Taking ownership and localising the various strategies and mechanisms that are being established by regional organisations, and in particular the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) is seen as the key way forward in enhancing sustainable coastal fisheries in the Pacific.
When addressing the plenary session of the 47th Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Pohnpei Frida (9th September 2016) the Vanuatu Minister for Fisheries who also Chairman of the Forum Fisheries Committee of Ministers Matai Seremaiah Nawalu made the point that as part of the recommendations from the Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism, the leaders had a further specific proposal to drive cooperation in respect of coastal fisheries.
“Fisheries ministers take ownership of this issue, and this is why coastal fisheries are a key part of the Fisheries Roadmap”, Minister Seremaiah Nawalu said.
Mr. Nawalu pointed out however that “it is critically important that at the regional level, disconnected initiatives are brought into a strong coordinated approach, and that all stakeholders act in support of SPC as our responsible regional inter-governmental body. While recognising that each country has different context and circumstances, the fisheries ministers will continue to provide sectoral oversight and direction to stakeholders engaged in issues affecting coastal fisheries under the coastal component of the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries.
“The on-going strategic direction and attention of Leaders through the coastal fisheries regional initiative is important because of the cross-sectoral nature of this issue”, Nawalu said.
Minister Nawalu went on to highlight certain critical issues that he said were present in the regional fisheries.
“The first is a growing need to reform the longline fisheries of the region. The Parties to the Nauru Agreement have made good progress with their longline vessel day scheme to regulate the tropical fishery, but this has drawn heavy resistance from fishing countries. The Participants to the Tokelau Arrangement have also made some progress in developing a catch management scheme for the southern albacore fishery, but there is a lot more work to be done, including some very hard national decisions that we will each need to take to introduce meaningful and realistic limits that are lower than those currently on the table.
“As well as this hard work to get our own house in order it is crucial that the region stick together to push for compatible measures in respect of high seas fisheries. This includes improving catch and effort reporting from the high seas, better regulating transhipment, and looking for opportunities for our own fleets to participate in high seas fisheries.”
On curbing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) activities in the region, Mr. Nawalu emphasised that while there have been some achievements, member countries should not be complacent.
“While we should all be proud of our achievements to date we should not become complacent about them. Illegal fishing risks change all the time and we must change also to identify and address them. FFA will be focussing very heavily on electronic reporting as a step towards addressing the current highest risk in the region – misreported and under reported catch and effort. “
The FFCM Chairman also acknowledged and applauded Australia for the Pacific Maritime Security Program, and in particular for its recent moves to establish a comprehensive aerial surveillance program that will operate in conjunction with the FFA Surveillance Centre.
“That program will respond well to a number of risks such as unreported transhipment and the so called “blue boats” that represent a serious threat to coastal fisheries in many members”, he said.
In reference to the successful completion of formal negotiations on the treaty with the United States government, Mr. Nawalu said “while there is additional administrative and individual processes to complete, our officials have delivered against the mandate handed down by Leaders and Ministers.
Nawalu said that the six year agreement that has been reached is an excellent outcome – “and I hope you will join FFC Ministers in thanking and congratulating our regional negotiators”.