FFA SPEECHES: Outgoing FFC Chair notes successes and cautions on challenges in handover session at 2016 ministerial

Full statement below -- 
13th Forum Fisheries Ministerial Committee Meeting
Tuvalu Statement and Handing Over remarks
Hon Elisala Pita
Minister, Ministry of Natural Resources, Tuvalu.
Honourable Ministers from all FFA member countries and your delegations, FFA Director General Mr James Movick and your staff, Senior Government Official of the Government of Vanuatu, representatives of Crop Agencies, Observers, and Friends. 
Talofa.  As the outgoing Chair of the Forum Fisheries Ministerial Committee, I wish to open our meeting with a statement reflecting not only the main activities undertaken by the Forum Fisheries Agency during the past year, but also a summary of the issues under the agenda items that are of importance to Tuvalu.
But first, let me thank the Government of Vanuatu for kindly agreeing to hosting this present Ministerial FFC meeting here in Port Vila. Vanuatu is famous for its rich culture and traditions, its lovely environment and its national drink ‘the nakamal” which is very famous, particularly to all our fisheries officials.  I look forward to experiencing and enjoying the Vanuatu welcome and hospitality that I have heard so much about. 
Colleagues, we in the FFC have a lot to be proud of in regard to the way we are managing our business since the establishment of this organisation.  Being in the FFC Ministerial Chairman’s seat for the past year has brought some of these issues very sharply into focus for all of us working in the fisheries sector in the region.
We can be proud of our achievements.  In July last year in Tuvalu we managed to adopt and approve the “Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries” also known as the “Future of Fisheries Roadmap” which is a key document for the future development and management of fisheries in the region.  This Roadmap was finally endorsed by the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in their meeting in Port Moresby in September, 2015.  At the same time Leaders also set the FFA and other regional organisations some important additional tasks in respect of fisheries management across the region.
This Roadmap as we all believe has brought many challenges to all of us as well as to the core business of the FFA, with assistance from the Pacific Community and other Crop Agencies, in its effort to try and live up with its expectation.  I am pleased to note that the FFA is now working in harmony with other crop agencies in addressing all these issues and thus the coordination and endorsement of activities under the Roadmap are now progressing in a very effective and efficient fashion. 
 And solidarity We have just completed a successful final negotiations of the US Treaty two weeks ago in Auckland, New Zealand, and the outcome will be on our agenda for our consideration and endorsement.  I attended the first and final negotiation, and despite the difficulties faced by both parties during the very intense final negotiation, the outcome was very encouraging and satisfying.  I must therefore congratulate all our hardworking Officials, the FFA Director General, Deputy Director General and staff, including the PNA Secretariat and staff for the successful achievement and the job well done.   The outcome would benefit all Parties to the Treaty, and I do recommend the endorsement by this meeting.
However there are many factors that are threatening these achievements and new ones are arising all the time and we as a group needs to stand together and face these challenges.
It is obvious that the increasing fishing capacity and effort in the WCPO threaten the sustainability of the resource itself, or at least parts of it.  Almost every major fishery in the world has at one time or another collapsed due to overfishing.  If this happens in our tuna fishery it will be an economic and social disaster for all of us.  Sadly, much of the fishery takes place outside our waters, in the high seas or the EEZs of non-FFA members, and this fishing is not subject to our control. The WCPFC has the role of ensuring that fishing in these areas is sustainable, but we have all seen the way that other Commission members try to duck and dodge their responsibilities and commitments to fishery sustainability. No-one was more disappointed than Tuvalu in the outcomes of the latest WCPFC meeting in Bali. 
The time has now come for all FFA and FFC Members to consider taking actions outside the WCPFC to encourage compliance by the distant water fishing nations, such as denying access to fishery resources to those countries who continue to block our efforts. Tuvalu has already started this process, by declining to sell fishing days to certain nations and fleets in 2015.  Tuvalu is a small player in the WCPO, and this move on its own is not likely to have much impact on the DWFN fleets concerned. It is also a dangerous game, as it threatens broader international relationships, including aid flows.  However we feel that DWFNs need to be shown that we will not always submit to their threatening, bullying or blocking tactics.  It is time we as an FFA bloc begin to collectively use that strong bargaining power and solidarity to achieve our proposals, which have been blocked by the DWFNs during the past two tuna Commission meetings.
Another source of concern is the price trend for skipjack tuna, which has reached a multi-year low in recent months. This is obviously linked to the raw material supply and demand, which in turn is related to our own management policies, and especially the seasonal FAD closures that we instituted through the PNA 3IA, and which have now been enshrined in WCPFC management measures.  From Tuvalu’s perspective, the FAD closures are adding to volatility in the supply of skipjack to canneries, causing major price fluctuations, and thereby affecting none more so than Tuvalu, whose fishery is highly FAD-dependent. There are almost no fisheries in which seasonal closures have proved to be an effective management measure, because of their economic impact on fishing vessels that become unprofitable for part of the year. The FAD fishery for skipjack is no exception, and we need to do better.
There are other challenges too, which result from the increasing complexity of international fishery management arrangements. This included the issuance of yellow cards to some of our countries including Tuvalu for IUU non-compliance to the EU IUU legislation.  There is an item in the agenda that relates to this issue.  I will reserve my comments when we discuss this particular agenda item.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the Director General of FFA and all his staff for the support rendered to me during my Chairmanship of this Committee, Including the assistance offered to me when tasked by the FFC Ministerial Committee to present the Future of Fisheries Roadmap to the Forum Leaders, the launching of the IUU Quantification Report in Auckland, the Ministerial MCS trip to Honiara and especially the assistance and support for me to attend all or most of the UST renegotiation sessions.  I thank you very much for your continuous support and assistance.
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to close by thanking all of you for the trust you have placed in Tuvalu to chair the FFC Ministerial Meeting for the past 12 months. This is not an easy task and I thank you all for all your support. 
At this juncture, I have great pleasure in congratulating the Honourable Minister of Fisheries from Vanuatu, Hon Seremaiah Nawalu who will assume the Chairmanship from now on. Please accept my thanks for taking over this responsibility.
Fakafetai lasi, tengkiu tumas and May God bless our deliberations.
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