FFA director general James Movick and Australia’s Assistant Minister of Agriculture Anne Ruston signing the agreement in Raratonga

FFA director general James Movick and Australia’s Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Hon. Senator Anne Ruston, have signed a new 10-year partnership agreement at the annual Forum Fisheries Committee meeting at Rarotongain the Cook Islands.

In signing the new partnership agreement, James Movick noted that Australia was both an active member and a strong participant and financial supporter across a wide range of key Agency activities.

‘Our relationship with Australia is enduring and broad-based,’ he said. ‘Australia, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, provides in excess of A$5 million in annual financial support and the great majority of this permits us to make budgetary allocations in a very flexible way towards our highest priorities.’

‘Separate funding is also dedicated to advancing implementation of the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement which promotes interoperability, information exchange and collective regional actions against illegal fishing.’

Anne Ruston said that regional co-operation underpins Pacific fisheries management.

‘Fisheries are an important economic resource for Pacific Island nations, providing jobs and food security, and it is vital for the future of these 17 nations that this resource is managed sustainably,’ Minister Ruston said.

‘Individual nations working together will create the regional solidarity needed to ensure our fishing industries are acting with integrity. Australia is seeking regional support for our key priorities of improved management of important regional tuna stocks through harvest strategies and an effective and fair compliance monitoring scheme.’

James Movick said that this Australian Partnership assistance to FFA is separate from the substantial funding that Australia also provides to FFA members through FFA for regional fisheries surveillance activities, including the new civilian air surveillance programme under the Australian-funded Pacific Maritime Security Programme.

‘That Australian Defence funding of around A$15 million annually will enable FFA to deploy an additional 1400 hours of aerial surveillance through two dedicated King Air aircraft across the FFA region. This will not only be a major boost to our efforts to combat IUU fishing, but it will enhance the overall security of our region through greater Maritime Domain Awareness,’ he said, further noting that through the priorities identified within the FFA Annual Work Programme, Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources participated actively in FFA’s regional fisheries management processes and is a recognised leader in promoting the Harvest Strategy approach towards the sustainable management of vital offshore tuna stocks.

The new ten-year partnership agreement reflects this broad-based engagement.

Australia’s support for the agency reflects also the endorsement by Pacific Islands leaders in 2015 of the Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries.

The Roadmap identifies that the FFA member-country Pacific tuna fisheries are valued at around US$2.60 billion, earning close to US$500 million in access fees for Pacific island countries and providing 25,000 jobs. Sustainable fisheries offer one of the best opportunities to promote trade, strengthen government revenue and promote future food security within the region.

James Movick also thanked Australia for its Chairmanship of the Forum Fisheries Committee over the past twelve months, with the baton now passed on to the Cook Islands.

‘Australia’s principled and enthusiastic chairmanship of the FFC again demonstrates the strong and unique sense of regionalism and collaboration that typifies our work within the fisheries sector. I thank Australia sincerely for its broad-based and enduring support,’ he said.

‘I wish the newly appointed Director General of the FFA Secretariat, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, from Tonga, all the best in her new role—the first female to hold the position,’ Anne Ruston said.

Source: AFMA, FFA