Pacific Islands Forum Observer Statement to the 15th Annual Forum Fisheries Ministerial Meeting by Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor

Rarotonga, Cook Islands, Wednesday, 4 July 2018

  • Chairman and representative of our host Government;
  • Honourable Ministers of Fisheries and Senior Officials
  • Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency;
  • Representatives of the CROP, and other technical agencies;
  • Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start by acknowledging the opportunity afforded me to address you all this morning and to extend my appreciation to the Government and the people of the Cook Islands for the excellent meeting arrangements.

As the CROP agency responsible for the political arrangements of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Secretariat works through the Forum Officials Committee to ensure the Leaders agenda is both set and implemented. Currently there are three standing issues on the Leaders agenda: climate change, West Papua, and now fisheries. The Forum Secretariat would like to assure the Fisheries Ministers that their proposals for Leaders will go through the standard Forum processes so as to ensure alignment and the full consideration of broader, cross-sector implications. To this end, Foreign Ministers may, where necessary, provide commentary on what is proposed, but the content and substance will remain as intended by Fisheries Ministers. Following the Leaders decisions, the Secretariat is responsible for working with CROP to mobilise assistance where appropriate to implement those decisions.

Chair, in addition to Leaders’ endorsement of fisheries as a standing agenda item, in 2017 Forum Leaders also endorsed the Blue Pacific as a driver for collective action and a long-term commitment to act as one ‘Blue Continent’ on issues of vital importance and benefit to the region.

Taken together, these two decisions emphasise the importance of solidarity and the need for us all to remain cognisant of the fact that fisheries is a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral issue. Indeed, while our fisheries is in itself of immense value to the region and the world, its value is connected with other aspects of our Blue Pacific, and therefore we must maximise opportunities to work collectively across sectors and utilise the full regional machinery if we are to realise the full potential of our shared fisheries.

Arguably the most important area where regional collective action is required is Marine Domain Awareness. I wish to stress that MDA is not simply about monitoring our fisheries, nor is it simply about law enforcement. Rather, marine domain awareness encompasses the full range of concerns that are vital to the integrity of our ocean sovereignty. Key among these concerns is securing our maritime boundaries. The 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories manage 20% of the world’s ocean in their Exclusive Economic Zones. The settlement of maritime boundaries provides certainty to the ownership of our ocean space, as Pacific people taking control of our domain, which is critical to managing our ocean resources, biodiversity, ecosystems and data, as well as for fighting the impacts of climate change.

Chair, with regards to the work of the Fisheries Taskforce, I note that a comprehensive report will be provided during this meeting on the progress of the Fisheries Roadmap and the work of the Taskforce. All I wish to add is that in acknowledging the progress that has been made, there is recognition across the Taskforce agencies that many challenges lay ahead. The Heads of the Fisheries Taskforce Agencies will convey these challenges to Leaders in the form of a letter that will be annexed to the progress report to Leaders. I note you will be discussing many if not all of these issues during your meeting, and the decisions you reach will be critical for determining any considerations required by Leaders’ on these matters.

To conclude Chair, on behalf of the Senior Management Team and all my colleagues at the PIFS I would like to commend Director General James Movick for his stewardship of the FFA as well as his commitment and cooperation as a member of the CROP. In particular, I wish to recognise his efforts to ensure that we align the management and surveillance of the fisheries with cross sectoral aspects of resource and territorial security. Director General, I wish you all the very best for your future endeavours and thank you for your regional leadership.