FFA SPEECHES: Vanuatu's PM opens 13th FFCMIN, notes key issues, challenges

Full text below of the Official opening statement of the 13th FFC Ministerial Meeting by Hon. Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu, on Monday, 4 July 2016 at the Warwick Le Lagon Hotel, Port Vila
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to Port Vila on the occasion of the opening of the 13th Ministerial Meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). And I say good evening to you all and thankyou for arriving safely in our capital Port Vila.  
Let me also on behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Vanuatu commend and thank the Government and people of Tuvalu, represented here today by Hon. Elisala Pita, under the prudent guidance of the FFA Secretariat, for their able stewardship and as Chair of the FFC Ministerial in the last year. 
Before I proceed to open the meeting, I would like to make a few remarks.
Suffice it to say that FFA and the FFC Ministerial as regional mechanisms are the custodians of arguably the most important natural resource of the Pacific, both in terms of its political, socio-economic or monetary value and more so its intrinsic-cultural value to the people of the Pacific. 
The Pacific Ocean has and will continue to play an important role in the future state of play and of international negotiations, particularly for its fish and more specifically, albeit highly migratory, last-remaining healthy tuna stocks. 
Tuna and tuna fisheries continue to play an important role in the economy of FFA member countries. Revenue received from Tuna fisheries contribute significantly to the national budget of our Governments; provide employment opportunities and food security for our growing populations. 
If we are to continue to enjoy these benefits and for our future generations to enjoy the same benefit, stronger commitment will be needed by us leaders, to improve our management responsibility, to ensure sustainability of this valuable renewable resource. 
FFC Ministers, our ocean region as you all know is home to the world’s richest tuna resource but we are not getting maximum return from our resource. We must continue to work hard and find innovative ways to ensure we derive maximum economic benefit in the long term in a manner that is economically sound and environmentally sustainable. This is because tuna is an important part of the marine environment. 
Your responsibility in managing fisheries resources and its developments in a vast Pacific ocean is a challenging one. You have a range of important agenda items to cover in the next two days. I note that amongst the agenda items in front of you, is the implementation of the Future of Fisheries Roadmap on tuna fisheries and the call for domestic development of tuna fishing industry as endorsed by Forum Leaders last year.
 Like some of the FFA members, Vanuatu is working to revive its domestic fish processing industry to maximize economic return from this resource. Last week, a ‘TUNAnomics” workshop was held with our local media industry through the support of FFA to better understand tuna fisheries and for our people to take ownership and support the government promote fisheries industry development. 
I noted continued discussions on the management and development of the Southern Albacore fishery. This is an important fishery for some of us and while there are differences, there is always an opportunity for cooperation.  I trust that continued discussions about this fishery rest in your safe hands to come up with a model that satisfies all members under the Tokelau Arrangement. 
Ministers, most of our countries are faced with growing unemployment rates and high demand for employment opportunities. Fishing industry offers an avenue to develop job opportunities.  I encourage you to continue to discuss and come up with innovative ways to develop capacity for our people to benefit from job opportunities in the fishing industry in our Islands and elsewhere. 
Honourable Ministers, you will all acknowledge that fishing in a large ocean basin comes with its many challenges. It is impossible to see, or know what is happening in this vast mass of water. We are proud of the work of FFA to support member governments in the fight against IUU fishing in our region. Compared to other regions of the world, we have done well to reduce illegal fishing activities as reported in an independent IUU fishing review report. But it is not over yet; we must continue to work hard to ensure that fishing vessels that we allow to fish in our waters fully comply with existing management regulations. 
Some of you I note have held discussions over this very important issue of monitoring, compliance and surveillance in Honiara recently and I encourage you to continue these discussions towards stronger cooperation and the use of available technology to improve monitoring and surveillance to fight against IUU fishing in our region.  
Honourable Ministers, several FFA members have received yellow cards by the European Union for various IUU fishing activities. You are not alone, Vanuatu was one of the first country to go through this EU yellow card process and I must say that while it is a challenge, the process enabled us to audit our fisheries management system and put in place measures to address weaknesses in our system.    
The Fisheries Treaty between certain Pacific Island countries and the United States of America Honourable Ministers, is a unique arrangement that has contributed significantly to the economy of FFA members. Most importantly the US Treaty provides a medium for unity and solidarity amongst the FFA group. The successful conclusion of the re-negotiation of the Treaty last week showed to us that our united front under FFA is strong and we must continue this cooperation into the future. I commend FFC officials for their hard work and the compromises made on some of the very difficult issues to arrive at the new 6 year arrangement.  
I call upon you FFA Ministers, to maintain the spirit of regional solidarity through FFA. At the same time, mindful of the development aspirations of each individual members and recognize their desire to work with other development partners, distance waters fishing nations and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission for the management of tuna resources in the region.
Finally, I acknowledge the Management of Warwick Le Lagon Resort for providing this excellent venue for your meeting. I encourage you to also make the most of your time and enjoy Port Vila while you are with us. I look forward also to share with you a bowl of Vanuatu kava tonight.
In closing, I wish to also take this opportunity to wish you all the best in your deliberations over the next two days and for the successful outcomes of you meeting. 
I now have great honour and privilege to declare, the 13th FFC Ministerial Meeting Officially open.
Thank you
Tangio Tumas
Merci Beaucoupe