Pohnpei hosts symposium on technology for tuna transparency

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A Group photo of the T-3 Challenge Electronic Monitoring Symposium participants and attendees in Pohnpei. Photo: FSMIS

Repblished from Marianas Variety, 25 April 2019

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services) — In response to Peter M. Christian, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, calling for complete transparency in FSM’s commercial tuna fisheries by 2023, from April 10 to 12, the Technology for Tuna Transparency or T-3 Challenge Electronic Monitoring Symposium was held at PMA Studio in Pohnpei State.

Sponsored by the FSM National Government through the National Oceanic Management Resource Authority, and by The Nature Conservancy, the Forum Fisheries Agency, and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, the symposium explored how electronic monitoring or EM fits into control and surveillance to support sustainable fisheries, how EM is presently being used in the Western and Central Pacific, EM in the seafood supply chain, how to scale EM for increased use in the FSM and the Pacific, and moving forward with a regional vision for tuna transparency through EM.

Marcelo Peterson, governor of Pohnpei State, provided the welcoming remarks. “If over 50 percent of the global tuna supply comes from our part of the world, then we must do everything it takes to ensure its sustainable management through the use of new technologies such as EM. EM will help assure us the long-term sustainability of these resources.”

National Oceanic Management Resource Authority Executive Director Eugene Pangelinan provided the introductory remarks. He noted that in attendance were ambassadors and ministers of sovereign nations, such as George Fraser of Australia and Alexis Maino of Papua New Guinea, and Dennis Momotaro, minister of resources and development for the the Marshall Islands, representatives of key local and regional partners such as the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and regional stakeholders such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Fiji Fisheries, the Australia Fisheries Management Authority, and global partners such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Fishing Watch, and many more.

He said: “How often do we get all interested parties in the same room on the same platform with equal opportunity to speak freely?… Let us start the conversation of regionally aligning all the moving parts…to talk about EM…. My wish is that at the close of this symposium we’ll all be more informed and inspired to…implement EM programs.”

Marion Henry, secretary of the Department of Resources & Development, spoke on behalf of FSM President Christian to provide the keynote address. “You have traveled from afar to be here today, which is a solid testimony of your commitment to address this growing problem within our midst…. I urge full and frank discussions and sharing of information on the use of EM to assist in our continuing fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and transnational crimes being committed in our backyards…. I believe that our countries, as resource custodians, must follow the trend by also utilizing EM for our own purposes and our own advantages…. Past our recognized borders, we collectively carry the responsibility for effective stewardship of this important resource for the sake of posterity and humankind.”

Alexis Maino, roving ambassador of PNG to the FSM, provided additional remarks. “The challenges of monitoring and controlling our vast maritime territories are many.… Today, we embrace the move towards a far more advanced stage of electronic monitoring systems which we hope will result in promoting elements of transparency for sustainable fisheries management. PNG welcomes the opportunity to work collaboratively with other Pacific Island countries, including members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement at all levels to develop and implement electronic monitoring capabilities across the entire region.”

Participants attending the EM symposium enjoyed a variety of frank and open conversations, with sessions primarily comprised of panel discussions.

EM, at its core, is about putting video cameras on fishing vessels — and, in conjunction with machine learning and artificial intelligence, with assistance from on-the-boat work from observers and data analysis, greatly improves transparency, data quality, and decision-making with regards to a given fishery’s operation. To emphasize the need for EM, it was advised during the symposium that 90 percent of global fisheries don’t have the basic data they need to become sustainable — either environmentally, or economically; EM helps to provide the data necessary to make these fisheries sustainable. EM has shown in Australia, for example, a 25 percent increase in retained catch relative to dependent and independent reporting.

Tonga gets $US10 million grant for fisheries management

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Photo: Francisco Blaha

Republished from Radio New Zealand, 19 April 2019

Tonga’s government says dozens of coastal communities will benefit from a new $US10 million grant towards fisheries management.

The World Bank on Thursday approved the funds, which are part of a sustainability project improving compliance and governance of commercial fishing.

Tonga’s fisheries minister, Semisi Fakahau, said improving the sustainability of the country’s fish stocks is vital to its economic prosperity.

The World Bank project will also improve fisheries monitoring and outcomes for women working in the pearl industry, he said.

Tonga is heavily dependent on its fisheries, with around 82 percent of Tongan families involved in reef fishing, according to government figures.

ISSF adds three to board of directors, says goodbye to Schumm

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Republished from Undercurrent News, 12 April 2019

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), has added three new names to its 11-member board of directors.

