Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 15th Forum Fisheries Committee Ministers Meeting (FFCMIN15) at the National Auditorium on Tuesday night, Puna, who is also the minister responsible for Marine Resources, said these were challenges that cannot be fully dealt with individually.
He said this week’s fisheries ministers meeting which started yesterday was important as the decisions made this week, will impact on how regional countries collectively approach critical matters.
In his statement, Puna reminded the participants the mission of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) which is “to drive regional cooperation to create, and enable, the maximum long term social and economic benefit, from the sustainable use of our shared offshore fishery resources”.
He also said since its inception in 1979, the FFA had embraced the principle of “strength through cooperation”.
“By working together as a region within the fisheries sector, the FFA and its many partners have continued to consolidate and improve the considerable benefits that our people enjoy, from their offshore tuna resources,” Puna said.
“Critically, the agency is working to ensure that this valuable tuna resource remains sustainably managed, so that future generations continue to benefit from this abundant, and yet vulnerable resource.”
The theme of this year’s meeting attended by the 17 member countries, including 12 government ministers, is “Our Moana, our fish, our future”.
Discussions on priority issues for enhanced regional cooperation in offshore fisheries, focusing on the sustainable management of the highly valuable tuna sector, will be the key agenda of the meeting, which ends later today.
“We meet here in Rarotonga, surrounded by our Blue Pacific Ocean, it is important to reflect that our work together is critical, not just for today, but it also sets in place a legacy, for all future generations,” Puna, who is chairing the meeting, said.
“As the coastal states and the custodians of our fisheries resources, we must continue to assert our rights, and advocate strongly for a zone-based management approach to our resources. This is not just a right, it is a duty, recalling that almost one third of the world’s tuna catch, is harvested in our own exclusive economic zones.
“It is in our own interest, and that of a sustainable fishery, that members continue to assert strongly a rights-based approach to fisheries management - and to take a firm and principled position, in respect of the management of our tuna resources. Zone-based management is a model that, in many ways, is increasingly the envy of other regions.”
From the government’s perspective, Puna said the Cook Islands reiterated its commitment to the goals and aspirations of the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Fisheries.
In addition, he said the Cook Islands especially supported the exploration of mechanisms, compatible with the Tokelau Arrangement, to enable greater national and regional benefit from the longline fishery.
“We look forward to further discussing all aspects of our collective regional management of this critical fishery, with the aim of agreeing a common approach, to strengthened regional cooperation.”