MSG Fisheries Technical Working Group Meeting

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) convened the 6th Fisheries Technical Advisory Committee (FTAC) Meeting from 13 to 17 November 2017 at the MSG Secretariat conference room in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

The purpose of the meeting was to consider both the Inshore as well as the Offshore (Oceanic) fishery issues in Melanesia.

The Acting Director General of the Secretariat, Mr. Peter Eafeare welcomed participants from member States as well as the development partners, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) to the important meeting. He said it was very pleasing to note significant progress in addressing issues and advancing the Inshore Fisheries Resource Management Roadmap to the membership.

The Chair lady of the 6th FTAC, Rosalie Masu, Deputy Director Inshore Fisheries Division, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources of the Solomon Islands, in welcoming Members encouraged participants to provide updates and to share and learn from each other’s experiences on the management of inshore and offshore fisheries resources of the MSG sub-region.

As a way of background, in 2012, MSG Leaders mandated the development of a Roadmap for the protection of Inshore Fisheries Resources hence the formulation of the Roadmap for Inshore Fisheries Management and Sustainable Development 2014-2023 by the MSG Secretariat and in collaboration with the Fisheries Department of the MSG member countries and with technical assistance and guidance provided bythe SPC in particular on a management frame-work and sub-regional guide on sustainable inshore fisheries.

The latter strategy enhances the inshore fisheries management elements of the Memorandum of Understanding on Technical Cooperation in Inshore Fishery and Aquaculture Development with the following objectives:

1. Development of an effective policy, legislation and management framework for the management of inshore resources, in accordance with other relevant international agreements, to empower coastal communities to manage their marine resources;

2. Education, awareness raising and the provision of information on the importance and management of inshore fisheries;

3. Capacity building to sustainably develop and manage inshore resources with particular reference to experiences in the MSG members;

4. Adequate resources to support inshore fisheries management and best available science and research;

5. Secure long term economic and social benefits to coastal communities from the sustainable use of inshore resources;

6. Establish effective collaboration with stakeholders and partners; and

7. Restore and maintain BDM stocks to maximise long-term economic value to coastal communities.

The FTAC meeting considered updates on progress under the priorities identified in the MSG Inshore Fisheries Management and Sustainable Development 2014-2023 and on the implementation of effective policies, legislations, management frameworks and financing mechanisms that ensure suitable capacity building for all stakeholders to sustainably develop and manage coastal resources. Members also discussed much needed effective collaborations amongst all stakeholders to conduct education, awareness raising and the provision of information sharing on the importance and management of inshore fisheries to all stakeholders.

Members also considered the status of implementation of the inshore fisheries roadmap which addresses effective management strategies in maintaining and restoring fisheries stocks such as the beache de mer (BdM) or sea cucumber to secure long term economic and social benefits to coastal communities, as follows;.

(i) Fiji currently enforces a ban on the harvesting and trading of BdM and implements a cost structure for issuing permits, a BdM management plan has been developed which intends to put in place proper management procedures and processes for buying and selling of the commodity.

(ii) Vanuatu reported that there is good working relationship and collaboration between border control and bio-security officers to monitor illegal activities which have resulted in the confiscation of BdM products that do not meet regulated standards.

(iii) PNG noted the major challenges being currently faced is having exporters to provide updated reports on purchasing and exports to the National Fisheries Authority and it is difficult to capture unrecorded, undersized and rejected products.

(iv) After a ban since 2015, Solomon Islands has just opened its BdM harvesting and trade in September 2017. Solomon Islands has a BdM management plan which has been implemented since the 2014/15 opening season.

Members discussed and expressed concerns over the issue of sharing the value/returns from BdM between resource owners, middlemen, exporters and government/local authorities and they suggested that a study needs to be undertaken to address this issue.

MSG Collaborations Going Forward

(i) The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Fisheries Ministers of the MSG member countries have identified key principles of collaboration based on a genuine spirit of partnership which seeks to enhance and complement each Parties effort to promote developments in the fisheries sector.

(ii) As a sub-regional bloc, members have agreed to develop harmonized systems for the fishery Products in the area of policy, development and sustainable management measures that address marketing issues and fishery development strategies which are suited for the Parties governments and communities and to build technical and human capacity on brood stock development and hatchery seed production of selected species for fisheries such as finfish, sea cucumber, and other fishery species.

(iii) In strengthening the areas of MSG collaboration on its fisheries resources, members considered ways in developing common standards and minimum terms and conditions of resource use which includes minimum sizes, a coordinated open seasons, grades and quality as well as fiscal levies, penalties and licensing fees, collecting standard essential information at national level and sharing and storing of information.

(iv) The FTAC Meeting discussed next steps to improve and harmonize MSG management arrangements which included information collection on trade and markets, information sharing, gaining political ownership/engagement and developing standards. In the area of Inshore Fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS), the meeting received national updates on strategies on the status and issues Coastal Fisheries information management systems and agreed to focus on training and capacity development in general for fisheries staff at the national and sub-national levels. Members aspire to enhance the development of awareness raising materials for communities and the general public, on a range of coastal fisheries topics, addressing the issue of “Blue Boats”, in partnership with regional partners, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) to provide assistance. Members agreed to consider small boat vessel registration in Member countries that do not have this process and share information as to the format and national agencies that would be responsible in administering and operationalizing it.

Members wanted to see more collaborative opportunities in the development of aquaculture and agreed to share information, experiences, and technical expertise and to develop and standardise aquatic bio-security protocols. Member countries also provided the status of their respective arrangements and positions relating to the Long Line (LL) fishery.

(v) Presentations were made by partners on the current stock assessments for albacore and other target species for Long Line fishery and on the status of management arrangements for the southern albacore fishery. Members were updated on the available funds under a project supported by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) from a Global Environment Facility (GEF) allocated budget and how members could utilize it.

Members considered the status of management arrangements and proposed the way forward in managing the Southern Albacore fishery through a Statement of intent. It was proposed that the MSG Secretariat in collaboration with partners, consider a study to consider the implications of Long Line transhipment at designated ports and use findings from the proposed study to leverage their position with the realities of Long Line fishery at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting.

(vi) As a sub grouping, the FTAC agreed to enhance their collective collaboration in managing the Southern Albacore Fishery by maintaining their development aspirations and to develop management control measures for high seas and that albacore TRP should be adopted as soon as possible considering the best economic and biological advice.

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