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Pacific to gain from FFA’s new-look centre

Thursday 8 October 2015 | Published in Regional


HONIARA – Fisheries surveillance work at the Pacific’s Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre (RFSC) in the Solomon Islands has been refreshed with a high-tech makeover thanks to a two-month A$100,000 refurbishment funded by Australia.

The new look, involving a vast screen bank, enhanced computing power and increased number of workstations was unveiled last week.

Australia’s High Commissioner to the Solomons Andrew Byrne led ribbon cutting duties with Captain Andrew Freeman, a member of the visiting course from the Australian Defence Forces’ Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies.

High Commissioner Byrne noted the long history of support from Australia of core, project work led by the Forum Fisheries Agency stems from the importance his country places on fisheries on tuna stocks, and the jobs and revenues generated in this area.

“The work that happens here at FFA and through the surveillance operations in the sky and on the water is protecting the revenue of governments in the Pacific.

“This work is effectively helping to pay for schools, roads, medicines and hospitals right throughout the region – so the FFA does more than manage a fisheries stock, it helps Pacific countries deliver better services to their people.”

He says Australia has been “a very proud supporter of FFA for a very long time.”

Australia has been a key donor to maritime and fisheries patrol assets for Pacific nations, through funding of the patrol boat programme two decades ago, and is now funding a new multi-million dollar replacement programme to ensure vessels used during surveillance operations are able to keep up with the tasks of at-sea boardings and inspections.

Byrne said the FFA “is an iconic regional institution, providing the outcomes of regional cooperation for effective management of the Pacific’s shared natural resource – its tuna”.

Extending appreciation to Australia for providing the renovation support for the upgrade, FFA’s Director General James Movick noted the growth of the region’s monitoring and surveillance capabilities in the last decade, especially with the inception of the RFSC.

“Australia has long been a welcome partner for the Pacific nations when it comes to strengthening Pacific eyes on our tuna resources, both as a founding member of FFA, and through innovative injections of funding as seen in this refurbishment.

“We can now accommodate a larger team of Pacific watch keepers during surveillance operations, and the upgrade strengthens what we already have while providing a good environment for introducing more new technologies to ensure we provide the region with the best possible service,” he says.

During the launch formalities, FFA’s Deputy Director General Wez Norris had noted the investment and high level of ownership and activity led by FFA’s members in the operations of the centre.

“The systems that have been built really are world class and there are very few examples of regional systems around the world that provide this level of fisheries data integration and service to members,” he said.

“Importantly, everything you see is owned by the countries themselves – the Pacific countries own the data that comes into the centre, they own the information products that this centre pushes out, and most importantly, they own the systems themselves.”

Papua New Guinea’s High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands Fred Yakasa made some brief remarks on behalf of FFA’s member countries.

“This is what we need, and we’re thankful for the assistance, and the people who make it all happen here and push out the reports and do all this for us,” he said.

New Zealand’s High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands Marion Crawshaw, the US Consular to the Solomon Islands Keithie Saunders, and SPC’s Country Office Director Mia Rimon were amongst the diplomatic and CROP officials present.

Special thanks were also extended to the people of the Solomon Islands and Government for hosting the regional agency and Fisheries Surveillance Centre.

Representing the Solomon Islands Government, Minister of Police, National Security and Correctional Services Commins Menata and Fisheries Ministry staff were special guests.

Visiting defence officials from Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam, were also at the special launch.