The Federated States of Micronesia comprises four states namely, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae and Yap. The country lies approximately between 1350 and 1660 East and between the equator and 130 North. The total land area of is only 702km2 scattered over 2 980 000 km2 of ocean, one of the largest fishing zones in the Western Central Pacific Ocean. Fishing is one of the main economic sector of the country, with an export value of USD 12.3 million in 2007 and fees received from licensing foreign fishing vessels representing about 10% of all government revenue and grants. In 2012, the total catch in FSM EEZ by all gear types was 162, 253mt of which longline accounted for 3,354mt.
The Federated States of Micronesia has been host to the Luen Thai Fishing Ventures longline fleet since 1994; The fleet currently counts 80 longliners (22 Taiwan flag; 23 China flag, 22 FSM flag, 2012) domestically based. The gear used is pelagic longline. The domestically-based fleet caught 1,444mt in the FSM EEZ. However, FSM flagged vessels fish in both the FSM and Marhsall Islands EEZ while Taiwan and China flagged vessels fish mainly in the southeastern FSM EEZ.
Species caught and fishing methods
In 2008, there were 21 longline vessels licenses to fish in FSM waters. Skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna were the key target species, accounting for 98% of the catch. Longlining consists in deploying a main fishing line with a series of shorter lines with baited hooks attached at intervals. A string of longline gear is deployed off the vessels through the fishing grounds. Buoy lines are attached to both ends of the gear and fastened to floats to mark the location of the gear at the surface. The lines are set at first light between 100 and 300m deep and retrieved in the early evening.
Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) is a highly migratory and relatively fast growing species and are distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions. These are found in the upper 100m of the water column. Longline catches in the WCPO have been stable at 70-80,000t/year since the 1980’s. add catch in RMI. The latest stock assessment (2011) indicates that the stock is not overfished and not under going overfishing, although the stock is fully exploited in some sub-regions.
Bigeye tuna (Thunnus Obesus) are distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions with circumglobal distribution. Their migratory patterns are poorly known and they are relatively fast growing. Juveniles and small adults tend to school at the surface whereas larger adults stay in deeper waters. Longline catches in the WCPO since 2004 have ranged from 67,000 to 77,000mt/year. The latest stock assessment (2011) indicates that Bigeye tuna stocks are currently under going overfishing but are not yet in an overfished state (explained, in part, by higher than average recruitment in recent years).
Regional level: at the regional level, Bigeye and Yellowfin stocks are managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The regional requirements for tuna longline fisheries are summarized here.
Sub-Regional Level: at the sub-regional level, Bigeye and Yellowfin stocks are managed by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). The FFA aims to assist its member countries to maximize local benefits from sustainable fishing, especially of highly migratory stocks, and also provide shared services in certain areas which provide economies of scale. These services include vessels registration and monitoring systems, information systems and surveillance coordination. To learn more, visit the FFA website.
The Federated States of Micronesia are also a party to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). The PNA is largely concerned with the management and development of purse seine fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, particularly through the Vessel Day Scheme, implemented through the Palau Agreement. Regarding longline tuna fisheries, PNA has recently released a draft agreement (Tokelau Arrangement) which aims to manage longline fishing effort and catch by developing a management scheme and harvest strategies along with setting limit and target reference points. The (drafted) agreement requires to consider a variety of management measures such as fishing gear restrictions, closed areas, closed seasons or any other measures deemed necessary. The agreement also considers the implementation of observation and inspection schemes, more effective implementation of WCPFC CMMs and the development surveillance and enforcement procedures. To learn more, visit the PNA website.
The Tokelau Arrangement, once approved by the different parties, represents a great step towards improved management of tuna longline fisheries, on a sub-regional level.
National Level: The fishery is managed domestically by the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA). NORMA is responsible for issuing fishing licenses to companies and individuals who wish to fish in their EEZ waters.