WCPFC13: Don't forget Article 30- Tuvalu reminds Tuna Commission of 'disproportionate burden' for SIDS
Tuvalu Opening Statement - WCPFC 13, Nadi, Fiji (5 – 9 Dec 2016)
Hon. Puakena Boreham, Minister for Natural Resources
Madame Chair, honourable Ministers, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good morning and Talofa to you all. I am pleased to be attending the annual Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting for the first time, and please allow me in this first instance to convey my appreciation to our host Fiji for the exquisite hospitality extended to me and my delegation. I would like also to thank the Executive Director Feleti Teo and Secretariat staff for the meeting arrangements.
I wish to acknowledge with thanks the statements made by the distinguished speakers this morning, and for remembering those who have passed away and especially the Late Hon Elisala Pita. I know that all of them are here with us in spirit.
Minister Pita believed firmly that this Commission has not only the responsibility to establish sustainable management arrangements for the region’s fisheries, but also the obligation to do so in a way that is fair, equitable and does not impose a disproportionate burden on small island developing states like Tuvalu. Minister Pita also believed that, so far, the Commission has not yet fully lived up to these responsibilities and obligations. I hope that during my time as Tuvalu’s Minister for Natural Resources I will see accelerating progress towards these goals.
Mme Chair, I would like to remind this meeting of the critical importance of the decisions made at this meeting to a small island nation like Tuvalu, and the negative impacts they can have on us. Fisheries in our country provide the foundation for livelihoods, food security and dietary health on islands that have few other resources. Fish consumption in Tuvalu is at least ten times the global average, reflecting the absence of other forms of protein. Fishery access revenues now make up well over 50% of our Government revenue, and industrial fishing operations are one of the few employment opportunities available to our people. Tuvalu is possibly the most fishery-dependent nation on earth, so you will understand our deep concern that this Commission should develop fishery management arrangements that are not only effective but also equitable.
Madame Chair, last year in Bali the Commission agreed, through CMM 2015-01, to maintain the 4th month of FAD closure, or equivalent measures, originally agreed in 2013 as a way to conserve bigeye. Tuvalu, like other PNA countries, has been rigorously implementing the 4th month FAD closure. Because purse-seining in Tuvalu is highly FAD-dependent, this has greatly reduced the profitability and attractiveness of fishing in Tuvalu waters, and compromised our fishery revenues. The latest report from SPC on this subject, produced in October this year, reiterates once again that the productivity of fishing on free schools in our waters is currently 24% less than on FADs. The FAD closure vastly reduces the profitability of fishing operations in our waters, and therefore the ability of vessels to pay for fishery access. In addition, the SPC report confirms – again –that the level of bigeye taken in FAD sets in Tuvalu is low compared to other areas.
And, once again, as we did last year, we have learned that other WCPFC coastal states have failed to impose the FAD closure in their waters, and DWFN longliners did not deliver the bigeye catch reductions they committed to. Not only that Mme Chair, but one of our developed country members has blatantly exceeded its bigeye longline catch limits, to the tune of over 2,000 tonnes. This is ten times the amount of bigeye that the 4th month FAD closure is estimated to conserve in Tuvalu.
Mme Chair, I am obliged to echo the words of the late Elisala Pita, who told last year’s meeting in Bali that the way that this measure has been implemented – or, rather, not implemented – has increased the disproportionate burden on Tuvalu, one of the smallest and most fragile economies in the world. As Elisala stated, and I now re-state: our people do not understand why Tuvalu should make sacrifices in order to subsidise the fishing vessels of developed countries, or those nations who appear to have no intention of controlling their fleets. Tuvalu will not accept further measures that impose a disproportionate burden on our nation and our people.
I will close by once again reminding this Commission of Article 30 of the WCPF Convention, which describes the collective obligation of members to consider the disproportionate burden that management measures might place on small-island developing states. Tuvalu remains committed to the goals of this Commission, but we are also determined not to carry a disproportionate share of this burden while developed countries evade their responsibilities.
Madame Chair, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, I wish you well in your deliberations. During your discussions I hope you will remember that this fishery takes place primarily in the Pacific Islands, and must be managed in a way that provides benefits to the people of that region. -ENDS.