FORUM FISHERIES COMMITTEE MINISTERIAL MEETING EIGHTEENTH MEETING FFCMIN18 FFA DG’s OPENING STATEMENT
Thank you Honourable Chair.
Let me begin by acknowledging Our Heavenly Father who is always with us and join in thanking the Hon. Minister Mona Ainu’u of Niue for the wonderful prayer to start our day.
I acknowledge the Honourable Ministers here today, FFC Officials Chair Baleinabuli, Heads of Fisheries, Officials, PIFS Secretary-General Henry Puna, PNAO CEO Dr Sangaa Clark, WCPFC ED Feleti Teo and all our partner observers.
The Secretariat very much appreciates our strong and close collaboration.
I’d also like to acknowledge the late Hon. Marion Henry of the Federated States of Micronesia, who was the former Ministerial Chair for the past two years before his sad passing. As noted at the time, the Hon. Henry was a gracious and astute contributor to FFA goals.
I also acknowledge former Officials Chair Director Eugene Pangelinan, Head of FSM Fisheries, for his invaluable assistance to the Secretariat for the last two years before it passed to Fiji. And on that note, I express deep gratitude to Fiji. Despite the very challenging circumstances they face, Permanent Secretary Balenabuli has stepped up, fully embraced and led as our Officials FFC Chair. We also look forward to the leadership from our incoming Ministerial Chair Honourable Koroilavesau.
This statement provides a brief reflection on some key achievements over the last 12 months, because it has truly been a year like no other.
The impacts of COVID-19 have been far-reaching and continue to evolve.
At this time in 2020, our focus as a regional organisation was on survival – keeping our operations afloat in the face of the new global pandemic.
Now in 2021, FFA’s key benchmark has shifted. We’ve had higher aspirations as an organisation than just surviving. We have been determined to leverage the lessons of last year to shift from a SURVIVE to a THRIVE mindset.
As with other key sectors, our tuna fisheries have been impacted, particularly in the longline fishery. This continues to present risks including a real risk of the virus severely affecting fisheries operations and associated revenues.
In responding to the pandemic, we have stepped up together, demonstrating the strength, resilience and innovation you would expect from our Pacific people.
We have found fresh solutions to the myriad challenges in our path. Critically, we have “stayed the course” on FFA’s longer-term vision as set out in the Strategic Plan adopted by Honourable Ministers - ‘that our people will enjoy the greatest possible social and economic benefits from the sustainable use of offshore fisheries resources’.
Top of mind here is the Regional Longline Strategy. A key step to improving benefits in longline fisheries is agreement on EEZ-based limits and arrangements to underpin zone-based management of tuna resources. At no time has the need for cooperation to agree on in-zone limits been greater and Members are rising to the challenge.
The new Tropical Tuna Measure is another key focus on which we have maintained momentum, with a ‘rollover’ of the existing measure and a series of workshops underway to push forward on a new measure.
We’ve also kept climate change front and centre, developing mechanisms for a detailed analysis of how potential changes in stock levels and distribution due to climate change may impact our fisheries at national level, and working with our CROP partners to ensure that fisheries is included in the broader UNFCCC processes.
Similarly, our work to understand the volume of tuna and associated bycatch entering local markets will enhance our understanding of the contribution of tuna fisheries to food security in the region.
We are also continuing to drive stronger observer and crew safety standards including through:
o the implementation of the recommendations from the Observer Livelihood and Safety Report
o the adoption and operationalisation of the Regional Observer Insurance Scheme, and
o continued work with Members to incorporate the Harmonised Minimum Terms and Conditions on crew labour standards into their national frameworks.
The virtual platforms have certainly allowed us to continue our work with Members, to the extent possible. It has facilitated more convenient meetings and saved on travel costs. But we’ve also recognised that nothing replaces face-to-face contact, particularly for complex negotiations.
In the wake of this realisation, it’s not surprising that Members have adopted a firm stance on limiting substantive negotiations via virtual platforms. The potential impact on SIDS participation is just one of many issues considered in reaching this decision.
Most of the themes I’ve mentioned here will be the subject of our discussions over the next two days.
The core FFA value of cooperation will remain key to our ability to work through the issues before us.
Be it as a family, a community, an island nation or our region, time and again, it has been proven that it is through Cooperation that we have overcome any challenge.
Cooperation is the only way we can ensure a safe, stable and prosperous region for our people.
Honourable Ministers, the Secretariat stands ready to support you to ensure that FFCMIN18 lays a strong foundation for FFA to thrive in this year and beyond.