The Pacific Tuna Forum: A Cartel in the Making
The Oxford Senior Dictionary defines a cartel as being “a combination of firms to control production, marketing, etc. and avoid competing with one another”. Ultimately, a cartel controls the supply and price of a specific item. For example, in South America you have the Norte del Valle Cartel responsible for exporting more than US$ 10 Billion worth of cocaine into the US, and spread across Asia, Africa and America there exists OPEC – whose mission is:
To coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of Member Countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital to those investing in the petroleum industry.
And now in the Pacific, plans for our own cartel are underway. I’m not talking about drugs, nor am I talking about oil; instead, I’m talking about the gold of the Pacific Ocean, an industry currently valued at about US$ 3.8 Billion per annum – Tuna. The cartel was initiated when eight Pacific nations became Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and agreed to specific conclusions regarding Tuna protection and production within thier territorial waters. PNG is a member of PNA and the cartel is now being termed the “Tuna Cooperation“.
What makes the “Tuna Cooperation” stand out, which by the way includes Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, PNG, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, is the fact that together they own the largest tuna fishing zones and resources in the world. Statistically, that represents about 2.4 million tons of tunas (skipjack, yellowfin, albacore, bigeye and bluefin tuna), worth an estimated US$ 3.8 billion, and accounting for 55% of the global tuna catch in 2007. That’s not actually quite a bad position to be in.
According to a briefing paper presented to the PNA Ministers of Fisheries at their Niue meeting,
The strategic direction of PNA continues to evolve and could potentially include amongst other things the evolution of a cartel that would control the supply of tuna from their waters, the establishment of a PNA Tuna Corporation and registration of FADs (fishing aggregate devices) as a pre-condition of fishing in their waters.
Now, if I was Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia or South Korea who are the main Tuna fishing nations of the Pacific, I would be sqeeming in my shoes just about now. Ironically, Japan’s tuna fishing industry has recently begun to offer its “islandization” policy, while Korea has pledged to implement its “domestication” policy – both intiatives are aimed at committing more investment in downstreaming the tuna industry within the Pacific – PNA members inclusive.
Which is why the 2’nd Pacific Tuna Industry And Trade Conference to be held in Port Moresby in September will be crucial. That meeting will provide the platform to discuss the Tuna Cooperation‘s conclusions in greater detail and hopefully the structure of the cartel. There have been whispers that the PNG ‘s National Fisheries Authority is willing to contribute US$ 1 Million to the establishment of the PNA Secretariat – a serious committment for the country that has jurisdiction over about one-fifth of the entire tuna stocks in the Pacific.
Looking at the bigger picture, is this a sign of things to come? By that I mean that if there is Tuna cartel, why can’t there be a Rainforest cartel or a Gold cartel and for that matter – why not an Oxygen cartel?
An extremely worthwhile article to read is Samisoni Pareti’s piece published in Island Business. You can read it here.