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Ministers representing Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu met in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on 4 and 5 July 2018 as the 15th annual Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers Meeting.
2.Republic of the Marshall Islands was represented at senior official level.
3. Ministers noted with gratitude the active participation and ongoing engagement of partner and other observer organisations and expressed particular thanks to Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, for her participation.
4. Ministers invited Cook Islands, represented by the Right Honourable Henry Puna, Prime Minister, to assume the Chair of FFC for the coming year.
5.Ministers thanked the outgoing Chair, Australia, represented by Senator the Honourable Anne Ruston, for her enthusiastic leadership over the past year, including in respect of the Agency’s achievements within the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and in a range of initiatives to strengthen the region’s capacity to respond to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.
6. Members noted with great sadness the very recent passing of Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries Permanent Secretary Sanaila Naqali who over many years had made a tremendous contribution to the work of the Agency and personified Fiji’s active role within the regional fisheries sector. Ministers respectfully conveyed their deepest sympathy to his family, the Government and the people of Fiji.
Appointment of FFA Director General
7. Ministers unanimously endorsed the recommendation from the FFC 106 Selection Committee to appoint Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen as the next Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency. Ministers expressed strong confidence that the future of the Agency would be effectively secured through the appointment of Dr Tupou-Roosen who will commence her new appointment in November 2018.
8. Welcomed the new FFA Deputy Director-General, Mr Matthew Hooper, and thanked the previous Deputy Director-General, Wez Norris, for his outstanding service to the FFA over the last 11 years including five years as Deputy Director-General.
9. Ministers approved the FFA annual report for 2017/18 and agreed to forward it to Forum Leaders in accordance with the FFA Convention. In doing so, Ministers took particular note of key issues raised by the Director General as requiring focussed attention in the years ahead including: strengthened commitment to regional solidarity; the need for innovative solutions to address longline management across the region; and the importance of sound investment advice to guide development decisions by Members.
FFA Strategic Plan
10. Ministers welcomed the process for development of a new Strategic Plan to guide the work of the FFA from 2020 forwards, emphasising the importance of ensuring all stakeholders have opportunities to input. Ministers asked the FFA Secretariat to work with officials to ensure opportunities are provided throughout the process for Ministers to review progress and provide input.
11. Key issues highlighted by Ministers for inclusion in the Strategic Plan include: the role of FFA in assisting members to meet the SDGs, particular on SDG14 on Oceans, and the contribution of fisheries to the Blue Pacific; the relationship between FFA and other regional and sub-regional organisations – particularly the PNAO and SPC; the balance between the FFA’s role in supporting development at national level while ensuring regional solidarity and sustainable management of the region’s highly migratory tuna resources.
Longline Fisheries Strategy
12 Ministers expressed serious concern at the current state of the longline fisheries and the economic overfishing that is occurring in this region. They highlighted the need for a new, innovative and more strategic approach to management of longline fisheries across the region focussed on securing the ownership rights of FFA members and addressing the significant management gaps on the high seas
13. Ministers emphasised the importance of working constructively with like-minded DWFNs with the aim of restoring profitability to the fishery and securing increased economic benefits to FFA members and others, including through taking an integrated approach to relationships with DWFN partners across purse seine and longline fisheries.
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
14 Ministers welcomed the progress made by FFA members at the last WCPFC meeting in December 2017 including agreement of a revised tropical tuna conservation and management measure and a measure to improve safety of fisheries observers
15.Ministers endorsed priorities for FFA members to take forward to the WCPFC meeting in December 2018 including:
• Maintaining the strength of the tropical tuna measure and progressing the high seas limits and allocation process;
• Agreeing a Target Reference Point for the South Pacific albacore tuna stock that promotes recovery from economic overfishing and progressing the Harvest Strategy Workplan;
• Establishing a more structured approach to addressing SIDS Special Requirements through a Strategic Investment Plan;
• Advancing an FFA proposal for an improved Compliance Monitoring Scheme that ensures WCPFC members’ compliance with WCPFC measures while addressing procedural unfairness and disproportionate burden on SIDS inherent in the current measure.
16. Ministers noted their continued support for several other WCPFC initiatives that were currently progressing, including the South Pacific Albacore Management Measure Roadmap, Electronic Reporting and Monitoring standards and Catch Documentation Scheme guidelines.
17.In pursuing these priorities, Ministers re-issued their call for all WCPFC members to ensure full implementation of the conservation and management measures on avoiding a disproportionate burden falling upon small island developing States and on the special requirements of SIDS (CMMs 2013-06 and 2013-07 respectively).
18. Ministers noted the difficulty for some of the Pacific Island nations to host the annual WCPFC meeting.
19. Ministers noted the importance of a strong presence and solidarity among FFA members at the WCPFC meetings.
Combatting Illegal Fishing
20. Ministers expressed appreciation to the Government of Australia for funding the Pacific Maritime Security Programme and welcomed the commencement of aerial surveillance component, noting the need for strong coordination between agencies at national level and the benefits of aligning activities with surface patrols under the Pacific patrol boat programme.
21. Ministers agreed the attached Resolution for forwarding to Forum Foreign Ministers seeking regional agreement to facilitate aerial surveillance operations when operating in their national areas through treating the air surveillance aircraft as “State” craft with diplomatic status and associated facilitation of air space access, landing rights and waiver of government fees.
22. Ministers welcomed ratification of the Multilateral Subsidiary Agreement under the Niue Treaty by Niue and Solomon Islands, bringing the total number of parties to twelve, and encouraged the remaining five FFA members to ratify in order to ensure that the full benefits of cooperative activities under the Agreement can be realised.
