Pacific solidarity needed to get climate change embedded in Tropical Tuna Measure

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Honiara – As discussions on a new Tropical Tuna Measure (TTM) loom, Pacific island countries need to push more to get the international community to consider the impacts of climate change on the regional tuna fishery. It needs to take account of both high seas and in-zone allocations so that the measure can be more beneficial to the region.

Climate change has been come to be seen as one of the building blocks of the TTM, based on advice from the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) that it is likely to result in increasing fish migration between zones to the east and the high seas. 

Therefore, it is up to the members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member countries to lead the development of new measure – and it is apparent that there will be a lot of push and pull factors coming from some developed countries.

The TTM, conservation and management measure 2018-01, is one of the most important rules governing tuna fishing in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

In a media conference to wrap up the 17th Tuna Commission meeting last December, the Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC), Mr Eugene Pangelinan, said, “As we move towards developing a new Tropical Tuna Measure or successor, our experiences in the past will dictate our behaviour in the future.

“The outcomes of what will be a Tropical Tuna Measure for 2022 onwards will be based on a lot of factors. I’m concerned that issues like climate change just might fall down through the cracks as we negotiate that Tropical Tuna Measure.”

A challenge for Pacific small island developing states

According to Mr Pangelinan, the discussions on pushing for the effects of climate change on the tuna fisheries to be part of the TTM was going to be a challenge for the small island developing states (SIDS) of the Pacific.

This is due to the fact that the developed countries will also push for their own priorities to be considered. 

“The way we see it, as we prepare for this process in 2021, I think some developed CCMs are starting to take a very strong position on their priorities, such as profits and profits for their vessels and ensuring that their vessels have a place in this fishery to retain what has been very beneficial to them,” Mr Pangelinan said. (CCMs are the members, cooperating non-members and participating territories that make up the WCPFC.)

The FFC chair said FFA had a “totally different” view, and anticipated that these kinds of issues might become watered down as people would be more focused on what members were trying to achieve through the objectives that would be agreed on in early 2021.

“So, it will be quite a challenge to bring in elements of climate change, crew and labour standards, and so forth,” Mr Pangelinan said. 

Besides these areas of most concern, he said that considering the impacts of COVID-19 in the discussions, “as we start carving out or drafting new measures, it’s going to be very difficult. I will say, we’re going to just be really ready and prepared as we have these discussions, and keep those in the back of our minds that they’re equally important to our people.”

“It is also important to also have leadership directives, from our highest levels of government that these are priorities as well,” Mr Pangelinan said.

Climate negotiations as everybody’s business

The FFA Director-General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, told regional journalists after WCPFC17 that the fight for getting what’s beneficial to the Pacific island countries out of the new Tropical Tuna Measure was “everybody’s business” and could not be done by the FFA alone.

Dr Tupou-Roosen said it was a positive that Pacific leaders and ministers had highlighted the importance of climate change as the single greatest threat to their people. 

“Whilst we’re faced with the immediate challenge and impacts of COVID-19 staying very much in front, on top of mind is what we do in the climate change space,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.

“And so we will see that start to play out as well, in the discussions around the Tropical Tuna Measure, in terms of the high seas allocation, given the scientists telling us that there will be substantial amount of fish within our waters that will migrate to the high seas, due to climate change.

“This will be part of the conversation next year [2021] in that context.” 

Four maps showing movement of two species of tuna, skipjack and yellowfin, from western Pacific Ocean eastwards as a result of changes in the ocean with climate change. Source Pacific Community policy brief 2019
Projected distributions of skipjack and yellowfin tuna biomass in the Pacific Ocean in 2005, and in 2050 under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario. Source: SPC.

She said climate change was also linked to concerns about maritime boundaries. Discussion about this issue needed the support of all members and the regional community.

“Overall, climate change is a piece of work that cannot be done alone by the FFA and not just the secretariat and the members,” she said. 

“But this is a work that needs to be done with our partners within the regional architecture we have the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme as a lead in environmental issues, and as the lead in our preparation before the COP meeting at the end of 2021, and how we ensure that there are entry points into that conversation on our fisheries matters.

“Because we all recognise that we are not the cause of these issues related to climate change and global warming: it is the large gas emitters. The conversation is not happening in our in our fishery space.”.

Dr Tupou-Roosen said that the island states cooperating as a region in debates was important “to ensure that we can influence the debate, ensure that it has flow-on positive benefits and fight for our fisheries work.”