The new additions include Rohan Currey, a scientist at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Prior to working for MSC, he was a principal scientist at New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries, specializing in marine mammal science and Antarctic fisheries science. He also represented New Zealand in the International Whaling Commission and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Also joining is Martin Tsamenyi, a professor of law and the former director of the Australian National Center for Ocean Resources & Security at the University of Wollongong. Tsamenyi has served as fisheries law advisor to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and legal counsel to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and was chairman of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.

Additionally, ISSF’s board has added Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative, where he is responsible for supporting Mediterranean countries to achieve key conservation and management targets, specifically on fisheries and marine protected areas. Since 2008, Di Carlo has been involved in developing and implementing ecosystem-based based management into conservation strategies.

Alfred Schumm, the former director of the WWF Global Fisheries Program and now director of innovation, sciences, technologies and solutions at WWF, will be stepping down from the ISSF board after serving for more than eight years, the organization reports. 

Republic of the Marshall Islands and SPC sign 2019-2022 Country Programme

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MEDIA RELEASE – republished from the Pacific Community, 11 April 2019

The Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Pacific Community have signed an agreement formalizing the Islands nations Country Programme for 2019-2022. The Programme provides a framework for work over the next 4 years and ensures that priorities identified by RMI as essential to achieving its development objectives and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The agreement was signed by the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, HE Hilda Heine, and SPC’s Director-General, Dr. Colin Tukuitonga.   

For the 2019-2022 Program, 7 priority areas have been identified; Statistics, BioSecurity, Food Security, Agriculture, Non-Communicable diseases, Gender, and Civil Registration/Vital Statistics.  In addition, the Island Nation will continue to emphasise the ongoing projects in such areas as fisheries, education, disaster risk reduction, and climate change.

President Heine emphasised the importance of the agreement to the Marshall Islands, and the unique advantages that come from its membership in the Pacific Community, saying “This Country Programme lays out a clear path over the next 4 years on areas we want to do a deeper dive in, while continuing on-going projects with SPC.  With the expert technical and scientific support from the Pacific Community, I am confident that we can reach our targets”.     

The Country Program for RMI was one of the first developed for a Pacific Community member with the original Joint Country Strategy introduced in 2008. Since that time, RMI and SPC have worked closely on a variety of key development projects, which have brought positive change to the Marshallese.

Director-General Tukuitonga praised the ambitious targets of the Country Programme and highlighted the Programme as an example of how the Pacific is taking a leading role in taking action on sustainable development priorities. “This Country Programme is not just a statement of principles, it provides specific, measurable and achievable actions that will have a dramatic impact on the future of RMI. SPC is proud to be a partner in this effort and we look forward to working closely with President Heine and her team.”

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has been a member of the Pacific Community since 1983. In 2017, SPC and RMI worked together on 10 country specific and 31 regional development activities.

Media Contact:
SPC- Lara Studzinski | Email: laras@spc.int 

About Us:
The Pacific Community (SPC) is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. Learn more at:  www.spc.int

Pacific island leaders satisfied with results of Hawaiian tuna meeting

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Republished from Undercurrent News, 8 April 2019

Pacific Islands fishery leaders are said to be content with the results of last weekend’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Hawaii, US, reports the Herdon Gazette.

Agreements have been made to maintain current tuna catch limits, minimum standards of labor for fishing crews, and increasing the involvement of small island states in the day-to-day business of the WCPFC. 

While the US had initially been planning a push to increase its tuna catch quotas, these were ultimately withdrawn, as the tropical tuna measure remains in place.

An additional two-month prohibition on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by purse seiners on the high seas has been implemented, while limits on the use of FADs for three months from July 1 remain in place.

“FAD closures are an important conservation action that reduces catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna,” Ludwig Kumoru, head of the parties to the Nauru agreement, told the Gazette.

“Maintaining the FAD closures is contributing to sustainably managing our tuna stocks.”

PNA credits fishery management for healthy tuna stocks

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Republished from Undercurrent News, 2 April 2019

The Western and Central Pacific tuna stocks are all in healthy condition, according to scientists with the Pacific Community (SPC) at the recently concluded Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) officials’ annual meeting in Palau.

“This is in part due to strong long-term management of the tuna fishery in PNA waters through the purse seine vessel day scheme (VDS),” said PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru. He pointed to fish aggregating device (FAD) closures, limits on fishing days, and other PNA conservation measures that have contributed to the overall sustainability of the tuna fishery.

“In comparison to tuna stocks in other oceans, the Pacific tuna stocks are doing well,” he said. Bigeye, yellowfin, albacore, and skipjack are all said to be in healthy condition in this region, according to the SPC stock assessment for 2017.

