Opening Remarks by SPC's Director-General Stuart Minchin at the 15th SPC Heads of Fisheries Meeting
20-24 March 2023, SPC's Headquarters, Noumea, New Caledonia
Bonjour and warm Pacific greetings to you all.
Chair, I join you in thanking Tonga for the wonderful prayer to start our day.
On behalf of your Pacific Community, I wish to welcome all our distinguished delegates, Heads of Fisheries and officials, partners, representatives from our fellow CROP agencies, observers, colleagues, and friends to the 15th SPC Heads of Fisheries meeting.
I would also like to warmly welcome our Chair for the 15th SPC Heads of Fisheries meeting – Mr. Joseph Gestin, Director of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries in Wallis and Futuna. I congratulate you as you take on the Chairmanship for the 15th SPC Heads of Fisheries meeting, and thank you for stepping up to this challenge. I have every confidence in your leadership in steering the meeting to a successful outcome over the next few days.
By the same token, allow me to also express our deep gratitude to our outgoing Chair – Vanuatu under the stewardship of Mr. Sompert Gereva for his invaluable assistance and commitment in Chairing the 14th SPC Heads of Fisheries meeting, under exceptional circumstances.
May I also acknowledge the presence of two important SPC partners in regional fisheries:
- Ms. Rhea Christian-Moss, Executive Director for the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), and;
- Mr. Leonard Louma, Director General for the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat (MSG)
We are indeed honoured with your presence and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us this week.
Allow me to also congratulate Ms. Christian-Moss for her recent appointment as Executive Director for WCPFC, let me assure you of our fullest support as you take up your new role, and together we will work in a concerted effort towards sustainable Pacific fisheries for our people.
We very much appreciate our strong and close collaboration with our region’s many development partners, who together with the Pacific Community work to support members in achieving your fisheries development aspirations. Thank you for your engagement, support and the spirit with which you work with.
Before continuing, I wish to spare a moment to remember our colleagues and the people of Vanuatu, members of our Pacific family who were impacted from the tropical cyclones Judy and Kevin and who are now getting a foothold in their recovery efforts during this difficult time.
Extreme weather events will continue to wreak havoc in the Pacific and climate emergency is our most immediate challenge and threat to the livelihoods and well-being of our people. This week we are gathered to discuss some of these challenges, particularly on climate change as a driver of impact on our fisheries and aquaculture.
Resilience, and climate action is one of the Key Focus Areas of the SPC Strategic Plan 2022-2023 and this week you will hear about some of the work that SPC is doing to support climate actions, including its work under the SPC flagships on Climate Change, Oceans, Food Systems and Gender.
As we put the pandemic behind us, we must not forget the lessons we learned during this time, particularly the importance of resilience and adaptability in the face of crisis. We, as Pacific Community, must continue our collective efforts to develop sustainable fisheries management and strategies, not only take into account the changing environment but consider the evolving and multi-faceted global challenges directly affecting our blue Pacific continent and that will continue to impact us into the foreseeable future.
We are mindful that:
- Fishing and fisheries are a way of life for our people, a crucial source of livelihood and protein for our coastal communities and remain a vital part of our culture, tradition, and economy;
- The blue Pacific continent, which encompasses the Pacific Ocean, is at the heart of both regional and global food systems, with Over 50% of the global tuna catch coming from our region’s sustainably managed tuna fisheries, making our region a key player in the global seafood industry.
As individuals and a collective, we are not only custodians of these vital resources but we have a stewardship role in ensuring that our policies and strategies take into account food security and sustainability of our fisheries for our future generations as we navigate through some of the regional challenges together, relating to population surge, the dual crises of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and unemployment and the impacts of climate change that is affecting our region.
Your agenda this week reflects these critical regional issues, and this is where your leadership and inputs are valued. To provide strategic direction on where we can make the biggest difference and impact to our people in addressing these critical regional issues.
As your technical and science provider, SPC will support you with robust science, tools, innovation, and knowledge that will assist you make better-informed decisions in your fisheries and navigate the regional and global challenges.
We of course remain committed to finding the necessary investments and partnerships to support capability-building in the region’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
SPC stands ready to journey with you to ensure that your fisheries development aspirations are supported. Our work is deeply grounded in the SPC values generously gifted by you: Enginkelap (generosity) Kaitiakitanga (stewardship) Gida Gaituvwa (unity) and Aroha (care)
I wish you all a fruitful and productive week and I look forward to the outcomes of this meeting.