Mechanisms such as compensation could be used to the region’s advantage in the fishing space. However, Dr Tupou-Roosen hoped that the talks would be very successful once the upcoming COP meeting was held face to face.

Pandemic, climate threats and economic hardship in illegal sea cucumber harvesting on Ontong Java

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Honiara – As a result of the growing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the everyday challenges of climate change, some people of the Malaita Outer Islands (MOI) claim to have had no choice but to engage in illegal out-of-season harvesting of sea cucumbers and other marine resources as a means of survival. 

The MOI are part of the Solomon Islands province of Malaita.

One of the islands in the MOI group is Ontong Java Atoll. It is surrounded by a protective layer of coral reef which is closer to the Solomon Islands’ Roncador Reef than to the island of Malaita. It is regarded as one of the more remote places in Solomon Islands. Being an atoll, it has a very low elevation: its highest point is about 13 metres above sea level, so it is already severely affected by sea level rises and other effects of climate change. 

However, Ontong Java is rich in marine resources. Sea cucumber is a means of people obtaining their needs and wants, and making their livelihoods – and it has become the most cash-generating commodity, overtaking the two traditional cash commodities of fish and copra. 

With quick, huge cash to make in a short period, sea cucumber is arguably a blessing to the communities of Ontong Java.

The harvest period is controlled by the government. Most villagers go from “zero to hero” when the sea cucumber harvest opens. The sale of the smoke-dried sea cucumber to buyers who are mostly Asians helps bring much-needed cash into the communities. This has contributed enormously to the vibrancy and robustness of the atoll economy. During the harvest, there is enough money to go around as people have more to spend on their needs and wants. 

However, not all families and individuals have the foresight to save for a rainy day, or to use the blessings brought about by the sea cucumber trade to plan for their future. It is evident that poor financial management is widespread, and money drains out of the communities quicker than it comes in. 

According to one Solomon Star newspaper report, well over 80% of the people go on spending sprees as though there is no tomorrow. Hence, the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the atoll economy hard, as villagers have not been able to sustain themselves, partly due to the low cash circulation. 

There are no longer grounds suitable for gardening as rising sea levels have eaten most of the soils that were once used to plant root crops and other produce. Peoples’ only means of survival now is to revisit their sea cucumber grounds. 

The reef needs the sea cucumbers, too: they are a vital contributor to reef health, filtering the water with their continual suck and blow, making a major contribution to water quality on reefs.

Honiara seizes illegally harvested sea cucumbers 

In early November 2020, officers from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) confiscated sea cucumber stocks valued at over SBD$500,000 (USD$62,000) at the Honiara wharf. When the passenger vessel MV Onogou arrived from the atoll with a load of illegally harvested sea cucumbers, it was welcomed by an official raid.

The confiscated sea cucumbers were packed in pillowcases, bags, suitcases, and cartons. They were destined for local Asian buyers who operate illegally in the city.

MV Onogou on a trip to Ontong Java. Alongside it are the small outboard speedboats that locals use for transport. Photo: Iggy Pacanowski.
MV Onogou on a trip to Ontong Java. Alongside it are the small outboard speedboats that locals use for transport. Photo: Iggy Pacanowski.

It is understood that the current sea cucumber ban in Solomon Islands came into effect on 31 May 2019. The ban covers harvesting, possession, and selling of all sorts of sea cucumber species. 

This seizure was a slap in the face of the Ontong Javan people, with many calling for sympathy from the government in dealing with the matter, as they are finding it hard to cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are caught up in a desperate dilemma, first with the ongoing impacts of climate change and now COVID-19 is further compounding the situation on the atolls,” one elder of Ontong Java told the Solomon Star.

“Can the government and responsible ministry show some leniency towards our people and allow them to sell their sea cucumber catches? We do not have plantations and enough land to plant food crops.

“All that we depend on for survival is our marine resources and sea cucumber is our lifeline at this point in time.”

Small speedboat moving through shallow atoll waters. Small outboards like this are the only means of transport between the islands of Ontong Java. Photo: Iggy Pacanowski.
Small outboards like this are the only means of transport between the islands of Ontong Java. Photo: Iggy Pacanowski.

An Ontong Java chief, Bartholomew Kokolopu, was also vocal. He said that, with the COVID-19 situation the country was facing, the Ministry of Fisheries should sympathise with the sea cucumber owners. 

He also blamed the fisheries ministry for ignoring a request made by the Ontong Java chiefs in 2018, when the government discussed how they could help the chiefs in raising awareness and explain the regulations to the people. But nothing forthcoming, he said.