Over the past several years, PNA has maintained the same level of fishing days without increase and this has shown in relatively stable catch tonnage in both the purse seine and longline industries.

In addition to a “Status of Stocks” report from SPC, the annual officials meeting in Palau dealt with numerous management issues, ranging from an economic overview of the fishery and VDS administration, to updates on harvest control rules for skipjack fisheries and the fisheries information management system.

PNA officials discussed options for increased participation in the fishery and diversifying revenue streams through various initiatives, all of which are made possible by VDS management of the fishery, it said.

The Parties continued to discuss options for increasing the value of the VDS, including options for investing revenue. A presentation was provided by an investment fund manager active in the region during the meeting, which “continued the process of exposing PNA members to options for consideration”.

Gender, human rights and sustainable resource management important aspects of significant Pacific-EU Marine Partnership Programme

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Republished from Pacific Community, 26 March 2019

The recent Pacific Community (SPC) 11th Heads of Fisheries meeting held in Noumea, New Caledonia from 11-13 March 2019 has been briefed on a large marine partnership initiative to improve economic, social and environmental benefits for Pacific states.

The €45Million Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme jointly funded by the European Union (EU) (€35Million) and Sweden (€10 Million), is a multi-partner project which promotes stronger regional economic integration and the sustainable management of natural resources and the environment in the Pacific region.

The PEUMP programme addresses some of the most serious challenges faced by the region such as the increasing depletion of coastal fisheries resources; threats to marine biodiversity, including negative impacts of climate change and disasters; the uneven contribution of oceanic fisheries to national economic development; the need for improved education and training in the sector; and the need to mainstream a rights-based approach and promote greater recognition of gender issues within the sector.   

It focuses on six key areas targeting gaps in fisheries science; fisheries development; coastal resources and livelihoods; Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing; ecosystem-based management; biodiversity conservation; and capacity building at national and community levels.

Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation for the Pacific, Christoph Wagner reaffirmed the role of the EU as a reliable and close partner of the Pacific and said: ”The Pacific–European Union Marine Partnership Programme supports the sustainable management of fisheries, food security and blue growth in the Pacific region, in line with the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries. The oceans are a life force that sustains our planet and every person on it. Therefore it is so important to join up in the Pacific and set an example on how to manage marine resources more sustainably.”

Speaking on behalf of Sweden, Åsa Hedén, Head of Development Cooperation, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific said: “Following the New York Ocean conference co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden in 2017, Sweden presented its largest national budget for supporting environment, ocean and climate initiatives. In this commitment, we recognise the PEUMP programme as a unique intervention with its multi-sectoral approach with different stakeholders at regional, national and local levels working towards sustainable management of the Ocean. As a co-financier, we are pleased to be part of this initiative. It is evident that the PEUMP programme has taken on a serious people-centred approach to promote direct opportunities and positive changes for the people of the Pacific Islands, targeting women, men, youth and vulnerable groups.”

The SPC is leading implementation of the multi-partner programme which is working in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Vanuatu.

SPC’s Director General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said: “As the largest region on Earth and with climate change being more widely recognised as an immediate and pressing priority, the Pacific region will quickly become a hub for international climate change research and a focus for debates around conservation and resource management. The Blue Pacific narrative will ensure that our region has a leading, independent and united voice on these issues. The PEUMP partnership will provide further support to help ensure that, as stewards of the Pacific, we are working collaboratively to manage and preserve our ocean resources to ensure a sustainable future.”

The SPC is working in partnership with the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) to implement the PEUMP over the next five years. Each agency with be working with a number of implementing partners such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMA) network, Pacific Island Tuna Industry Association (PITIA) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Division Fisheries, Aquaculture & Marine Ecosystems

CountriesVanuatuSolomon IslandsSamoaTongaTuvaluMarshall IslandsPapua New GuineaPalauNiueNauruKiribatiFederated States of MicronesiaFijiCook Islands

Tri Marine affiliate authorized to use Fair Trade logo on tuna products

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Republished from Seafood Source, 26 March 2019

by Madelyn Kearns

Tri Marine affiliate National Fisheries Developments (NFD), Ltd., has been authorized to use the Fair Trade logo on its yellowfin and skipjack tuna sourced from the Solomon Islands, the company announced earlier this month. 

Fair Trade certification was bestowed upon the Solomon Islands yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery as of 14 March. NFD’s five medium-scale purse seiners and four pole-and-line vessels that source tuna from the fishery are now permitted to use the Fair Trade logo on their catch.

