The fisheries duality of the Solomon Islands / by Francisco Blaha

 One of the Pole&Line bots off Noro

One of the Pole&Line bots off Noro

Most people know how partial I am to the fishing town of Noro in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. I been coming here in one capacity of another for over 15 years. In a world short of good fisheries stories, this is one.

Two responsable companies: Soltuna (processing) and NFD (catching - medium scale purse seining and pole and line) employ over 2000 people (99% locals, 70% woman) in a country that has 60000 people legally employed.

Tuna exports  accounted for US$ 44.7 million in 2012, over 90% of it to the EU directly or indirectly via other processing countries. The Gross value added generated from fishing and processing employment, company profits and corporate and income taxes to the Solomon Islands amounts to some US$ 17 million. 

The two companies support the schools, continually train their own people to better qualifications (for example, the 1st Pacific Islander Fishing Master of a Purseiner is a local guy), they have a dedicated community developing officer (football club, paddling club, school support, etc), the region has some of the lowest domestic violence incidents in the country (woman are earners), high levels of literacy, and so on

I said it 100000 times: "This is what fisheries in the pacific should be"

 Net mending and building employs plenty of local youth

Net mending and building employs plenty of local youth

This all would be lost if the Solomon Islands Government fails to support the implementation of the the obligations that the EU requires as to accept their imports, in terms of fisheries (non IUU Catch Certifications) and seafood safety controls and certification.

This is the busiest fishing port in the country and the one with the biggest processing industry, the government has one (part time) Inspector for the seafood safety side based here and now (after 8 years of nagging and requesting) we will have a fisheries inspector and a "office" . In contrast 90% of the inspectors and vehicles are in the capital Honiara, where there is almost no industry

Implementing all the necessary support actions, requires a further expenditure of collectively US$ 1.5 million, including US$ 810,000 to cover the cost of implementing the NPOA-IUU, and US$ 676,300 to cover the costs of the National Control Plan for seafood safety certification.

This is more than the budget that the government for issues like denge or malaria, hence allocating budget for EU market access arises legitimate ethical questions. But then, on the other side, these are the exports that can produce the budget that all other priorities may need. 

 The balcony of NFD Office (my favourite training place)

The balcony of NFD Office (my favourite training place)

If Solomon Islands lost EU market access, SolTuna/NFD would cease to operate. Other market alternatives, including the USA, for light meat tuna exports are economically unviable, as Solomon Islands is subject to high import duties  and  strong competition from producers located in low-cost Asian countries. A real conundrum for administrators.

In any case I love working here, I been coming for years, I have developed a personal relationship with people at all levels of the companies and government... I feel that that what I do has a purpose beyond my livelihood and salary

 Noro harbour

Noro harbour