“I was also one of the member delegation that travelled to Honiara twice to dialogue with the Director of Fisheries for a possible way forward for us, and for their officers to pay us a visit and educate our people about issues regarding the sea cucumber and its importance to the economy of Solomon Islands,” Chief Kokolopu said.

“In our discussion we told them that it will be effective once anybody from the office comes down to our people and tells them why the ban was imposed. Instead, our request fell on deaf ears.”

He said fisheries officers should at least work with the atoll chiefs so that any decision made was fair to them and the resources owners.

“Earlier this year we made a call to the fisheries again [to ask] if they could allow us some time do the harvesting just for our survival. They refused our request, and because of no other means we can earn money our people continue to harvest illegally,” the chief added.

Mr Kokolopu said that, as the fisheries ministry had refused to visit their communities and also refused to consider their call, they should be blamed for the people’s action.

“Since the fisheries office did not respond to our call, we, the resource owners ,decided that since the sea cucumbers are our property, we continue to harvest because it is our God-given resource,” Mr Kokolopu stated.

While Ontong Java is known as a hotbed for sea cucumber in the country, the trade needs to be regulated. Most importantly, the locals need to be protected from manipulation and abuse at the hands of Asians from the freedom to sell their products to buyers who offer the best price.

Public calls for review of law to reflect economic hardship

Following the unfortunate incident, Solomon Islands popular Facebook pressure group, the Yumi Toktok Forum, quoted outspoken Ontong Javan activist Lawrence Makili lashing out against the action, saying the action was killing his people, especially during this pandemic and the economic hardship it had brought. 

“We [Malaita Outer Islands] submitted a proposal for the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) to support us in the sea cucumber harvesting and help contribute directly in stimulating the economy, but it was turned down. How can we survive during this pandemic and economic hardship?” he asked. 

Mr Makili also called on the Government to be lenient and help his people harvest and sell their products.

Other commentators have also highlighted that the enforcement of the law during the pandemic must not override the realities that struggling rural people are facing, and especially vulnerable communities such as those in the MOI. 

“While laws are there to keep peace and order, it is equally important not to jeopardize people’s welfare and livelihood,.” one commentator said 

“Laws are there for a reason – to provide boundaries from which we can all live, work safely and in harmony. But there comes a time when issues need to be viewed given realities pertaining to the issue itself. Much of Solomons is blessed within land and rivers that allow inhabitants to forage the forests and/or cultivate the land for nourishment and sales. 

“However, there is a minority which has very little arable land, such as Ontong Java. They rely entirely on the ocean for sustenance and income generation. From the ocean they build houses, pay for school fees, pay for medicine and so forth. 

“It’s realities like this that should be considered by authorities. The Ontong Java people do not demand special treatment; all they want is a fair go at life. It makes perfect sense to grant them the right and licence to harvest and export their sea cucumber resources. Similar to larger islands that have land and work the gardens for sustenance and sales, the ocean is the atoll’s ‘garden’. 

“The current law does not serve the wellbeing of MOI people. It marginalises them and denies them the right to their resources. Whose interest does the government actually serve?”

One commentator also suggested that special reviews on the sea cucumber ban should be considered to further contextualise the different situations of low-lying atolls and the livelihoods of the people living on them. These reviews should include the implications of climate change in the long run, when climate change had destabilised peoples means of sustaining themselves. 

“The early harvest of their sea resources strongly indicates a sign of desperation that they need financial support in exchange for their resources for sustainability purposes, especially during this pandemic,” the commentator said.

“I think the Fisheries Act does not have any provision to cater for any other circumstances, please revisit and make amendments.”

On some atoll islands, there are no grounds left that are suitable for gardening, as rising sea levels are taking soils that were once used to plant root crops and other produce. Photo: Iggy Pacanowski.

Government to implement sea cucumber management plan

In his final contribution in parliament last December, the Minister or Fisheries and Marine Resources, Nesto Ghiro, said his ministry had developed a national sea cucumber management plan that would be implemented soon.

Minister Ghiro told Parliament that it was their intention that management of the sea cucumber fishery be given to communities under their respective fisheries resource management plans, with the ministry assisting with technical and legal support.

He said their research on the production of juvenile or baby sea cucumbers through a hatchery breeding program was ongoing, and they were testing suitable locations.

“Work is ongoing in two locations in Marau, East Guadalcanal, Guadalcanal Province and Buena Vista Islands in Gela, Central Islands province” Mr Ghiro said.

He said this work was funded by the Japanese Overseas Fisheries Cooperation Foundation.

