Kiribati's Minister for Fisheries & Marine Resources, Ribanataake Tiwau( right)

By Pita Ligaiula at COP28 in Dubai, UAE

Kiribati’s Minister for Fisheries & Marine Resources, Ribanataake Tiwau, emphasised the vital role of tuna for his country in a panel discussion at a COP28 side event on Monday, on the impact of climate change on fisheries.”

The event took place at the Moana Pasifika Pavilion in Dubai, moderated by Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General, Dr Manu Tupou Roosen.

“Tuna is very important to the region and, in this case, for Kiribati. Our ocean area is 400 times larger than our land area, and we are fortunate to be located in a tuna corridor – a five-degree north, five-degree south corridor where most tuna migrates, mainly skipjack,” said Minister Tiwau.

He emphasised the economic and food security significance of tuna for Kiribati.

“In terms of revenue, tuna is the only source for us. The Ministry of Fisheries has been tasked with generating between AUD$140 and AUD$200 million to finance the government services, constituting 70 percent to 80 percent of our annual budget,” he explained.

Minister Tiwau acknowledged the challenges posed by climate change and the potential changes in the tuna corridor and the dispersion of tuna.

Despite these challenges, he expressed confidence in the effectiveness of regional management measures.

“In the Pacific region, tuna is the only healthy stock compared to other regions.”

Director-General of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, stressed the importance of science in tuna fisheries management.

She highlighted the joint effort between the FFA and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community(SPC).

“The science informs our management actions, and it’s a collaborative effort, not just within the Pacific but also with fishing partners and organisations like the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).”

Dr Tupou-Roosen discussed the predicted shift in tuna distribution and abundance due to climate change and the need for collaboration to ensure the long-term sustainability of this vital resource.

She warned that, under a high-emission scenario, up to 20 percent of tuna biomass could move from exclusive economic zones (EEZ) to the high seas, with major implications for government revenue and associated benefits.

“If we get the countries of the world back on track, especially those large gas emitters, with a 1.5-degree reduction, that reduces from 20 percent to 3 percent – still a reduction, so it’s still taken very seriously,” she said.