The Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) is a scheme where vessel owners can purchase and trade days fishing at sea in places subject to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).
The purpose of the VDS is to constrain and reduce catches of target tuna species, and increase the rate of return from fishing activities through access fees paid by Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs). The total allocation of fishing days is set and apportioned between Pacific Island members for one-year periods up to three years in advance.
The VDS is implemented as part of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Conservation and Management Measure for Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (CMM2005-01). The VDS replaces the purse seine vessel number limit of 205 vessels under Annex 1 of the Palau Arrangement for the Management of the Western Pacific Purse Seine Fishery (Palau Arrangement).
Since 1992 the countries of Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, commonly referred to as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), have worked collaboratively to manage the tuna stocks within their national waters. The collaborative arrangement under which these countries have worked is the “Palau Arrangement for the Management of the Western and Central Pacific Purse Seine Fishery” or Palau Arrangement. The Palau Arrangement is a multilateral treaty governing the operation of purse seine vessels in the national waters of the PNA. Its primary purpose is to place a limit on the number of vessels operating in the waters of the PNA.
Under the VDS Management Scheme the PNA set the total number of days that can be fished in their waters combined and the apportionment of the total number of days between each country. These allocations of fishing days are set for 12 month periods and can be set up to 3-years in advance. The most recent stock assessment information on the target species of Skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), Yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and Bigeye (Thunnus obesus) tuna and economic information relating to the maximization of economic returns and optimal utilization of the resource is used to assess the allocations of fishing days.
By setting limits on the number of days purse seine vessels fish, the VDS is a management tool to limit fishing within sustainable levels. However it also has an economic objective of creating competition between Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) to purchase units of fishing effort in days, at the highest possible price.
To prevent or constrain technical changes in fishing power and efficiency that may lead to maintaining or increasing catches as a result of the implementation of the VDS, a fishing day under the VDS has been apportioned based on vessel length:
(i) every fishing day by a purse seine vessel with a length overall of less than 50 metres shall equate to a deduction of one half of a fishing day;
(ii) every fishing day by a purse seine vessel with a length overall of between 50 metres and 80 metres shall equate to a deduction of one fishing day; and
(iii) every fishing day by a purse seine vessel with a length overall in excess of 80 metres shall equate to a deduction of one and one half fishing days.
The apportionment between vessel length and a fishing day can effectively be modified over time to account for changes in fishing power and efficiency. This modification of the relationship between vessel length and fishing capacity, in addition to the ability to change the total number of days that can be fished over time provides the ability to change catch effort relationships.
When apportioning fishing days under the VDS, specific allocations have been made for regional fishing arrangements to which the PNA are a Party. These regional arrangements are the States of Micronesia Arrangement for Regional Fisheries Access (FSMA) and the Multilateral Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America (US Treaty).