Getting to the end of a long year does not always help concerning mood and willingness to travel. Yet going to a place that you love, have friends and have seen grow immensely over the years does always help. So when I was asked by FFA to come to Noro in the Solomons to assess the systems and controls we put in place during 2016-17, I jumped to the opportunity.
I said many times that Noro is what fisheries should be in the Pacific, locally caught, processed and exported. I have been coming here since 1998 and the only canned tuna I eat comes from there. They have the only MSC certification I wholeheartedly agree with, and they are going towards “Fair Trade” certification as well. In between NFD (the fishing company) and Soltuna they employ over 2500 people of which less than 15 are expats.
A lot of this uniqueness in compliance and sustainability drive comes to the attitude of the Wickham family that had been a the steering of the company since the beginning and the positive support of Trimarine their capital and distribution partner. The Wickham family has treated my family and me as part of the extended family so coming over feels like visiting family.
And this feeling is enhanced as I was again a guest of my friend and colleague Dr Transform Aqorau… I say again because I stayed at his house in Majuro, while he was the head of PNA. (if you think you know about tuna fisheries and don’t know who Transform is, you don't know tuna fiheries).
After leaving PNA he took on a series of other wide-ranging commitments that are all based on a common goal we share… innovation.
Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.” And we have been trying to work out problems in fisheries with the similar mindset that created them. Yes, I agree, the arsenal of tools and technology has expanded… but the core seems to be the same. We need to open the field and thing differently.
And that is the reason I like having long conversations and sparring of ideas with Transform, but even more so when on his ancestral family land in Rakutu. Sitting on the outdoor kitchen, with an open fire and having some kava, we discussed changes and ways to deal with the present set of problems but under a traditional and culturally respectful approach.
Francis Hezel, in his seminal book “Making sense of Micronesia” (2013) said: “Changes may have to be made, as they must in any culture, but we outsiders should at least understand some of the broader contexts of Island culture before we begin leading the charge for change according to our own formulas”
And this for me always has been a hint that we are trying to fix problems with the same mindset that created them. We need to try different approaches… the solutions from aircon meeting rooms haven’t entirely worked… so why not try ideas coined by the open fire next heating water in a black kettle?
I was 12 by the time I first lived in a place with electricity. Living without it and under shared spaces in “not foreign” to me, so while this life may be “new” (by being old) to most of my colleagues from “developed” countries, it totally felt like home to me; hence I’m very thankful to Transform for his hospitality.
The irony of sorts is that while in his open kitchen we discuss a lot a joint project we have that is called eNoro. The objective of this project is to pilot test the digital integration of all port MCS related activities in the port of Noro, Solomon Islands. The data to be integrated will include the requirements of the WCPFC PSM CMM, unloading monitoring, factory “weight in” and processed product volumes exiting Noro. The system is to ‘mass balance” inputs and outputs and be ready for an eCDS. The system would be using tablet-based Apps under the present capabilities of PNA FIMS, SPC and FFA platforms
Hence we are using a high tech yet totally holistic approach while enjoying traditional life… also, we are keen on exploring incentive-based compliance and way to change the present model of selling fishing rights towards owing fish all the way to the product end.
He is (and has been) an innovator, but what I have respected the most is that while being the head of PNA, he decided to spend time on a purse seiner as to understand fishing from its roots, I yet have to know any other manager at his level to have done that.
If it were only for that, he would already have my full respect!
A further trait we share is that you can still appreciate and like someone, even if to disagree profoundly with some of his ideas… and this is also something I’m always keen to stress.
In any case, this was a short but beneficial mission that had a huge human element to it, something a fully appreciates. So thank you Transform, Cynthia and Edmond, Dave and the extended families of each of you for again making me feel at home while trying to do my job the best I can!