The problem of regulatory discards – of fish being thrown away at sea after being caught because of catch quotas or size limits – is a major global topic of concern at the moment, especially in Europe.
In the UK, the celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has led a campaign against the “unethical and wasteful practice” of discarding fish at sea through a hard-hitting series of TV documentaries. Today, the EU Fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, unveiled a plan to amend the EU Common Fisheries Policy and reduce discards.
Well, the Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority wants to make an announcement:
Nauru is already a discard-free fishing zone.
There are two main fisheries in Nauru’s 320,000 square kilometres of fisheries waters:
The artisanal fishery, with Nauruans operating small boats within territorial waters close to shore, is a discard-free fishery simply because Nauruans do not waste fish. Everything is taken home. Some is sold. Some is given to the extended family and friends, and the rest is consumed directly.
The tuna purse-seine fishery operating offshore within the exclusive economic zone is a much larger fishery. Fish that were too small to fetch a good price at market used to be occasionally discarded in favour of larger fish (a process known as “highgrading”). But since the start of 2010 Nauru, along with the other Parties to the Nauru Agreement, has required that all catch be retained on board and landed and has required a Pacific Island observer to be aboard each purse-seine vessel at all times to ensure that this, and other national regulatory measures, are followed.
In short, the small island developing nation of Nauru is moving towards the head of the pack when it comes to applying “best practice” in oceanic fisheries management. Perhaps this is the result of small size – small administrations in small nations have fewer layers insulating the people from top-level decision-makers, and are relatively quick on their toes. Or perhaps it is the result of the excellent service that Nauru receives as a result of sharing and pooling marine management and assessment advisory and support services in partnership with its small-island neighbours.