The three-day meeting which concluded yesterday brought together Cook Islanders, leading non-government organisations, traditional leaders and select supply chain partners to start co-creating a path to market demand for Marae Moana-caught albacore that is “best-of-class” in quality, sustainability, social justice, cultural benefit, and price referred to as a Natural Currency Standard (NCS).
The “Co-creating our future tuna fisheries” meeting was opened by Prime Minister Henry Puna on Monday at the Muri Beach Club Hotel.
He said it is the first international gathering to be held to further develop Marae Moana - the multiple-use marine protected area over the entire Cook Islands marine space.
“In many ways this is an historical gathering. I believe that we all accept the world is changing. Most of us would say that unfortunately, and sadly, it’s changing for the worse, but optimists like me will always say we can change it for the better,” Puna said.
We have, over time, made many friends internationally and acquired new perspectives on how to do business. We have to find new ways of doing business with the changing times.”
PM Puna said developing an NCS would create more value from the nation’s tuna resource.
“We have a thriving tuna industry now. Above all, we are managing our tuna resources sustainably. We are actually allowing for the harvest of just a tiny fraction of what the scientists tell us is our sustainable limit.”
He said the next step is creating a “gold” standard that takes into account all aspects of the tuna supply chain.
Puna said he was impressed with Iceland’s use of technology and innovation in its cod fishery when he was there in 2017 for the Arctic Circle Assembly. He said the close collaboration between government, private sector and civil society in Iceland was vital in transforming their fishery.
The prime minister acknowledged the participation of members of the Marae Moana Council and Technical Advisory Group, government agencies, traditional leaders, the private sector and NGOs, along with leading global experts in this week’s workshop.
The initiative for NCS for Pacific tuna came from Nia Tero, a global collaboration to advance indigenous peoples and local community stewardship of vital ecosystems, with the support of Walmart.
Chief executive officer and founder of Blu Skye Consulting, Jib Ellison, began the facilitation of the workshop noting that the Cook Islands NCS is one of the most exciting developments taking place on earth today.
Day one of the workshop began with a presentation from Walmart’s senior vice president of Global Sustainability, Laura Phillips, via video conference on how they source their tuna supply.
“At Walmart we are working really hard across our business to invest in the tuna supply chain. Tuna is a really important product category,” said Phillips.
She said challenges in the supply chain include environmental, stability of the supply and many social and economic issues.
“It’s really hard, there’s no silver bullet – no one answer. We have made progress, but there’s a lot more work to do. It’s going to be really interesting to have a test case for what a truly more sustainable commodity can be.”
The Cook Islands NCS is being developed in line with one of Marae Moana’s 13 policy objectives “to pursue opportunities to make optimum economic use of marine resources whilst ensuring ecological sustainability and social development”.
The development of the standard will include market accreditation for seafood exports, the maintenance of public consultation in any development, and a shared responsibility and management between agencies, aronga mana (traditional community leaders) and other stakeholders involved in the industry.
Of great importance during its development is the consideration of Cook Islands culture.
The three-day workshop was facilitated by Blu Skye Consulting, andsupported by Conservation International, Nia Tero, and Emerson Collective.