The 17th Forum Fisheries Minister’s Virtual Meeting was held yesterday and the Fisheries Ministers, officials and observers dialed in from the 17 Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) member countries.

In his opening statement, Minister for Fisheries for the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Chairman of the Meeting, Honourable Kandhi Elieisar said that these are strange times with the most difficult challenges.

“Hard decisions need to be made so that we continue to protect our ocean and it’s resources,” said Mr Elieisar.

The Minister for Fisheries, Honourable Semi Koroilavesau in presenting Fiji’s country paper, reiterated the need for member countries to work in collaboration to cushion and minimise the impacts of Covid 19 in the region.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed affected us all and while each of our countries have our own unique challenges, standing in regional solidarity in terms of our shared agendas will help us to cushion the effects of this pandemic, ” said Mr. Koroilavesau.

“Economies have plummeted, our heath and security systems tested, there have been loss of jobs and not to mention the struggles that we face on a daily basis due to our own individual vulnerabilities”.

Mr. Koroilavesau added that like many other countries, Fiji has not been spared.

“These socio-economic stresses are being felt nationwide. Like many developing states, Fiji is looking into our primary sectors such as fisheries, to cushion the negative impacts of this pandemic and pull us through a “blue recovery platform”.

“We need to solidify our efforts as a region to be ahead of what is yet to come.”

Mr. Koroilavesau acknowledged the effort made by the Secretariat and all countries participating in the 17th session for Forum Fisheries Ministers.

He went on to say that prior to COVID-19, regional countries have collaborated to address the uncertainty of climate change, increase in fishing efforts, sustainability of our tuna resources and the continuous threats of IUU.

“Reflecting on the reliance on our tuna resources, our foresight and shared responsibility is needed to enable us to work smarter and be innovative. Our ability to holistically find solutions to these problems will determine the survival of our people, our economy, our small island countries and its shared tuna resources. This will enable us to minimise the threat to our Blue Pacific continent,” stressed Mr Koroilavesau.

“Underpinning Fiji’s global commitments, we are determined to support the regional efforts in sustainably managing the region’s tuna resources. Fiji will work through the Forum Fisheries Agency and the annual negotiations of the WCPFC in making sure, we achieve our obligations including the shared decision from our Leaders.”

Mr. Koroilavesau also shared some key issues which Fiji hopes to advance in which includes, maritime boundary negotiation, removal of harmful fisheries subsidies, climate change threats, response to COVID-19, South Pacific Albacore Work Plan and safety of Observers.

“Fiji is ready to continue with the Electronic Monitoring System with it’s inclusion into our National Budget for the next fiscal year.”

Mr. Koroilavesau concluded by urging fellow Fisheries Ministers from around the region to make the best decisions for the sustenance of their people especially for the present and future generation.

The member countries are looking at endorsing the Annual Report, Regional Longline Strategy Action Plan and Offshore Fisheries Report Card as well as discussing at length the impact of Covid 19 on Tuna Fisheries.

The 17th Forum Fisheries Ministerial Virtual Meeting will end tomorrow and needed actions will be endorsed through consensus.

Meanwhile Fiji will be required as Chair of the South Pacific Albacore Working Group to conduct two inter sessional working group meetings which will take place in the coming weeks.

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