May 2, 2017
‘Our fish, our future: Celebrating the fish that feeds the world
FFA HQ, SOLOMON ISLANDS– Today, May 2, is World Tuna Day in the fullest sense of the term, as the entire Pacific region and the whole world joins celebrations of the region’s iconic fish for the first time.
May 2, first proposed and implemented by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement as a World Tuna Day five years ago, was adopted as a UN World Day on December 7th 2016. There’s certainly a heightened sense of energy and renewal for the 2017 celebration of the Pacific’s shared tuna resource. Of all the oceanic fishing in the world, 36 percent of the world’s tuna catch comes from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, exported from the Pacific to markets in Thailand, Japan, China, Spain and Italy, Vietnam, the Philippines and the US.
Truly, our tuna is feeding the world.
Whether we are taking a moment, taking action or taking a bite of tuna as part of the global celebrations this week, we are all reminded that our Pacific missions leading the inaugural UN World Tuna Day celebrations in New York are already well advanced into preparations for the World Oceans meeting a month from now. The call from our Forum Fisheries Committee Chair Vanuatu, to uphold the ‘Our Fish, Our Future’ theme for 2017, resonates well with the UN theme for World Oceans Day on June 8: ‘Our Oceans, Our Future’.
I am certain the rejuvenation and energy of this week will ripple into the upcoming UN Oceans conference from June 5-9, and continue important work begun by our Pacific leaders more than four decades ago, when they shaped the global conversation on the UN Convention and then Law of the Sea. Since then, our nations have been part of the global debates—and actions-- ensuring sustainable oceanic fisheries must address the health of oceans, and not just within our Exclusive Economic Zones, but in the areas beyond national jurisdiction. Action for sustainability in zone-based fisheries management is key to ensuring a future for the tuna fishery. Our vision for the Future of our Fisheries is no secret. The tuna Fisheries Roadmap and Report cards  go from our Ministers to our Pacific Leaders and communities on an annual basis, reporting against goals that this region has set to ensure sustainability, economic returns, jobs and food security goals are met. Pacific nations, balancing their aspirations as coastal states with their challenges as SIDS, are well placed to share experiences, solutions and challenges with other oceans of the world.
Tuna fishing continues to make a rising contribution to GDP across the FFA members, with total regional exports from FFA members to the world averaging US900m for the 2013-2015 period.  In the same period, access fee (licensing) revenues to FFA members was worth US448m, mostly to PNA members under the Vessel Day Scheme. Tuna-related jobs including government and industry have risen to 23,000, with 11,000 of those jobs in the onshore processing sector, a workforce where up to 9 out of every 10 employees are women. This ratio is dramatically reversed in jobs at sea, where safety and working conditions are more difficult to monitor.
Beyond the numbers, tuna is an intrinsic part of our unique and shared cultural and oceanic identity. More than fish, it’s a leitmotif for our times, powering progress in Pacific economies. That said, continuing growth trends and addressing challenges lies with effective national level implementation of regional fisheries licensing, compliance and monitoring policies, and conservation and management measures
Our celebrations this week must prepare us for the work beyond the Oceans conference to that defining moment for Pacific tuna fisheries management, the WCPFC 14 in Manila this December. It’s here where all the Commission members must do all they can to address the overfished warnings on bigeye tuna, bring more than a decade of Tropical Tuna Measure talks to a definitive conclusion, and increase pressure on countries who should be doing more to stop the criminal actions of their citizens in our waters.
This time next year, I hope my FFA World Tuna Day statement will reflect progress in those areas, and ongoing growth in market access work, tuna exports and values, and jobs. May our world-leading Monitoring, Control and Surveillance work be matched by resources, implementation, and success at the WCPFC table for the Tuna Fishery’s first goal, that of sustainability.
From the FFA team, we will continue to uphold the value of strength through cooperation in all we do, and I want to thank and congratulate our country members who continue to leverage regionalism in ways that show the world what works when we pool resources to protect our shared tuna resource.
Today, as we send solidarity and best wishes to our Pacific missions across the dateline for their celebrations in New York, our May 2 Pacific spotlight falls on our FFC Chair Vanuatu, where Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries, & Biosecurity, Matai Seremaiah was keynote speaker at a national celebration in Port Vila highlighting the ‘Our fish, Our future’ theme. Joining the action at national level across the FFA membership, the Forum Fisheries Committee sessions timed every first week of May will this evening join a World Tuna Day event hosted in Canberra, by the incoming FFC Chair, Australia. At the same time, in Honiara, staff and FFA families are leading a public ‘Taste of Tuna’ culinary and arts celebration to highlight three reasons why Pacific tuna is served up on plates all over the world: it’s healthy, it tastes good, and it’s ours. --ENDS
PDF icon FFAstatementWTD2017FINAL.pdf199.43 KB