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Fisheries in the Pacific

 | 
Simonne Pauwels
, 
Elodie Fache

Resources, boundaries and governance: what future for marine resources in Micronesia?

Manuel Rauchholz

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Introduction

  • 1 I will not elaborate on this as it would lead us beyond the scope of this paper. For more material (...)
  • 2 Fieldwork for this publication was done in the Western Pacific or Micronesian island region, espec (...)

1Being a cultural anthropologist and not a marine scientist, my primary method of data collection is to participate in the lives of the people I am living with, observing all aspects of their social and economic interactions and communication, interviewing individuals and groups of persons on aspects of their culture and language, enquiring into motivations and key values that might lie behind and drive observed behaviour and practices. In this research process, understanding the place of the diverse marine life forms we refer to as “marine resources” in our materialist world is central to understanding key aspects of Micronesian and most Pacific island cultures. As valued and revered life-sustaining substance, marine life forms are more than “marine resources” or a simple “source of protein”. They convey deep meaning, with emotional value central to people’s identity and sense of self. Pacific Islanders’ oral histories, cultural reasoning, moral tales, legends, myths, jokes, proverbs, war and political strategies, fighting techniques and even sorcery and healing methods involve and have evolved around local knowledge and highly specialized observations and associations regarding the surrounding environment with its forms of marine life.1 To this day, much of this cultural and emotional heritage and knowledge is encoded in language, reflected in material culture, and is the kind of data historically collected and documented by cultural anthropologists like myself. Questions related to the current governance of marine resources therefore came to my attention in various contexts, but they never assumed centre stage in my overall research activities because they were subsumed under the larger cultural questions summarized above. However, since 2004, I have been able to accumulate considerable material on the Micronesian island region.2

Micronesia, an intermediary region between four continents, and global political and economic interests

2The region of Micronesia under analysis here comprises among others three island nations, the Republic of Palau (RP), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) with the four States of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae, and finally to the east, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Aside from Guam, which became a permanent US possession in 1899 after the Spanish-American War of 1898, the recent history of these islands has been shaped to varying degrees by the colonial powers of Spain, Germany, Japan and, since World War II, the United States of America (USA). When the US Trusteeship ended — for the FSM and RMI in 1986 and for RP in 1994 — these newly formed island nations entered into a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the USA allowing COFA citizens to travel, study and work in the USA. US citizens in return are free to reside and work in the COFA states. Since independence, a large number of COFA citizens have moved to Guam, Hawaii and the continental USA in search of employment, education and health care and many have decided to reside there permanently. Today, an estimated 40,000 FSM citizens reside in the USA and its territories while about 110,000 remain at home (Rauchholz 2012).

  • 3 http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/World-Leaders-2003/Marshall-Islands-FOREIGN-POLICY.html (Access (...)

3In recent years, additional alliances and bilateral partnerships have been formed between the Micronesian island nations and their neighbours. From its beginnings in 1994, RP has maintained close ties with Taiwan while the FSM have maintained and developed their bilateral relations with the People’s Republic of China. RMI initially cooperated closely with China but then turned to Taiwan in 1998, resulting in multiple aid and infrastructure projects being developed and supported by Taiwan.3

  • 4 According to Billy Kuartei, the current Minister of State, Palau received about 117,000 visitors i (...)
  • 5 Micronesian governments were ill-advised and often coerced into purchasing vessels (i.e. purse sei (...)

4With the economic success of Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea in the 1980s and 1990s, and more recently the People’s Republic of China, these Micronesian islands have seen a surge in tourism and imported labour from Asia with Palau leading the way.4 In the 1990s a Micronesian tuna fishing industry emerged. The attempts of the newly independent governments to boost their economies eventually failed due to ill-advised government investments and poor management by government contractors.5 Today, fleets of Asian, American and a few European fishing vessels sail the seas and exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of this region in search of prized tuna supporting a US $ 7 billion industry (see fig. 1).

Figure 1: FSM and bordering countries’ EEZs

Figure 1: FSM and bordering countries’ EEZs

© Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) 2015.

  • 6 This device was manned by an Indonesian fisherman. The structure was tied to a series of full-grow (...)

5With an ocean area spanning around 7.2 million sq km, it is obvious that these small island nations cannot control, let alone monitor (illegal) activities within their borders. The following figure (see fig. 2) shows a manned fish aggregating device used by Indonesian fishermen to fish illegally in FSM waters.6

Figure 2: Manned Indonesian fish aggregating device (FAD) washed ashore on Mwooch Island, Chuuk State, after a storm

Figure 2: Manned Indonesian fish aggregating device (FAD) washed ashore on Mwooch Island, Chuuk State, after a storm

© Manuel Rauchholz, 2015.

6Over the course of my work, two main foci have emerged with regard to questions of marine resource governance in Micronesia: local coastal fisheries management and the global commercial fishing industry.

Coastal and fisheries management in Micronesia

7The most extensive summary on nearshore fisheries management in Micronesia was published in 2011 by The Nature Conservancy. This interdisciplinary report gives an excellent overview of the relationship between market forces and nearshore fisheries “in transition from subsistence to a market-economy” (Rhodes et al. 2011: 11). The overall findings indicate that “[d]espite obvious and ongoing overharvest and degradation, reef fisheries in Micronesia remain relatively unconstrained by legislative or management action” and in some cases government “is even actively working against management measures to improve and sustain resources” (ibid.; italics in the original). As an example, the article cites the illegal fishing activities of a former governor of Pohnpei State who was caught fishing in a marine protected area (MPA) in 2006 and the resulting measures taken to weaken the monitoring and enforcement of illegal fishing activities (Rhodes et al. 2011: 101-102).

  • 7 The lake is one of approximately 70 marine lakes in Palau and home to millions of jellyfish, which (...)
  • 8 In a survey of 72 passengers exporting reef fish from Pohnpei in 2006, 45% indicated their fish wa (...)
  • 9 According to environmental scientist Javier Cuetos-Bueno (2014, personal communication), who has b (...)

8Kevin L. Rhodes et al. report that “Pohnpei is now extracting nearly 1.5 times (150%) its sustainable productive capacity” (2011: 99-100; italics in the original; Rhodes et al. 2014). Thus, there is an immediate need to reduce catch volume and restore productivity in Pohnpei as in other Micronesian jurisdictions (Cuetos-Bueno and Houk 2014; Houk et al. 2012). The Republic of Palau has probably taken the strongest actions to introduce and enforce new legislation and protective measures of nearshore marine resource extraction backed by taxation providing funds to support monitoring and enforcement activities (Rhodes et al. 2011: 86). Currently, Palau collects a US$30 green fee from every non-citizen departing the country and the State of Koror charges an additional US$50 to every tourist visiting the Rock Islands and another US$50 for a visit to Jellyfish Lake (Ongeim’l Tketau).7 In 2010, when the fee was still US$25, this earned an estimated revenue of US$3.1 million (ibid.). With tourism numbers increasing by around 25,000 in 2014 compared to 2011, this would amount to an estimated US$7 million or more in revenue for conservation activities. However, the downside to this increase in funding is that the growing tourism industry also has an appetite for local reef fish, including some species not usually harvested, such as the Humphead Wrasse/Napoleon-Lippfish (Cheilinus undulatus) (Rhodes et al. 2011: 37, 76). Thus although Palau may serve as a model in conservatory stewardship in the Micronesian island region, “reef fish demand has not necessarily declined” (Rhodes et al. 2011: 87). Recent examinations of Palau’s fisheries suggest that the country is fully exploited (Newton et al. 2007) and there is no evidence to suggest that current levels of fishing are sustainable (Rhodes et al. 2011: 99-100). As in all parts of Micronesia, islanders are exporting large quantities of fish to Guam, Hawaii and the mainland USA for subsistence and family exchange or market sales.8 Shipping fish overseas to Guam, Hawaii or the USA is popular because it can increase the revenue and income of fishers, but it reduces the supplies available on local fishing markets and puts additional pressure on the marine ecosystems. In Chuuk, Guam is a primary destination for reef fish destined to support the demand of over 1 million tourists — most of whom are from Japan — who visit the island annually.9 A plane flies from Chuuk to Guam every other day and on flight days, catch numbers are higher than average. There are also times and days when reef fish are not available or lacking in quantity on the local markets on Wééné (Chuuk’s capital island) because of shipments to Guam and Hawaii.

