Four years ago they tasked the Forum Fisheries Agency with enhancing cooperation in fisheries surveillance and law enforcement against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Today, Pacific Forum leaders celebrated the entry into force of a one-stop multilateral text aimed at achieving that–the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement, or NTSA.
Forum leaders witnessed the handover today by leaders from Samoa and Vanuatu of their instruments of ratification to the NTSA. The agreement provides a robust, legal framework for countries to share resources and exchange fisheries data and intelligence to step up efficiency and save costs when it comes to monitoring fishing vessels in Pacific waters.
The ratifications, added to those of the Cook Islands, Nauru and Palau, take the NTSA across the line and into effect, meaning it now has binding legal force in the five countries who have ratified it.
Receiving the ratifications, Forum Fisheries Director General James Movick thanked all countries involved in progressing the NTSA into force.
The ratifications from Samoa and Vanuatu followed another milestone moment, the signing on of New Zealand to the NTSA. Other signatories are Australia, Cook Islands, FSM, Nauru, Niue, Palau, PNG, Marshall Islands, Samoa, and Tuvalu.
“This is a significant milestone for the region, further recognising that our strength is in our cooperation as we continue to maximise the benefits from our fisheries resources and work together to protect those valuable resources,” Director-General Movick said.
He noted the work involved in the NTSA’s four-year journey, from its conceptual beginnings towards adoption and launch for signatures in November 2012. Since then, it had been a core focus of outreach led by the Forum Fisheries Agency legal team, and gained three more signatories at the July FFC 10th Ministerial in Tokelau.
In his remarks to today’s ceremony, the FFA Director General congratulated leaders of all FFA member countries, “and in particular our signatories, and the parties to this Agreement – the Honourable Leaders from the Cook Islands, Nauru, Palau, Samoa and Vanuatu – for your leadership in ratifying this important Agreement. We have 11 signatories and 5 parties and we look forward to other FFA members becoming parties.”
The Director General noted the special significance of Palau’s hosting of the event, as Palau was also the first country to ratify the NTSA, and he thanked Australia for its funding support covering intensive in-country training workshops, consultations, and legislation reviews. More assistance from FFA for those countries still wanting to join the NTSA, move towards ratification, and ongoing implementation, would mark the next steps for the NTSA, he said.
The FFA Director-General also thanked Pacific Forum Leaders “for continuing to explicitly recognise the significance of fisheries resources as a major source of food and income for our people and as a key driver for sustainable economic development;”
He pointed to a “consistent call” from Forum leaders over the years “for optimum benefits from regional fisheries resources, their sustainable conservation and management, and their protection”.
“At the same time, we continue to be challenged by illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU fishing), which greatly impedes full realisation of these goals. Hence, we recall our Leaders’ recognition that in order to combat IUU fishing and protect the region’s fisheries resources, there is a clear need to strengthen our current surveillance and enforcement mechanisms.”