Export of tuna as whole fish, frozen loins and canned meat is an important export industry for Solomon Islands (SI), with export returns of SBD366 million (AUD 60 million) in 2015.
The largest destination market is the EU, with other markets including Melanesian Pacific Island countries (PNG, Vanuatu, Fiji) and Japan. Both foreign and SI flagged vessels operate in SI waters, with National Fisheries Development (NFD) the largest SI based operator.
Soltuna Ltd is the largest processor and exporter. The industry provides employment for 1800 people, 60% of whom are women. The industry also contributes to the SI economy through Government licensing revenue and demand for local services (e.g. fuel, utilities, freight and other services).
The EU imposes stringent standards on tuna imports to ensure that products are safe to eat and that the tuna has been legally caught. It requires a ‘Competent Authority’ (CA) to monitor and control compliance in both areas. The CA for health certification is within the SI Ministry of Health while the CA for catch certification- to comply with illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) requirements – is within the Ministry of Fisheries. The CA’s are required to maintain appropriate verification and testing systems to certify that products meet EU requirements. A PHAMA assessment in September 2012 identified that health certification systems were not operating effectively due to technical capacity and resourcing issues, putting market access at risk in the event of an EU audit.
In 2014, the EU also issued the SI Government with a “yellow card” on IUU requirements, threating to withdraw access if improvements were not made. A list of recommended ‘action items’ was provided. A “red card” would mean loss of EU access, resulting in exports ending until the removal of that card. This would have huge economic impacts, including loss of employment and license fee. It would also deter further investment in the industry.
PHAMA has focused support on ensuring that the pathway for tuna exports to the EU is kept open in the face of strict EU standards.
Health certification systems are now considered to be largely compliant with EU requirements. However additional technical support is required to continue mentoring CA staff. Progress has been made to replace donor funding for CA Health operations with government funding.
A testing system has been established utilising cost recovery from industry. Broader cost recovery mechanisms to ensure sustainability of CA operations are being examined.
Progress has been made with IUU actions required by the EU, including the tabling of revised fisheries legislation and changes in staffing and operations.
PHAMA will continue to work via the IWG to address issues, and collaborate with FFA and MSSIF on appropriate additional interventions to prepare for a potential EU audit of CA Health and progress required actions for IUU CA.
Capacity building support will need to be sustained through 2016-2017 to ensure robust CA compliance with EU requirements. PHAMA will also facilitate information sharing between the Health and IUU CAs for mutual benefit, particularly in regards to certification.
PHAMA intends to support the development of the Seafood IWG into a formally recognized industry advisory body with sustainable secretariat support, planning capacity and administrative arrangements.