Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor Remarks To The Rebuilding Fisheries For People And The Environment Event

UN Ocean Conference New York Jun 5th 2017


Thank you for this opportunity to make a brief intervention in this important side event that looks atfisheries rebuilding for people and the environment.

It is a topic most relevant for the Pacific Islands Ocean Region - notwithstanding that it contains the largest array of marine habitats and coastal biodiversity in the world.  The region has extensive coral reefs, consisting of 70 coral genera supporting over 4,000 fish species, 30 mangrove species and a range of reptiles, marine mammals and sea birds.

The marine habitats and ecosystems of this vast area, spanning 40 million square kilometres, provide the pelagic and coastal fisheries resources on which the people of the Pacific Island region depend for food security and for their livelihoods.

As my CROP colleague James Movick has more than adequately covered the pelagic fisheries sector - I will focus my remarks on coastal fisheries.  I will outline why Pacific Island Forum Leaders last year called for a rebalancing of attention towards coastal fisheries management by agreeing “to expand the broad heading of “fisheries(which was a 2015 directive of Leaders that increases in the sustainable economic returns from fisheries be achieved within five years”)to include coastal fisheries. They did this noting that coastal fisheries management continues to receive inadequate attention at the national level and noting the linkages between coastal fisheries and communities, food security, health issues and in particular non-communicable diseases.Leaders also noted the need to ensure ecosystem integrity to address issues such as ciguatera outbreaks and to sustainably manage Beche-de-Mer.

To that end, Leaders tasked the Pacific Community (the SPC) to coordinate with National Fisheries Agencies, CROP agencies and regional and national community groups, to strengthen support and resourcing for coastal fisheries management.

This decision is important because most Pacific Island Countries and territories populations depend heavily on coastal marine species for their source of protein. Therefore, the importance of coastal fisheries to the lives of Pacific Island peoples cannot be overstated for their food security, livelihoods and cultural significance.

Coastal fisheries provide the main source of protein and make up between 50 to 90 percent of the protein consumed by coastal communities across the Pacific region. Fish consumption per capita is among the highest in the word, with some countries consuming over 145 kg per person per year. For small-scale livelihoods, inshore fisheries provide the primary or secondary source of income for up to 50 percent of households in the Pacific.

It is estimated that about 80 per cent of the region’s coastal fishery production does not enter the cash economy. The populations of many Pacific island countries and territories (PICTs) are growing and this growth is adding pressure on already heavily fished coastal resources. By 2030, it has been estimated that an additional 115,000 tonnes of fish will be needed across the region for good nutrition. Unless the food gap is minimised and filled there will be significant negative impacts on the traditions, health and wellbeing of Pacific Island communities.

Our Atoll member countries (such as Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands) will be affected the most due to population growth and overfishing due to limited access to other protein sources, given the limited land and prospects for agriculture. Compounding this are the effects of a changing climate such as increasing water temperature, ocean acidification and changes in rain patterns on coastal resources, where healthy fish stocks will be more resilient and able to adapt to the changing climate, whereas unhealthy stocks, which is the case at the moment in many locations, will suffer more and be less likely to survive and adapt.

The region’s ocean policies include the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape which promotes sustainable development, management and conservation of the Ocean and its resources as one of its six priorities. The New Song for coastal fisheries - pathways to change strategy – provides the framework for better management of coastal fisheries via the community based approach through engaging local communities and diversifying livelihoods aimed at reducing pressure on fisheries resources, while at the same time enhancing community incomes and contributing to improved fisheries management. To this end the region should also seek to use the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small Scale Fisheries.

In all of this there is a very important role with responsibilities for Governments and for Communities:

a.         Governments need to define and respect the rights of communities in integrated management

b.         Governments need to focus on the most strategic aspects of their side of the collaboration such as controlling the land-based and commercial pressures

c.         While Communities need to take responsibility along with the rights to ensure and maintain the flow of benefits from coastal areas as stewards for the nation and to ensure a bright future for generations to come

Rational managementof coastal fisheries resources will at least halt a decline in economic benefits from coastal resources and a collapse of coastal food fish, which would also have wider economic impacts.

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