The certification matches current customer interests, according to Tri Marine, which anticipates that consumers using its U.S. sales arm, the Tuna Store, “will now want to see Fair Trade Certified tuna on retail shelves.”

Fair Trade’s assessment of the fishery took more than a year, with NFD working “diligently to meet the rigorous Fair Trade standards for worker welfare and safety, as well as environmental sustainability,” Tri Marine said. The NFD Fishers Association was established during the process to ensure that the value of Fair Trade catch benefits the local communities around the Solomon Islands.

“We are proud to achieve Fair Trade certification and hope we can share the story of our fishery here in the South Pacific with customers around the world,” said Cynthia Wickham, the NFD’s pole-and-line fleet manager and local Solomon Islander, in a press release. “Fair Trade has helped our fishermen be better organized, ensure crew and stevedore safety, and improve overall community well-being.”

Neighboring cannery SolTuna was also included in the Fair Trade certification, and plans to process and pack Fair Trade-certified products from the fishery for the global marketplace. The products disseminated by SolTuna are “an important part of domestic food security in the Solomon Islands,” Tri Marine said. Key export markets reached by SolTuna include the European Union and the United States. 

The new Fair Trade certification further bolsters the sustainability credentials held by both SolTuna and NFD, which are already Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified. Additional social accountability and organized worker protections are promoted by the entities’ Fair Trade status. 

“We have been promoting responsible labor practices in our global tuna supply chains for years, including the application of World Bank/International Finance Corporation performance standards, and now Fair Trade standards in the Solomon Islands,” said Matt Owens, director of sustainability at Tri Marine. “Fishermen and fish processors are the backbone of our business and the economic drivers in their communities. Fair Trade certification provides an additional layer of worker benefits.”

“Tri Marine and NFD’s commitment to Fair Trade is a powerful example of responsible practices in the fishing industry,” added Julie Kuchepatov, seafood program director at Fair Trade USA. “We are proud to share the common goal of empowering Fair Trade fishermen and look forward to seeing more Fair Trade seafood available to consumers.”

Approximately  2,400 Solomon Islanders are employed by NFD and SolTuna, in effect making them the largest private sector employer in the country and an important contributor to economic growth, the companies said. Regional tuna resources are sustainably managed by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Parties to the Nauru Agreement, and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Moving to TAC system, Japanese fisheries managers get lessons from US experts

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Republished from Seafood Source, 25 March 2019

by Chris Loew

Japanese fisheries officials heard from their international counterparts about methods for incorporating more data into their fisheries science and management at a recent workshop in Tokyo.

The workshop,“New Resource Management Based on Data Innovation: Current State of the United States and Future Vision of Japan,” took place at the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries building on 7 March. The event was co-sponsored by the Fisheries Agency, the Fisheries Research and Education Organization, and the U.S.-based non-governmental organization Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Japan’s Fisheries Reform Act, the first major reform of Japan’s fishing laws in 70 years, was approved in the Diet at the end of last year. The law will move Japan from a total allowable effort (TAE) system – in which the number, size, and period of operation of fishing boats, and the types of gear allowed, are regulated – to a total allowable catch (TAC) system with vessel quotas for most species. 

In comparison with other countries, Japan has so far set a TAC for only a few species. Those include saury, Alaska pollock, sardines, mackerel, Southern mackerel, horse mackerel, squid, and snow crab – and recently for juvenile bluefin tuna. But with the reform, Japan will have to set TAC for many more species and fisheries, some of them data-poor, and also monitor and enforce the TACs. To accommodate the move, the government is planning an expansion of the country’s stock assessment system and an expansion of the use of data from fishing operations. 

Masanori Miyahara, president of the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency (FRA), said under Japan’s current slow paper-based system, scientific assessments and quotas are made based on two or three-year old data. That leads to complaints from fishermen that stock assessments do not reflect what they are actually seeing when they fish. When a stock is recovering, this results in a TAC that is too low, and so it is bad for the fishermen. He also said that computerization of survey and landing data is becoming a global standard and may be required in future for sustainability certification schemes. Japan may find itself at a disadvantage in global markets if it cannot meet these standards, Miyahara said.

Guest speakers at the workshop included Dorothy Lowman and Shems Jud. Lowman is a U.S. commissioner of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), though she did not speak in that capacity at the meeting. In the past, she organized a national workshop on data modernization/electronic monitoring, and played a leadership role in the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s decision-making on groundfish. Her main activity now as part of the leadership team of the Net Gains Alliance, which is an initiative to support U.S. data modernization. Shems Jud is deputy director for the Pacific region for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), who was involved in changes to the management and data collection systems in the U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery.

