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By RONALD TOITO’ONA, Manila
THE Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) says it was very unfortunate that the Solomon Islands has pulled out from the agreement, which now signals possible changes for the future of the albacore fishery.
FFA’s Deputy Director General, Wez Norris, told journalists in Manila it was unfortunate that Solomon Islands made the decision at the time that they did.
“What we were very much hoping to achieve, was to finalize the negotiations of the (Tokelau Arrangement) catch management agreement, which we were very close to doing and then allow each country to consider it as a whole complete package and decide whether their interested to participate or not,” Norris explained.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to cross that final line, …this only happened at the beginning of November and we and the other countries and the Solomon Islands haven’t really had the opportunity to .. get our breath back after all of that push, and work out where we stand and what we’re going to do next for the collective management for the Albacore fishery.
“Solomon’s in the past has been one of the largest albacore producers from its EEZ and so therefore we can understand the strong need to protect their own interests,” said Mr Norris.
However, the DDG said the Solomon Islands has the most to gain from a sustainable albacore fishery and they also have the most to lose from an unsustainable albacore fishery.
“So the FFA will continue to work with them and see where they can come along.
Mr Norris moved on to explain that, he thinks what their Solomon Islands decision making follows on from an earlier decision from Cook Islands to also withdraw.
“I think what that shows us is that we need to take a step backwards and work out sort of see what lessons we can learn from the process that we’ve just been through and then see on how we can get a sort of better design a future process that will give everyone the assurances that they need, Mr Norris said.
“I’m actually confident that, had we finished the negotiation of this, then we would have been able to make a case to all of the albacore countries as to why it was in their interest.
“But as I say, there’s certainly some lessons we can learn about what happened and why before we go back the negotiation way,” the Deputy Director General, who will soon leave the FFA said.