If successful, the project would contribute to the restocking of overfished reefs, and create economic opportunities for fishers and communities.

WCPO tuna fisheries soon to be managed by the whole ecosystem

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If the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and its members have it their way, they will soon be managing tuna and other migratory fish in their region by taking into account the needs of the whole ecosystem, and not just the fish.

Their ecosystem approach would encompass the effects of climate change. 

FFA and other regional fisheries organisations of the western and central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) have already begun to take an ecosystem-wide approach to managing stocks of tuna and other commercially valuable migratory fish. Coastal fisheries, too, are increasingly being managed in a holistic way that encompasses whole ecosystems.

FFA and its partners are seeking funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to make the approach mainstream so that it becomes integral to national and regional fisheries policies, operations and scientific research.

The Deputy Director-General of FFA, Mr Matt Hooper, said that taking a whole-ecosystem approach to the threat of climate change would help the states of the WCPO to ensure secure supplies of local food and economic wellbeing.

He said an “enormous amount of work” had gone into developing the project.

“It was heartening to see the member countries contributing along with our partners and industry,” Mr Hooper said.

The project would build on the two blocks of work funded by the Pacific Oceanic Fisheries Management Project (OFMP2). This funding will end in June. OFMP2 supports the 14 small island developing states (SIDS) of the WCPO to implement and enforce global, regional and subregional rules and policies that conserve populations of tuna and other commercially important fish. 

The basis of the new project would be two outputs from OFMP2, a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and a Strategic Action Programme that builds on the TDA.

The main objectives of the project are to:

  • strengthen ways of managing the marine ecosystem and the life it supports
  • strengthen scientific monitoring, which will allow fisheries managers to make better-informed decisions on how to protect the ecosystem while sustainably harvesting some of its resources
  • build the capacity of local people to manage the ecosystem within the area that is governed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

FFA is leading the development of the project, which will involve the 14 SIDS (all of which are members of FFA): Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshal Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. FFA is working closely with other organisations that will be involved, including the Pacific Community (SPC), the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office (PNAO), the Pacific Island Tuna Industry AssociationWWF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

FFA fisheries ministers progress observer and crew safety and longline fisheries development

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Republished from FFA Trade and Industry News, volume 13, issue 4, July–August 2020

The seventeenth annual Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers Meeting (FFC Min17) was held on 6–7 August 2020. In light of COVID-19 travel restrictions, this meeting was held virtually, with representatives participating from seventeen Pacific Island countries and territories. 

During this meeting, key activities and achievements of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) during 2019–2020 were highlighted including: implementation of the FFA Strategic Plan 2020–2025; addressing the impacts of climate change on tuna fisheries; progressing the Regional Longline Strategy action plan; FFA members’ achievements within the WCPFC; work to address observer safety and crew welfare; and work to further enhance the contribution of fisheries to Pacific Island economies, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Given considerably better fishery performance and higher economic rents generated from the Western and Central Pacific purse seine fishery compared to the longline fishery, Ministers welcomed FFA’s development of an action plan for implementation of the Regional Longline Strategy and identified this as a key priority.

This strategy aims to progress a zone-based management approach within WCPFC, with catch and/or effort limits established within FFA members’ EEZs, as well as binding limits set on the high seas. Ministers also welcomed the adoption of the Regional Longline Electronic Monitoring Policy, particularly in light of the suspension of human observers on vessels due to COVID-19 related health risks and travel restrictions, as a means of improving transparency of longline fishing operations. 

Ministers called for a strengthening of measures in the WCPFC relating to observer safety, including further investigation into regional options for ensuring observers are fully insured and that their families are supported in the event of tragedy at sea. Currently, observer safety issues are addressed at WCPFC through the Conservation and Management Measure for the Protection of WCPFC Regional Observer Program Observers (CMM 2017-03), but this CMM does not address insurance or observer family support. 

 On crew safety, Ministers called for full implementation of the harmonized minimum terms and conditions on human rights and labour conditions for crew adopted at FFCMIN16 in 2019. These legally binding MTCs came into effect on 1 January 2020 for all foreign and domestic vessels operating in FFA members’ waters. The Government of New Zealand will support a comprehensive multi-year project aimed at improving labour conditions at sea in the Pacific region. 

