The countries that participated in last week’s inaugural Pacific Bêche-de-mer and the Future of Coastal Fisheries Meeting have turned their focus to the next steps they will take to address the threats posed to food security, livelihoods and biodiversity.
The meeting, held in Nadi, Fiji, heard that overfishing, population growth, rapid urbanization, habitat degradation and climate charge are all leading to a ‘perfect storm’ for coastal fisheries in the Pacific Islands region, which means that many Pacific Island countries and territories will need to find alternative sources of protein for their population within the next two decades.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Ministers representing Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu signed an agreement calling for action on threats to bêche-de-mer and other coastal fisheries in the region.
The key elements of the agreement included implementing stronger coastal fisheries management regimes at a national level, harmonizing regional frameworks for coastal fisheries, and cooperating on management of bêche-de-mer resources. A regional initiative that helps achieve sustainable management of bêche-de-mer resources will be investigated, with willing countries working together to share information and data on buyers and identify market mechanisms to improve the value of the product to Pacific Island countries. Participating countries committed to hold this meeting in early 2015.
Papua New Guinea has offered to hold a follow-up ministerial meeting on coastal fisheries in 2015, where the participating countries will report on their individual and collective progress, as well as actions from the bêche-de-mer meeting and the regional review called for in that meeting. In addition, several countries will seek to improve coastal fishery management at the national level.
Vanuatu’s Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Hon. Butulso David Tosul, spoke about the national coastal fisheries workshop that will be held to continue the momentum from the meeting in Nadi.
“Without this meeting [Pacific Bêche-de-mer and the Future of Coastal Fisheries Meeting], we wouldn’t be thinking about coastal fisheries, which are so important for our people and their livelihoods. We will be working together to have a national workshop in Vanuatu on coastal fisheries specifically. Out of that workshop, I really want to develop our policies on coastal fisheries. Our specialists will help to develop that policy” said Minister Tosul.
Marshall Islands’ Minister of Transport & Communication, Hon. Thomas Heine, who was representing the Minister of Resources and Development at the meeting, also spoke about how the meeting helped to turn the focus onto coastal fisheries.
“In my opinion, we haven’t given our full attention to bêche-de-mer and coastal fisheries. We haven’t understood the positive and negative effects for our people. The outcomes of this meeting will give us guidelines for how we can manage bêche-de-mer. We have done some coastal fisheries studies – coastal fisheries are a necessity for our people, and we’re trying to help them. This forum has allowed us to meet with the experts, and it is great to have more information” said Minister Heine.
All the participating countries are now working towards delivering on the outcomes of the meeting.