  • 10 In July 2015, 111 illegal fishermen from Vietnam who had been caught poaching on FSM reefs were re (...)

9However, one of the largest challenges in some jurisdictions is the use of harmful and illegal fishing methods such as blast fishing in Chuuk, the fishing of octopus by women in reef shallows using chlorine, and systematic poaching by foreign fishing vessels, mostly Southeast Asian (Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese) or Chinese, within the EEZs of the Micronesian island nations.10

Blast fishing in Chuuk

  • 11 One of my neighbours was in fact caught with a homemade dynamite cocktail in his backpack on Wééné (...)

10When I began my fieldwork in Chuuk in 2004, I often saw dynamited fish being sold illegally off the back of pick-up trucks or even at the local fish markets on Wééné and in the two villages in the western part of the Chuuk Lagoon where I resided. Seeing my interest, local friends taught me how to identify blasted fish. People in the community and at the markets told me that there had been a recent surge in dynamite fishing in Chuuk after external funding had expired for a programme during the second term of Governor Dr. Ansito Walter (2001-2005). This programme had been helping the local government in its efforts to enforce legislation outlawing dynamite fishing. It also supported the daily monitoring of the reefs and ocean for possible blasts and fish sold at the local fish markets, and included the arrest and incarceration of persons who were caught fishing with dynamite, or got caught with dynamite in their possession.11

  • 12 The Korea South Pacific Ocean Research Center (KSORC) has a research station on Wééné in the villa (...)

11On subsequent fishing tours along sections of the south-western barrier reef of the Chuuk Lagoon, I was personally shocked at the visible devastation of the reefs that one could even see when looking down at the sea bottom in calm waters off a small skiff: corals scattered in concentric circles everywhere I looked along a stretch of reef over a mile long. This area was regularly hard hit with blasting during the spawning time of groupers that congregated by the thousands on these reef sections each year. In 2007, I witnessed such a disaster when boatloads of groupers were brought to our village for sale and there were too many fish for the island community to consume, so that much of the fish ended up spoiling. Korean marine scientists confirmed these observations, saying they could not enter the water with diving gear in the western part of the Chuuk Lagoon without driving sharks into a feeding frenzy, forcing them out of the water on a number of occasions.12 A few times, they returned to marine life testing grounds in this region only to find the reef had been blasted and their sea cultures destroyed. I often discussed the culture of blast fishing with community members and especially with religious leaders in our village community.

  • 13 I make a distinction here between the religious community and the village community. Even though m (...)
  • 14 A year earlier, a series of incidents were also noteworthy. On one occasion, all but one of the el (...)

12On a few occasions, we were sitting together talking in the village centre with me taking notes when young men came by our village from the neighbouring island of Pwééné to sell dynamited fish. On such occasions, I would use the opportunity to openly talk about and discuss the damaging effects of blast fishing for generations to come, and over time our religious community decided not to purchase the fish. Consequently, on later occasions, we all walked away from the dock empty handed after discovering that the catch for sale had been blasted. Our reasoning was that if the community and in particular the religious community13 in Chuukiyénú refrained from buying blasted fish collectively, this would discourage blast fishers from coming to sell their catch in our village and reduce the base of potential customers, while at the same time increasing the awareness of the harmful nature of this fishing method. If these measures led to a decline in blast fishers avoiding our dock I cannot say, but we did see some success on following occasions when only one or two families sent out their young to fetch some blasted fish when they were for sale at the village dock. This was in 2007.14

13The history of blast fishing goes back to colonial times and it seems to have been introduced to Chuuk by Japanese traders. The earliest accounts of dynamite fishing I have found date back to reports from American and later German missionaries from around 1900 and onward. Japanese traders used this method to increase their catch and revenue. Later on, especially during World War II, the Japanese armed forces were cut off from their supply lines due to US control of the surrounding waters in early 1944. Food supplies became limited for the estimated 20,000 Japanese troops stationed in the Chuuk Lagoon and its surrounding atolls. For the next year and a half, the Japanese military personnel sent out blast squads in between the daily US bombing raids that usually struck in the mornings at around 10.00 a.m. and in the late afternoons at around 3.00-4.00 p.m. One old man I interviewed in 2005 in the village of Bokochow, Paata, in the western part of Chuuk Lagoon, had been assigned to one of these blast squads that systematically blasted along sections of Chuuk Lagoon’s barrier reef. Often at gunpoint, he and his fellow islanders, which included Nauruans who were interned in Chuuk during World War II, were forced into the water after the blasts to collect the fish amidst the sharks who had gotten used to the practice and swam in between the islanders in a feeding frenzy as they were busy bagging as many fish as possible. To my knowledge, the impact of this wartime practice has never been assessed in Chuuk.

  • 15 Close to 60 Japanese ships (and two submarines) were sunk during the US military operation “Hailst (...)

14After World War II, tonnes of explosives were left behind in the hulls of the sunken Japanese support ships now lying at the bottom of the Chuuk Lagoon.15 For many years after the war, some islanders extracted these explosives, mostly ship mines, and used them as a source for TNT to make their own explosive devices for blast fishing. Some families have collected their own arsenals of ship mines over the years and have hidden them on the ocean floor in marked areas off their reefs. These arsenals provide them with free and regular access to explosive materials. During my fieldwork between 2004 and 2007, an accident involving a ship mine on the island of Wutéét left three men dead and one seriously injured. As they were trying to extract the TNT, one of the four had jokingly struck the backside of the opened mine, triggering the unintended blast. A year after the incident I met the lone survivor in his village. In multiple incidents, men have lost arms, hands and legs in failed blast attempts while many more have been killed.

15Over the years, explosive material has also been obtained from companies involved with road construction and rock crushing on Wééné. Before and during the last road construction period, which started in 2006, explosives were reported to have disappeared from storage and increased incidents of blast fishing followed. The same was reported during the late 1970s and early 1980s when the airport runway was being paved and roads developed. Large amounts of explosives were needed to blast away basaltic rock, and some of this material wandered off for use in blast fishing activities.

16Though awareness has increased over the years regarding the long-term harm of blast fishing to the marine environment, it may still be considered an occasional problem in Chuuk.

Future developments in nearshore fisheries

  • 16 Unfortunately, some key government departments and agencies fail to deliver their programming cont (...)

17Though conservation efforts are slow, a combination of cultural marine tenure (CMT) with insights from marine science and external governmental support implemented through local governments and foremost NGOs and private channels seems to hold the most promise for future success in sustaining and developing nearshore marine resources.16 Over the past five years, for example, a programme funded by the EU and the German government (GIZ) on climate change adaptation (implemented in cooperation with the Pacific Community in Pohnpei) has provided invaluable support for marine resource management and development in the Micronesian region.

Figure 3: Women fishing together with hand nets on Tol Island, 1970s

Figure 3: Women fishing together with hand nets on Tol Island, 1970s

© Roland Rauchholz.

  • 17 Many community leaders (traditional and Christian) I have talked to in Chuuk stated that the most (...)

