Fisheries resources will continue to occupy center stage in policy discussions for many pacific countries because of their importance to island economies that calls for more active surveillance of its stock, said Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare as he opened a regional workshop on fisheries management in Honiara yesterday.
The two-day meeting brings together regional ministers from Federate State of Micronesia (FSM), Tokelau, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji and Solomon Islands, who will actively assess the Pacific strategy in monitoring tuna stocks, commonly termed as Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) management efforts in the region.
The workshop will task Fisheries, Economic and Foreign Ministers of the region to review regional MCS arrangements and their compliance regime and report their evaluation to Leaders during the upcoming 2016 Pacific Islands Leaders Forum.
Facilitated by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the multi-sectorial ministerial level meeting will also include ministers responsible for marine surveillance, coming together to device a regional strategy to conserve, protect and maximize the value of the valuable Pacific tuna fisheries resources.
“I do not need to argue the point that fisheries resources and its sustainable development will continue to occupy center stage in important policy discourses, of many, if not, all member countries of the Forum nations because of its immense contribution to these economies in terms of revenue generation, foreign reserve earnings, employment, etc.” said Mr Sogavare.
“We therefore have a serious collective obligation to ensure that these resources are developed in the most sustainable manner.”
“This is the concern that is driving the need to ensure that we have an effective MSC program in place to achieve the development objective of the fisheries sector,” Mr Sogavare said.
Mr Sogavare said while effective fisheries management mechanism are important at the national level, the effectiveness of regional approach in fisheries management for the Pacific countries is very evident when dealing with foreign fishing nations.
In this regard, the Prime Minister commended the management team of the Honiara-based FFA who have continue to keep abreast in their use of technology in their operations to regulate and monitor regional tuna stocks.
Mr Sogavare told the Minister participants that putting together a regional strategy on fishery monitoring, control and surveillance is not always as easy undertaking.
Nevertheless, Mr Sogavare draws on the evidences of three decades of regional cooperation in the FFA as stopping stones to more integrated and comprehensive regional initiatives of the future Pacific as countries come together to regulate their fisheries stock.
As in many regional initiatives, political will and commitment is imperative as the driver to implement such a system as the MCS, said Mr Sogavare, but assured the workshop participants that Pacific Leaders, through the Pacific Islands Forum, have continue to demonstrate that political will, with the understanding that there is more to gain through a regional initiative, especially on tuna resources management.
Prime Minister Sogavare thanked the generous funding from the New Zealand Government to enable FFA to facilitate such an important regional initiative, saying, he looks to seeing the results of the workshop to be presented at the next PIF Leaders Forum in September.
FFA Director General James Movick said the meeting to review regional MCS arrangement is unique and historical as its a multi-sectoral ministerial level composition that seeks to include all ministerial heads that deals with the MCS, including ministers of finance, fisheries, foreign affairs and police and maritime surveillance together on the table.
The ministerial meeting on MCS will end on Friday.