Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nauru Fisheries Management Institutional Strengthening Project under way

The AusAID-funded Nauru Fisheries Management Institutional Strengthening Project is now entering its most active phase.

The project aims to develop the capacity of the Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority (NFMRA) to manage, conserve and develop Nauru's fisheries and marine resources.
This first year of the project concentrates on strengthening NFMRA's capacity for management, monitoring, control and surveillance of industrial tuna fishing in the Nauru Exclusive Economic Zone.

Running from October 2008 to September 2009, this first phase is managed by Fisheries Management Institutional Strengthening Specialist Dr Tim Adams under a PACTAM contract administered by Australian Volunteers International (AVI). Tim was previously Director of the Fisheries Programmes at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and before that was Director of the Fiji Fisheries Division.

"We've got a lot of work on our plate at NFMRA this year," says Adams. "We're completely upgrading the fisheries computer systems, and installing a network and dedicated server to handle the tuna fisheries licencing and catch-data, with linkages to regional networks at the Forum Fisheries Agency in Honiara and SPC's Oceanic Fisheries Programme in Noumea."

"In addition, NFMRA has divested its former commercial arm and is now concentrating on the main business of a government fisheries authority - regulation and the provision of an enabling framework for the private and community sectors." The project will be helping to strengthen all of these activities, including reviewing the legislation, providing safety equipment for small-scale fishers, and training and expert advice for NFMRA staff and others, as well as advising senior management.

Adams points out that the offshore and nearshore fisheries sectors are extremely important to Nauru, and Nauru is probably now amongst the top three most fisheries-dependent countries in the Pacific Islands region, if not the world. A large proportion of the revenue that goes into the Nauru Government budget comes from licencing offshore foreign tuna fishing vessels, and a large proportion of the protein eaten by ordinary Nauruans comes from nearshore small-scale tuna and coastal pelagic fisheries.

"Phosphate is coming back as a source of revenue with the recent increase in world price", he says, "but if NFMRA is able to continue to manage tuna fisheries effectively, and Nauru is able to continue to play its part in the regional agreements that control tuna fishing at optimum levels, the revenue from fisheries will continue to flow sustainably into the foreseeable future. And that is what we're trying to secure here."

The second and third phases of the project will move the emphasis to improving local food security from nearshore small-boat fisheries, and to reef fishery rehabilitation.

Adams warns "we're going to be doing the hard part next year. Regional tuna fisheries are in good shape, and the main task is keeping them that way in the face of increasing pressure from outside. But the reef around

Nauru has a very small area for the number of people who want to use it, and it will be a major task to restore it. Traditional systems for managing reef fisheries are greatly eroded in Nauru, and it's a lot harder to ask your own citizens to cut back than it is to say 'no' to foreigners."

The Nauru Fisheries Management Institutional Strengthening Project is funded by the Australian Government as part of its programme of bilateral cooperation with Nauru.

NFMRA coastal patrol boat

Fishing outside the reef is becoming increasingly
important to Nauruans

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