18Most communities in Micronesia have had conservation measures in place, usually enforced by reef owners who often limited access to the marine areas and resources, which they owned and controlled. These measures mostly included the closing off of reef sections for fisheries, normally after the death of a reef owner (pwaaw or mechen in Chuuk). Religious beliefs, which include ideas about the nature of things, spirit beings, ancestors and human beings that share the same universe, have had a history of being a driving force in CMT. People would and today still will mostly avoid the entrance to closed-off reef sections out of fear of negative repercussions from community leadership, but above all from the spirit world for possible violations against the established moral code. One source I interviewed mentioned how on her island a larger reef section, adjacent to the island, was closed for fishing by the chief for over 25 years. Nobody dared to violate this restriction.17 Everyone remembers the day, time and what they were doing when the taboo (pwaaw) was lifted and the markers (mechen) on the reef removed, thus allowing everyone to enter the formerly restricted area and begin feasting on the plentiful amounts of large and tame fish.

Figure 4: Young women cleaning reef fish (parrot), Chuuk Lagoon

Figure 4: Young women cleaning reef fish (parrot), Chuuk Lagoon

© Manuel Rauchholz, 2006.

19A weakness in conservation and other development efforts has been the exclusion or lack of integration of key religious organisations and communities such as the Catholic and Protestant churches. Religion in Micronesia does carry strong positive moral incentives for people to comply with what can be established as being in line with religious beliefs such as respect for creation and good stewardship over marine and natural resources. Today, churches in Micronesia are the largest and most successful independent social organisations able to raise funds, implement projects and mobilise people.

  • 18 To this day there are at least 50 organisations, institutions and governments that have provided m (...)
  • 19 http://www.micronesiachallenge.org (Accessed on July 22, 2015). Other similar initiatives have spr (...)

20Efforts are being undertaken by all local governments in Micronesia (including Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands not otherwise discussed here), supported by numerous organizations active at local and global levels,18 “to effectively conserve at least 30% of the nearshore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020” through what has become known worldwide as the “Micronesia Challenge”.19

Figure 5: Traditional fish trap, Mwooch Island, Chuuk State. Such traps may support conservation measures

Figure 5: Traditional fish trap, Mwooch Island, Chuuk State. Such traps may support conservation measures

© Manuel Rauchholz, 2005.

  • 20 See Palau International Coral Reef Center’s website for more information at http://www.PICRC.org ( (...)
  • 21 For more information see the organisation’s website at http://www.coralreefresearchfoundation.org (...)
  • 22 The Pacific Community (SPC) has been very active in research and development initiatives, but has (...)

21At present, precise research data on reef fish stocks is still rather limited, but promising research initiatives are underway. A long-term case study from the Chuuk Lagoon on the types, sizes, and quantities of reef fish caught and brought to the Wééné fish market was conducted over the course of a year (2013-2014) by environmental scientist Javier Cuetos-Bueno. Once the findings are published, they will provide the largest and most reliable quantity of data available for any jurisdiction in Micronesia on the state of reef fish populations and their habitats. Over many years, Kevin L. Rhodes, Kimberley Warren-Rhodes and Peter Houk, among others, have been doing similar work in Pohnpei. In Palau, numerous marine research projects are underway through the Palau International Coral Reef Center in cooperation with major overseas research institutions. One example is the ongoing cooperation between the University of Hawaii, Stanford University and Palau Community College in joint research, student exchanges and teaching efforts focusing on coral reef ecology and management options.20 Another is the long-time work of the Coral Reef Research Foundation headed by Patrick Colin, who has been making long-term contributions to coral reef research in the Micronesian region.21 What is still lacking is a regional institutional research platform that could bring together the plentiful initiatives and activities of researchers, institutions, governments and NGOs in the region. Such a platform could provide better cooperation and coordination of research efforts and offer research-based advice for domestic, national and regional policy makers, environmental and development specialists, communities and potential funders of research in the Micronesian region.22

Poaching and illegal fishing activities by foreign fishing nations23

  • 23 For this section, people in government and cooperating support agencies have been interviewed and (...)

22Poaching and illegal fishing activities of foreign fishing vessels in the coastal waters on and around the reefs of Micronesian islands has increased considerably over the past years and 2015 marked a climax in these illegal and exploitative activities. In the first half of 2015, over 120 Chinese and Vietnamese men were imprisoned on Pohnpei and about 35 in Yap after they were caught conducting illegal fishing and poaching activities on the reefs of Ngulu, Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi Atolls.

  • 24 As mentioned earlier, Yap State is one of four states that make up the Federated States of Microne (...)

23A group of 10 vessels was sighted gathering sea cucumbers and reef fish at Ngulu Atoll in Yap, and islanders there reported them to the national and state governments. When Yap State’s request for help from the national coastguard24 was not met, local officials put together a small armada of skiffs and outboard motor boats, armed them with police officers and able citizens, and sailed around 120 km across the open ocean to Ngulu. There, they were able to successfully catch around 35 illegal fishermen and confiscate some of their vessels.

24Larger groups of illegal fishermen, mostly from Vietnam and some from China, were caught on the atolls of Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi, south of Pohnpei. The sailors were mostly from Vietnam while the ship owners were identified as being either Chinese or Vietnamese. Many sailors in particular have claimed that they were trafficked to work on the vessels, others submitted claims of being smuggled and wanting to seek asylum. Figuring out the circumstances and the extent of illegal activities by these poachers has been a challenge for local authorities due to language barriers and the varying accounts of the persons interviewed. One confiscated vessel with its crew under house arrest was able to escape from Pohnpei Harbor during a typhoon in April 2015 under life threatening circumstances. After the typhoon they were caught a second time for illegal fishing activities exactly where they had been arrested the first time. There has therefore been talk of organised crime and trafficking through investors or ship owners pressuring crews and captains not to return home empty-handed lest they or their families back home experience further exploitation or aggression by their employers. While local governments and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are trying to assist as best they can, it is difficult to identify or connect these activities with incidents of human trafficking or human smuggling.

25In Palau, a Chinese poacher was accidentally shot and killed in March 2015 in an attempt to arrest him and a group of 25 poaching fishermen and confiscate their vessels. Rather than receiving apologies from China for the illegal breaching of its boundaries and theft of its marine resources by some of its citizens, the Palauan government received threats. Accusations of the maltreatment of its citizens and human rights violations were made in what was clearly an accident that took place when the Chinese citizens resisted arrest and fled the crime scene (unnamed government officials, 2015, personal communication). What is becoming ever more evident in the current illegal doings is that these are not the activities of single persons or vessels, but that these poaching activities are being well coordinated and systematically organised. In some of the cases involving illegal fishing activities, there have been smaller vessels including skiffs with Chinese fishing illegally in coastal waters and on the reefs of Palau. When the government made an attempt to contain the fishermen, the boats dispersed in multiple directions out to sea. Those who were caught had no supplies or fuel on board that could have suggested they came a long way, such as from the Philippines or China. In addition, the vessels did not have the capacity to preserve and transport their catch back to the Asian markets where the fishermen came from. The same is also true for poaching activities encountered regularly and systematically on the southern islands of Palau as well as on Helen Reef. Many of the poachers are operating small skiffs with supply and transport ships hiding further out at sea. The ability to monitor these distant reefs and atolls is hardly possible and poachers pose a serious threat to the sustainability of Micronesian island marine resources.

26In another case, crew members of one larger but still small vessel claimed to have fallen off course and drifted for many days in their attempt to seek asylum overseas. When GPS and navigational instruments were inspected, it was found that they had taken direct course for Yap from their place of origin in Asia and their food supplies had recently been fully replenished. Therefore, there was little doubt that one or more larger vessels had launched them or supported them from a greater distance to avoid detection.

  • 25 Palau, the FSM, and the Marshall islands were part of the former United Nations US Trust Territory (...)

27Some people I have talked to in Micronesian governments see a growing need to clearly redefine the security policies outlined in the respective Compacts of Free Association25 between their independent Micronesian island states (Palau, the FSM and the RMI) and the USA. They claim that the USA must be more involved and held accountable to protect against intrusion from any person or entity in violation of their borders and EEZs, just as it is responsible for deterring a hostile foreign nation. With no more than a handful of coastguard vessels, these island states cannot protect their maritime borders from constant intrusion and illegal extraction of marine resources.

