Attention on tuna shifts focus away from coastal fisheries

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Island Sun Newspaper, Pacific Islands

MORE attention on the tuna industry has shifted the global focus away from the very issue at the centre of livelihoods of Pacific Island nations.

Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Dr Colin Tukuitonga said coastal fishery should be at the forefront of ocean conservation for island nations.

“Much attention has been on tuna but the big issue for our Pacific communities is coastal fisheries,” he told Pacific delegates at the opening of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Ocean conservation is one of the key issues discussed at the IUCN Congress which the United States of America (USA) is hosting for the first time in the State of Hawaii.

Dr Tukuitonga was re-emphasising the need for ocean conservation which was discussed by Pacific Islands’ leaders earlier during the opening of the IUCN Congress.

“Coastal fisheries provide 90% of protein for Pacific Islands’ people.”

He added coastal fisheries are the primary and secondary source of food and income for half of the households in the rural Pacific Islands countries.

“It plays a cultural, social and economic significance to us Pacific people,” Dr Tukuitonga said.

Coastal fisheries refer to marine products within the reefs and mangroves that people depend on for their livelihoods and sell for monetary benefits.

However, Dr Tukuitonga noted the fish population, shells and crabs and the whole coastal fisheries are declining in the Pacific.

“So we need to manage these coastal fisheries products.”

He suggested that focusing on people and their health as one solution to help conserve coastal fisheries.

“We must focus on our people and encourage them to live and eat healthy food. What is the use of pristine environment without people?

“(Eat) fresh fish as oppose to tinned fish.”

The SPC Director reiterated that SPC including other regional organisations such as the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) are all working in partnership to manage coastal fisheries.

“Coastal fishery is crucial to us because our people depend on it for their livelihoods, so I call for more coordinated effort for coastal management.

“Many (Pacific) communities have their own effective ways of managing their coastal resources, but community based management must be collaboration between scientists and the communities themselves.”

SPC is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, supporting development since 1947. It is an international development organisation owned and governed by our 26 countries and territory members.

Its mission is working for the well-being of Pacific people through the effective and innovative application of science and knowledge, guided by a deep understanding of Pacific Island contexts and cultures.