two FSM longline boats

Investigating tradeoffs between management strategies for the Federated States of Micronesia industrial longline tuna fleet


Tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean account for approximately 55% of the global tuna harvest. Because tuna are highly mobile pelagic species, the collective actions of fishing nations throughout the region are crucial to the sustainable management of the fishery. The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) is an intergovernmental agency of 17 countries applying a coordinated and mutually beneficial approach to the conservation, management, and development of regional tuna stocks. Within the FFA, eight member countries form the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a subregional agreement between members who control around 50% of the global supply of skipjack tuna. PNA countries currently employ a VDS management regime for their fleets. 

In 2018, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) made a commitment to ensure full transparency in its tuna fishery by 2023 through a combination of electronic monitoring (EM) and human observer coverage in all industrial fishing vessels operating in its territorial waters. Full transparency in the fishery would provide the opportunity to explore new, potentially more effective, management strategies than VDS that would otherwise be difficult to implement. To inform this “next generation” of fishery management, we worked with FSM’s National Oceanic Resource Management Authority (NORMA) to compare their current effort-based longline vessel-day-based scheme (VDS) to output-based options, such as a quota management system, which is now feasible given their commitment to transparency via EM.


This project was guided by four principles: Literature review, our previous work on VDS vs. ITQ (Individual Transferable Quotas), expert knowledge, and synthesis of this information. We convened a group of experts with knowledge of Pacific Islands fisheries management and ITQ vs. VDS. Building upon the expert guidance we received during this meeting, we completed a literature review of the status and challenges in the longline fleet in the western/central Pacific, the potential pros and cons of both a VDS and an output-based system in this context, and the potential role of EM in supporting better management outcomes. We synthesized our findings into a report for NORMA.

Key findings

In our initial exploration of management options for FSM, we found that FSM’s industrial longline fishery lacks many of the characteristics and enabling conditions that would make catch-based management effective, as opposed to existing VDS. Therefore, implementing a catch-based management system for FSM’s industrial longline fishery is unlikely to provide any clear economic benefits or biological advantages for target species over an effort-based system. However, a catch-based management system may yield benefits for non-target species. Market-based interventions may offer the greatest benefits if FSM were to act unilaterally, but collective actions that incorporate control of the high seas offer the greatest potential to unleash benefits in the future.


This project was a collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and the Federated States of Micronesia’s National Oceanic Resource Management Authority.