The bigger picture of transhipping in ports / by Francisco Blaha

A big part of my work these days goes around the interface of general MSC, PSM best practices and transhipment monitoring in ports. As I wrote before, transhipment is a reality of our industry and transhipment in port should be the norm, since a layer of regulatory and “fish accountancy” oversight can be added. 

Sellers to the Purse Seiners in Rabaul (PNG)

Sellers to the Purse Seiners in Rabaul (PNG)

 Now the impact of transhipment activities for the ports that host them is an area I been interested. As anything else in fisheries (and in life) everything has advantages and disadvantages, so we can go from fish leakage, impacts on food security, via potential market for local fruits to venereal disease at the other end.

Not much has been done in researching these issues in a systematic way, so I always keep an eye on the topic. And this new paper fits right in, and what is even better is by 3 author I know (and like as peoplePhilip A.S. James from SPC, Alex Tidd (who’s work I already blogged about), and Lotokufaki Paka Kaitub from Tuvalu where I was recently working, and place I like (in fact I was hoping to work on long-term basis there, but I did not got the job).

The paper by my colleagues “The impact of industrial tuna fishing on small-scale fishers and economies in the Pacific” focus on transshipments (I would have added that to the title) in Funafuti lagoon and is good read, tackling the original is always recommended.

Their paper looks to address this gap in the literature with an initial analysis of the impact of transhipping on the willingness of fishers to go fishing in Funafuti, a small but important transhipping port. They go onto use this modelled relationship to estimate potential losses with the artisanal fishery as a result of transhipping activity.

Below I quote the bits I like the most:

The scientific literature indicates that there are some impacts on the availability of oceanic pelagic resources to small-scale fishers as a result of industrial vessels fishing in local waters, particularly when they are close to shore [14,15,24–27]. Leroy et al. [15] commented that ‘industrial purse-seine fisheries may impact upon artisanal and subsistence fishers by reducing local fish availability’, and SPC [26] found that industrial vessels ‘largely catch similar sized fish to the artisanal fleet’, suggesting that the two fisheries fish the same portion of the stock.
However, SPC [26] do not suggest that industrial vessels directly impact the catch of artisanal or subsistence fishers.

I tend to agree with that, based on what you see in the local markets and the gear used for fishing

Anecdotal evidence supports the conclusions from the literature and suggests that many fishers believe that industrial fishing is depleting stocks of coastal recourses (authors’ discussions with a range of Pacific Island communities). In Tuvalu, data collectors, Fisheries Department staff, and fishers have all described the same pattern: the presence of industrial vessels means that fewer artisanal fishers go fishing and catches are reduced. 

Again, I agree… if I can go by the side of the vessel and barter some brine frozen skipjack in a couple of hours, that then I can resell at the market later on albeit at a lower prices than better fish that could have taken me the whole day to catch, I may not do it… unless I have clients that will pay much better money for fresher fish – believe me – brine frozen skipjack isn’t a treat. Now how prevalent that willingness to pay for good fish is in low-income pacific island ports, is something I don't know

Abernethy et al. [17] describes our understanding of small-scale fishers’ behaviour as ‘at best rudimentary’, yet this underpins fishers’ day- to-day decisions, and without a basic understanding of the behavioural dynamics, policy will be inefficiently designed and likely to fail. Muallil et al. [18] also call for a greater understanding of the factors impacting a fisher's willingness to exit a fishery. Developing data-driven evidence and understanding the behavioural drivers of artisanal fishers and the impacts of their behaviour is important, and policy-makers need to fully understand these trade-offs when making decisions.

As an ex-fisherman, I could not agree more to the fact that scientists and policymakers do not usually have a full grasp on fishers behavioural dynamics. many time I been confronted by solutions that will go at the core against the grain of what fisherman will normally behave on the "2nd-degree" decision making (a decision you make while evaluating various levels of options)

