Kiribati minister makes heartfelt plea to global fishing powers in a bid for better understanding

by Pita Ligaiula | 4 December 2017 | News

Round the plenary: the WCPFC annual session provides time for commission members to raise general concerns at their opening sessions before the business of talking through an intense agenda of tuna conservation and management talks begins.

Pita Ligaiula, PacNEWS

3 Dec 2017, WCPFC14, Manila— Kiribati’s Fisheries Minister has used his opening statement to 14th Western Central Pacific Commission (WCPFC) to highlight the importance of high-seas and FAD (fish aggregating device) fishing for his country.

Fisheries Minister and Marine Resources Development Tetabo Nakara explained his country has little land but a massive 200-mile ocean-based Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of about 3.5 million square kilometres.

So huge are the ocean distances between Kiribati’s three Island groups that each has a separate EEZ with large areas of high seas in between.

“We in Kiribati have no land-based natural resources available as a means of stable and secure livelihood for our people as our lands are made of poor coralline soils thus prompting Kiribati to look elsewhere for a sustainable source of revenue,” Nakara said.

“Our vast non-contiguous EEZs is our only viable source of economic survival and stability.

Mr Nakara stressed the importance of right to fish on the high seas for Kiribati and the impact the annual three-month closure of FAD fishing has on Kiribati’s domestic economy.

“Access fees from tuna fishing contributes more than 80% toward the total Government’s annual expenditure that supports, amongst others, crucial funding for our education system, medical care, other basic needs that the Government is obligated to deliver as services to its 110,000 inhabitants, as well as salaries of Government civil servant,” Nakara told members of the Commission.

He said Kiribati has managed to set up a tuna processing plant and it creates employment for the people in the island nation.

“This processing plant provides employment opportunities, through tuna loin processing, tuna fishing, tuna marketing, to name a few, not just for those in the urban areas of Kiribati but also for those living in rural areas.

“Like all processing plants, our small tuna processing plant cannot operate without having in place a consistent and reliable supply of raw materials. With a few domestic fishing vessels, Kiribati is struggling to meet the raw materials needed to viably operate this tuna-loin processing plant.

“Imagine then, what the likely ramifications will be if our domestic fishing vessels are further restricted from fishing on FADS for 12 months in addition to the 3 months that we have been able to tolerate over the years, or if they are deprived of fishing tuna in the adjacent high seas?,” he asked.

Nakara said this clearly demonstrates that tuna is of paramount importance for the viability of Kiribati sustainable development for its future generation.

Kirbati has done much to protect tuna.

“In safeguarding this valuable resource, Kiribati unanimously closed off 11% of its combined EEZ area, known as the Phoenix Island Protected Area (PIPA).

PIPA was formally gazetted in 2006, and extended in 2008 to become (at the time) the largest Marine Protected Area in the world, with an ocean surface area of over 408,000 square kilometres.

The results of the various oceanographic expeditions and research surveys conducted in this closed area where commercial fishing is forbidden, illustrates that it acts as an important spawning ground for tuna and other marine resources.

Mr Nakara told the Tuna Commission Kiribati regards the high seas pockets between its EEZs as part of its planned fishing areas.

He called for more understanding of Kiribati’s special circumstances as a struggling small economy and asked that his country not be asked to take on a disproportionate financial burden as a result of rules decided by the WCPFC.–ENDS