  • 26 The FSM states outlawed shark fishing between 2012 and 2014 within their islands’12-mile zones. Ch (...)
  • 27 Even some historical sites such as the Japanese Lighthouse on the island of Alei, Pwolowot, a sigh (...)

28Another difficulty in preventing or even reducing illegal, unregulated and unreported marine resource exploitation (IUU) is the fact that most rural island communities are not serviced on a regular basis by their own governments. Many have therefore come to rely on foreign fishing vessels passing through their waters for foodstuffs, supplies and cash. On the southern atolls of Palau, the small island population recurrently engages in trade relations with poachers, often only reporting those who may have disappointed local actors or caused a community to feel threatened by their presence. On the outer islands between Chuuk and Yap, there is a vibrant shark fin trade and in 2010 I saw some canoe houses draped with shark fins caught and dried by local fishermen for trade with the next available fishing vessel or trading partner.26 This trade is in fact illegal, as foreign fishing vessels are not permitted to approach islands within the 12-mile zone, let alone get off their vessels to fish or trade with local populations. Often enough though, these illegal poachers provide resources for some remote island communities where government support is lacking. Many reefs, shoals and islands in this region are far removed from inhabited islands, so there is no secure monitoring of vessels’ activities while passing through these waters. Other marine resources such as sea cucumbers and sea turtles, prized delicacies in Asia and Southeast Asia, are also at risk of increased exploitation through poaching by foreign fishing vessels.27

  • 28 For more information on shark sanctuaries in the Pacific and worldwide, consult the Marine Conserv (...)
  • 29 Foreign fishing vessels (FFVs) that are legally registered to fish in the EEZs of Pacific Island n (...)

29In response to global shark finning and the reduction of shark stocks worldwide, the Republic of Palau has created “the first shark sanctuary in the world” (in 2001) and the RMI “the largest shark sanctuary in the world” (in 2011). The latter was established in response, among other reasons, to harmful poaching activities in some of the RMI’s most attractive shark diving spots in recent years.28 If illegal shark poaching activities cannot be contained, shark populations in Micronesia risk declining to levels harmful to the ecosystem. Over recent years I have been interviewing “observers”29 monitoring fishing activities on board foreign fishing vessels legally fishing in the Micronesian island region and beyond. Some of their reports are very alarming with regards to certain shark populations, such as the silky shark. According to one observer, in about 2010 he could count and document up to 70-80 full-grown silky sharks as part of the tuna bycatch on a successful fishing tour in Micronesian and Papua New Guinean waters. However, in 2014 and 2015, he only counted around 12 specimens in the bycatch of two multi-month fishing trips in the same waters, and all were junior sharks under 1 m long. This evolution in the number of sharks over barely more than five years was in his opinion alarming. This leads us to our next and final section, an outlook on the global commercial tuna industry.

Micronesia and the global commercial tuna industry

  • 30 http://www.globefish.org/tuna-october-2012.html (Accessed on July 22, 2015). More information can (...)

30The global commercial tuna industry is a very complex industry with its own dynamics, challenges and risks. Sharp fluctuations in global market values of tuna render it difficult at times to assess or predict proceeds from the industry. The price of tuna has varied in recent years between US $ 700 per metric tonne of skipjack, the most common Micronesian tuna caught and sold, in 2004 (Wilson 2007: 9), to around US $ 2,150 per metric tonne in the fall of 2012. Currently, it has settled at around US $ 1,150-1,250 per metric tonne on the global market.30 Over the past years, revenue from the sale of tuna fishing rights has developed into the main or a key source of independent income for tuna resource nations such as the FSM, the Marshall Islands and a few other small island nations such as Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu. Along with numerous foreign fishing nations such as the USA, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea and the European Union, these resource nations are members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), currently headquartered in the FSM in downtown Kolonia on the island of Pohnpei.

  • 31 The PNA nations were receiving a total of US $ 60 million per year in 2010, with only about US$500 (...)
  • 32 During the same year the FSM sold 6,000 fishing days and could therefore account for US$36,000,000 (...)
  • 33 From the creation of the EEZs in 1979 until 2001, the FSM by comparison received US$170 million fo (...)

31In 1982, eight tuna resource nations formed their own interest group known as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). The member states of the PNA are Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Palau, FSM, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu. They have pursued three main goals: the rational development and utilisation of the living resources within the EEZs, in particular the common stocks of fish; the exploitation of common stocks of fish, both within the EEZs and adjacent waters, by distant water fishing nations (DWFNs); and cooperation in the management of the eight EEZs to achieve maximum benefits from the fisheries resources. In his article “A Tuna Industry in Micronesia?” published in the Micronesian Counselor, Peter Wilson (2007), a former Director of Fisheries in Papua New Guinea and advisor to the government, suggested that Pacific Island nations strengthen their cooperation with the goal of improving regulations and the implementation of measures to increase local revenue from the tuna industry in the island states. In 2010 this goal was finally achieved when the PNA staffed an executive branch to manage and promote their interests vis-à-vis foreign fishing nations. The office was established on Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands and is headed by Transform Aqorau from the Solomon Islands, who has a PhD in maritime law. The so-called Vessel Day Scheme (VDS, see also Allain et al. in this volume) was strongly promoted and developed to allow foreign vessels to purchase active fishing days and pay auctioned or negotiated fees per day of fishing in PNA waters. Before the establishment of the PNA office in 2010, the VDS brought in only US$1,100 per fishing day to the FSM.31 Two years later, the amount had risen to US$3,000 per fishing day, the following year to US$5,000 per day, and by 2013 it was US$6,000.32 That rate increased once again in 2014 to US$8,000. According to Maurice Brownjohn, commercial manager of the PNA office in Majuro, fishing days were being traded for up to US$10,000 per fishing day in 2015, and in Papua New Guinea even up to US$12,000 with the amount expected to move towards the vicinity of US$15,000 per fishing day in the years to come (Brownjohn 2015, personal communication). In sum, the establishment of the PNA executive office in 2010 to represent PNA interests in the global tuna fishing industry has resulted in an increase in revenues for the eight-member group of PNA nations in five years from US$60 million in 2011 to US$360 million in 2015. That is an increase of five to six times the amount received in 2011 (Brownjohn 2015, personal communication).33 The industry is able and willing to pay these fees and some fishing companies and fish processors would like to see a hike in the price of tuna per metric tonne to about twice the amount of today’s going rate for skipjack, which is a little over US$1,000 per metric tonne, to around US$2,000 or more (Brownjohn 2015, personal communication).

Figure 6: Trolling for tuna outside the Chuuk Lagoon

Figure 6: Trolling for tuna outside the Chuuk Lagoon

© Manuel Rauchholz, 2006.

32If one takes the development of these numbers into account and calculates them against the operating costs and profits of the purse seine tuna industry, one will be surprised at how high the profits of the purse seine and global tuna industry has been over the years.

  • 34 I want to thank Peter Sitan, Director of the FSM NFC for providing me with this data set. It must (...)

33The following table (tab. 1) represents self-reported data on operating costs and income presented by purse seiners to the FSM National Fisheries Corporation (NFC).34 The two data sets in the table have been put into parallel columns by NFC for easier comparison. The first represents the average self-reported figures of a Japanese purse seine operator, while the second corresponds to the figures reported by the average Chinese or Taiwanese operator, according to Peter Sitan (2014, personal communication). One can see that the total revenue reported matches the tuna price for skipjack in 2012 of about US$2,000 per metric tonne (see below). A number of things are noteworthy: (1) the Japanese reporting is exact, even behind the decimals, while the Chinese and Taiwanese reporting is approximate with round figures emerging; (2) material costs differ by US$1.6 million; (3) operating expenses differ by US$2.2 million; and (4) crew costs are over US $ 2.0 million lower per annum on the Chinese vessels.

