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From aspirations to inspirations: The Marshall Islands fishing story

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The story of how the Marshall Islands went from being a bystander in commercial fishing in the Pacific to operating the world’s busiest tuna transshipment port, two fish processing facilities, a purse seine vessel net repair yard, and a fleet of locally-flagged and -based fishing vessels is documented in a groundbreaking new book.

“Our Ocean’s Promise: From Aspirations to Inspirations — The Marshall Islands Fishing Story” is a 196-page overview of the Marshall Islands expanding engagement in the tuna fishery value chain.

The book documents how the Marshall Islands has benefited from purse seine fishery revenue rising from about $4 million annually to over $30 million a year since 2010 through the country’s participation in Parties to the Nauru Agreement’s (PNA’s) globally recognized conservation and management regime that ensures sustainable fishing as well as dramatically increasing the islands’ share of tuna revenue.

“I personally witnessed the transformation in Marshall Islands’ fisheries through the collective endeavors of the PNA grouping of countries that control most of the tuna that is taken in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean,” Dr. Transform Aqorau, the founding PNA CEO, writes in a foreword to the new book. “As host of the PNA Office, the Marshall Islands was instrumental in promoting the PNA purse seine Vessel Day Scheme, and was a vociferous advocate of the PNA initiatives.”

Marshall Islands President David Kabua (center) receives the new book, Our Ocean’s Promise: From Aspirations to Inspirations — The Marshall Islands Fishing Story, from Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Director Glen Joseph (left) and Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority General Manager Moriana Phillip.

Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority Director Glen Joseph conceived the idea for a book narrating the history of commercial fishing in this central Pacific nation. A partnership with the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency provided the necessary support for the work on the book that was researched and written by Giff Johnson, the long-time editor of the Marshall Islands Journal, the weekly newspaper published in Majuro.

Joseph recognized the FFA for its key role in supporting MIMRA “to document our story in the region.”

While the book takes the reader on a journey that begins in the 1920s, it focuses on the period from the late 1970s — as the Marshall Islands was gaining its independence and beginning to engage in the tuna fishery as a sovereign nation — to the present day. It features a forward look at MIMRA’s latest initiatives to participate in the many levels of the tuna value chain, well beyond the limited role it once played as a collector of license fees from distant water fishing nations.

“The ‘oceanscape’ in 2021 is unrecognizable from the 1970s, with numerous opportunities at MIMRA’s doorstep and the agency well-prepared to pursue those opportunities,” writes Johnson in Our Ocean’s Promise.

“Our interest goes back to our humble beginning, and that is the ocean’s promise, which is our heritage, culture, food security, economic opportunity and highway to global engagement,” says Joseph in a quote from the new book. “All we aspire to is to sustainably and successfully manage our fishery.”

The book includes the first-ever detailed chronology of Marshall Islands and regional fisheries developments that catalogs the many challenges and roadblocks this nation and other independent Pacific islands faced as they worked to develop sovereign control first over their 200-mile exclusive economic zones and more recently to implement the PNA’s Vessel Day Scheme in order to shift the paradigm of the commercial fishery to one of rights-based management controlled by Pacific islands.

MIMRA will be launching the new publication with a formal book ceremony in Majuro on October 8. Marshall Islands President David Kabua is scheduled to keynote the launch event and FFA Director General Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen is expected to deliver a virtual message to the program. (Marshall Islands Guide)


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