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How to make more from tuna in the Marshall Islands

FISH4ACP value chain assessment helps Marshall Islands on its way to stronger tuna sector

21 July 2021, Majuro – Government and private sector representatives met with development partners to review the findings of an assessment of the tuna sector in the Marshall Islands and discuss ways to bring more added value of tuna fishing to the Pacific island nation and make its sector more sustainable.

“Tuna accounts for almost all national fisheries production and exports from the Marshall Islands,” said Glen Joseph, Director of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA), welcoming the value chain assessment as an important first step towards a stronger national the tuna sector. “It will help us increase the economic and social benefits of tuna for the people of the Marshall Islands.”

The assessment shows that in recent years, Majuro has become the world’s leading transshipment port for tuna. An average of 360 000 tonnes of tuna passes through this chain of coral islands and atolls in the Central Pacific Ocean, representing nearly one-fifth of all tuna catches in the West and Central Pacific Ocean.

However, the study also shows that the bulk of this catch comes from offshore industrial fishing while only small amounts are landed on the Marshall Islands for exports in containers, around 17 500 tonnes in 2019, which is one way for the Pacific nation to increase its revenue from the tuna industry. 

“The European Union supports the ambition of the Marshall Islands to reinforce its tuna sector,” said Noa Sainz-Lopez, Programme Manager at the EU Delegation for the Pacific, adding: “With FISH4ACP, we aim to achieve this by ensuring sustainable management of fisheries resources, allowing people to improve their livelihoods while preserving their natural assets.”

The tuna value chain assessment was conducted by FISH4ACP, a global initiative in support of fisheries and aquaculture value chains, based on focus group discussions with fishermen, fish sellers and workers in containerization and cold storage, interviews with private sector and government stakeholders and extensive desktop review of report and data sources.

“This is the first step towards the formulation of our plan to support the Marshallese tuna sector in the coming years,” said Gilles van de Walle, manager of FISH4ACP, virtually participating in a meeting today in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, where the findings were reviewed by government representatives, private sector organisations and other partners.

“FISH4ACP will work closely with the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority to bring added value onshore, while expanding exports to markets such as the European Union,” van de Walle said, adding that key elements to consider for increasing containerised exports include expanding cold storage capacity and assessing the financial viability of such an activity, in addition to the need to establish a competent authority to access EU markets. 

FISH4ACP is an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) aimed at making fisheries and aquaculture value chains in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific more sustainable. FISH4ACP is implemented by FAO and partners with funding from the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).