSM must recognize it has to utilize the services of independent industry experts with proven track records of establishing industries in difficult locations and training locals how to manage and operate such facilities.
The potential rewards are enormous. Guam reports that a seiner outfitting for a trip will spend some $475,000. A seiner will make 4 or 5 trips a year and thus spend over $2 million. A proper port could support at least 10 seiners and thus generate $20 million in gross revenues servicing the vessels.
A cannery that processes 40,000 tons a year would, after two years of construction start generating revenues of some $60 million a year in year 4 and net profits of some $10 million. Jobs for a thousand workers would be generated and the industry could be expanded to meet growing populations.
Such an operation would also generate a wide variety of jobs, managerial positions, accountants, electrical, mechanical, refrigeration, sanitation engineers, quality control specialists for cooking, cleaning, packing, marketing, etc.
With a well conceived plan, development banks will help finance the establishment of the required infrastructure. This will make the operation of the facilities very profitable. Independent investors with no conflicts of interest can then help finance the operation in return for a high return on their invested capital, for a mutually satisfactory period of time, after which majority ownership can revert to local business interests.
However, none of this can happen unless the government brings in experienced industry people who know how to make these things happen. Failure to do this will most certainly see the Chinese take over all operations and this will create a Chinese speaking culture.
They are in Kosrae and Marshall Islands now.
So, what will be done? It is up to the island leaders to chart a new course that will preserve their life style, keep the kids at home and build a future for themselves of which they will be proud.
Elizabeth Rechebei, September 29, 1999
This forum is fortunate to have received insightful and informative comments from people who have been involved in fisheries and are knowledgeable about Micronesia. All the comments agree that it is indeed very viable.
Granted that it is viable, the Fishing Industry in Micronesia is very much dependent on outside assistance in the areas of expertise, information, research and funding. At the same time, the industry is vulnerable to the slow economic growth in many of the island nations. While it is hoped that Micronesians will one day take full charge of this potentially valuable and lucrative industry, the foundation for such an possibility still seems remote.
What Micronesians control now, with limited effectiveness, due to limited surveillance and enforcement assets and capabilities, are their fishing zones, and to some extent, the operations of foreign fishing activities through fishing permits granted to foreign fishing vessels.
The policies to develop effective conservation measures and sustainable use of the resources in the region, appear to be in proper order and are still being improved to this day. There are cooperative efforts among the Distant Water Fishing Nations and the Pacific island countries, including the US and its territories in developing an international framework within the UN Law of the Sea to properly conserve and manage the resources in the region.
However, in the area of fishing industry development, it seems that Micronesians must adopt innovative strategies if they are going to realize significant benefits from their resources. The strategies may have to deviate from the traditional concept of attracting foreign investors such as joint ventures. They must be able to offer short-term concessions for investors and create business environment to assure reasonable returns of investments. There must be trust, transparency and flexibility on the part of governments to ensure the success of the operations.
A great deal of negotiation processes coupled with the all important information bases relating to migratory fishes, habitats, large scale fishing techniques, conservation regulations, political and legal issues relating to ocean resources, etc., affect the fishing industry and how well Micronesians can ensure that the maximum profit goes to the islands. Without this knowledge base, Micronesians must continue to rely on outside expertise to help them get the most out of what may be the last frontier for protein sources for the entire world. As some experts have stated in our settings, fisheries development is a complex subject as there are biological, technical-freezing, food processing, boat-building, navigation, mechanic/machinist, economics, political, educational, environmental and social issues that have to be taken into consideration.
In the absence of these expertise, knowledge and skills necessary to properly exploit the fishing potentials of the region, Micronesians leaders should establish clear and long term strategies and commitment first to develop its human resources in order to allow full participation by islanders in its fisheries development. Concurrently, incentives to fishing ventures with reliable partners, as suggested in some of the comments, should be encouraged.
Technical training and formal education in marine sciences, the fishing industry and global economics affecting this industry must be fully supported. Government should reassess the wage scales and make them more rewarding for students to pursue these fields of study. Scholarships in this area should be made a priority, and elementary and secondary education curriculum should integrate appropriate level of instruction and information about the rich resources of the oceans in the Pacific and in particular in their respective EEZ.
Technology and up-to-date information on marine life continue to develop and provide the bases for decision making and policies affecting the fishing industry. If Micronesians should continue to leave this aspect of learning about their own backyards to others, then they will forever be beholden to others to make important decisions for them. Knowledge is really the key here and the rest will hopefully follow. The rest in this case relates to hard work, sacrifice, fair and equitable salaries in the islands, proper maintenance of infrastructure and equipment, diligent, humane and efficient management styles, and global economic and political awareness.
If we do not want to go out for months on a ship, who will do it for us? If we do not understand the migratory patterns and life of fishes and their environment, who will explain it to us? Do we want to continue allowing others to tell us what we have and what we can do with them?
The island nations have already begun notable work in negotiations and policy setting. However, expertise in all areas affecting fisheries is still lacking among the islanders and thus the reliance on outside assistance. The time will come, however, when islanders must learn to understand and decide for themselves, when outside assistance in the areas of research, expertise and technology will dwindle or disappear altogether. Can we afford to wait for this to happen after the resource no longer becomes viable or no longer under the control of Micronesians and other Pacific Island nations? I think that educating our people, starting at elementary school, about our marine resources early on, and providing scholarships for further training in this field should be one of the means to ensure the continuing viability of fisheries in Micronesia.
In shore fisheries has been an important source of food as well as a source of income for palauans. Inshore fish is declining in number because of big demand for exportation. If we keep on supporting the outsiders with our essential marine resources soon or later we will run out and will be forced to eat canned fish which is not healthy for our life style. I think we should reserve inshore fish just for our community and utilize off shore fisheries for commercial.
Ngoriakl Ometelel, March 28, 2000
I think offshore and inshore fisherie should be reserved for Micronesians only because most of the Palauan people depend on the fish for food and economic purposes. The idea for large scale commercial fishing ventures in micronesia is not good because in the future there will be less fish for the people in Micronesia for their use. I think we should put more effort in implementing the existing programs regarding the large commercial fishing ventures in palau and throughout Micronesia.That it for now..........