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NZ focuses Pacific Fisheries Agency

23 May 2006 Media Statement

New Zealand focuses Pacific Fisheries Agency on the task ahead

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New Zealand played a significant role in focusing the future work of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency at its annual meeting held in Nadi, Fiji last week.

The Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, attended on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton. New Zealand’s proposals to focus future meetings of the Agency on the key strategic issues facing the region’s tuna fisheries received universal support from Pacific Island members and Australia.

“We are at a critical juncture with respect to the valuable tuna resources in the Pacific. Unless the peoples of the Pacific cooperate to ensure our fisheries are properly managed, we run the risk of losing what, for many Pacific Island countries, is the only natural resource that offers real potential for economic development, in addition to being an essential source of food security,” Luamanuvao Winnie Laban said.

“Because these are shared fisheries, we must make the hard decisions and trade-offs required to ensure sustainability. Pacific Island countries must also be wise in the way that fisheries are developed, and look at ways of maximising economic returns while ensuring tuna stocks are not overfished.”

New Zealand’s proposals included streamlining the agenda of future meetings, empowering the FFA Secretariat to deal with routine administrative issues, thereby creating time for Ministers to discuss and make critical policy decisions. Luamanuvao Laban also put forward the idea of a reporting template that will allow members to exchange information on fisheries management and development challenges, and on progress in implementing conservation and management measures.

The meeting was the second annual FFC that has met at Ministerial level since Forum Leaders directed in 2004 that there be greater Ministerial oversight of the region’s fisheries. The FFA Secretariat, which is based in the Solomon Islands, has made significant advances following reforms to the Agency agreed at last year’s meeting.

“It is now time for members to ensure we provide effective oversight of fisheries issues and of the Agency and to do this we must get engaged in the issues ourselves,” Luamanuvao Winnie Laban said.

Other issues covered at last week’s meeting included agreement on a draft Declaration to be forwarded to Pacific Forum Leaders on the elimination of destructive fishing practices in the tropical Pacific – including the prevention of bottom trawling on seamounts in Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Pacific Island countries and on high seas areas enclosed by those EEZs.

Ministers also appointed a new Director-General to head the Agency in the coming years – Mr Tanielu “Dan” Su’a from Samoa will take over the helm of the FFA in November with the incumbent Mr Feleti Teo’s six year term coming to an end.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban paid tribute to the significant contribution made to the region by Mr Teo, and took great delight in inviting her fellow Ministers and their officials to Wellington for next year’s annual meeting.

“Next year’s meeting will build on the progress made last week, and will also provide an opportunity for us to showcase the best of Pacific culture here in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are a Pacific nation linked to our island neighbours by the vast Pacific Ocean that nurtures and sustains us. Together we must fulfil our responsibilities of caring for this great ocean and the resources within it.”


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