Learning from Fisheries Centers in Pacific Islands

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This policy brief describes how lessons from establishing and operating fisheries centers in the Pacific Islands could guide future initiatives.
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  Learning from Fisheries Centers in Paci󿬁c Islands 1 Country Involvement with Fisheries Centers Somewhere around 150 fisheries centers have been established in Pacific Island countries in the past few decades. Cook Islands Fisheries centers were established on Palmerston Island in early 1970s, on Penrhyn in 1982, and on Rakahanga and Manihiki in early to mid-1980s. Most centers were closed within a couple of years due to poor maintenance of machinery, low catches and transport problems to get the catch to market. 3   Fiji Islands Tere are currently five rural fisheries serv-ice centers (Wainikoro, Levuka, Kavala, Vanuabalavu and Lekeba) and a major component of the Department of Fisheries strategy for rural fisheries development in the next decade is the use of rural fisheries service centers. 4  Tere was an earlier wave of fisheries centers in the early 1970s. Kiribati  Several aid-funded projects have attempted over the last 30 years to set up fisheries centers on outer islands. A number of these centers have closed for lack of business management skills, maintenance capacity and commitment by local communities and government agencies. Four out of six established in the 1990s with EU aid were still operating in 2007. Japanese aid, estab-lished centers at Beru, Onotoa, amana and Arorae in the 1990s. 5  Tey have con-tinued to maintain and replace generators and ice machines as needed. Marshall Islands Outer atoll fish bases were established at  Arno, Likiep, Ailinlaplap, Namu, Aur, Maloelap, and Jaluit using Japanese and government funds. 6   Papua New Guinea One of the largest publicly-funded fisher-ies development activities in the 1980s established about 13 fisheries centers, each equipped with ice-making (5 ton/day), freezing (1 ton/day), and cold storage (20-30 ton) facilities. 7  Tese operated ten large fish transport vessels and at least 50 smaller collection boats. By 2005 all but one sta-tion was closed. Solomon Islands  A total of 30 fisheries centers and sub-cent-ers were established in the provinces under technical assistance from Japan, U.S, EU, Fisheries centers have been used to pro-mote the commercialization of fisheries in rural areas and outer islands in the Pacific. Known variously as community fishing centers, coastal fisheries stations, fish bases, and rural fisheries service centers, these centers provide services such as ice making, mechanical repair, a collection points for fish transport to markets, and a base for fisheries exten-sion activities. Te centers have also had secondary objectives of improving cash incomes, slowing rural urban drift, and diet enhancement.In many countries, the centers are often the largest government expendi-ture in the fisheries sector and/or con-sume a substantial portion of overseas aid. In addition, so much rural fisheries development of the region is predicated on the centers, and many are planned for the future. SPC views the commer-cial success of rural fisheries centers,  with either private sector or fishermen’s associations/cooperatives management, as fundamental to having small scale commercial fisheries play a positive role in the rural economy. 2  Lessons from es-tablishing and operating fisheries centers could guide future initiatives. 1 Based on an initial draft by Robert Gillett drawing on the experiences of S. Sauni, L. Chapman, W. Sokimi, M. Batty, A. Vunisea, S. Sesewa, R. Lindley, G. Preston, E. Ledua, M. McCoy, W. Holden, . Adams, S. Petaia, M. Brownjohn, S. Diffey, K. Passfield, J. Kinch, H. Walton, R. Stone, and M. Savins. Photographs are courtesy of R. Lindley, L. Chapman, M. Batty and M. Savins. 2 Secretariat of the Pacific Community. 2004. raining Section. Fisheries Newsletter #110 (July-September 2004). Noumea. 3 Chapman, L. 2004. Nearshore Domestic Fisheries Development in Pacific Island Countries and erritories. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea.4 Department of Fisheries. 2009. Annual Report 2009 Fiji Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Forests, Suva.5 Asian Development Bank. 2008. Kiribati: Managing Development Risk. Manila.6 McCoy, M. and K. Hart. 2002. Community-Based Coastal Marine Resources Development in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. A 3522-RMI, Asian Development Bank, Manila.7 Preston, G. 1996. Evaluation of the Potential for Commercialisation of Small-Scale Fisheries. CP/PNG/6611, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Policy Brief SPSO Oct 2010/001  Canada and the Nature Conservancy. 8  Tese centers, generally equipped with ice-making and/or cold storage plants, were intended to serve as market outlets for fish caught by rural fishermen, sell fishing gear and provide training in new fishing tech-niques and improved catch handling. Most of the centers fell into disrepair as soon as the aid funding ceased, mostly in the early 1990s. Tonga Te general scheme for outer islands fisher-ies development is based on a model of hav-ing fisheries centers that provide numerous fisheries related functions including the provision of ice to fishers. Several centers have been established, including three in Ha’apai, using funding from Australia and  Japan. 9   Tuvalu Community fishing centers have been es-tablished on each outer island, starting with Vaitupu (Japan funded, about $1.4 mil-lion), and then Nanumea and Nukufetau  with funding from Australia. 10   Vanuatu Eleven EU-funded rural fisheries centers  with ice making facilities were established under the Village Fisheries Development Project in the 1980s and were revived in the early 1990s. 11  Tese were privatized in the mid 1990s. Since 2003, 7 additional fisheries centers have been established. Experiences  A review of four stations in Papua New Guinea (Lorengau, Kimbe, ufi and Kupiano) concluded that they were over-capitalised, under-utilised, economically non-viable, providing only minimal ben-efits to village communities and incurring excessively high production and marketing costs in handling frozen fish.