The difficulty in quantifying interactions between artisanal and industrial fisheries is largely due to poor artisanal catch data [15]. At the Pacific Community (SPC) Head of Fisheries meeting in 2011 Tuvalu placed a high priority on understanding the potential for interaction between regional tuna fisheries and local artisanal fishing [24]. As a result, SPC provided support for artisanal catch monitoring in Tuvalu in 2013 to address critical data deficiencies and allow improved investigation into the interactions. This dataset provides a unique opportunity to investigate the interactions between artisanal and industrial vessels from a social and biological perspective. We use this and other datasets from Tuvalu to reveal the impact of industrial vessels on the willingness of artisanal fishers to go fishing. This revealed preference technique is a new approach to the problem of interactions between the two important sub-sectors of the tuna fishery.
Broadly, this paper considers three aspects of the interaction between industrial and artisanal fishing: 
  1. Does the presence or absence of industrial fishing vessels in the port of Funafuti affect a fisher's willingness to go fishing? 
  2. If so, what are the impacts on key livelihood indicators such as employment, income and the availability of locally produced fish? 
  3. To fully understand the trade-offs facing decision-makers we estimate the benefits of allowing transhipping in port and compare these to the modelled impacts in the artisanal fishery.
There is no doubt that the presence of a transhipping port brings significant benefits to the economy and people of Tuvalu. Equally, however, the results presented here suggest some very serious negative impacts on the artisanal fishing sector. Fig. 5 presents a summary of the findings. Policy-makers will need to balance the trade-offs associated with the two fishing subsectors to ensure an optimal solution that maximises the benefits and minimises the costs.
The analysis indicated substantial reductions in fresh fish availability, with the loss in the artisanal fishery of more than 150mt in 2015. The fresh fish off-loads represented only 1% of Tuvalu's total estimated demand for fish [6] and where less than 10% of the catch forgone by artisanal fishers. However, it is important to place these figures into context. Total fish production in Funafuti was estimated by Tuvalu's Ministry of Fisheries and Economic Development [40] to be 285mt/year. Therefore, over a period of four years, this analysis suggests that Funafuti lost the equivalent of one year's catch due to the presence of industrial vessels, which discouraged activity by small-scale fishers. This could no doubt have significant impacts on peoples’ diets and access to good proteins. However, Bell et al. [6] provides an assessment of current fish production and its ability to sustain Pacific island populations, they report no current or projected deficit in fish production in Tuvalu. The data suggesting that current production just about meets the expected demand and therefore at an aggregate level
Tuvalu can effectively feed its people. Therefore the impact on fresh fish availability may be less significant than these contrasting figures initially suggest. We do not, however, have any data on food distribution, and it may be that the portion of the population who rely on artisanal fishers for fresh food fish are not those who can access the offloads from the vessels. This would benefit from further research but in the interim, the government needs to consider if redistribution policies maybe needed to ensure that all people have access to sufficient amounts of high quality fresh fish to meet their nutritional requirements.
Excluding fishing access fees, we estimate that the total income to government, individuals and businesses from transhipping was AUD 4.2 million or 12% of Tuvalu's 2016 GDP. This is in line with the extensive investigation of the benefits associated with other transhipping ports undertaken by McCoy [41]. Transhipment fees alone are three to four times higher than the loss of income in the artisanal fishery. However, revenue from fees is captured by the government and not the artisanal fishers and therefore do not directly offset the estimated income loss to artisanal fishers. On the other hand revenue from fees is used by the government to pay local staff salaries and provide public services that benefit all Tuvaluans. Further, fees can provide a valuable source of foreign exchange to the government. So whilst the artisanal fishers may suffer Tuvaluan society as a whole benefits.
About AUD 0.75 million of the AUD 4.2 million income is accrued to local bars and restaurants. (not that there are many there) The equivalent to the loss of income in the artisanal fishery is, therefore, captured by private businesses and individuals outside the fishery sector. This amount of money injected into the local economy from — what is effectively industrial tourism — is likely to have powerful multiplier effects and secondary impacts and, therefore, the total economic benefit is likely to be far larger than the immediate monetary spending of the crews. However, as with the government revenue, it is unlikely that this revenue is captured by theartisanal fishers who actually face a loss of income as a result of industrial vessels in port. Further, governments play a key role in redistributing revenues compared to private enterprises whose revenues are generally spread more narrowly. This can reduce economic disruption from increasing private incomes, especially when businesses are foreign owned [42]. The reduced income of artisanal fishers associated with transshipping is not directly offset by the benefits captured from the vessels. Clearly there is a distributional issue because those in the artisanal fishery are not the ones who capture the gains from transhipping. Therefore, the government could consider a transfer mechanism or support the artisanal fishing industry. Perhaps some hypothecation of transhipping charges could occur to support programmes such as the Tuvalu nearshore fish aggregation device programme, thereby making it easier and potentially more cost-effective for artisanal fishers to catch oceanic species [43,44]. Other programmes to support the artisanal fishing sub-sector could be considered such as providing ice, freezers or safety equipment, which would make easier and safer for fishers to fish for oceanic species and benefit from the government revenues from transhipping. 

