Pacific leaders make oceans declaration

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 08:16 01/08/2014
Pacific Forum
AIMEE GULLIVER

OCEAN PEOPLE: Palau President Tommy Remengesau emphasises the importance of marine conservation to all Pacific people at the Pacific Islands Forum.

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Pacific leaders have made a declaration on oceans, determined the fate of Fiji, and elected a new leader for the region's representative group.

At the leaders retreat at the Pacific Islands Forum in Palau, members yesterday called on regional and global partners to implement ways to address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

Pacific Island countries suffer significant losses as a result of unauthorised fishing in their territorial waters.

Tuna valued at more than US$3.3 billion (NZ$3.9 billion) was harvested from Pacific waters last year, but only 14 per cent of that value - about US$460 million - made it back to Pacific nations.

Enhanced regional co-ordination and co-operation in fisheries surveillance and law enforcement was needed, the Palau declaration said.

Sharing fisheries data and intelligence, along with implementation of enforcement measures, would ensure countries in the region got their fair share of economic returns on tuna harvested from their waters.

At the forum this week, Foreign Minister Murray McCully pledged an extra NZ$4.6 million in funding to improve the management of fisheries information in the region, on top of NZ$66m already committed over the next five years for fisheries management and development in the Pacific.

Leaders also emphasised the importance of having a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on oceans.

Oceans is one of 17 draft goals proposed by the United Nations Open Working Group on sustainable development goals, to replace the Millenium Development Goals which expire in 2015.

The Palau Declaration would be actively promoted at the Small Island Developing States conference in Samoa in September, and at United Nations summits to highlight the importance of the Pacific Ocean to economies, societies, culture and environmental integrity.

Pacific leaders also announced Fiji's automatic readmission to the forum if elections to be held there in September are determined to be free and fair.

Fiji was suspended from the forum in 2009 after the military seized power in a coup and then-Commodore Frank Bainimarama was installed as interim prime minister.

McCully said all indications were that the elections in September would be free and fair.

A new secretary general of the Pacific Island Forum secretariat was also elected by member states.

Dame Meg Taylor from Papua New Guinea will be the first woman to head the forum.

Taylor, a lawyer and diplomat, will serve three years in the position as the head of the 16-member regional organisation.

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