Noumea, New Caledonia – Over 60 technical Fisheries and Aquaculture Officers from 20 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) met this week in Noumea to discuss ways to continue developing the growing aquaculture sector and to address crucial coastal fisheries issues, with the objective of strengthening food and nutrition security for the people of the Pacific.
“This participative process is crucial to continue improving the effectiveness of our members’ fisheries and aquaculture management systems” said Dr Andrew Smith, the SPC’s deputy director for Coastal Fisheries. “The SPC Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division is providing technical expertise to make sure that all stakeholders involved in the Pacific fisheries and aquaculture sectors have access to best practice techniques and information to manage their coastal fisheries” he added.
During the three-day meeting, the participants had the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences on innovative technologies and approaches to process fisheries data so that decision makers have reliable information to develop their fisheries policies. The draft Regional Action Plan on Aquatic Biosecurity, which aims to minimize biological risks in aquatic environments, such as the risk of aquatic diseases or aquatic invasive species, was also discussed. A session on community-based fisheries management has also been held during this meeting, allowing the participants to explore ways to scale-up successful approaches at the national level.
“This is an important exercise for SPC member countries to come together for discussing and exchanging about key fisheries issues for the region ” said Tooreka TEEMARI, from Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development.
During this meeting, a regional online database on coastal fisheries and aquaculture law and policy, called REEFLEX, has been presented. REEFLEX is, so far, the largest online comparative tool for coastal fisheries law and policy in the Pacific Island region. It offers different tools to search and compare regulations and management measures between all PICTs.
“This innovative online application allows users to compare, for instance, minimum catch sizes or fishing seasons for a great number of marine species found in the coastal waters of Pacific island nations,” said Florence Edwards, Deputy Director for Coastal and Community Affairs in Marshall Islands.
Coastal fisheries consisting of subsistence, artisanal and commercial fisheries, aquaculture and mariculture are the most important sector in PICTs economies. Lack of information makes these fisheries invisible in terms of their economic importance, their contribution to local livelihoods, and the need for their management.
Overall, half of the population of the Pacific resides within 10 km of the coast and about 80 percent of the Pacific region’s coastal fishery production of around 100,000 tonnes annually is used for subsistence. Given the growing population with improved technologies and capabilities and increased coastal development, it is crucial that the management of coastal fisheries resources be seriously pursued. Coastal fisheries are critical for national self-sufficiency and food security and therefore must be managed to ensure that optimum fisheries production is obtained sustainably from healthy and vibrant resources.
At the end of this regional meeting, the participants will come up with a series of strategic and targeted actions and evidence-based recommendations that will be presented during the SPC Heads of Fisheries meeting, to be held in March next year. (SPC)