The suspension of onboard observers and port inspection activities as a result of COVID-19 has increased the risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity in the Pacific region. Ministers highlighted the need to rely on other important monitoring, control and surveillance tools available during this time including aerial surveillance, vessel monitoring systems, as well as vessel of interest information and the regional surveillance picture, managed by FFA’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre.  Regarding climate change, Ministers stressed that fisheries issues should be firmly placed onto the wider climate change agenda, including through the Pacific’s engagement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and that Pacific regional organisations need to collaborate more closely on climate change-related needs of the region

Pacific talks ocean, climate change action with United Kingdom: media release

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A joint media release of UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific islands Forum, the Pacific Community, and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme

Suva, 2 September 2020 – Climate action and oceans realities for the Pacific have been the focus of a just-ended virtual tour of the region by the United Kingdom’s Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Lord Zak Goldsmith.

Yesterday, Lord Goldsmith held a virtual regional roundtable discussion with the four largest regional organisations serving the Pacific: the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). 

The two-hour dialogue late Monday Fiji time followed a week-long virtual dialogue ‘tour’ of the Pacific for Lord Goldsmith, who met with the governments of Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. He said the UK will put nature at the heart of the climate change discussion.

“For COP26 to be successful, it needs to be truly inclusive. The UK wants to ensure Large Ocean States have a platform, and the opportunity to shape the agenda. We want to make sure COP26 delivers important change, to finalise the Paris Agreement, to ramp up ambition and put that into action to limit global temperature rises,” Lord Goldsmith said. [COP26 is the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties 26th meeting, to be held in Glasgow in 2021.]

Welcoming the opportunity for heads of Pacific regional organisations working on climate change and the ocean to meet with the UK Pacific Minister, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said the dialogue “was a valuable opportunity to reaffirm the Pacific region’s commitment to strong and ambitious climate action, as set out in the Kainaki II Declaration”. 

“Of particular importance to the Blue Pacific Continent is the ocean–climate nexus. The ocean is central to everything we represent as a region. And a defining issue is the securing of our maritime boundaries in the face of sea level rise. The UK’s COP26 presidency is a strategic opportunity for the Pacific and its people, and I am encouraged by Lord Goldsmith’s commitment to amplify Pacific issues and leadership at COP26, to ensure Paris Agreement commitments are upheld,” she said.

Building on the high-level Blue Pacific context, SPREP Director General Kosi Latu extended the focus on climate priorities, including building regional resilience, and climate financing, as well as ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement, in line with the December 2020 date. 

“The urgent need for climate action is heightened as COVID-19 increases our vulnerability. Momentum must continue — for us as a Pacific people, living on the frontlines of climate change, this is about our survival,” said Mr Kosi Latu. 

“We are encouraged by the inclusive approach of the UK, as the COP26 Presidency, it allows our collective Pacific voice to be brought to the fore.” 

The issues of maritime boundaries and sea-level rise, as Pacific priorities for the 2nd UN Ocean Conference and the UN Decade for Ocean Science, were facilitated by SPC Director General Dr Stuart Minchin. 

“We all recognize that sea-level rise will have an impact on a wide range of issues in the Pacific, including on the shorelines from which our maritime boundaries are defined” said SPC’s Director-General. 

“Working together on capturing, analysing and sharing reliable data on this issue will be essential in ensuring that our region is able to effectively manage and respond to the changing ocean environment.”

Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, raised oceanic fisheries priorities and issues that are of critical importance for Pacific nations from both an economic and a sustainability perspective. Dr Tupou-Roosen said, “It’s important that Pacific nations, as custodians of the resources within our sovereign maritime domain, build strong relationships with global allies and champions.” 

“Wherever we have the opportunity”, she said, “hard-won gains in regional fisheries cooperation on key areas including rights-based management, and monitoring, control and surveillance efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, must be leveraged to create enduring social and economic benefits for our people, especially as we look to manage climate-change impacts on our shared fisheries resources and the flow on effects on fisheries revenues of small island developing states and territories in the region.

“I was delighted to attend a virtual roundtable with regional organisations in the Pacific. We had a wide-ranging and productive discussion on how to tackle climate change and protect our ocean. There can be no more important region to be engaging with on the climate–ocean nexus than the Pacific.”

Thanking the roundtable group for the exchange of views, Lord Goldsmith noted the “fantastic ambition and leadership on climate change” at every stage of his virtual Pacific tour.

“That ambition and leadership, combined with being on the front line of climate change, and tackling its impacts, gives the Pacific a strong moral authority, which is encouraging other countries to raise ambition on climate change. We can’t solve climate change without restoring and protecting nature on a massive scale through cooperation.”