Lowman explained the steps involved in setting up an electronic monitoring (EM) program, including a sample timeline, with special emphasis on involving all of the parties involved. For example, teaching some fishermen how to use the system, and then getting them to train others was effective. Lowman emphasized the benefit of not putting too much detail in the regulations, but rather referring to a vessel monitoring plan (VMP) for the details, in order to keep some flexibility. 

“It takes two years to change a regulation,” while a VMP can be changed more easily, she said.

Jud reviewed the experience of the U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery, which adopted an individual transferable quota (ITQ) system in 2011. This required shipboard monitors to enforce the quota and ensure operators were not discarding bycatch. But using shipboard monitors on all vessels was expensive and problematic, Jud said. For example, if observers were unavailable, the vessel could not fish. And if an observer was scheduled and paid for, operators felt pressure go out even if conditions became dangerous. For smaller vessels, the additional person meant the loss of space for a crewmember. As a result of these problems, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to allow camera-based electronic monitoring (EM) systems in some fisheries from 2017. Under the “optimized retention” approach adopted by the council, fishermen’s logbook entries are the primary data source, and they are checked against the videos by authorized third-parties. Jud noted that due to success in rebuilding stocks, environmental groups that were previously critical of the industry are now even involved in joint marketing. 

“That fishery is hard to attack now,” he said.

There has been movement toward utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) for reviewing of the footage and the Japanese would like to learn about and employ such systems. The Japanese side is also hoping to digitize stock assessment data, such as having fishermen enter the catch on a tablet computer on the trip to shore instead of a paper based system that is slowly compiled and assessed. The goal is to use electronic reporting (ER) to get stock assessments that reflect real-time conditions.

The panelists in the workshop faced audience questions over concerns regarding the confidentiality of data, since fishermen like to keep their favorite spots a secret. Additionally, there were many questions for Lowman from the Japanese side about who owns and has access to the data, especially from vessel monitoring systems (VMS) that show vessel movements.

As the average age of Japanese fishermen is over 60, many questioned whether they could master the input of catch data by tablet computers, due to the fact that many older Japanese have low computer literacy. Everyone had a laugh when a video that was to be played at the workshop could not be made to run due to technical issues. Complicated modern technology was blamed.

FFA Embraces the Call to Action for A “Balance for Better” World

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Republished from Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

HONIARA, 8 March 2019 – As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we recognise that the theme “Balance for Better” – a call to action for driving gender balance across the world – resonates with our own FFA vision.

“Our own FFA vision to cooperate to maximise benefits for our people through the sustainable use of our offshore resources is fully aligned with this theme. Sustainable management and development will not be successful unless we bring all of our people with us – men and women – on an equal footing,” said FFA Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen.

In this our 40th Anniversary year, we take this timely opportunity to underline the FFA’s commitment to working actively alongside our member governments to further promote four critical objectives:

* To remove barriers, both formal and informal, that impede or deter the full participation of women within the offshore fisheries sector;

* To address the scourge of domestic violence and provide the practical support to do so;

* To work with all of our partners, including in the private sector, to promote greater gender balance and a respect for diversity that must underpin all our work;

* To acknowledge and celebrate the success and achievement of women in the sector.

In 2016, our Forum Fisheries Committee Ministerial meeting adopted the FFA Gender Equity Policy to guide all our work. To give a practical focus to this, the FFA Secretariat launched our Domestic and Family Violence Policy, which offers practical support to any staff member suffering from domestic violence. We recognise that no workplace is immune from these challenges, hence the importance of offering a compassionate and supportive environment for those affected.

Dr Tupou-Roosen said “On this special day we also acknowledge and celebrate the many thousands of women who are actively engaged in our offshore fisheries sector. These range from those employed in the processing and commercial sectors to those working as team leaders in their areas of expertise and in senior leadership roles.”

“Women are spearheading new pathways in what were once non-traditional areas of work including engineering, surveillance, ports, environment, fisheries observers and advocacy. Without a doubt, this success story will continue.”

Over the coming year and beyond, the FFA Secretariat will continue to work closely with our Members and partners to make this theme a reality in our sector.

Further information and photos contact: Donna Hoerder, FFA Media

ph: +677 773309, donna.hoerder@ffa.int

About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA assists its 17-member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. Follow us on Facebook | on Twitter #Ourfishourfuture #tuna #forumfisheries #fisheries2019 #ourmoanaourfish #FFA40th