Speeches: Future of Fisheries Roadmap address to 46th Pacific Islands Forum

Address to the 46th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting

by the Hon. Elisala Pita, TUVALU Minister of Natural Resources (Fisheries)

Chair of the Ministerial Forum Fisheries Committee


It gives me great pleasure to address you in my capacity as Chair of the 11th Forum Fisheries Minister’s meeting, which was held in Tuvalu in July of this year.

You have before you the “Roadmap for sustainable Pacific fisheries” that has been referred by your regional fisheries ministers for your endorsement. This roadmap is the outcome of a thorough consultation process over the past year led by the Forum Fisheries Agency and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Each of the goals and strategies has been discussed by experts, considered by a broad cross-section of stakeholders, reviewed by national fisheries officials and agreed by Fisheries Ministers. Very importantly, the Roadmap has associated report cards that would be submitted to you each year in order to track progress in its implementation. We must do more than just talk; we must challenge ourselves and set clear benchmarks to measure progress achieved.

I would like to speak mainly about these outcomes, and seek your full understanding and endorsement of what the Roadmap proposes.

There are two key messages:

  • In tuna fisheries, we need to take control through management systems that give rights to our countries and not foreign fleets – this will give us new opportunities for economic development;
  • In coastal fisheries, we need to empower local communities to manage their own resources if they are to have food security and livelihoods into the future;

Many of you will agree that while there have been some notable successes in the management and development of our region’s fisheries, our countries and our people are still not deriving the economic benefits that we had hoped for from our huge tuna resources. Most of our tuna is still being caught by foreign vessels, and 90% is taken out of the region for processing. Our inshore fisheries – vital for the food security of our coastal communities – are threatened by overfishing and, in the longer term, the effects of ocean acidification and climate change.

In the initial Future of Fisheries study that was endorsed by Ministers and Leaders in 2010, these missed opportunities were foreshadowed as the likely outcomes if we passively went about ‘business as usual’.  Your Fisheries Ministers are now seeking your support to change the way we do business in order to stop missing opportunities.  Most importantly, for this first Leaders’ meeting under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, we believe that we need to work together as a region in order to do this.

Let me start with coastal fisheries. The Pacific relies heavily on fish from our reefs and lagoons for food – and a very healthy and nutritious food it is. But good catches are becoming harder and fresh reef fish is becoming an expensive luxury. Other coastal products that have been harvested for cash for centuries, like beche-de-mer, have been completely fished out. They need to be managed better. Our fisheries departments cannot possibly manage and monitor the activities of tens of thousands of people spread over thousands of kilometers of coastline. The solution is a wide roll-out of community based fisheries management – something that has had good success in a few countries but needs much more effort and support. The roadmap establishes goals and strategies for doing this.

Our tuna fisheries are a large and valuable resource, and the roadmap establishes clear goals for sustainably managing the key species; increasing the value of the catch; doubling employment in the tuna industry; and increasing the contribution of tuna to food security. The strategies to achieve these goals will require support from leaders for cooperative regional arrangements and a whole of government approach at national level.

We need to firmly establish control of the fisheries through systems of zone-based rights. The PNA VDS has shown the gains in access fee revenue that such an approach can achieve, but we now need to look for ways to grow those returns even further and to reform longline fisheries in the same way. Our national resources are threatened by a growing and poorly regulated fishery on the high seas – we need to rein this in.

We will drive employment growth by requiring domestic and foreign vessels to employ Pacific Island crew and observers.  To increase economic returns and onshore employment, we will continue to promote onshore processing, including with the development of processing hubs in favourable locations.  High employment standards will be enforced we must not provide our nationals as ‘slave labour’.

Mr Chairman, this roadmap is presented to you through the Ministerial channel of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. I know that you have also received other suggestions on fisheries that have come through the specialist sub-committee on regionalism. These comprise a concept to increase economic returns from Fisheries; and concerns on the control of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.

The Specialist Sub Committee concept takes the same approach as the roadmap in terms of taking control of the region’s tuna fisheries through zone-based rights. It also proposes the phasing out of all foreign fishing and the acquisition of the whole tuna value chain from catching to retail by Pacific Island countries. That is easier said than done, but the strategies in the Roadmap will deliver much of this with our collective commitment. In line with their responsibility and mandate, your fisheries ministers should be charged to incorporate any relevant new elements into the Roadmap.

IUU fishing is a topic of much public interest, and I know it is a concern for many of you. However, I should make it clear that we already have good systems in place – through FFA and our partners in maritime surveillance. These systems continue to show that there are very few illegal tuna fishing vessels operating in our region. Unfortunately, most of the recent illegal vessels are found in EEZs bordering on some of our Asian neighbours and are mainly targeting inshore fisheries resources. We are exploring new ways to deal with this threat, and the roadmap covers our approach to IUU fishing.

We will continue to assess new satellite surveillance tools that are being developed and promoted outside the region but two points will be important: first that all efforts should support and be properly coordinated with the FFA Vessel Monitoring System and, second, that cost-benefit analysis must be applied so that we avoid unnecessary surveillance that is unsustainable for the region.

The Roadmap will guide us in all these endeavors and on behalf of your fisheries Ministers I strongly commend it to you for endorsement.

Chair, I have taken enough time out of your busy schedule. Thank you all for your attention.