Varied in landmass, ocean space, culture and different levels of economic development, Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) are vastly diverse, yet uniquely similar in the challenges they face. The phrase “one size does not fit all” is a fitting description of the region. It is also a model to keep in mind when developing and introducing fisheries management measures.
Fisheries resources are the lifeline of Pacific people, providing food security, supporting livelihoods and employment, and promoting economic growth. For many, these resources are a significant source of government revenue, especially for ocean states with limited landmass and land-based natural resources. For example, Kiribati’s revenue from fisheries contributed 16.2% of the total gross domestic product in 2014 (Gillett 2016), by far the largest contribution among its other natural resources.
Marine fisheries resources are categorised as coastal and oceanic. Both are different with respect to species diversity, resource conditions, and the interventions used in their management (FAO 2009). For instance, the region is home to the largest tuna stock in the world. The tuna fishery provides revenue through fishing access fees, tuna fishing, processing and employment, with an estimated value of USD 4.9 billion per year (Williams and Ruaia 2021). Coastal fisheries on the other hand are a vital source of nutrition, welfare, employment and food security, and are valued at an estimated USD 320–500 million (Gillett 2016).
The benefits derived from these two fisheries resources varies across the island nations. The dispersed geography of these islands within this vast area of water presents several challenges for effective management and monitoring of fisheries resources.
Another challenge for the island nations is their ability to balance their coastal fisheries in a manner that meets the demands of their people to support their livelihoods and economic aspirations versus the need for resource protection, rehabilitation and management of coastal fisheries resources.
Regional efforts to strengthen recovery and build resilience While the management of these important fishery resources are subject national interests, regional cooperation is required when it comes to conservation and protection. Over the years, the region’s leaders have agreed on several management measures and mechanisms to protect and oversee these valuable resources. In June 2019, a Special Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting was held to review and adopt terms of reference establishing an annual Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting (RFMM) and this was endorsed by the Pacific Leaders at the 50th Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu in 2019. The RFMM is responsible for sectoral oversight of fisheries issues, including coastal fisheries, and is required to report to Forum Leaders.
This year, during the second Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting (RFMM2), the fisheries leaders recognised the urgency to strengthen recovery and build resilience at this juncture, as the region struggles to respond to and recover from the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic alongside the effects of climate change on fisheries.
Three important fisheries items were discussed and endorsed as part of the regional effort to build resilience and strengthen recovery:
- The Pacific Framework for Action on scaling up community-based fisheries management;
- a proposal to develop a new regional strategy on aquaculture development; and
- addressing the impact of climate change across the fisheries sector.
The chair of RFMM2, the Rt. Honourable Semi Koroilavesau of Fiji, reiterated a call for concerted action on issues that have historically been addressed in isolation. “I am hopeful that we can bridge the gap and ensure that our decisions are holistic in nature and are beneficial to our people. Our people expect of us to make traction with some of these key issues because they affect livelihoods, economies, and the sustainability of our resources.” Rt. Honourable Semi Koroilavesau, Minister for Fisheries, Republic of Fiji.
Find out more and read the full publication from the Fisheries Newsletter:
Authors: Sonia Schutz-Russell and Terry Opa