Regional Foreign Affairs, Law Enforcement, Finance and Fisheries complete Leaders’ mandated review of regional MCS arrangements

Monday 20 June 2016, FFA HQ, Honiara SOLOMON ISLANDS-- A blend of Foreign Affairs, Law Enforcement, Finance and Fisheries Ministers from nine Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries member nations are leaving Honiara this weekend expressing their overall satisfaction with the status of regional systems for monitoring, control and surveillance and with an active interest in the impact of Fisheries on their own portfolios.

High-level ministers and representatives from FSM, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu undertook a comprehensive review of the Pacific’s Monitoring, Control, Surveillance (MCS) and Compliance regime as directed by Forum Leaders in Port Moresby in 2015. The participating ministers were primarily from the current, immediate past and next chairpersons of the four sectoral ministerial councils.

“The MCS review was undertaken here at the FFA secretariat in Honiara given the mandated role of FFA in supporting member and regional MCS efforts, and to enable Ministers to observe the world class Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre at the Honiara secretariat,” FFA Director General James Movick said. He thanked the New Zealand Government for the sizeable funding that it provided to enable the ministers to undertake the review, including an independent review of the regional MCS Framework presented by lead Consultant Fraser McEachan of Australia, and an independent peer review of Pacific regional MCS by international MCS expert Dr. Pramod Ganapathiraju of Canada. Ministers also reviewed the findings of the recent Quantification of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Pacific completed in March this year by independent consulting firm MRAG Asia-Pacific.
DG Movick says the Forum leaders’ directive to ensure a mix of Economic, Foreign Affairs, and Police Ministers alongside FFA’s Fisheries Ministers underscored the broad interest and strategic importance of tuna fisheries development and MCS in Pacific Island countries. He praised the Leaders for initiating the ‘whole of government, whole of region’ approach to reviewing this complex regional strategic issue, and suggested that this could be a useful model for the future.

“It was enlightening that a perspectives survey on a cross section of issues taken at the opening session and repeated at the end of the meeting, showed very clear changes in the perceptions and knowledge of Ministers as a result of their engagement in the review. We welcome those shifts, some small, others substantial, reflecting the effectiveness of informed engagement in keeping a range of diverse groups on the same page when it comes to the regional MCS agenda,” says DG Movick.

Detailed outcomes of the MCS Ministerial will now go before Fisheries Ministers in Vanuatu next month and to the Forum Officials Committee and Forum Foreign Ministers’ meetings in August before a final report heads to the Pacific Forum Leaders in FSM this September. The outcomes reflect a positive review of the Pacific MCS Framework, identification of a number of key areas for future improvement and implementation in the continuing fight against IUU fishing, and ways to improve MCS messaging at the national and regional level.

Strong support for the “fundamental” importance of regional cooperation in underpinning regional and national MCS efforts success was another key outcome. There was an especial call for political will to ensure continued future success to address challenges such as data and information gaps, access conditions and terms, national implementation and ensuring a more effective outcome at the annual meetings of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to expand the scope of MCS rules governing the regional tuna fishery.

The role of information and technology was another major feature of the discussions, which noted the need to step up Electronic Monitoring and Electronic Reporting, and locking down systems of documenting and certifying tuna catches. Ministers also acknowledged the important role of Pacific Observers and urged further consideration for their safety and working conditions, while also noting the critical importance of effective implementation and institutional and legislative strengthening at the national level.

Thanking the host country for their ‘active support’ and opening encouragement from Prime Minister Sogavare, DG Movick also noted appreciation to the meeting Chair, Hon. Lorin Robert, Secretary (Minister) of Foreign Affairs of the Federated States of Micronesia, whose President will Chair the next Forum Leaders meeting. He also welcomed the participation of PIFS Deputy Secretary General, Andie Fong Toy, noting the outcomes of the MCS and Compliance review will go to Forum Leaders through PIFS reporting processes.

“I am heartened by the high level of commitment and the quality of exchange of ideas and enquiry to understand MCS and tuna fisheries issues better and I thank all Ministers and officials for the investment of their time and commitment to this process,” he said. –ENDS

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