Heads of Fisheries Meeting – Dr Colin Tukuitonga, SPC Director-General and Moses Amos, Director, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division of SPC

The Pacific Community’s Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga officially opened the 10th SPC Heads of Fisheries meeting in New Caledonia with a call to strengthen the development and management of the Pacific region’s fisheries resources.

In his opening address, to almost 90 delegates from 27 countries, Dr Tukuitonga said Pacific people are custodians of around one quarter of the world’s ocean resources – including the world’s biggest tuna fishery.

SPC is the main provider of scientific information for the management of tuna stocks in Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). Sixty percent of global tuna is caught in the WCPO, equivalent to 2.5 million tonnes, valued at US$5b creating over 22,000 jobs in the tuna industry.

“While more than 80% of the tuna catch comes from skipjack and yellowfin resources that our scientists estimate to be in good condition, more needs to be done to rebuild bigeye and albacore tuna to levels that can sustain healthy populations and profitable fisheries,” Dr Tukuitonga said.

By 2030, it is estimated that 115,000 metric tons of fish will be needed to feed Pacific people and small pockets of effective coastal fisheries management will not be enough to maintain a sustainable level of stock.

“Ineffective coastal fisheries management is becoming a real threat to the sustainability of Pacific fisheries, as it is these fisheries that currently provide Pacific Islanders with most of their nutrition and employment in the fisheries sector”.

The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division is tasked with providing technical assistance to SPC’s 22 member countries and territories to help inform decisions on the management and development of their aquatic resources, and build the capacity needed to implement these decisions.

In 2016, Pacific Island Forum Leaders appointed SPC as the lead agency for coordinating regional efforts to improve coastal fisheries management.

The biennial Heads of Fisheries meeting provides strategic guidance to SPC’s Coastal and Oceanic Fisheries programmes.

High on the agenda this week is the development of a new monitoring and evaluation framework for fisheries to assess the impact of services provided by regional organisations and to assist Pacific Island countries and territories with reporting on their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 14). The discussions on regional indicators at the 10th Heads of Fisheries meeting will inform contributions to the Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting towards the UN Oceans Conference being held this week in Suva.

The adequate collection and analysis of coastal fisheries data also remains an on-going challenge and the four-day meeting provides an important opportunity to discuss and approve a harmonized data collection framework for the development of evidence based management measures for coastal fish.

Another key issue for discussion is the implementation of A new song for coastal fisheries – pathways to change: the Noumea strategy to achieve sustainable inshore fisheries, underpinned by community-based approached that provide food security, long-term economic, social and ecological benefits to Pacific Islands communities.

Over 100 participants representing fisheries and environment departments across the region developed the new song initiative in 2015.

The 10th Heads of Fisheries meeting, which is being hosted at SPC’s Headquarters in Noumea, will conclude on 17 March.

More information about the 10th Heads of Fisheries can be found online.

Media contacts:
Sandra Kailahi, SPC Communications and Public Information, sandrak@spc.int or +687 (546 952)

Useful links:
SPC Fisheries Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division
Summary of the 9th Heads of Fisheries Meeting