HONIARA – The tuna-rich nation of Solomon Islands has used this year’s World Tuna Day to reflect on the importance of tuna to the economy and lives of locals.
Although World Tuna Day has been held on 2 May every year since 2016, this year Solomon Islands celebrated with an event on 6 May in Honiara. The theme for the event was “Tuna – our priced national asset”.
Looking at tuna as a national asset offers people hope as they face uncertain times and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the supervising minister for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR), Fredrick Kologeto, said.
“It serves as our everyday food and it serves as a revenue earner for our economy, and this is why tuna is a true national asset for our country and people,” Mr Kologeto said.
“I am proud to say that tuna is an enduring asset for both good and bad times.”
Mr Kologeto, the Minister for Commerce, Industries, Immigration, and Labour, represented MFMR Minister, Nestor Ghiro, as the key speaker at the event.
He said that World Tuna Day was a western Pacific idea. Through the continuous support of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) blocs, Solomon Islands recognised and acknowledged the past PNA ministers for their idea to celebrate an annual World Tuna Day, which was adopted at the 2011 PNA ministers meeting.
“This is the reflection of the commitments of the Ministers in recognition of the importance of tuna to the lives of people of the PNA countries and the broader Pacific FFA region,” Mr Kologeto said.
The adoption of the World Tuna Day at the United Nation General Assembly in 2016 was “in recognition of the resource as a global demand resource and therefore needs global recognition”.
“I acknowledge the PNA members and their leaders for pushing the idea to recognise and celebrate World Tuna Day globally. This is an initiative by the PNA and therefore an achievement for PNA as a whole,” said Mr Kologeto.
Cooperation maximises the benefits of tuna as a resource
The Solomon Islands government, through MFMR, is working collaboratively with stakeholders such as the FFA and PNA to ensure that all Solomon Islanders receive economic and social benefits from the tuna industry.
“Our cordial partnership with FFA and PNA countries enables us to achieve the creation of job opportunities for our people, support for infrastructure developments and the PNA Vessel Day Scheme, and support to review our legislation and legal frameworks to accommodate the recent changes in the tuna fisheries management frameworks,” said Mr Kologeto.
“The dedication of my staff to ensure our tuna fisheries are promoted towards sustainable tuna fisheries and promote tuna as our priced national asset – this is where we want to drive our tuna [industry] in the future.”
He said the progress of the development of the Bina Harbour tuna processing plant would see an increase in jobs for Solomon Islanders.
Observations by FFA and TIASI on tuna industry
FFA Director Fisheries Operation Allan Rahari was also a guest speaker at the World Tuna Day celebrations in Honiara.
“Each year, World Tuna Day is an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of tuna to our island peoples. On this day, we are reminded of the need to maximise the economic and social benefits from tuna for our people, our communities and our Pacific region,” Mr Rahari said.
Tuna supported regional food security, employment, economic development and the growth of the national GDP.
“Indeed, the economic resilience of Pacific tuna fisheries is particularly important in these challenging and unprecedented times,” Mr Rahari added.
“As you would be aware Solomon Islands is one of few FFA members that has a successful processing operation in the Pacific. We should be proud of the work done at SolTuna and our industry which supports jobs for our people and contributes to the national economy.
“World Tuna Day is also an opportunity to reflect on our efforts to manage the fisheries through the impacts of COVID. The temporary suspension of certain operational measures has been challenging, but it is a necessary part of effectively managing this unprecedented event.”
He said FFA was pleased to be contributing to the growth of this important industry in the region.
“I applaud FFA members and the fishing industry’s willingness to act in helping to ensure our workers in the tuna fisheries are safe and that operational disruptions are minimised,” MR Rahari said.
“We know that we will come through this pandemic stronger and with some useful lessons for the future.”
Tuna Industry Association of Solomon Islands (TIASI) and National Fisheries Development representative Russell Dunham also spoke about the importance of tuna as food and to bring in revenue.
“If we allow our seas to be a part of strategic investment, then we can earn so much revenue from it,” Mr Dunham said.
“The industry in the Solomon Islands has continued to develop over the years, mainly as a result of the income generated from our tuna resources.”