The European Union says its new funding agreement with marine agencies in the Pacific will help prevent fish laundering in the region.
The EU, along with Sweden, has pledged $US52 million to working with the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Pacific Community, the Regional Environment Programme and the University of the South Pacific over the next five years.
Christopher Wagner of the EU delegation for the Pacific said illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is theft and tighter rules are essential.
Mr Wagner said much of the fish caught in Pacific waters is transferred from one ship to another and up to eighty percent of it is processed in Asian countries.
“What we are supporting through this programme is to develop new technologies and monitoring, for example drones, we are also working through the FFA (Forum Fisheries Association) with the countries to look more at trans-shipments. For example many of these days, you know that term money laundering, and there’s also something called fish laundering,” Christopher Wagner said.
Mr Wagner said some of the funding will go towards better regulation of illegal catches passing through Pacific ports, with more prosecutions and higher fines.
He said coastal fisheries management, marine science and biodiversity projects will also receive a boost from the funding which was announced at last week’s Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Nauru.
Four key regional agencies have signed a deal with the European Union to help promote sustainable management and sound ocean governance in the Pacific.
The agencies, the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific Community, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the University of the South Pacific, have signed the deal this week in Nauru.
Called, the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership Programme, it will address, among other things, the depletion of fish resources and the threat to marine biodiversity, including climate change and disasters.
EU representative Jean-Louis Ville said there was an urgent need to act.
“We trust that we are now at the right time to form a joint alliance and coalition on issues related to international ocean governance for which the Pacific European programme will form a very solid foundation,” he said.
The five year programme is funded by the European Union providing $US40.5 million ($NZ61.8 million) and the government of Sweden $US11.6m ($NZ17.7m).
It will be used to support regional and national level activities in the Pacific.
US extends military spending in Pacific
The United States said it planned to give $US7m in military spending to Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga.
Speaking in Nauru, US Secretary for Interior Ryan Zinke said the money would support training equipment and other security co-operation priorities identified by these Pacific nations.
In addition, the US will provide $US750,000 a year in international military exercise and training to PNG, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to support training for military and police forces.
The US will also assist PNG with harbour security during APEC in Port Moresby in November.
It is part of the $US290m commitment by the US to support foreign militaries in the Indo-Pacific region.
Following concerns raised by the Pacific Islands Forum last year, the US offered to support Pacific Islands countries implement the United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea.
Australia offers new assistance to Nauru
Australia has announced new assistance to Nauru to help fight disease, empower women and support next year’s elections.
Canberra’s providing an extra $US1.01m to help fight non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Another $US720,000 will go towards supporting women’s empowerment over the next three years.
Nearly half a million will go towards building up the Nauru Electoral Office in a programme which New Zealand is also funding.
Australia said the plan was to create a better-informed electorate and implement more transparent and inclusive electoral processes.
The extra assistance was announced on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Nauru.
All up, Australia’s planning to spend more than $US18.6m to support Nauru in the coming year.
New Zealand and Japan are to work together to ensure the success of the Pacific Climate Change Centre in Samoa.
New Zealand foreign minister Winston Peters says New Zealand is committed to supporting climate change action across the Pacific and it sees the Pacific Climate Change Centre as a key regional institution.
He says the Climate Change Centre will help Pacific nations combat the impacts of climate change over the coming decades.
The centre is already under construction at the Apia campus of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Environment Programme in Apia and expected to open in the middle of next year.
Mr Peters says New Zealand is putting up US$1.96 million dollars for the centre.
The Aronga Mana of Te Au O Tonga, or the village chiefs, along with Te Ipukarea Society claimed the government’s deal with the EU lacked a full environmental impact report and was not consulted on widely enough.
In her decision, Justice Potter did question the absence of scientific information on the number of fishing days allowed, the effectiveness of a short term ban on fish aggregating devices and what she called soft catch limits, but ultimately ruled in the government’s favour.
The secretary of Marine Resources, Ben Ponia, says the judgment will serve as a landmark case for both the Cook Islands Constitution and customary law governing fisheries.
He says it was a highly technical and complex case but he believes the judge saw that government’s efforts to develop offshore fisheries were credible and legitimate.
Te Ipukarea Society president, Ian Karika, says they are disappointed but heartened that Justice Potter highlighted concerns over the deal.