South Pacific Forum Fisheries Committee Meets in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

Pohnpei, FSM (Pacific Island Forum): May 6, 2002 - The annual session of the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC) for 2002, which is the fifty- first meeting of the Committee, was officially opened today at the College of Micronesia Friendship Center by the Vice President of the Federated States of Micronesia, Honorable Mr. Redley Killion.

In opening the meeting, the Vice President took the opportunity to thank the Forum Fisheries Committee for their collective support in Madang, Papua New Guinea for the Federated States of Micronesia application to host a new Tuna Commission in the region and promised that the Federated States of Micronesia would do whatever is within its means to provide for and facilitate the opening of the Commission's headquarters.

Representatives of the member countries of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) will meet over the coming week to discuss and make decisions on matters over a range of fisheries management issues. They will also address regular administrative items in relation to budget and the ongoing work program for the Agency.

The Federated States of Micronesia has assumed the Chair from the Cook Islands, who hosted last years' annual session at Rarotonga in May 2001.

Mr. Bernard Thoulag, Executive Director of the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority for the Federated States of Micronesia, has taken over from Mr. Alavaa Navy Epati, the Secretary for Marine Resources of the Cook Islands, as the new Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee.

During the week, the Committee will focus on the ongoing negotiations in the series of preparatory conferences that are addressing the establishment of a new regional Tuna Management Commission. The Western and Central Pacific Tuna Convention, which will establish a new Tuna Commission for the region, was negotiated over a period of six years and was concluded in Honolulu, Hawai'i in September 2000. The preparatory conferences are being undertaken to establish the Commission itself and more importantly to commence without delay provisional management arrangements for the responsible management of tuna stocks in the western and central Pacific.

Both FFA member countries and distant water fishing nations (DWFN) that fish in the region participate in the preparatory conferences. The Committee will take the time in its weeklong deliberations to find areas of common agreement with which to present a untied front in the ongoing work at the preparatory conferences.

The Committee agreed to support the Federated States of Micronesia's offer to host the Tuna Commission at their last meeting prior to the second preparatory conference held at Madang, Papua New Guinea in February this year.

The selection of a venue for the Commission will be a matter for the next preparatory conference, which is to be held at Manila, Philippines in November this year.

The Committee would also consider matters relating to fisheries management measures within the waters of their member countries. These include the development of national tuna management plans and the proper coordination of monitoring, control and surveillance measures that are critical to any fisheries management regime.

The member countries of the FFA are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

A formal application for membership of FFA by Tokelau, presently a territory of New Zealand, was considered by the Committee. The Committee agreed to support the application by Tokelau, which requires endorsement by the Pacific Islands Forum. This will make Tokelau the seventeenth member country of FFA.

Forum Fisheries Agency
PO Box 629
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Phone: +(677) 21124
Fax:+(677) 23995