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.

ENDS//

Media contacts

Toky Rasoloarimanana, Communications Officer, Fisheries Division, Pacific Community, tokyr@spc.int, 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), nanettew@sprep.org

Lisa Williams-Lahari, Public Affairs Adviser, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), lisaw@forumsec.org

logos of Pacific Islands Forum (PIFA), Pacific Community (SPC), Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and Parties to Nauru Agreement (PNA)

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.

Wallis and Futuna counts FADs washed up on its coasts

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Wallis and Futuna is counting the number of lost and stranded fish-aggregating devices (FADs) that wash up on its coasts so it can calculate the damage they cause.

The campaign is being run by the Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service. 

Bruno Mugneret, from the Department of Fishing and Management of Marine Resources in Wallis, said the number of washed-up FADs had become a problem.

“In Wallis and Futuna, the problem appeared with great intensity in 2019, when the population saw the resurgence of these objects on beaches, on reefs, in the lagoon, and also in the open sea around the islands, causing many questions about the origin and the activities associated with this multiplication,” he said.

The Fisheries Service is collecting data from fishers and local populations. It will use a radio campaign to raise awareness in communities about their important role as “sentries” in locating washed up FADs. 

The results of the research will be shared with coastal communities, so they can help develop ways of managing the FADs and protecting coastal environments.

Drifting FADs on deck of a purse-seine vessel, Micronesia. Photo: Pew Charitable Trusts.
Drifting FADs on deck of a purse-seine vessel, Micronesia. Photo: Pew Charitable Trusts.


The Wallis and Futuna research complements a study on where drifting FADs ended up being stranded in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. One of the scientists involved in the study was Lauriane Escalle, of the Pacific Community (SPC).

“SPC conducted this study to estimate the impact that the massive use of FADs can have on the coastal areas of our region. The data available demonstrate a certain under-estimation of strandings,” Dr Escalle told Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service people at the launch of the local campaign. 

She said it was important that island nations and territories collect information on stranded FADs to contribute to existing databases that are used to assess grounding rates and the consequences of strandings on coastal ecosystems and local fisheries.

Dr Escalle was also involved in research that determined that between 30,000 and 65,000 drifting FADs are deployed a year in the WCPO by industrial fishers. At least 7% of them become stranded. The largest numbers have washed up on the coasts of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Although drifting FADs have become an important tool in increasing tuna catches and in the profitability of fishing fleets, the sheer numbers of them are causing environmental problems and are a drain on budgets of island states that are left to dispose of them.

The Wallis and Futuna campaign began in February. The territory is a member of SPC.