Among the achievements highlighted at this year’s meeting of the Pacific Island Forum leaders, is the successful negotiation of the US Pacific Tuna Treaty.
Lt. Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga is attending the meeting in Pohnpei.
Matai Seremaiah Nawalu, Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers, told leaders that while there’s additional administrative and individual processes to complete, the Pacific negotiators have delivered against the mandate handed down by Leaders and Ministers.
He said the six year agreement that has been reached is an excellent outcome and asked that the leaders join him in thanking and congratulating the region’s negotiators of the US Tuna Treaty.
The treaty allows US purse seiners including those that supply the local canneries access to the exclusive economic zones of Forum member countries which cover a wide swath of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean which contains the largest and most valuable tuna fisheries in the world.
Many Pacific Island parties depend on fisheries as one of their most imhportant natural resources, and the United States has for decades sought to be a valued partner in developing regional fisheries.
The U.S. purse seine fleet operates according to the highest commercial standards and is subject to strict enforcement by authorities.
In his report, the chairman of the Fisheries Committee said there’s a growing need to reform the longline fisheries of the region.
He said the Parties to the Nauru Agreement have made good progress with their longline vessel day scheme to regulate the tropical fishery, but this has drawn heavy resistance from fishing countries.
The participants to the Tokelau Arrangement have also made some progress in developing a catch management scheme for the southern albacore fishery, but there is a lot more work to be done, including some very hard national decisions that the chair said will each need to take to introduce meaningful and realistic limits that are lower than those currently on the table.
Honorable Nawalu said, “It’s crucial that the region stick together to push for compatible measures in respect of high seas fisheries.”
This includes improving catch and effort reporting from the high seas, better regulating transhipment and looking for opportunities for local fleets to participate in high seas fisheries.
On the fight against illegal fishing, the chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee said while forum countries should all be proud of their achievements to date they should not become complacent about them.
He warned that illegal fishing risks change all the time and members must change also to identify and address them.
He said the forum fisheries Agency will be focussing very heavily on electronic reporting as a step towards addressing the current highest risk in the region – misreported and under reported catch and effort.
To this end the chair acknowleged Australia for the Pacific Maritime Security Program, and in particular for its recent moves to establish a comprehensive aerial surveillance program that will operate in conjunction with the FFA Surveillance Centre.
That program, said Nawalu, will respond well to a number of risks such as unreported transhipment and the so called “blue boats” that represent a serious threat to coastal fisheries in many members.