FFCMIN14: Marshall Islands raises disproportionate burden on SIDS at WCPFC, wants new Marine Pollution measure (Statement)

RMI country statement to FFCMIN plenary delivered by Hon. Alfred Alfred, Jr.
--On behalf of Her Excellency Madam President Dr. Hilda C. Heine, the Government and the People of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, I extend to you all warm and heartfelt greetings of “Yokwe!”
Let me also join others in offering our congratulations to you, Madam Chair, on your accession to the FFC Ministerial Chair, as well as to convey our sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Vanuatu, through the stewardship of the Honorable Minister Seremaiah Nawalu, for the marvelous job well done during their Chairmanship over the past year.   I am equally confident that with your able leadership and guidance, our meeting here in scenic Mooloolaba will be one that brings about tangible outcomes that will continue to enhance our region’s tuna fisheries.
Madam Chair, at the outset, as this is my very first time to attend a FFC Ministerial meeting, I take this opportunity to duly acknowledge the presence of all my fellow Honorable Ministers present here this morning. As well, I wish to give a special recognition and a word of thanks to the Director-General, Mr. James Movick, the Deputy Director-General, Mr. Wez Norris and all their able staff at the Agency  for their consistent efforts and excellent work in continuing to advance  our collective interests within the regional and international fisheries circles.  I also recognize the presence of the SPC, WCPFC, Forum Secretariat, and other CROP agencies, including NGOs, IGOs, and observers to our very important meeting.
Chair, as we meet here in Australia, there’s been another tragic accident involving the loss of life of a PNG fisheries observer on board a Chinese purse seiner.  I wish to firstly convey the RMI’s condolences to the PNG Head of Delegation and the members of his delegation including all the staff and management of the National Fisheries Authority during this difficult time. This unfortunate incident in itself underlines the importance of the critical work that we do and the decisions we make, which includes safeguarding the lives of our observers.   Those of us who were in attendance at last year’s Annual Session of the WCPFC in Denarau will recall very clearly that RMI has been vocal on the issue of Observer Safety through our engagement in all our regional meetings and deliberations leading up to  the Annual Session.  RMI will continue to call on the region to accelerate this work and further raise its profile not only here in the region but in other regions as well.   It is my understanding that we do have a separate agenda item on this matter albeit to be taken with exception but it is also my hope that we can spend some time on it to further discuss and share ideas and so I will reserve any detailed  comments until then.
Madam Chair, without further pre-empting the agenda, allow me to make a few observations and perhaps some positions on some of the issues we will be discussing and I intend to be very brief to allow time for others to make their Country Statements.  
I would like to acknowledge and thank the FFA Secretariat for the various assistance that have been provided to the RMI  over the course of the year since I have been tasked with the fisheries portfolio, and indeed over the many years before me as well.  As the Minister responsible for fisheries, I will continue to ensure my part in keeping our commitment into maintaining the strength of the FFA and our Secretariat through national, sub-regional, regional, and international cooperation. 
Madam Chair, in keeping to my promise to keep it short, I shall not read out all the significant assistance provided to the RMI and certainly the region as I am sure that we all fully consider these as very impressive and part of a non-exhaustive list of accomplishments to say the least. But more so is the sustained continuity of many of the undertakings that the FFA have started in the region dating back some 38 years since the entry into force of our FFA Convention.  Needless to say, these continue to grow and expand at a rapid pace most notably FFA’s leading role in the region’s MCS efforts.   Our commitments, obligations, duties and responsibilities, are growing every year and more than ever, they continue to pose an ongoing disproportionate burden on most if not all of us with small fisheries administrations. 
Four years ago in Cairns, the WCPFC adopted CMM’s 2013-06 and 2013-07 which in the RMI’s view  are a powerful set of tools that have yet to be really tested against the various proposals that comes in one form or another at the WCPFC.  We look forward to further strengthening our working relationship and ongoing engagement with other FFA Members and the wider WCPFC membership to ensure that our special requirements SIDS are addressed and taken into account through the process as agreed and laid out in the aforementioned CMM’s. 
In closing, Madam Chair, I wish to briefly draw the attention of my fellow Honorable Ministers to a Draft CMM on Marine Pollution that the RMI is looking at tabling at this year’s WCPFC Annual Session in Manila.
In effecting our duties and obligations to cooperate and in the interest of full disclosure and transparency, we are submitting for the record and more importantly for the information of other FFA Members, a Draft CMM that we hope will serve as a catalyst towards addressing some of the marine pollution issues and concerns that have been raised for some time in our region. While we accept that there is still ways to go in terms of resolving the matter to everyone’s satisfaction, we are also mindful that this is but the first small step towards achieving that goal, in line with the overall consultative process that will take place between now and December.    We look forward to working with you, Madam Chair, and the wider FFC membership in this endeavor.
Thank you all once again and I look forward to a productive 14th FFC Ministerial meeting.--ENDS