Table 1: Self-reported data on operating costs and income presented by purse seiners to the FSM National Fisheries Corporation (NFC)

Table 1: Self-reported data on operating costs and income presented by purse seiners to the FSM National Fisheries Corporation (NFC)

© Manuel Rauchholz, 2015.

  • 35 http://www.auto-motor-und-sport.de/news/studie-zum-neuwagenverkauf-porsche-mit-hoechstem-gewinn-pr (...)

34In sum, the Japanese purse seiner averaged a profit of US $ 1.3 million in 2012 compared to a self-reported net profit of US $ 5.8 million by the Chinese. Not only do labour costs differ greatly, but so do material costs and operating expenses, though it is unclear what is subsumed under operating expenses, as it could mean salary, fuel costs or multiple other possibilities. Unfortunately, I do not have a more detailed breakdown of the costs and profits of operating a purse seine vessel in Micronesia, but it is clear that a lot of money can be made, as indicated by the Chinese vessels. In any industry, a net profit of close to 50% of the total revenue would be considered exceptionally high. In the automobile industry for example, Porsche leads the way with about 18%-19% net profit, or about €16,820, per vehicle sold in 2013, while competitors such as Mercedes-Benz only made about €3,620 per vehicle sold before taxes, and yet others like Volkswagen (€966) and Toyota (€845) made even less per vehicle during the same time period.35 These developments only give a glimpse of how economically and ecologically exploitative the industry was towards the small island nations before monitoring was improved with the introduction of the VDS and 100% observer coverage, among other measures.

Human rights issues

  • 36 For comparison: A captain on a Japanese or Korean purse seiner may receive between US$200,000-400, (...)

35The question which arises is how can two vessels operate on such different terms, and who is bearing the hidden costs? From my interviews with ship captains, crew members and observers working in the industry, combined with the experiences of Indonesian fishermen who have worked in the Pacific tuna business in the past and were interviewed by my colleague in Heidelberg, Katharina Schneider, this profit margin can be clearly traced to labour violations and wide-scale incidents of human trafficking. One reliable source which does not wish to be identified, but has been working in the industry for more than 30 years, said that on many Chinese and Taiwanese vessels he has encountered, violations of labour rights are standard. On many vessels, crew members from Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia or Bangladesh only receive US$25 of their monthly salary of US$80-120. The rest of the pay cheque is withheld, and it is only after they have proven to be good workers that they might receive the remaining US$55-95 at the end of six months.36 They work in shifts of up to 18 hours and longer per day, eat canned tuna with oil, white rice and water three times a day, share their bed with other crew members, and if they are too tired to continue working, might be offered drugs to keep them awake and increase productivity. Some vessels employ a diverse population of sailors so that communication and the possibility of mutiny are decreased. The larger purse seine vessels often only employ smaller numbers of slave labourers, making it harder for the untrained eye to discover these injustices. Fear for their lives also exists among crew members of these vessels, as some are threatened to be thrown overboard at sea for noncompliance with expectations. For those crew members who are victims of human trafficking and working as slave labourers, these are valid fears as their presence on the vessels may not be known and they have no means of communication with the outside world while at sea.

  • 37 I make reference here to one recent report sent to me by Simonne Pauwels where the Associated Pres (...)
  • 38 According to the PNA, there are about 300 vessels registered in 2015 with purchased fishing days i (...)

36One captain said that in his view, further regulation would not help to alleviate this problem as long as the countries of origin were not taking any measures to counter these common and known practices in the industry. More regulation would only hurt those already working hard to comply with the law and decrease their ability to compete. There are measures being undertaken to prevent these types of labour violations, but detection and monitoring of these grievances will require better training of the observers on the vessels and the inclusion of human rights issues into the reporting procedures of observers and other persons involved in the monitoring of fishing activities and working conditions for sailors on board the vessels. The rate of exploitation is also expected to be higher on vessels fishing illegally. Reports by the BBC, CNN and the Associated Press have uncovered and documented these inhumane and illegal activities.37 Given the profit margins and the hard labour involved, abusive labour practices are conduct that the industry can clearly do without. The PNA has been doing all it can to prevent these kinds of activities in their waters, including 100% vessel coverage with observers, but as the above case shows, it is very difficult to achieve that goal given the size of the ocean and the number of vessels fishing there.38

Purse seining under the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS)

  • 39 Greenpeace has been a great supporter of the VDS according to Brownjohn. The PNA and environmental (...)

37The VDS has come under criticism by organisations such as Greenpeace and the European Union as it is seen by them to promote overfishing.39 Since the industry is not charged by the tonnage they land, but for the active fishing days, these must be maximised and the more one can catch, the higher the profits to be earned for the fishing days paid. “Conversely”, Brownjohn states, “VDS gives no incentive to misreport catches which was rampant pre VDS. Further, the number of days reflects the catch, so whilst it is argued VDS gives incentive to catch more per day, the number of days issued [is] balancing this” (2015, personal communication).

38The most fish caught under this scheme are through purse seine vessels, though plans are being made to apply the scheme to the longline industry as well. The average purse seine vessel has a cargo hold of 1,000 metric tonnes, and larger boats can hold up to 1,500-2,000 tonnes. Vessels with a capacity of below 1,000 metric tonnes have proven to be unprofitable. Smaller vessels are considered to be unsuitable for the Central and Western Pacific purse seining business according to some persons active in the industry due to the larger distances involved in fishing. Nevertheless, according to my sources in the industry that wished to remain unidentified, these “useless and unprofitable vessels” (head of a purse seine company, 2014, personal communication) were what the Micronesian governments purchased en masse in the 1990s based on the recommendations of their advisors (see also Jacobs 2002).

  • 40 According to the observers interviewed, this tuna is usually discarded within the 12-mile zones of (...)

39The purse seine fishing method is able to catch large amounts of fish in a relatively short amount of time, but it is also responsible for large numbers of bycatch and usually 1-2 tonnes or more of damaged tuna in the handling and transshipment process, especially when using FADs.40 Observers on board foreign fishing vessels are responsible for monitoring fishing activities in PNA waters. They are tasked with monitoring fishing vessels’ compliance with proper documentation and the reporting of bycatch, tonnage of landed fish types, respect of FAD closures from July through September, etc.

  • 41 In October and November 2014, four Japanese vessels were reported in violation of fishing during F (...)

40The Japanese government, among others, has been instrumental in assisting some PNA nations (i.e. FSM) with the technology to better monitor fishing activities of legally registered and monitored vessels within PNA waters. Being fined for violations of activities under a system one has helped set up is therefore understandably an embarrassing situation. This was the case in October and November 2014, when four Japanese vessels were fined for violation of fishing during the FAD closure.41 For the observers, taking note of violations is a difficult task when one also depends on the ship and its crew for one’s livelihood and shares a confined living space over months at sea. The captains and their crew as well as the observers know the role that each plays and are constantly trying to navigate this difficult world in which they work. If they report incidents which the ship captain does not want to see recorded and reported, the observers might be at risk and threatened or alternatively attempted to be bribed. Attempts of being bribed have been reported by Pohnpeian observers in the past while at the same time others have been seen driving with cars beyond their pay scale. On the other hand, observers are only tasked with observing and documenting what they see while on tour with fishing vessels. Their superiors on land who read and analyse their reports must identify areas in need of prosecution or fining for violation of existing laws and regulations. At this operational level, corruption may further enter into the reporting system as an observer’s superior willing to enquire about violations may contact ship captains. In return, the ship captain and his senior staff may respond by offering to pay a bribe in lieu of being reported or fined. For a company operating 50 vessels in the region, paying such “fees” is nothing. According to my own enquiries with persons in the industry, these and other violations abound and, for many, are considered normal.

  • 42 These nations pride themselves in their strong partnership with Micronesian island nations, but wh (...)