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Pacific fisheries ministers raise coastal fisheries, marine pollution and climate change concerns: media release

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A joint media release of Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA)

Noumea, 27 August 2020 – A new-look Pacific Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting, which started virtually yesterday, has tabled key concerns on the state of coastal fisheries, climate change and marine pollution. Their decisions reflect regional priorities for the fisheries and marine sector. 

Cook Islands Prime Minister and Minister of Marine Resources, the Honourable Henry Puna, addressed the meeting stating that “one undeniable and tangible resource, asset, and lifeline that we all possess is our shared fisheries resources” and called for initiatives to diversify the use of fisheries and marine resources, using innovative and collaborative approaches. 

While highlighting the Pacific’s strong response to the national and regional security threats the COVID-19 pandemic has posed, he stressed the importance of enhancing fisheries management, maintaining food and economic security. 

“Our collective response must always reflect how much we value our people, and the mana, resilience and Pacific community spirit, that underpins the very fibre of our nations,’’ he said.

The meeting, chaired by the Honourable Marion Henry, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Secretary for the Department of Resource and Development, was hosted online, gathering fisheries ministers and officials from the Pacific Island Forum countries and territories as well as regional organisations.

The talks covered regional coastal fisheries and aquaculture priorities and the impact of COVID-19 on these fisheries, the 2020 Coastal Fisheries Report Card, and options for enhancing discussions on community-based management of coastal fisheries. Ministers also endorsed the Regional Framework on Aquatic Biosecurity. 

One of the key resources that helped to frame the meeting was the Coastal Fisheries Report Card, presented by the Pacific Community (SPC). It provides annual regional reporting on the current state of Pacific coastal fisheries across a range of biological, social and economic indicators. 

The report card highlights the importance of coastal fisheries for food security and livelihoods in the region, with 89% of households eating fish or seafood weekly and 30% of households participating in fishing.

Ministers reflected with deep concern on the results that signalled a decline in the status of key indicator invertebrate and finfish species, and reef and ecosystem health, which have direct impacts on livelihoods and food security, and called for the strengthening of coastal fisheries management.

Moving from coastal fisheries to climate change issues, ministers considered where the fisheries sector can incorporate climate change mitigation and adaptation into policies and plans, with a view to securing climate change financing to support such measures, where possible. Ministers called for an advocacy strategy to enhance high-level messaging at the UNFCCC and related meetings to advance measures to address the impacts of climate change on fisheries in the region.

In discussions relating to marine pollution, ministers supported improvements in Pacific port waste reception facilities to enable them to receive fishing vessel waste on shore rather than have it dumped at sea. Ministers expressed concern about the impact of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear, especially on coastal fisheries and coral reefs, and called for collaborative action to address this issue.

Ministers welcomed progress on the development of the 2050 strategy for the Blue Pacific continent being led by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. 

Secretary Marion Henry, as chair of the inaugural Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting, stressed that “the meeting marked a new chapter of strengthening regional cooperation, solidarity and friendship especially in these unprecedented times where the region has been greatly affected by the impacts of COVID-19”.

Access the statement of outcomes here.


Media contacts

Toky Rasoloarimanana, Communications Officer, Fisheries Division, Pacific Community,, mob: +687 89 93 94

Ronald Toito’ona, Communications Consultant, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), ronald.toitoona@ffa.intph: +677-7304715 

Nanette Woonton, Acting Communications and Outreach Adviser, Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP),

Lisa Williams-Lahari, Public Affairs Adviser, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS),

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About the Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting 

The Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting is a joint event launched in 2020, following the 2018 decision by Forum leaders to have more comprehensive updates on fisheries work from the Pacific regional organisations: the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). 

The 19 members of the RFMM are: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The Fisheries Ministers report to Forum Leaders under the Standing Item on Fisheries including on progress against the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Fisheries and providing advice and recommendations on fisheries issues requiring Leaders’ attention. The Forum Fisheries Committee Ministerial meetings and their focus on Oceanic fisheries, continues to be led by the Forum Fisheries Agency, FFA and also reports directly to Forum Leaders.

Fisheries ministers strengthen commitment to regional cooperation amid pandemic: media release

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HONIARA, 8 August 2020 – Fisheries Ministers from member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) have expressed serious concern about the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their domestic economies. 

Their comments came during the 17th FFC Ministers meeting, which concluded yesterday.

In his opening remarks, the Honourable Kandhi Eleisiar, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Federated State of Micronesia (FSM) and FFCMIN17 Chair, emphasised [that] “tuna is our only natural resource and the breadwinner of our national economies. Therefore, understanding its impact and how we may adapt [and] minimise the impact [COVID] may have on us is important.”

