Fisheries being a shared and significant resource for our ocean states, Pacific nations have successfully managed their fisheries in a sustainable manner through joint efforts. As the secretariat of the Pacific Islands Forum, one of the regional priority includes support to Members in the implementation of trade policies and agreements that contribute to improving access to markets, and more broadly economic development and employment creation.
To ensure that the interests and concerns of Pacific fisheries stakeholders is represented in relevant discussions, the Forum Secretariat was recently part of a gathering organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), on effective fish trade and sustainable development for Pacific islands.
Speaking at the Workshop, Mr Shiu Raj, Director Programmes and Initiatives, discussed the Blue Pacific narrative; the Forum Leaders’ prioritisation of fisheries and preferential trade regimes; the Pacific Islands Trade and Invest (PTI) network’s fisheries-related work; and the support provided to Members on fisheries subsidies’ negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“The Pacific region has always maintained that they are not the cause of overfishing, and the Pacific nations have sustainably managed tuna stocks to good health with little to no subsidies to the domestic fishing sector in the region,” Mr Raj told the participants.
In relation to the ongoing WTO members negotiations, Pacific nations have similar interests and therefore shared common positions with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the African and Caribbean members of the ACP Group on fisheries subsidies.
“This group of nations argue that WTO disciplines should be proportionate, i.e. target the large subsidisers and their large industrial fishing fleets, while providing flexibility for developing countries to use subsidies to support the development of their fisheries sectors, in particular the small scale or artisanal mariners,” he said.
In their 2014 Framework for Pacific Regionalism (2014), Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum endorsed a Pacific Vision calling for a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives. Four principal objectives underpin the Framework: sustainable development; economic growth; strengthened systems; and security for all.
At the 2015 Pacific Islands Forum, Pacific Leaders reaffirmed the central importance of increasing economic returns and ensuring the sustainable management of fisheries’ in the region, endorsing the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries. A joint Fisheries Task Force comprising the Forum Secretariat, the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC) and Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) was established to oversee the Leaders’ decision that the above is achieved in five years.
In 2017, Forum Leaders endorsed the “Blue Pacific” identity as the core driver of collective action to advance Pacific regionalism; the Blue Pacific seeks to re-capture the collective potential of the region’s shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean based on an explicit recognition of its shared “ocean identity”, “ocean geography”, and “ocean resources”. Through the Blue Pacific, Forum Leaders seek to reaffirm the connections of Pacific people with their natural resources, environment, culture and livelihoods.
As the chair of the Fisheries Task Force, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Meg Taylor, DBE, is in the Cook Islands this week to engage with the Pacific Fisheries Ministers on how best to deliver on our Leaders’ aspirations.