41Let us consider China, for example, which has close to 20 purse seine vessels operating in PNA waters. If each vessel made a net profit of close to US$6 million, we are looking at a net profit for one nation of close to US$120 million per year. Some of this money can easily be used to bribe government and other regulatory officials. One source familiar with these practices from personal experience and who spoke to me under the condition of anonymity told me it was “standard procedure” in the industry. In addition, many Chinese and Taiwanese captains and officers are poorly paid and thus feel forced to make some additional money on the side by not reporting their total tonnage of catch or by reporting different species caught so as to make a profit off the sales. These activities are reflected in the reports of observers who can report these illicit activities for most foreign fishing nations in the region, foremost though for the Chinese and Taiwanese active in Micronesian or Papua New Guinean waters.42

42In 2006, for example, Japan landed 80% of its overall tuna from PNA waters (Wilson 2007), and depending on the price of tuna and the types of tuna landed, might have made earnings from the raw tuna of between US$450 million to over US$1 billion for that year (at skipjack tuna pricing a little over US$1,000 per metric tonne). Over past years, the FSM has accounted for about 20% of total PNA tuna landings (Wilson 2007). Theoretically, this can mean that US$80 to 160 million worth of raw tuna could be coming to Japan from FSM waters each year. The processed value of this fish (skipjack frozen and cooked) is three times that value (FAO 2012), or between US$240 to 480 million in market value. In light of these numbers, US$13 million in annual “aid” from Japan to the FSM seem reasonably small. Standing alone, the amount is respectable.

  • 43 Brownjohn (2015, personal communication) comments that it would have been 18 million a year in sub (...)

43By comparison, according to Ron Crocombe’s investigations (1995), the USA paid US$10 million43 in fishing fees to 13 Pacific Island nations between 1987 and 1991 while annually landing tuna worth US$150 million. Interestingly, the money was not paid directly to the resource nations, but was dispersed through USAID, which in turn received its funding from the US Department of Defense. During the same time period, the FSM received combined annual funding from the USA through its Compact of Free Association of about US$60 million annually, of which 15% was used for service management costs directly in the USA, leaving the FSM with US$51 million each year for the first five years of the Compact of Free Association. During this time period, the FSM accounted for 20-28% of the total catch of tuna in the Western and Central Pacific or roughly for about US$36 million in total annual value of tuna landed by the USA in the region. If the value of the tuna landed by the USA from FSM waters during the first five years of the Compact of Free Association were to be included in our macroeconomic reasoning, the money spent by the USA in Micronesia is put into a different perspective as it then shrinks from US $ 60 million to roughly 13-14 million per year, the amount Japan currently provides the FSM.

  • 44 This observation does by no means wish to undermine the great sacrifices and achievements of forei (...)

44Even though these calculations might seem obscure to some policy makers, they do put into perspective the one-sided image usually presented in the USA, Japan, and to Micronesians of the lopsided relationship Micronesians have with their US and Japanese partners, as if their relationship was seemingly one of willful, one-dimensional dependence on foreign (US, Japanese, Chinese, etc.) “aid”. These numbers help us to gain a more balanced perspective that more accurately reflects the reciprocal nature of relations between small Micronesian island states and their larger neighbours on the Pacific Rim. It brings into plain view that Micronesians have something of value they have been sharing (too) freely with their neighbours who have a tradition of exploitation and domination under the guise of “aid”.44

Conclusion

45In the end, these observations and findings raise a number of questions. How can the two industries, the subsistence driven coastal fisheries of local island populations and the global tuna industry, practice self-control and self-regulation to the point of collectively and jointly preventing the depletion of coastal marine life and offshore tuna fish stocks? How are some of their current practices leading to the rapid depletion of marine resources and the marine environment to the point of seeing fish stocks collapse in the near future? What role can the governments of domestic and foreign fishing nations play in preservation and conservation efforts? The PNA has been able to make decisions on conservation and management during the past five years and thereby maintain healthy tuna stocks in its member’s EEZs. In the nearshore fishing industry, foreign nations must still demonstrate visible efforts to discourage their citizens’ illegal activities in Pacific Islands’ coastal and open waters. Besides, the high seas still suffer the “tragedy of the commons”, where conservation is always someone else’s issue (D’Arcy 2014).

46Micronesian island nations’ governance and management arrangements are constantly confronted with their own limitations and boundaries, struggling to properly oversee foreign nations’ fishing activities and enforce the fishing industry’s self-imposed regulations, which are continuously and actively transgressed for the sake of maximising financial profit. This situation has been met over the years by complacency on the part of the Micronesian governments, which are both satisfied with the financial returns from the global fishing industry and technologically unable to confront and crack down more passionately on illegal activities of marine resource exploitation. These illegal activities are thus pursued on a scale that is harmful to the security of long-term sustainable extraction of these renewable resources. Self-control and self-regulation/research-based regulation to work within accepted and set boundaries of the fishing industry remains a question to be answered if the future of fisheries in Micronesia is to be secured. The suggestions of one ship captain seem to make sense: limiting tuna landings per vessel (purse seine) at a fixed amount of annual tonnage, around 7,000 tonnes per year, in order to improve the tracking of the amount of caught tuna; predictions over the stability and development of tuna stocks; and the pricing of tuna products. Currently, the PNA is further promoting the VDS programme which has so far proven to best serve small island nations’ interests against the exploitative practices of foreign fishing nations. Nevertheless, other avenues might be thought of and introduced to maintain and increase the income for PNA and other tuna resource nations while at the same time keeping fish stocks at self-sustaining levels. Here, the PNA needs to get away from “selling cheap licenses” and move “towards vertical integration” to participate in “fishing, processing and trading” of tuna (Brownjohn 2015, personal communication).

Bibliography

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Notes

1 I will not elaborate on this as it would lead us beyond the scope of this paper. For more material on the subject I refer to Fischer 1957; Goodenough 2002; Hanlon 1988; Mauricio 1987; Rauchholz forthcoming 2016. It is worth mentioning though that Pohnpeians revered the eel, and therefore refrained from eating it. In Chuuk, people who associated themselves with a specific species of fish or marine life also would not eat this particular species. All across Micronesia, specific species of fish were reserved for specific people of name and rank.

2 Fieldwork for this publication was done in the Western Pacific or Micronesian island region, especially in the States of Pohnpei, Yap and Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2004-2007, 2009-2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015. I especially want to thank Maurice Brownjohn from the PNA office in Majuro for his valuable comments on the final draft of the paper.

3 http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/World-Leaders-2003/Marshall-Islands-FOREIGN-POLICY.html (Accessed on July 20, 2015).

4 According to Billy Kuartei, the current Minister of State, Palau received about 117,000 visitors in 2011. In 2014 the numbers have well surpassed the 140,000 mark.

5 Micronesian governments were ill-advised and often coerced into purchasing vessels (i.e. purse seiners) that had been proven to be uneconomical. Poor management of the vessels only increased the dilemma leading to annual losses in the FSM in the 1990s of nearly US$13 million (Jacobs 2002: 8; Wilson 2007).

6 This device was manned by an Indonesian fisherman. The structure was tied to a series of full-grown bamboo poles (ca. 5 m and longer) for stability in the ocean waves and to attract schools of tuna. The lone man had a communication system on board with which he would call in his colleagues from outside the FSM’s EEZ once enough fish had aggregated around his FAD. The unregistered, illegal fishing vessels waiting outside the FSM’s EEZ could then come in, make their sets around the FAD, haul in the catch and disappear immediately outside the FSM’s EEZ. The FAD was further equipped with a kerosene cooker, a large jug of fresh water, some rice, fishing gear and canned food.

7 The lake is one of approximately 70 marine lakes in Palau and home to millions of jellyfish, which are the prime attraction for tourists who can swim and snorkel among these golden invertebrates.

8 In a survey of 72 passengers exporting reef fish from Pohnpei in 2006, 45% indicated their fish was being taken to the mainland USA, 38% to Hawaii and about 12% to Guam (Rhodes et al. 2011: 37).