Commending Pacific leaders for swift action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the region, Ministers have expressed strengthened commitments to regional solidarity and collaboration as central to confronting the impacts of the pandemic in the Pacific. They have also emphasised the importance of protecting the fisheries sector, given its important economic and food security benefits. 

FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, in her opening comments, spoke of the “adaptability and resilience” of members in the face of COVID-19, noting that “more than ever, our cooperation is needed to see us through this unprecedented challenge”.

Measures to address the impact of the pandemic

Ministers asked FFA to undertake a regional study on how members can harness their comparative advantage with respect to regional tuna resources and maximise the benefits flowing from strengthened cooperation in areas such as processing, value-adding, cross-border investment, increased regional trade, improved transportation links, and improved labour mobility. 

With disruptions to air freight impacting the export of fresh fish outside the region, Ministers welcomed the work being undertaken by FFA to explore market opportunities within the region.

The Ministers also commended the measures taken by the FFA and officials to mitigate health risks posed by the pandemic, including development of health-related safety protocols for crew members, observers and others interacting with fishing vessels. These protocols will minimise the risk of contracting or spreading the disease and enable fishing operations to continue safely. 

Work by the FFA Secretariat to improve observer safety and maintain observer livelihoods by using their analytical fisheries knowledge and skills on shore was welcomed by the Ministers.

IUU fishing

The pandemic has resulted in an increased risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, due to the limitations on the use of human observers and port inspections. 

Ministers highlighted the increased importance of FFA’s integrated monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) framework during these times, including the satellite vessel-monitoring system, vessel-of-interest information and the overall regional surveillance picture, as well as the aerial surveillance programme managed by FFA on behalf of members.

Climate change

While the impact of the pandemic was front of mind for Ministers, they emphasised the importance of not losing sight of biggest threat to the region — that of climate change. 

Ministers encouraged FFA to continue to prioritise work looking at the impacts of climate change on tuna fisheries and ensuring the region can adapt to the challenges this will bring.

In this regard, Ministers called for closer collaboration among regional organisations to respond to the specific needs of the region and to ensure that fisheries issues are firmly placed onto the wider climate-change agenda, including in the context of the Pacific’s engagement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At the conclusion of the meeting, FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen expressed appreciation “for the continued support and trust that members place in the Secretariat as we continue to facilitate stronger regional cooperation, adaptability, caution and resilience in fisheries”.

The 17th Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) Ministerial meeting (FFCMIN17), was attended by Ministers representing Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, and Solomon Islands. Cook Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu were represented at senior official level. 


For more information contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media,
ph: +677 7304715,

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 decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management.

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Fisheries observer safety a key focus, as FFA wraps up annual meeting: media release

Categories Media releases, NewsPosted on

HONIARA, 22 June 2020 – Initiatives to improve job prospects and safety at sea for fishing observers has been a key focus of the 114th Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC114) meeting.

The meeting, which was held over five days last week via video conference, comprised representatives of the 17 members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). 

Responding to COVID-19 and to climate change were also issues high on the agenda.

Observer safety 

One of the main meeting outcomes was a decision to study how observer safety can be improved in the wake of COVID-19, and how the role can be made more viable into the future. 

Said FFA Director General, Manu Tupou-Roosen: “Observers can spend several months at sea in often dangerous conditions. Improving their working environment has been a priority of FFA for some time but we have increased our focus even further as a result of COVID-19. We want observers to work safely when they return to vessels.” 

Dr Tupou-Roosen said job stability for observers would also be reviewed during the study.

“Many observers haven’t been able to work during the pandemic, which has increased their financial pressures,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen. 

“This new study will consider how the observer role can be made more sustainable into the future, for example better utilising the analytical skills that observers develop while monitoring activities on commercial fishing vessels.”

The FFC114 meeting also agreed that work include the development of safety protocols at sea and in port, with the assistance of SPC, WHO and IO. 

Work will also continue on the development of minimum standards for observer insurance as well as support to Members to investigate observer safety issues (such as death, disappearance, injury). This includes provision of information, technical and legal advice.


Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic was also a priority item at FFC114.  The meeting noted that while the pandemic had created unprecedented pressures for Pacific tuna fisheries, it also presented opportunities.

“Like many other sectors, we’ve realised the potential for technology to progress work more efficiently and will explore new ways of working over coming months,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.

[Click here for an interview with Dr Tupou-Roosen on the impact of COVID-19 on the fisheries. Copies of this interview are available for use by media outlets.]

