Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority’s engagement in the commercial tuna industry generated another year of record-breaking revenue. This is the result, principally, of membership in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and management of the purse seine industry through its Vessel Day Scheme (VDS). There are still uncertainties in the Oceanic fishery due to deficiencies in provision of catch data by distant water fishing nations and ability to collect data in certain sectors of the Oceanic fishery. These, however, have been greatly reduced over the past several years through ongoing improvements in management of the commercial tuna fishery.
While there are still areas in the Oceanic fishery in need of improvement, the foundation through VDS management is in place. This guarantees sustainable use and revenue streams to the Marshall Islands and other PNA members. The hosting by MIMRA of the First National Oceans Symposium in 2017 helped to focus attention on marine resources and needs generally — and in particular, domestic fisheries development and marine conservation needs of their atolls and islands. The establishment of a National Oceans Policy and Implementation Plan from the Symposium is probably the most important development in fisheries and oceans management since passage by Nitijela (Parliament) of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Act of 1997.
The National Oceans Symposium put the spotlight on marine resources and management, with domestic development and sustainability a focus of the discussions. It is essential that they begin to effectively manage their domestic marine resources. In late 2015, Nitijela adopted the Protected Areas Network (PAN) Act. But this important plan for managing their domestic ocean resources, particularly on remote outer islands, has not been implemented. The National Oceans Implementation Plan identifies six areas for action on the new National Oceans Policy, which includes plans to put the PAN legislation into action. An essential, but largely missing element, for implementing action in the Coastal fishery at the domestic level is translating surveys and analysis of ocean and marine resource health into management decisions. They need to more effectively bridge the gap between science and management. This is particularly important in light of ongoing climate-related coral bleaching events or development-related events such as algae blooms on their reefs.
Coastal fisheries is increasingly gaining a higher profile, not only within MIMRA but nationwide. Our Coastal Division increased the number of outer islands visited this year in line with implementing the Reimaanlok (Looking to the Future) Process of developing and implementing sustainable marine resource management plans with local governments and the remote communities they represent. This has been an under-resourced area of activity, but in 2017 began receiving greater attention, through such developments as the First National Oceans Symposium and MIMRA’s outer islands visits.
A key element in developing sustainable management plans and activities is collecting quality data and linking this data to management decisions. MIMRA has started this process. But more work is needed to generate a steady flow of quality data that can be used to produce sound management that sustains their resources for future generations, as well as benefiting the current generation. MIMRA believes that the National Ocean policy and Implementation Plan sets out a roadmap for successful management of marine resources. As was emphasized during the First National Oceans Symposium in 2017, implementing sustainable oceans management is not alone the responsibility of MIMRA. This requires the active participation of everyone in the Marshall Islands, from elected national and local leadership, to national and local government agencies, non-governmental organizations, students, businesses, and the community as a whole. The National Oceans Policy and action plan are in place, as is the Protected Areas Network legislation.