9 According to environmental scientist Javier Cuetos-Bueno (2014, personal communication), who has been doing research on nearshore fisheries and the marine environment in Chuuk.

10 In July 2015, 111 illegal fishermen from Vietnam who had been caught poaching on FSM reefs were repatriated from the FSM to their home country. See Kaselehlie Press August 3-16, 2015 and Kaselehlie Press online (especially June 13, 2015, http://www.kpress.info/index.php/site-map/1386-pna-leadersset-fisheries-agenda-for-2016-and-beyond, Accessed on July 27, 2015) for more details.

11 One of my neighbours was in fact caught with a homemade dynamite cocktail in his backpack on Wééné as he was buying fuel for a trip out to “fish”. He was incarcerated for a few months. During this time the police force used jet skis to catch violators of the law.

12 The Korea South Pacific Ocean Research Center (KSORC) has a research station on Wééné in the village of Sópwuuk. It was established there in 2000 and is the base for numerous researchers and research projects from the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST). See the KIOST website for further details at https://eng.kiost.ac/kordi_eng/?sub_num=322 (Accessed on July 26, 2015).

13 I make a distinction here between the religious community and the village community. Even though most everyone is represented as a person by both (more than three fourths of the population) they also represent two organisational entities by which society is structured, civil society maintained and morality enforced. For about eight years, before, during, and after the time of my fieldwork, there was no functioning municipal government on the island of Tol after an election dispute. Secondly, religious groups in Chuuk are well organised with very active women’s, men’s and youth groups and the regional assemblies of ministers or clergy. These groups all have their own elected or appointed set of leaders (i.e., president, secretary, treasurer, etc.), who organise community events, run schools, raise funds for activities and organise regular community or sporting events and also try to solve disputes and other problems within their community beyond what the government has been able to accomplish. Integrating these groups into development efforts could lead to a serious improvement of activities such as marine resource management.

14 A year earlier, a series of incidents were also noteworthy. On one occasion, all but one of the elders and religious leaders of our community were off island for about a week to attend some meetings overseas. Over the course of two or three days large groups of young men, youth and children gathered together daily during school time, all in party mode, sitting around on the edges of their boats waiting and watching for their peers to blast a school of fish in our bay.

15 Close to 60 Japanese ships (and two submarines) were sunk during the US military operation “Hailstone” on February 17-18, 1944. Most of these ships were supply ships, their hulls filled with weaponry and other supplies. Some ships went down without their explosive cargo being harmed.

16 Unfortunately, some key government departments and agencies fail to deliver their programming content despite sufficient funding and subsequent potential for follow up funding. One island community complained that they were only visited once for 2-3 hours by department specialists in a community project designed to educate and guide them through a process of establishing and maintaining their own marine protected area. A private person knowledgeable in environmental science who spent a few days in the community was able to achieve more without any funding because the community was willing to learn, but had been left alone by government authorities who did not bother to deliver the work they were being funded to do. In later reporting though, this community was highlighted as a case for the government’s success.

17 Many community leaders (traditional and Christian) I have talked to in Chuuk stated that the most common belief was that the consequences of violating a closed reef section after the death of a former owner or chief was the death of a person in the family of those who violated the reef closure.

18 To this day there are at least 50 organisations, institutions and governments that have provided monetary and other kinds of support to the Micronesia Challenge. Support has come from countries such as Turkey, Germany, Japan, the USA, and Australia, as well as from the European Union and the United Nations and from many of their related institutions such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Interior–Office of Insular Affairs, and the European Union Conservation and Environmental Protection Programme to name just a few. Key partners are the Micronesia Conservation Trust and The Nature Conservancy. Next to the supporting governments in the region, they have been crucial in providing professional support and guidance to the efforts of the Micronesia Challenge. More information on the Micronesia Challenge can be accessed at http://www.micronesiachallenge.org (Accessed on July 25, 2015).

19 http://www.micronesiachallenge.org (Accessed on July 22, 2015). Other similar initiatives have sprung up, influenced by the Micronesia Challenge, such as the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) in the Southeast Asian region.

20 See Palau International Coral Reef Center’s website for more information at http://www.PICRC.org (Accessed on July 22, 2015).

21 For more information see the organisation’s website at http://www.coralreefresearchfoundation.org (Accessed on July 22, 2015).

22 The Pacific Community (SPC) has been very active in research and development initiatives, but has not been involved in activities aiming to facilitate cooperative research with established institutions of higher learning. Though a lot of similar activities are going on through SPC, I do not see SPC providing the platform for domestic and international researchers and universities active in the region.

23 For this section, people in government and cooperating support agencies have been interviewed and wish not to be cited as investigations are still ongoing. The Kaselehlie Press in Pohnpei and the Pacific Daily News on Guam also provided accounts of the incidents. See also D’Arcy (2014, 299-301) for a brief overview of the problem in the Pacific.

24 As mentioned earlier, Yap State is one of four states that make up the Federated States of Micronesia. It is the western most state while Pohnpei, where the FSM’s three coastguard ships are usually stationed, is 3 hours away by air plane, equivalent to the distance between Frankfurt, Germany and Moscow, Russia. It would have probably taken a FSM coastguard vessel up to three days to get to Ngulu Atoll on the western edge of Yap State, by which time the poachers would have easily escaped.

25 Palau, the FSM, and the Marshall islands were part of the former United Nations US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Under the Compacts of Free Association with these countries, the USA retains the right to military access and guarantees the protection of the islands should they be threatened by intruding nations.

26 The FSM states outlawed shark fishing between 2012 and 2014 within their islands’12-mile zones. Chuuk was the last to do so in 2014, following Kosrae (2012), Yap and Pohnpei (2013). (http://www.mpatlas.org/category/shark-sanctuary/, Accessed on July 25, 2015). Whether this new legislation has had an effect on my observations in 2010, I cannot say at this time.

27 Even some historical sites such as the Japanese Lighthouse on the island of Alei, Pwolowot, a sight registered with the US national register of historical places, has seen all of its copper guardrails cut off and sold to Chinese and Taiwanese fishing vessels. Just this June 2015, one pastor in the Mortlock islands of Chuuk was said to have been negotiating the sale of a church bell donated to his church prior to World War II by a church in Germany.

28 For more information on shark sanctuaries in the Pacific and worldwide, consult the Marine Conservation Institute MPAtlas online at http://www.mpatlas.org/category/shark-sanctuary/ (Accessed on July 25, 2015).

29 Foreign fishing vessels (FFVs) that are legally registered to fish in the EEZs of Pacific Island nations all carry one so-called “observer” on board the vessel. The observers are employed by Pacific Island nations, mostly by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) member countries. They are tasked with monitoring, documenting and reporting all activities on board a FFV to ensure compliance with fishing regulations, environmental protection, human rights concerns, etc. Their job is therefore not easy, as I will explain when I reference their work further below.

30 http://www.globefish.org/tuna-october-2012.html (Accessed on July 22, 2015). More information can be accessed through the website of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO at http://www.fao.org/fishery/en, Accessed on July 22, 2015). For an overview of newer developments, including the socioeconomic aspects of the tuna trade, processing, and marketing, see Miyake et al. 2010.

31 The PNA nations were receiving a total of US $ 60 million per year in 2010, with only about US$500 per fishing day for Tuvalu, while Papua New Guinea and Kiribati were receiving US$2,500 per day.

32 During the same year the FSM sold 6,000 fishing days and could therefore account for US$36,000,000 in revenue for that year alone (Sitan 2014, personal communication). With the price now at US$8,000 per fishing day the FSM can expect a revenue increase up to US$48,000,000 for 2014 and 2015.

33 From the creation of the EEZs in 1979 until 2001, the FSM by comparison received US$170 million for the first 22 years of licensing or an average of annual fishing fees amounting to US$7.7 million.

