Speech by Hon Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi on the occasion of ACP Ministers of Fisherises and Aquaculture – TATTE Conference Centre, Apia, 12 Sept 2019.
Reverend Eteuati Tuioti,
Excellencies, Honourable Ministers
Assistant Secretary-General, ACP Secretariat, Mr. Viwanou (Viwanu) Gnassounou, (Nasunu)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I extend a warm welcome to all of you to this important ACP Ministerial Meeting. I especially welcome all who have travelled far to see our paradise especially from Africa, the Caribbean and also Europe. Let us pause to remember our colleagues from the Bahamas, who played host to the last ACP Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministerial meeting but could not make it given the ravages of Hurricane Dorian. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Government and people of the Bahamas.
Many of our countries here know from repeated past experiences how natural catastrophes can devastate an entire country, claim and disrupt peoples’ lives and set back years of economic development. As small island developing states, our limited resources and lack of adaptive capacity makes the burden of rehabilitation a difficult undertaking. Hence, addressing the adverse impacts of climate change remains a critical priority issue for Samoa and our Blue Pacific continent. The threat to our fisheries resources from climate change impacts should be given our pivotal attention. I am pleased this is high on your agenda for this Meeting.
As ACP members let us continue to demand urgent global climate action, as we are countries that have more to lose but contribute little to the cause. To respond, we must invest in science, and research; adopt robust mitigation and adaptation strategies and prioritise climate resilient fisheries management regimes.
The importance of the Fisheries and Aquaculture sector is evident. Fish continues to be one of the most traded food commodities with more than 60 of our ACP States engaged in the export of fishery and aquaculture products. For some of us, fisheries exports account for half of the total value of our traded commodities. The sector is key for employment opportunities, performs an irreplaceable role in our food and nutritional security and key to the livelihoods of our people.
For our Blue Pacific Continent, the Pacific Ocean contains the largest array of marine habitats and coastal biodiversity in the world; and sustains the largest stocks of albacore, big eye, skipjack and yellowfin tuna. It has extensive coral reefs, consisting of 70 coral genera supporting over 4,000 fish species, 30 mangrove species and a range of reptiles, marine mammals and sea birds. The marine ecosystems provide the resources on which the Pacific peoples depend for their wellbeing and prosperity. Fisheries thus remains a regional priority, and as Pacific Leaders, we are committed to work collectively to harness, secure, protect and sustainably manage, use and conserve, the living resources of the Blue Pacific. This is core to our proposed, 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
Your meeting today provides an important opportunity for us as ACP members to share our experiences and our lessons learnt. As the Blue Pacific, we emphasize the importance of a regional approach to address some of the key challenges particularly in the areas of monitoring, control and surveillance ( or MCS) especially to combat Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Increasing IUU fishing activities continues to threaten the long term sustainability of our fisheries resources. Our combined efforts to fight against IUU fishing and overfishing is therefore critical. We must continue to ensure the sustainability of our tuna stocks, noting that the major tuna stocks in our region are deemed biologically healthy, compared to other regions where overfishing is occurring.
We need to explore inter-regional collaboration amongst ACP regions to strengthen our efforts against IUU fishing at all levels. The exchange of information and knowledge on MCS technologies, tools or programmes can be beneficial for our countries and regions. We should also promote South-South cooperation amongst like-minded coastal ACP states, on key areas such as zone-based management and efforts to address climate change and promote social responsibility including the minimum crew conditions for all vessels fishing in national waters.
We should eliminate subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing. We should prohibit subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing. These are key asks of the Sustainable Development Goal 14 our Ocean Goal. The importance of these expectations make the negotiations on the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement a priority for all ACP member states. We must therefore actively engage and ensure solidarity to promote effective, special and differential treatment particularly for our Least Developed Countries and small island developing states, as an integral part of fisheries subsidies negotiations.
Also critical to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals especially SDG 14 is data and statistics. Our efforts to ensure the resilience of the fisheries and aquaculture sector must be informed by the best available science and data. Investment in this at the national regional and international levels is critical.
We also need to look at data on the contributions of women to and their engagement in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. There is recognition of the important role they play in the sector, and contribution to household livelihoods and nutrition
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
I wish you all the best in your deliberations and I look forward to a positive outcome of your discussions that will advance the realization of the sustainable development aspirations of our ACP fisheries and aquaculture sector.
It is now my pleasure to declare the 6th ACP Ministers of Fisheries and Aquaculture meeting officially open.
Thank you and God bless!