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Pacific Island: Call for Action on Coastal Fisheries

Pacific Island ministers call for action on coastal fisheries

12 August 2014

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Nadi, Fiji:

The fisheries ministers of Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu have urged Pacific Island nations take urgent collective action to address existing and future threats to bêche-de-mer and other coastal fisheries in the region.

The inaugural Pacific Bêche-de-mer and the Future of Coastal Fisheries Meeting held from 6 to 8 August in Nadi, Fiji, ended with a call to action for stronger cooperation by regional and national stakeholders towards improving coastal fisheries and the bêche-de-mer industry. This is the first time Pacific Islands leaders have signed a call to action on coastal fisheries and beche-de-mer; all Pacific leaders' agreements so far have been on tuna fisheries, nothing on coastal fisheries.

The aim of the meeting was to:

- obtain common understanding of the status and the socio-economic benefits of the bêche-de-mer industry and other coastal fisheries to Pacific Island nations, and the urgent need to take action;

- discuss constraints and opportunities and to collectively and effectively address threats and challenges to bêche-de-mer and coastal fisheries management; and

- obtain political will and ministerial-level commitment towards effective national and regional approaches to coastal fisheries management and to strengthen actions at the national and local level.

SPC was represented at the meeting by Coastal Fisheries Science and Management Section staff – Ian Bertram, Etuati Ropati and Kalo Pakoa – led by the Director of the Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, Mr Moses Amos. Presentations on the current state of coastal fisheries by Mr Amos and bêche-de-mer by Mr Bertram set the scene for the meeting discussions. Many Pacific Island countries and territories will need to find alternative sources of protein within the next two decades, if current overfishing continues and the loss of the bêche-de-mer fishery will reduce the socio-economic security of island communities.

This startling threat to food security in the region prompted discussion on what innovative measures can be taken to try and rapidly shift to sustainable management of the region’s coastal fisheries. One idea was put forward by the Honorable Mao Zeming, Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources. It was to place pressure on the consumption end of the market, by certifying or branding products that have been sustainably harvested or produced.

Limiting fishing in coastal waters is the way forward to create scarcity, and through scarcity you add value to your resource, Dr Transform Aqorau told the conference. Lessons from the Party to the Nauru Agreement on tuna management vessel day scheme is an example of what can be achieved for the Pacific Island bêche-de-mer trade if managed well, he advised.

The meeting acknowledged the important role of SPC in providing technical assistance to countries in the form of scientific information, management and development advice, and capacity building of fisheries officers. While recognising existing regional policies on coastal fisheries, such as the Apia Policy, the meeting participants acknowledged the need for greater leadership, cooperation by all partners, and action at all levels to improve the management of coastal fisheries and bêche-de-mer.

The ministers and their representatives agreed on a Call For Action towards an effective regional approach to manage coastal fisheries. The key elements of the pathway agreed by the ministers include:

- implementing stronger coastal fisheries management regimes at a national level, by ensuring effective policies are in place, targeting essential capacity at national and local levels, reviewing budgetary commitments and strengthening coordination of implementing partners;

- reviewing and harmonising regional frameworks for coastal fisheries, including the role of regional and international institutions, agencies and non-government organisations; and

- taking immediate action on management of bêche-de-mer resources, including sharing data and information on buyers, markets and best practices; targeting research on market mechanisms that will improve the value of bêche-de-mer to Pacific Island nations; and investigating opportunities for a regional initiative on bêche-de-mer, similar to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.

The Call To Action by ministers and participants in this summit follows on from the recognition of coastal fisheries' importance for food security by the Forum Fisheries Committee Ministerial Meeting (FFCMIN Session) outcome at Atafu, Tokelau in July 2014. In Tokelau, the ministers agreed that coastal fisheries are of critical importance to food security needs for Pacific Island communities and agreed to renew commitment and focus to ensure their sustainable use.

In responding to the need for action, Tonga announced its hosting of a regional meeting in 2015 for like-minded countries that want to further assess the PNA-like model for bêche-de-mer management in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea announced it would host the next coastal fisheries ministerial meeting in 2015, and Vanuatu announced their intention to host a national coastal fisheries forum in October this year.

Countries will report on the progress of the meeting outcomes at a follow-up coastal fisheries meeting in early 2015, where a further way forward will be recommended.

SPC thanked the governments of Fiji, Tonga and Republic of the Marshall Islands for co-hosting the meeting.

ENDS

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