Report from visits from Australia, Fiji, Kiribati to FFA last week

HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS, 7-10 MARCH 2011: High level delegations from member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) - Australia, Fiji and Kiribati - visited the regional headquarters of the agency last week to tour the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre and to discuss key fisheries issues.

In a formal high-level visit to FFA, Kiribati Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resource Development, the Hon. Peter Taberranang Timeon, accompanied by the Kiribati Permanent Secretary and a policy officer.

Kiribati has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ or national waters) of all the FFA member countries - a massive area of 3,550,000 square kilometres - posing a significant development opportunity and surveillance challenge for the small island developing state.

The Minister discussed with FFA the progress of the Regional Economic Integration Unit and its work in Kiribati, including current initiatives to establish greater jobs and local income in the country from its vast fishery. The Minister was also briefed on monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) tools provided by FFA to Kiribati to assist control illegal fishing and compliance with Kiribati law.  He visited the FFA Vessel Monitoring System Center and the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre where the importance of sharing data and the benefits of regional MCS cooperation were demonstrated to him.

In his discussions with the FFA Director General, N.F. Tanielu Su’a, the Minister stressed Kiribati’s strong commitment to the continued and vital role of the FFA in regional fisheries. He expressed gratitude for work being done by the FFA’s Regional Integration Unit to facilitate investment in on-shore fish processing and transshipment operations in Kiribati. He also strongly supported the FFA Director General for raising, in the regional Climate Change discussions, the need for donors to support development measures that will improve the economic resilience of Pacific Island countries to better cope with the economic and social impact of climate change through the development of their tuna industry.

Visiting from Fiji was Minister of Fisheries (and currently Acting Minister for Internal Affairs), the Hon. Joketani Cokanasiga, accompanied by the Fiji Commissioner of Police who paid a side visit to FFA from their discussions with the Solomon Islands Government in Honiara. The Fiji Minsiter was briefed on FFA tools to control illegal fishing and given a demonstration of the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre operations.

FFA officials highlighted to the two Ministers that greater access and sharing of national fisheries operational data is a key element in providing improved national and regional coverage of their waters.

Visiting from Australia was Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney who toured the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre and and met with the FFA Director General and other officials at FFA.  The Senator acknowledged the work being undertaken by the FFA in regional MCS and affirmed Australia's support to the ongoing effort
through the provision of surveillance assets and the Pacific Patrol Boat Program.  The Senator stressed the importance to FFA members to prosecute and fine fishing vessels found conducting illegal activity in the region and to have transparency in national licensing arrangements to deter illegal fishing.

FFA Director General N.F. Tanielu Su'a said: "We have been pleased to host high level delegations from our members at our regional headquarters here in Solomon Islands last week. Our support from membership and communication with them about what we do here at the FFA secretariat is important to all staff here at the agency and vital to the future of Pacific Island fisheries."