Yet, the provision of equipment and infrastructure has been tried in the region (and Tuvalu) and the world many times, and by a variety of reasons, it never seems to work... I believe the key reason is the lack of incentives arising from the ownership of the provided goods

The loss of FTE days in the artisanal fishing sector is offset three times or more by the estimated employment created in the transshipping sector for the Funafuti population. However, as with the changes in fresh fish and income artisanal fishers are unlikely to be the ones employed during transhipping. So whilst leading to an improvement in overall welfare, the improvement is not Pareto efficient. Béné et al. [45] demonstrate that return on investment in a small-scale fishery is more than 100 times greater than that from industrial vessels in terms of cost of each job created. With this in mind, a three-to-one replacement ratio  is far from efficient. When considering appropriate support to each subsector, decision-makers must consider which sector offers the best return on investment for the policy objective that they are pursuing and be aware of associated trade-offs as the harder to observe negative impacts may outweigh the benefits.
Transhipping in port, under the authority of a country government, means that the country can confirm vessels that are fishing legally, cross-check logsheet records with observed transhipments, and ensure that the vessel is in full compliance with all marine and fishery regulations.
These wider benefits have not been quantified in this paper, but nevertheless are likely to be of benefit regionally and thus represent a global or regional public good. McCoy [41] estimated that these benefits range from USD 1000 to USD 8000 (AUD 1200 to AUD 9600) per transhipment, depending on the port, but did not include Funafuti in his analysis.
The social costs associated with industrial fishing are well established, including social cohesion, prostitution, unwanted pregnancy, smuggling, illegal entry, substance abuse and general poor behavior [46–48]. The survey of the local establishments, however, was not as negative as the literature, and only one establishment had banned crews from entering, and only a quarter of the establishments suggested that they had issues with the crews, this was generally as a result of intoxication of the crew. Nevertheless, the social impacts should be important considerations for countries considering developing transshipping ports.
Artisanal fishing vessels have a number of environmental impacts however are generally more fuel-efficient and generate less waste than their industrial counterparts [49]. The environmental costs associated with transhipping include oil and fuel spillages, marine litter and toilet and hold flushes into the Funafuti lagoon [50]. An evaluation of these impacts, however, is extremely complex and has not yet been attempted.
A number of environmental violations have occurred in recent years in Funafuti (Tuvalu Fisheries Department, pers com); therefore, the government must balance the higher environmental risk associated with transhipping compared to artisanal fishing with the benefits that it brings to Tuvalu and its people.
This work provides Tuvalu and other countries that have transshipping ports with information that could allow them to optimise the benefits from being a transhipping port by minimising the losses. Many governments have already attempted to do this by managing bycatch and using some for local food security purposes. As the marginal losses to the artisanal fishery decrease with more vessels being present in port, it is suggested that some coordination of vessels transhipping would be helpful. It would also be advisable to avoid transhipping when artisanal catches are likely to be higher. This could be done by declaring certain times ‘non-port’ days for all transhipping vessels, particularly on peak artisanal fishing days such as Friday. The artisanal data show that landings are generally lower, on average, on the weekend; therefore, Sunday could be a good day to tranship because there is little or no artisanal fishing activity that day. Although each port considering this as an option to limit the impacts of the transhipping fleet on the artisanal fleet would need to carefully investigate the commercial and operational viability of such an option.
This paper confirms, for the first time, the existence of indirect economic interactions between industrial fishing vessels and artisanal fishing vessels. These results are in direct contrast to the requirements under the UN Fish Stocks Agreement to avoid the adverse impacts of industrial fishing on small-scale fishers. The study location, Tuvalu, provided a unique dataset to allow this study. The results should be carefully considered by all country governments that allow, or are planning to allow, transhipping in their ports, particularly those countries with a large artisanal fleet based near or at the main port.The analysis demonstrates that transhipping has a negative impact on Funafuti's artisanal fishers in terms of reduced income, employment and catch rates. The results also show it reduces the availability of locally-produced fish in Funafuti. However, it is also clear that transshipping brings economic benefits to Funafuti and the local people.The analysis contrasted the losses within the artisanal fishery with the benefits of transhipping and found that some of the losses were at least partially offset but only at a societal level. It showed that it was likely that a Pareto loss was present as benefits from transhipping do not fall on those whom face the losses. Policy-makers need to strike a balance between the competing demands of the two sub-sectors to ensure Pacific communities can capture the maximum net benefits from the massive tuna resources present in their exclusive economic zones.

I could bring a different perspective to some of the assumptions and conclusion in the paper, but I totally welcome the approach and methodology it provides. A lot of everyone work is focussed on the fisheries status, policy, management, revenue and MCS. But one of the lines I always use in my work and job interviews is "I don't work with fish, I work with the people that work and depend on fish". Alex, Philip and Loto's work to focus on that, and we should be doing more research in that area.

Transhipment port blues

Transhipment port blues