Climate change

FFC114 also discussed climate change impacts on tuna fisheries, with a primary focus on adaptive fisheries management regimes.

The Committee agreed on the need for adaptive fisheries management regimes to be informed by the best available science on the impacts of climate change on tuna stocks and noted ongoing work on securing maritime boundaries, contributing to food security, and how to best use information collected on ozone-depleting substances used by fishing vessels.

Monitoring and reporting

The meeting adopted the Regional Longline Fishery Electronic Monitoring Policy, as a guide for Members to develop their national EM programmes.

The meeting also reaffirmed a commitment to progressively adopt electronic reporting for fishing vessels operating within Members’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and the high seas. The goal is 100% adoption by 2022, noting the need to cater for special circumstances of small domestic vessels operating solely within EEZs.


For more information and photos contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media,
ph: +677 7304715,

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 decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management.  

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COVID-19, climate change lead agenda as Forum Fisheries officials meet: media release

Categories Media releases, NewsPosted on

HONIARA, 17 June 2020 – Measures to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change are high on the agenda of the 114th Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) meeting, which commenced yesterday.

The meeting comprises representatives from each of the 17 members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). This year’s meeting is being held from 16–19 June 2020.

Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, the Director-General [pictured above], said: “The pandemic has resulted in a significant economic impact in member countries in key sectors, such as tourism. This makes it even more important to ensure that other key economic activities, such as fisheries, continue to function effectively.

“Revenues and associated benefits need to be maximised in a sustainable manner. Food security also needs to be prioritised.”

The meeting will discuss FFA’s response and recovery measures, and how the FFA approaches key priorities for the coming year. 

“The pandemic is undoubtedly a once-in-a-generation challenge and no less so for the Pacific’s tuna fisheries. However, it also presents a range of opportunities to innovate how FFA operates and we are focused on actioning those opportunities” added Dr Tupou-Roosen.

The meeting will also focus on measures related to an action plan for the Longline Strategy, Electronic Monitoring policy, Observer safety and livelihoods, and how to support members in increasing social benefits from the tuna fisheries.


For interviews, information and photos, contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media,
ph: +677 7304715,

About Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA assists its 17 member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their exclusive economic zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. 

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FFA convenes talks on impacts of climate change on tuna: media release

Categories Media releases, NewsPosted on

HONIARA, 11 June 2020 – The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) has hosted a one-day online discussion today on the impacts of Climate Change on Offshore Fisheries.

The meeting is part of the Secretariat’s work programme emanating from Forum Fisheries Ministers. At their meeting held in Pohnpei, FSM in June 2019, Ministers agreed that this work would include: (i) adaptive management regimes; (ii) working with a consortium of partners to secure maritime boundaries in the face of sea-level rise: and (iii) managing tuna stocks to support their contribution to the food security of Pacific Island communities.

FFA hosted the meeting with its partners from the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Office (PNAO) and the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP). 

The objective of the meeting was to inform tuna fisheries-focused discussions on climate change impacts by providing the broader context for discussions on climate change as well as the scientific advice on the predicted short- and long-term effects of climate change on the WCPO tuna fishery. 

FFA Director General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen expressed the Agency’s sincere gratitude to its Partners from the PNAO and CROP, namely SPREP, SPC, PIFS and USP, for their willingness to collaborate in the delivery of the meeting.  

“Our CROP Partners all play a critical role in tackling the impacts of climate change, and they will present Members with the activities they undertake in this area and the link to fisheries, particularly tuna fisheries. The important information provided by our Partners will help FFA Members understand the important linkages with the broader work undertaken on climate change and the science to help set the scene for tuna fisheries-focused discussions on the impacts of climate change on this critical regional resource,” she said. 

“The PNAO’s consideration of how PNA tuna management arrangements can adapt to the impacts of Climate Change will also be presented. Their valuable insights will greatly assist FFA Members in their discussions,” added the FFA Director General.


For more information and photos contact Ronald F. Toito’ona, FFA Media,
phone +677 7304715,

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 decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision-making on tuna management. 

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About the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP)

The Forum Leaders established the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (formerly the South Pacific Organisations Coordinating Committee, SPOCC) in 1988 with the mandate to improve cooperation, coordination, and collaboration among the various intergovernmental regional organisations to work toward achieving the common goal of sustainable development in the Pacific region. 

CROP comprises the heads of the intergovernmental regional organisations in the Pacific and is governed by the CROP Charter including, the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO), Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP), Pacific Power Association (PPA), The Pacific Community (SPC), Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), and University of the South Pacific (USP).