34 I want to thank Peter Sitan, Director of the FSM NFC for providing me with this data set. It must be mentioned here that these numbers do not coincide with figures shared with me by some observers and vessel operators who admitted to targeting up to 16,000 tonnes of tuna per vessel and year under the VDS, especially since the price of tuna has come down to little over US$1,000 per metric tonne. One Taiwanese fish-master kept shaking his head in astonished disbelief at the rate the and the other 300 purse seiners in PNA waters were depleting fish stocks. According to his estimation in 2012, tuna stocks could hardly last at a sustainable level for another 10 years. The data of some observers regarding the average size of skipjack tuna landed in 2015 compared to 2009 in FSM and surrounding waters confirms these assumptions. Average fish size has fallen from 60-70 cm (reproductive size and age) to only 30-40 cm in 2015 (juveniles).

35 http://www.auto-motor-und-sport.de/news/studie-zum-neuwagenverkauf-porsche-mit-hoechstem-gewinn-pro-auto-5524692.html (Accessed on April 29, 2014). See also Kruschke 2013 for more details on the University of Duisburg “CAR” study.

36 For comparison: A captain on a Japanese or Korean purse seiner may receive between US$200,000-400,000 per year while the first officer or fish-master might receive 50% or two-thirds that amount. Lower level crew members on some of the vessels I gathered information on said they received salaries of around US$5,000, while the lowest level crew members were still receiving over US$1,000 a month. The average crew on a 1,000 metric tonne capacity purse seine vessel may be between 25-35 individuals. The more crew members to be found on board, the more likely the possibility that slave labour may be present. On some Korean or Japanese vessels a few crew members from Myanmar, Bangladesh, or Vietnam – just to name a few countries of origin – may be on board for the lowest levels of tasks, while Chinese vessels are more likely to have more labourers working for almost no pay on board.

37 I make reference here to one recent report sent to me by Simonne Pauwels where the Associated Press was able to trace and track slave boats to Papua New Guinean waters (McDowell et al. 2015).

38 According to the PNA, there are about 300 vessels registered in 2015 with purchased fishing days in PNA waters. Together, these vessels can purchase up to 45,881 fishing days in 2016 compared to 46,610 fishing days in 2015. http://www.kpress.info/index.php/site-map/1386-pna-leaders-set-fisheriesagenda-for-2016-and-beyond (Accessed on July 27, 2015).

39 Greenpeace has been a great supporter of the VDS according to Brownjohn. The PNA and environmentalists have criticised the hidden policy regarding the tonnage of purse seine vessels allowed to fish. Older vessels with a ship length of 60 meters and a cargo tonnage of 800 tonnes are replaced by vessels with the same length but a cargo tonnage of 2,000 tonnes. For instance, the Taiwan Fishery Agency has been accused of subterfuge, putting 22 new vessels into operation between 2007 and 2012, and sailing them under a US flag (Wikileaks id #76123 from August 25, 2006; Asia Sentinel October 18, 2012; http://www.asiasentinel.com/econ-business/taiwans-oversize-tuna-fleet/,accessedon November 26, 2015). Personal communication with sources in the industry that wish to remain unnamed have confirmed these observations, and one Taiwanese fish-master interviewed at length could not stop to shake his head in awe and disbelief at the rate these vessels were extracting the tuna. The EU it seems, is promoting its own agenda of bilateral fishing agreements with Pacific Island nations. It is driven primarily by the Spanish fishing industry, which is faced with depleted stocks in waters it has historically fished.

40 According to the observers interviewed, this tuna is usually discarded within the 12-mile zones of Pacific Island nations after the ships leave port even though it is prohibited by law and is harmful to island maritime ecosystems. Majuro Atoll is probably the hardest hit as 500,000-600,000 tonnes of tuna are transshipped there annually. This could easily amount to over 1,000 tonnes of tuna being dumped off of Majuro Atoll each year according to observers interviewed on the matter.

41 In October and November 2014, four Japanese vessels were reported in violation of fishing during FAD closure in FSM waters (also rightfully described as illegal fishing activities in the press). Surprisingly, the Japanese government was seriously offended that four of its ships were exposed and fined appropriately and accordingly for this violation in such a short time period. Japan felt singled out by the FSM government and did not think that partners should treat each other in this way. Again, an ethically responsible reaction between partners should have been an apology for violating the friendship and taking advantage of the goodwill of the FSM as a junior trading partner. The companies did resist the high fines, yet two decided to pay their dues, while one vessel is still battling its case in the FSM Supreme Court. Often attempts are made by the ship captains to bribe the observers or do them special favors for not reporting incidences. Being an observer is a tricky and challenging task as one is confined to the space of a ship with a crew of 25 to 35 members and is seen as a thorn in the flesh for the operators, as it is known that observers must document all activities observed on board the vessels to monitor compliance and report irregular dealings and illegal activities.

42 These nations pride themselves in their strong partnership with Micronesian island nations, but when enquiring into the business practices of their industries one wonders whether, more than anything else, they are taking advantage of this trust for their own benefit. Larger corporations have also “divided” up certain numbers of their vessels to sail under PNA nations’ flags too and therefore maintain access to fishing grounds during FAD closure, as domestic boats are excluded from paying a minimum benchmark per fishing day and can fish in national waters during FAD closure. The ecological harm on tuna stocks remains high due to this commonplace practice.

43 Brownjohn (2015, personal communication) comments that it would have been 18 million a year in subsidies, which was later increased to 21 million.

44 This observation does by no means wish to undermine the great sacrifices and achievements of foreign civilian and political actors working hard from within and outside Micronesian societies to improve education, health and development of human wellbeing in Micronesia. Instead it wishes to expose exploitative political and economic practices (and reasoning) at top levels of international governance between the powerful and the less powerful countries.

List of illustrations

Title Figure 1: FSM and bordering countries’ EEZs
Caption © Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) 2015.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/430/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 144k
Title Figure 2: Manned Indonesian fish aggregating device (FAD) washed ashore on Mwooch Island, Chuuk State, after a storm
Caption © Manuel Rauchholz, 2015.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/430/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 251k
Title Figure 3: Women fishing together with hand nets on Tol Island, 1970s
Caption © Roland Rauchholz.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/430/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 192k
Title Figure 4: Young women cleaning reef fish (parrot), Chuuk Lagoon
Caption © Manuel Rauchholz, 2006.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/430/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 496k
Title Figure 5: Traditional fish trap, Mwooch Island, Chuuk State. Such traps may support conservation measures
Caption © Manuel Rauchholz, 2005.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/430/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 697k
Title Figure 6: Trolling for tuna outside the Chuuk Lagoon
Caption © Manuel Rauchholz, 2006.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/430/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 201k
Title Table 1: Self-reported data on operating costs and income presented by purse seiners to the FSM National Fisheries Corporation (NFC)
Caption © Manuel Rauchholz, 2015.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/430/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 150k

Author

Researcher and lecturer of anthropology at Heidelberg University. He was raised and educated in Micronesia, Japan, United States of America and Germany. After a Master of Theology, he completed his PhD in Cultural Anthropology at Heidelberg in 2010 (summa cum laude). In 2011, he received the Frobenius Research Award of the Goethe-University in Frankfurt a. M. for his study on the emotional effects of adoption in Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia, entitled, Towards and Understanding of Adoption, Person and Emotion: The Ideal Norm and Reality of Life amongst the Chuukese of Micronesia (publication in progress with Berghahn Books). His research interests are cross-cultural ethics, legal and political anthropology, religion, gender and kinship studies. His current research inquires into the ethics of micro and macro forms of exchange and exploitation with an article entitled, “Masculine Sexuality, Violence and Sexual Exploitation in Micronesia” (publication in progress) and an upcoming edited interdisciplinary volume on Law and Custom in Micronesia with the journal, Pacific Studies.

© pacific-credo Publications, 2016

Terms of use: http://www.openedition.org/6540

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