[footnote 7] Principal diffi culties associated with the stations were identified as:   Modest landings due to motivational constraints associated with villages having conflicting agricultural and social obligations and disruption in collection schedules because of vessel breakdowns.   High fixed costs of station operation, particularly in regard to energy require-ments, because of the scale of freezing and frozen storage capacity and over-large collection vessels relative to the low throughput;   Expensive and complex distribution systems for frozen products derived from isolated areas;   Insuffi cient emphasis on the needs of the urban markets, which demonstrate a clear preference for fresh rather than frozen product. Te Japanese-funded Fish Base at Buoj, Ailinlaplap, in the Marshall Islands  was opened in 1994 at a total cost of over $2 million. Te primary purpose was to supply fresh reef fish at low cost to resi-dents of Ebeye Island at Kwajalein Atoll and secondarily, to provide a means of sup-plementing income for Ailinlaplap resi-dents. Benefits to Ailinlaplap as a whole seem small, averaging only $1.57 per capita annually for 2000–2001 (only period for  which data is available), given the consid-erable infrastructure and operational costs of the Fish Base. Some of the major dif-ficulties experienced were: 8 Boape, G. (1999). Rural Fishing Enterprises in Solomon Islands. Fisheries Division, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Honiara, Solomon Islands.9 Cusack, P. 1998. Ice and Cold Storage to Support Fisheries Development and Food Security. Issue Paper No.5. In: onga Fisheries Sector Review, Volume II: Issue Papers. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Australian  Agency for International Development.10 Government of uvalu. 2004. Review of Community Fishing Centres. CFGC review re-port.11 Hickey, F. and R. Jimmy. 2008. Fisheries. In: Gay, D. Vanuatu Diagnostic rade Integration Study 2008 Report. Blue Planet Media + Communications, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Semeghe Centre, Solomon IslandsKuria Outer Island Fisheries Centre, Kiribati    Diffi culties in maintaining transport to markets increased with age of the project due to increased maintenance requirements of vessels used.   Producers’ expectations of significantly higher incomes could not be met.   Access to remote areas by outboard boat is required to produce suffi cient quantities for sale.[footnote 6] Observations Commercial viability?  Few, if any, of centers have been commer-cially viable.    Tuvalu   Community fishery centers in the outer islands, intended to promote fishing as an income earning activity, are mainly lying idle, while still receiv-ing a costly annual subsidy. 12      Solomon Islands  Te centers were considered to be not financially viable, and unlikely to sustain operations  without ongoing support. 13      Papua New Guinea   Profit was nev-er stated as an objective of any of the Coastal Fisheries Stations. Data from six stations showed a collec-tive throughput of about 600 tonnes during their best-ever year. Te profit from such a product volume would probably be insuffi cient to cover the true economic cost of even one station if it were being run on a fully commer-cial basis.[footnote 7]     Vanuatu   None of the centers or satel-lites in the rural areas produce enough fish to create an adequate surplus of cash to cover the costs of the infra-structure. 14  Te insertion of fisheries center infra-structure into a rural community typically does not alter the underlying economics of catching fish in isolated locations and mar-keting them in urban areas. Yet, many, if not most, of the centers were established  with the expectation on the part of govern-ments and recipient communities that the centers would be profitable or at least not a financial burden. In practice, handing fish-eries centers over to island councils or pro-vincial governments is often the solution  when national governments feel burdened by the on-going expenses of centers. In many cases it is really dumping the centers on communities that cannot afford them. Multiple objectives  While commercial viability may not have commonly been achieved in fisheries cent-ers, many have fulfilled other objectives. Many centers have provided valuable services to the local communities (e.g. increasing cash income, generally improv-ing standards of living) and to the wider society (e.g. helping to stem rural-urban migration, increasing domestic fish sup-plies). Nonetheless, these social objectives can be addressed through alternate means and the cost effectiveness of fisheries cent-ers in delivering these benefits needs to be carefully assessed. Controlling cost elements Te making of ice in remote locations is in-herently expensive, and is one of the most expensive components of a fisheries center. Careful planning for ice production can have a large positive effect on the expense of running a fisheries center. Significant savings can be made through attention to:    Scale : Te larger the capacity of the plant, the greater the financial burden if production is not as large as expect-ed.    Compartmentalization : Te use of multiple (preferably identical) freez-ing units at a site, rather than a smaller number of larger units, means under-utilization of capacity can be reduced by shutting off units as required. Be-cause the parts are the same, one func-tional unit can sometimes be made from two or more broken units.    Capital expenditures : Recurrent costs of refrigeration units can be reduced by larger initial capital expenditure. In the case of an aid-funded project, 12 Ministry of Natural Resources. 