Regionalism critical for strengthening fisheries solidarity in Pacific

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HONOLULU, 11 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)-— With claims and counter claims by global powers that the Pacific is their strategic‘ sphere’ of influence, sub regionalism has been touted as the best way of cooperation to address complex fisheries issues for members of WPFC.

Tuna has shaped regional politics and influenced the relationship between Pacific Islands States and major trading partners including China, Japan, United States, Taiwan and South Korea and the European Union.

Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) chairperson and Cook Islands secretary for foreign affairs Tepaeru Herrmaan, says Pacific nations are seeing fisheries increasingly being elevated within both regional framework priority setting and also within a dynamic geopolitical space.

Last year Forum leaders in their communique elevated fisheries as a standing agenda item at their annual Meeting.

“Fisheries Ministers this year decided that, in addition to the Forum Fisheries committee meeting, they would create a regional fisheries ministers meeting, which would better allow them to also take into consideration coastal fisheries, or inshore Fisheries, so that committee will now convene. And that decision was supported by leaders,” Tepaeru Herrmann said.

“I think one of the things we are increasingly becoming cognisant of in our region …and increasingly those from beyond our region, is how central Fisheries is to our development agenda, not just from an economic perspective but from a conservation and international partnerships perspective. And it is offering leverage if you will, in some of our broader relationships.

“We are increasingly realising the importance …of our regional collaboration cooperation, as a means of strengthening our leverage in the fisheries conversations. So from a simple bureaucratic public servant perspective, it is certainly a very exciting time to be in the region. But I think really emphasises how much more important our regional solidarity is,” Herrmaan stressed.

She said one of the things that has been a pleasure to observe in the last couple of months is the growing collaboration between our FFA Secretariat and the office of the PNA.

“I think this is an evolution which is happening beyond fisheries space in our region (too). It is the recognition, in my personal view, that sub-regionalism has a critical role to play in strengthening regional solidarity and fisheries is perhaps one of those areas where that really comes to the fore

“A strong PNA office makes for a strong FFA collaboration, and certainly ultimately delivers better for members of the region.

Herman was asked to reflect on her recent 12-month which has seen her play a more intensive role in fisheries diplomacy.

“I think what it has particularly emphasised for me is how important national cohesion and awareness is in terms of fisheries issues, in terms of the often delicate task government must play in terms of balancing between your very valid economic development objectives as well as your obligations for conservation management at the national level and then of course, translating that into that kind of balancing in the regional space where you’ve got, in the FFA space  a number of members trying to maintain regional solidarity within those competing national priorities, which is a very difficult balancing act.

“One of the things that has certainly helped me in this very important role Is just the capability and the expertise that is within our regional Organizations both FFA and PNA but also a number of CROP agencies and I can say with a little bit of exposure we have in our Foreign Affairs service, on the global stage there is just so much we can share with the rest of the world about how we can effectively manage fisheries not just in this region, but globally.

Herrmaan said Cook Islands is very proud of its nationals who are now in senior positions in regional organisations with expertise in fisheries and that there is inspiration to be had in what those in regional fisheries have worked very hard over many, many years to ensure for the people we serve.

“I think one of the strengths of our region is this ability to bring through into a regional organisation, nationals from our countries to share not just the national context and the national perspectives but to develop and cultivate regional priorities and ownership and values, if you will, of what is the strength of this region and then to take that back (home).

WWF Bubba Cook said there are a lot of countries that depend heavily on fisheries either as distant water fishing fleets or as countries that are dependent on the tuna resource as a food source and thatgeopolitics will inevitably enter the picture.

“I think that we saw at the recent APEC meetings in Papua New Guinea that in addition to the global trade disputes  that are currently underway,  there are these regional politics that are playing out very prominently  as represented in vice president Pence’s statement at APEC where he made very clear the US’s continued interest in the Pacific region, which or may not be in conflict with the goals and ambitions of particularly China and some other Asian States in the region.

“So I think that that is unquestionably going to play in to the overall approach at meetings like this one, and other meetings related to resources in the region and I think that everyone needs to be cognisant of those additional factors, those political underpinnings that exist in the background that we have to take into account when these decisions are made. I mean, there may be things that may be said across the floor, not necessarily in concert with their particular beliefs behind closed doors and it’s, this whole process is a big chess game. It’s all about moving pieces on the board just a little at a time,” said Cook……PACNEWS

Pacific wins praise for solidarity ahead of WCPFC meeting

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HONOLULU,11 DECEMBER 2018 (PACNEWS)-—- Pacific nations attending this week’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) are on a mission to persuade members to set a target reference point for albacore tuna – the most important tuna for southerly Pacific countries – and to thwart any increase in catches of tropical tuna.

Pacific Ministers and inter-governmental bodies such at the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) have the backing of the WCPFC Chair in these aims and praise from environment groups for their new level of solidarity.

Outgoing WCPFC Chair Rhea Moss-Christian, said one of her priorities before leaving the post is to see through the agreement on Albacore tuna is adopted. Albacore is a temperate tuna important to countries such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

The adoption of a new Tropical Tuna Bridging Measure at last year’s WCPFC was designed to ensure skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks are maintained at recent average levels and capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.

“We are expecting heavy discussions on the tropical tuna this year,” Rhea Moss-Christian told Pacific reporters in Honolulu.

Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) CEO Ludwig Kumoru says their priorities at WCPFC this week is to support Forum Fisheries Agency members on the issue.

