Pacific Ministers prioritise addressing Covid-19 and climate change impacts on Pacific tuna fisheries

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Pacific Ministers have identified dealing with the immediate impacts of Covid-19 and the longer term threats of climate change on offshore fisheries as key areas to address, at the 18th Forum Fisheries Committee Ministerial (FFCMin18) meeting, which concluded yesterday.

New FFCMin18 Chair, Fiji Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau said getting the industry, which is a key contributor to local economies, food security and livelihoods, back on its feet was an important issue for the Pacific.

“We want to see all of our people back out there, earning their livelihoods and being able to take care of their families, but even more crucially we must ensure their health and safety is protected from COVID19,” said Koroilavesau.

“We have seen some really unfortunate situations in other oceans with fleets having to tie up as crew become infected with Covid. We want to avoid that outcome in the Pacific so there is an urgent need for seafarers, fishing crew and observers to be prioritised as frontline workers. There is a lot at stake. Vaccinations are an important first step in getting people back to work.”

Some of the decisive actions and outcomes endorsed by the Ministers to secure the future of the oceanic Pacific fishery included:

*Minister’s strongly endorsed the work to place the impact of climate change on Pacific fisheries firmly on the agenda for the Pacific’s input into UNCOP later this year.

*Recognising the potential risk of COVID-19 being transmitted by crew on fishing vessels, and the potentially disastrous impact this could have on the fishery, fuel distribution, national revenues and on island health services, Ministers strongly supported the notion that all Governments, including flag States operating fishing vessels in the region, should prioritise the vaccination of observers, fishing crew and seafarers.

*Ministers highlighted the importance of protecting the human rights of crew on fishing vessels and ensuring that crew have fair and decent labour conditions, supporting the development of a binding measure in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission on labour standards for crew.

FFA Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen thanked the Ministers for their leadership, and support for the work of the FFA Secretariat, particularly since the onset of the pandemic.

“This challenging time has highlighted the value and success of regional solidarity and collaboration in the Pacific,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen. “We are grateful for the strength and resilience of our partnership in managing the foreign and domestic industry through the challenges of surviving. We are focused on building a shared vision for thriving by protecting the resources, and securing economic and social benefits from the fisheries for our Pacific people. We thank our Members for their continued support for, and collaboration with, FFA as we continue to deliver these important outcomes.”

The 18th Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) Ministerial meeting, was attended by Ministers representing Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Samoa was represented at senior official level.

SOURCE: FFA/PACNEWS