Ministers from 17 Pacific nations have converged on the Solomon Islands to attend the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Ministerial Workshop, aimed at strengthening sustainable fisheries management in the region.
Speaking in Honiara ahead of the workshop, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston said it provided an opportunity to work with regional neighbours to maximise the economic and social benefits of the world's largest tuna fishery.
"The Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery is the largest in the world, with almost 60 per cent of the global catch of albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin caught in the region," Minister Ruston said.
"In 2015, the global catch of tuna totalled 2.7 million tonnes and was valued at around US$4.8 billion. Of this, almost half of the catch value was caught in the waters of FFA members."
Ministers attending the workshop will discuss a number of complex matters, including how to monitor, control and survey the fishery to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the region, while ensuring the benefits goes towards fishers who do the right thing.
"This workshop will assist member nations to develop and manage the fishery to harvest, process and market tuna, at the same time creating jobs, generating income and supporting a thriving industry that will provide tuna now and in the future," Minister Ruston said.
The FFA's 17 Pacific Island members consist of Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The FFA is an advisory body providing expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make sovereign decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management through agencies such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
From May 2017, Australia will commence as chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee and will host the upcoming FFC Ministers in July 2017 in Canberra.