The ministers of Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu have urged Pacific Island nations take urgent collective action to address the existing and future threats to bêche-de-mer and other coastal fisheries in the region.
Earlier in the week, the inaugural Pacific Bêche-de-mer and the Future of Coastal Fisheries Meeting in Nadi, Fiji, heard that many Pacific Island countries and territories will need to find alternative sources of protein within the next two decades, if current overfishing continues.
This startling threat to food security in the region prompted discussion on what innovative measures can be taken to try and rapidly shift to sustainable management of the region’s coastal fisheries. One idea raised included placing pressure on the consumption end of the market, by certifying or branding products that have been sustainably-grown.
While recognizing the existing policies and initiatives on coastal fisheries, the meeting participants acknowledged the need for greater leadership and action. Following three days of discussion, the Ministers and their representatives agreed on a pathway towards an effective regional approach to manage coastal fisheries.
The Cook Islands Minister of Marine Resources, Hon. Mona Ioane, spoke about the need for action that builds on traditional knowledge.
“To me, this issue of protecting our coastal fisheries is well overdue – we need to do something. I’m very supportive of this meeting. We need to take care of our coastal fisheries because it affects our people at the grassroots. We want to incorporate a traditional approach to protecting our resources… we need to incorporate customary law into our written laws, to give a mandate to fisheries officers to police our resources” said Minister Ioane.
Samoa’s Associate Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Minister Lenatai Victor Tamupua, emphasised that there is political will to take action.
“We need to take into consideration the livelihoods and food security of our people. Each country varies in its approaches. We can put our individual action plans into a regional management framework. It’s very important – the political will is there, but it’s important that politicians and governments understand what the proposal is about. If the framework is justified and evidence-based, it shouldn’t be a problem for political support” said Minister Tamupua.
The key elements of the pathway agreed by the Ministers include:
- Implementing stronger coastal fisheries management regimes at a national level, by ensuring effective policies are in place, targeting essential capacity at national and local levels, reviewing budgetary commitments and strengthening coordination of implementing partners.
- Reviewing and harmonizing regional frameworks for coastal fisheries, including the role of regional and international institutions, agencies and non-government organizations.
- Taking immediate action on management of bêche-de-mer resources, including: sharing data and information on buyers, markets and best practices; targeting research on market mechanisms that will improve the value of bêche-de-mer to Pacific Island nations; and investigating opportunities for a regional initiative on bêche-de-mer, similar to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement.
The countries will report on progress of the meeting outcomes at a follow-up coastal fisheries meeting in early 2015, where a further way forward will be recommended.