The Vessel Day Scheme is the cornerstone of the PNA

The Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) is one of the success stories of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). The eight countries that have signed the agreement use the scheme to manage how much tuna is caught in their waters. 

There is one arrangement for managing purse-seine fishing, and another for managing longline fishing.

The arrangements detail how the PNA members manage tuna stocks sustainably while maximising local incomes. They set out the operating rules for these two types of fishing vessels, and cover vessels flagged to PNA members and vessels under other flags. 

Under the rules, the PNA members sell a limited number of fishing days in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the PNA states.

The VDS applies to vessels:

  • operating under a valid licence issued under the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) arrangement, adopted in 1995
  • fishing in waters outside of their own EEZ.

Vessels operating under the VDS are allocated a maximum number of fishing days in a management year. Once this maximum has been reached, a vessel must immediately stop fishing outside its EEZ.

A fishing day” is calculated according to how long a vessel is in the area, its fishing activity, and the size of the vessel: 

  • If a purse-seine vessel is in an area outside its EEZ for 24 hours and undertakes any fishing activity for any length of time = 1 day.
  • If a vessel is outside its EEZ for only part of a day and fishes for only part of a day = part day.
  • If a vessel is in an area outside its EEZ for 24 hours and undertakes no fishing activity = 0 day.
  • For vessels smaller than 50 metres, 1 fishing day = 0.5 fishing days.
  • For vessels 5080 metres long, 1 fishing day = 1 fishing day.
  • For vessels longer than 80 metres, 1 fishing day = 1.5 fishing days.

For longline fishing, a fishing day is calculated according to:

  • the actual time spent fishing in the waters of any of the PNA members (but not at port)
  • if a vessel is 40 metres or shorter, 1 fishing day = 0.8 fishing days
  • if a vessel is longer than 40 metres, 1 fishing day = 1.6 days.

Rules for tuna caught by purse-seine vessels

The third arrangement for implementing the PNA states that all bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tuna taken by purse-seine vessels need to be kept on board until they are landed and transhipped, except for fish that are clearly unfit for human consumption, or excess fish caught in the last set of the trip that cannot fit on the ship. 

The same arrangement states that no vessels are to deploy or service fish-aggregating devices (FADs) and associated equipment, or to fish by purse-seining vessels on floating objects, between 0001 GMT on 1 July and 2359 GMT on 30 September each year. The only exceptions are when there is deemed to be an unfair burden on a Party and or its domestic fleet. 

It also defines the areas of the high seas that are closed to fishing.

Longline tuna fishing vessels in harbour in Solomon Islands. Fisheries officer in foreground. Photo: Francisco Blaha.
PNA members use the Vessel Day Scheme to manage how much tuna is caught in their waters these longliners are in Solomon Islands. Photo: Francisco Blaha.