2008. National Master Plan for Fisheries Development 2008–2011. Government of uvalu.13 Preston, G., J. Crossland, J. Stanley, R. Susurua and H. Saeve 1998. Final Review of the Rural Fishing Enterprise Project, PHASE 2. Gillett, Preston and  Associates, Noumea. 14 Lindley, R. 1993. End of Contract Report, Robert Lindley, CO, Principal Fisheries Extension  Adviser. Vanuatu Fisheries Department, Port Vila. Buying fish at the Wainikoro Centre, Fiji LESSON  Careful attention to the refrigeration aspects could reduce operat-ing costs. The fact that recurrent operating costs can be reduced by larger initial capital expenditure, should be taken into consideration in the plan-ning stage. LESSON In the absence of unusually favorable conditions, it is unlikely that fisheries center operation will be profitable. Provision for a long-term trans-parent subsidy is required in the planning process and should be reflected in the government budget. In general the more remote the location, the larger the subsidy required. If community management is envisioned, then the community must be appropriately resourced. Clarity on the likely subsidy will support sound decision making.  FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT   R. Keith Leonard Regional Director South Paci󿬁c Subregional Offi ce Level 5 Ra Marama House 91 Gordon Street, Suva, Fiji Phone +679 331 8101 Fax +679 331 8074 Email: adbspso@adb.orgOR VISIT www.adb.org/Paci󿬁c LESSON A fisheries management component should be incorporated in all fisheries centers. Simple resource conservation measures can be promoted by centers: the buyer can exert considerable positive influence over fishing practices in the area. this may be desirable in order to mini-mize the subsequent cost to a recipi-ent country. Te capital costs of, for example, enhanced insulation or a large stock of expendable parts will be repaid by reduced operating costs. 15    Appraisal optimism  A fundamental problem of fisheries centers is “appraisal optimism”: over-estimating the throughput of fishery products and un-der-estimating operating costs. Te reality is the suppliers to the centers, mostly sub-sistence fishers, characteristically produce subsistence quantities of fishery products. “Appraisal optimism” results in many of the fisheries centers in the region being too large for the likely production and there-fore more costly to run than need be. wo individuals with substantial experience  with fisheries centers in the region offered their perspective on the situation: “Te aid projects/fisheries departments cooked the figures when they did the economic  justifications for the centers.” “Administrators and/or politicians in the capital who plan or seek funding for the outer island fisheries centers are often former resi-dents of those islands and in many cases their  perceptions of fishery resource abundance in those places is often formed by nostalgic recol-lections of high abundance.” Location of centers Te sites chosen for centers are critically important. In general, the more isolated the center, the higher the running costs. From a social perspective, remote com-munities are likely to benefit the most from a functional fisheries center. On the other hand, a center with good transport to a not-too-distant urban market, is more likely to be viable (or require less of a sub-sidy). Viability must be reconciled with  welfare objectives in choosing a site.  Another consideration is that a site that has the right conditions with respect to viability also may have the private sector involved in trading fish. Conversely, the lack of private sector activity may not nec-essarily be because the private sector lacks initiative, funds, knowledge, or technol-ogy, but may be because there is not very much money to be made. Resource management  Over-exploitation of inshore fishery re-sources can be an issue around fisheries centers. In extreme cases, the centers which  were intended to help disadvantaged rural communities resulted in a reduction of food fish for those communities. Fish depletion  was noted around the Arno and Likiep fish bases in the Marshall Islands. 16  Efforts at Fiji’s Wainikoro fisheries center to counter possible over-exploitation of inshore fish-ery resources were fairly weak: some plans to eventually encourage offshore fishing, and some attention to establishing a ma-rine protected area. Managers were unable to even avoid buying fish that contravene fisheries legislation. 17  As stated by an SPC development offi cer: “establishing the fish-ing centers is in a sense, moving the over-fishing problem to the fishing areas around the centers”. 15 Preston, G. and M. Vincent. 1986. Refrigeration for Small-Scale Fisheries in Pacific Island Countries. echnical Paper 188, South Pacific Commission, Noumea 16 Secretariat of the Pacific Community. 2006. echnical assistance provided to the Marshall Islands. Fisheries Newsletter, Number 116 (January – March 2006), Noumea. 17 Asian Development Bank. 2005. Republic of the Fiji Islands: Fisheries Sector Review. Manila. LESSON Some features of the planning process and center design can re-duce the level of subsidy required for a fisheries center. One of the most important is a realistic and objective assessment of the likely fishery product throughput of the center. Going further, a second opinion on such an as-sessment could improve the current situation in which many of the existing centers are simply too large—and more costly to operate than necessary. LESSON Although it may be tempting to place a fisheries center at a loca-tion where the conditions promise commercial feasibility, this may result in crowding out the private sector. A subsidized fisheries center in competition with an existing private sector fish trader is likely to be counter-productive in the long-term. LESSON A fisheries management component should be incorporated in all fisheries centers. Simple resource conservation measures can be promoted by centers: the buyer can exert considerable positive influence over fishing practices in the area.
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