NEWS: Tuna data management and women observer support strengthened in Solomon Islands

The First Solomon Islands National Tuna Data Workshop was held in Honiara last week to reflect on the current practices, identify ways to improve collection and management of tuna data and to make sure the country meets its data obligations to the WCPFC

With tuna as the second biggest export earner in the Solomon Islands, data of tuna catch and other fishing related activities within Solomon Islands EEZ must be recorded and managed in proper systems and procedures to inform the Government to make decisions that ensure the long term sustainability of the tuna industry.  

Solomon Islands has been implementing certain management tools to ensure they obtain the required tuna data from the tuna industry. For instance (i) getting various catch  and other report from the fishing industry and, (ii) placement of observers of fishing vessels. Under the PNA arrangements, Solomon Islands started to implement a 100% coverage on all purse seine fishing vessels with fisheries observers which send data to officers at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) for analysis.

The workshop brought the work of the regional tuna data workshop, held annually at SPC, Noumea to a national audience. About 28 data officers, from the MFMR, FFA, and the Maritime Unit discussed and learnt more about the different elements of their tuna data system, (such as the collection of required tuna data from industry, international data obligations and provisions, managing the database systems (e.g. TUFMAN Database) legislation, role of staff, data forms and databases, reporting, procedures manuals, data security and auditing) in the 2-week workshop. The workshop was funded by the Japan Trust Fund, which administered through WCPFC, with the UNDP-GEF funded Oceanic Fisheries Management Project funding the participation of trainer Deirdre Brogan from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

The National Tuna Data Coordinator, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Edward Honiwala said: “The aim of the workshop is to assist data officers to learn and know proper data collections and management systems. By acquiring additional skills and knowledge, participants will improve their work output.  Tuna is an important industry in the Solomon Islands as it contributes significant economic revenue. To make decisions that ensure sustainability for the long run and future benefits we need good management of tuna data. We appreciate the funding available from JPF and GEF for this workshop to help us achieve this goal.”

The workshop was followed by a special one-day session at which women observers discussed particular aspects of their role as observers on fishing vessels, which generally have all-male crews. Issues such as safety, gender awareness, training needs handling incidents aboard fishing vessels, employment and government policies were discussed to identify how conditions could be improved to facilitate women’s employment as observers and their safety and well-being in the role.

SPC Fisheries Monitoring Specialist Deirdre Brogan, one of the first full-time female observers on board tuna vessels in the Pacific Islands, and the facilitator for the workshop said: “ The participants sent out a strong message that they enjoyed their work, appreciated the benefits the employment gave them, and were grateful for the high level of respect they were shown by the mostly foreign Asian vessels. The workshop identified a number of areas where training could better prepare both male and female observers for the long voyages they make. We hope these findings will help make a path for more Solomon Island women to get involved in monitoring fishing at sea. SPC plans to share these findings with other countries to raise gender awareness and recognition of the safety needs of both male and female all observers while at sea.”