Relevance of Pacific leaders’ fisheries vision 40 years ago: Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen

by Fatu Tauafiafi | 8 December 2019 | News

“We remind ourselves that FFA members were the founding members for the Tuna Commission. And since the beginning, even during the days of the negotiations for the Convention [to establish the Commission], we have been driven by the exceptional vision, forty years ago on why we do this.”
Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director-General, Forum Fisheries Agency

Forty years ago, 12 Pacific leaders met in Solomon Islands under the chairmanship of the Rt Hon. Peter Kenilorea. They adopted and opened for signature an international treaty (convention) to formally establish the agency that today is known as the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).

It was a time when religion was stronger, and “In the beginning …”, the first words in the Bible, was the most widely remembered term in the region. In 1979, leaders recognised that the terms “coastal states” and “living marine resources” in the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency Convention and, in particular, the highly migratory species. 

They also correctly anticipated the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [which happened in 1982], and so they identified fisheries as a critical regional sector in which Pacific coastal states could support each other in harnessing their sovereign rights to conserve and manage their highly migratory species.

So they:

  • established the FFA, specifically designed to promote the rational exploitation of highly migratory species in the region for the benefit of the Forum member countries, and
  • came up with the vision to drive and inspire its efforts into the unknown waters of the future:

“Our people will enjoy the highest levels of social and economic benefits through the sustainable use of our offshore fisheries resources.”

Against the backdrop of this vision, FFA’s first female Director-General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, stopped a press conference to reflect on the significance of the agency’s anniversary.

It was a pause necessary to remind all concerned about the inspiration, the relevance and wisdom of Pacific tupuna as FFA members push for one of the most important pieces of work ever undertaken by its members – tabling a climate-change resolution calling on all Tuna Commission members to support united action against the greatest threat ever faced by the Pacific fishery and peoples – and humanity collectively.

“We must always remind ourselves of the reason why we are here,” said Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen.

Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, at the 16th WCPFC in PNG, reminds regional journalists of the vision that continues to inspire and commit Pacific members and the FFA Secretariat’s work. Photo F. Tauafiafi.

“We remind ourselves that FFA members were the founding members for the Commission. And since the beginning, even during the days of the negotiations for the Convention [to establish the Tuna Commission] we have been driven by why we do this.

“It is for our people to create the social and economic benefits that come from our valuable tuna resources. This is always top of mind for our membership, no matter what specific task is given to each FFA member or to our collective membership as we undertake the duties entrusted to us by our Pacific people in the Commission.”

For FFA, it means one of the important parts of its effort is to ensure that the interests and special requirements of Pacific small island developing states (SIDS) are actively considered in the decision-making of the Tuna Commission.

“This includes ensuring effective participation by SIDS in the vast work of the Commission and that there is no disproportionate burden placed on SIDS from conservation action,” Dr Tupou-Roosen said.

“So it is an important reminder that we are here to represent those who entrust us.”

The climate-change resolution proposed by FFA members to the 16th meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission reads:

FFA members call on the WCPFC, as a collective body made up of all its member countries,to take stronger action on climate change.

We propose action on three fronts:

  1. Increased focus and attention by the Scientific Committee’s Ecosystem and Bycatch Working Group on the implications of climate change for the region’s tuna stocks;
  2. Active consideration by the Commission of how, through agreement of appropriate Conservation and Management Measures, it can:
    • mitigate the impacts of climate change on Pacific Island countries arising from the influence of climate change on regional tuna stocks;
    •  reduce the carbon footprint of fishing in the Convention Area for fish stocks managed by the Commission.
  3. Ongoing action by the WCPFC Secretariat and members to reduce our collective carbon footprint, and the carbon footprint associated with WCPFC meetings.

FFA members look forward to working with our fellow WCPFC members to respond proactively to the threat to all of us posed by climate change.