“Our stance will support the FFA members …. we don’t have any stand-alone strong views. Our views are the same as FFA so we will just be supporting FFA members –another thing- one of those that we don’t want to change, which is also in the FFA position, is for the tropical tuna measure as long as we don’t dilute it. Our bottom line is we stick to the same that we had agreed to. We are not going to see any change on the tropical tuna measures,” said Kumoru.

Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General Dr Tupou-Roosen said they will take precautionary approach in their work on the measure “so that is our position for the tropical tuna measure”.

“Our position is to not weaken the tropical tuna measure, we would like to maintain the strength of that measure,” Dr Tupou-Roosen explained.

The United States has put in a proposal to increase its bigeye tuna catch limit for its Hawaii-based longline fleet, based on a new system of rewards for the much higher level of scrutiny that fleet maintains from independent fisheries observers.

Dave Gershman from PEW Trust said his organisation is optimistic members of the WCPFC and Distant Water Fishing nations (DWFNs) will come into an agreement on the Tuna measures.

 “Well I think we have to continue to have discussions. Continue to have frank and honest discussions.

“I think there’s an opportunity now with bigeye not being overfished, not experiencing overfishing, there’s an opportunity to really take a step back and think about what the Commission and its members want out of the big-eye fishery and what are the measures that are going to be most appropriate at achieving those goals.

WWF’s Bubba Cook heaped praise on the FFA and PNA for their co-operation and their commitment to advancing the region’s interest in the WCPFC talks.

“I find very encouraging going into this meeting is what appears to be the increased solidarity between the FFA and the PNA, this week showing the common interest among the two groups bodes well for decision making.

“When you have both of those organisations and the combined power that they bring to the table with the unified voice, that can have a huge impact on how decisions are made at this process and so i think what appears to be an increased level of cooperation between the two organisations is a welcome signal in the WCPFC process,” said Cook

The WCPFC meeting begins today and will end on Friday……. PACNEWS.

‘Tuna diplomacy’ is one of the game-changers for the Pacific

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Tuna has shaped regional politics and influenced the relationship between Pacific Islands States and major trading partners including China, Japan, United States and Taiwan and South Korea.

Each year the Pacific comes together with these powerful fishing nations to set the fishing rules for more than half the world’s tuna, as well as other ocean-going species at risk of being caught by accident by the fishing industry.

Diplomacy and solidarity among Pacific countries is key to Pacific success.

Ahead of this year’s meeting of the rule-setting body – the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), organisations representing Pacific nations are stressing their commitment to work together in solidarity.

With 60 per cent of the world’s main canning tuna – skipjack – caught in their waters as well as large quantities of fish for the fresh and frozen fish market, the Pacific is an important grouping.

However, decisions at WCPFC are made by consensus, so achieving results is often difficult.

The CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement which represents the 8 tropical tuna countries plus Tokelau, emphasised collaboration with the 17-nation Forum Fisheries Agency as they hold a series of meetings in Honolulu to prepare their negotiating strategies.

“The FFA Director General reminded us that we are doing this work for the benefit of our people,” PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru said in a statement ahead of this year’s WCPFC which commences on Monday.

“We are the resource owners. This is why we work together to promote effective measures at the WCPFC for sustainable management of our fisheries resources,” he said.

Over the past decade, Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) comprising of eight countries (FSM, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, PNG, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu) developed a new model of cooperation, establishing a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) to limit purse seine fishing access to their waters.

The VDS scheme is the single most successful resource management model in the Pacific using rights- based control over fisheries resources.

Under the scheme, fishing fleets are required to purchase fishing days at a minimum of US$8,000 per day, provide 100 percent coverage of all purse seiners, provide in port transhipment of tuna and an annual three-month moratorium on the use of fish aggregating devices. This has improved conservation and management of tuna caught in PNA countries while increasing the revenue share for island member countries from US$60m in 2010 to an estimated US$400m last year.

Ocean management or what is now being promoted the Blue Pacific narrative–where Pacific countries are called to exercise stronger strategic autonomy over the Pacific Ocean and its resources.

In recent years, the Pacific has witnessed increased geostrategic competition in the region and the Pacific Ocean is at the centre of this stepped-up engagements from new and emerging global players.

At the Pacific Leaders’ Summit in Nauru this year, leaders reaffirmed the Blue Pacific as the basis of ‘asserting’ the region’s solidarity on the global stage and secure potential development assistance to drive collective ambition and aspiration for the Pacific region.

In the words of the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi; “The Blue Pacific platform offers all Pacific countries the capabilities to address a changing geostrategic landscape. The opportunity to realise the full benefits of the Blue Pacific rests in our ability to work and stand together as a political bloc. And the challenge for us is maintaining solidarity in the face of intense engagement of an ever-growing number of partners in our region. We should not let that divide us! ”.

Under the flagship of the Blue Pacific identity –Pacific nations are again building a collective voice and asserting their common values and concerns. The Blue Pacific is about shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean –and the recognition that Pacific Island Countries manages 20 percent of the world’s oceans in their Exclusive Economic zone (EEZs).

To make this happen –Pacific countries realise the need to secure their maritime borders. The settlement of maritime boundaries provides certainty of ownership of the Pacific Ocean space –as Pacific people taking control of their domain, which is critical to managing their ocean resources, biodiversity, ecosystems as well as fighting the impacts of climate change. Of the 47 shared boundaries in the Pacific, 35 Treaties have been concluded so far and few more countries are now finalising their border agreements.

The WCPF meets from 10– 15 December ….PACNEWS

Cooperation and positive outcomes from WCPFC14 work

Categories @WCPFC14, FFA Media Fellows past eventsPosted on

Rhea Moss-Christian (WCPFC) talks about the positive outcomes and cooperation from the 14th Regular Session of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Published 7 Dec 2017