23. Ministers welcomed the adoption of a new Regional MCS Strategy to guide FFA members and the Agency in their work in the years ahead, ensuring the region continues to build on the existing MCS framework in the region and is well placed to tackle new and emerging challenges.
Maritime Domain Awareness
24. Ministers highlighted the importance of enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) in promoting regional security and agreed that the Regional Surveillance Picture will be an important input to such efforts.
25. inisters instructed FFA to continue engagement on MDA, within its mandate, and especially within relevant Pacific Island Forum processes, including discussions on the Biketawa Plus security declaration, and to report to next year’s Ministers meeting on how the Agency can most appropriately continue to meet Leaders’ expectations and directions on this matter.
26. Ministers, recognising that Forum Leaders are expected to consider regional security issues at their next meeting in Nauru in September 2018, authorised the FFC Ministerial Chair, with assistance from the FFA Director General, to engage with the Chair of the Pacific Leaders Forum and the Secretary General of the PIFS with a view to advancing this matter and consulting with members out-of-session as required.
27. Ministers welcomed the outcomes of the report on regional processing hubs, noting the concept encourages the establishment of economies of scale, and builds on the advantages of preferential market access and proximity to the resource to compete with the Asian hubs that currently process most of the tuna caught in our region. Ministers recognised the importance of existing and potential processing facilities in member countries.
28.Ministers expressed appreciation for the work of FFA in building capacity of competent authorities and helping to develop associated market access opportunities. The crucial importance of strong traceability systems was stressed including through robust catch documentation schemes.
29. Ministers underlined the importance of addressing the issue of human rights abuses on fishing vessels operating in the Pacific region, including improved labour standards for all crew. They charged the Secretariat to continue work on initiatives to ensure jobs in the industry are worthwhile and safe, including for Pacific Islanders. Ministers also recognised the importance of this matter for retaining access to global markets.
30.Ministers reviewed progress in implementing the Regional Roadmap, noting the status of the four main tuna stocks is within acceptable biological reference points while noting variability between stocks. Ministers noted the positive impact of measures taken to reduce by-catch. Ministers recognised that government revenue from the purse seine VDS continues to increase, and committed to renew efforts to create jobs in the industry and attract investment. The importance of good economic analysis and advice on proposed investments was emphasised.
Forum Leaders Standing Item on Fisheries
31. Ministers agreed that it would be useful to convene on the margins of their annual FFC Ministerial Meeting as “Regional Fisheries Ministers” to consider issues across the whole spectrum of fisheries and to identify high priority matters to refer to Forum Leaders. Ministers agreed that there are practical, mandate and governance reasons for such a meeting to be separate to their formalised role as members of the Ministerial Forum Fisheries Committee.
32. Ministers tasked officials, FFA, SPC and PIFS to consider options as to how such a meeting could be constituted and managed, and to produce recommendations for Ministers to consider at their 2019 meeting.
33. Ministers acknowledged the role of the Forum Officials Committee (FOC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in constructing the Leaders’ agenda, and noted that their recommendations for the standing agenda item on Fisheries would be forwarded to Leaders through FOC and the Forum Foreign Ministers meeting. Ministers noted that the role of FOC in this regard is not to change or redesign the content of Forum Fisheries Ministers’ recommendations.
34. Ministers noted that under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism Ministers have responsibilities in their areas of sectoral expertise to review and to agree on collective regional action, and urged that all fisheries issues proposed for consideration by Leaders, including any raised through the SSCR process, should be channelled through the Regional Fisheries Ministers Meeting for their expert consideration or comment.
35. Ministers reiterated the need to promote the use of opportunities such as the Forum Leaders meeting to raise issues of regional significance with development partners and fishing partners, including to promote areas of achievement and to seek resolution to any areas of disagreement.
New Pacific Fisheries Leadership Programme
36. Ministers welcomed the imminent rollout of the Pacific Fisheries Leadership Programme (PFLP) and the opportunity it will provide to help develop and sustain both the current and next generation of fisheries leaders in the Pacific region. Ministers urged all members to nominate and support high-calibre officials to participate actively in the PFLP. Ministers thanked New Zealand for its funding support to the programme.
Recognition of the service of outgoing DG James Movick
37. Ministers paid special tribute to the outgoing Director General, James Movick, who had provided superb leadership to the Agency over the past six years. Under Mr Movick’s stewardship the FFA has undergone a process of purposeful renewal and reform and has demonstrated itself to be a responsive, professional and highly competent agency. Ministers wished Mr Movick and his wife Herolyn every future success and felt sure that their significant contribution to the promotion of regional cooperation would be enduring.
PROPOSED RESOLUTION TO FORUM FOREIGN MINISTERS ON SUPPORT TO AERIAL SURVEILLANCE UNDER THE PACIFIC MARITIME SECURITY PROGRAMME
Acknowledging the value to member countries of enhanced air surveillance for fisheries and broader law enforcement purposes;
Appreciating Australia’s substantial funding support for this programme; and
Noting that seeking uniform decisions from multiple national authorities in each country would otherwise be required;
FFC Ministers request Forum Foreign Ministers to agree that all countries utilizing the FFA managed PMSP air surveillance aircraft programme will provide uniform treatment to these aircraft, with their crews and support systems to be treated as State aircraft thereby utilizing diplomatic entry clearance protocols and such waiver of government fees and charges as available to regular State aircraft
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