Illegal fisheries threat in Pacific

By Ripeka Timutimu

Pacific leaders are joining forces in the battle against illegal fishing that's taking a whopping $850million dollars’ worth of fish from their waters. Our reporter Ripeka Timutimu is in Pohnpei in Micronesia where leaders from around the Pacific have gathered for the 47th Pacific Islands Forum.

PM John Key says the cost of illegal fishing to tuna fishery is huge, so it’s become New Zealand's priority to help countries better monitor fish catches in port. Key says vessels are transferring catches from boat to boat ensuring they under-report their catch. Pacific leaders want that practice wiped out.

Despite the leaders arriving one by one, they were united in their position on illegal fishing.

Key says, “It's a massive fishery, worth billions, it's the big issue of a combination of big boats where they are legal but it's the misreporting.”

Tuvalu PM Enele Sopoaga says, “The management of fisheries resources is critical, it is a key issue and a priority in a newly developed strategy for sustainable management. Our waters is the basis of life in Tuvalu.”

Although leaders appeared to be relaxed today, there's still a lot of work ahead.

Federated States of Micronesia spokesperson Eugene Pangelinan says, “The president right now is considering enacting legislation to extend 12 mile territorial sea which is a no fishing area for another 12 miles, that would basically extend the area to 10% of our EEZ and be reserved for our local fisherman.”

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna said the quota management system in New Zealand struck a good balance between commercial and cultural interests in the fishery.

“We think it's the way to go in terms of the sustainable management of our resources but also ensuring that the returns are fair and equitable to the country and its people.”

“We are encouraging fisher folk to go out to their local tuna fishery in their territorial waters and relieve the pressure on their coastal communities in terms of their reef stocks and all that. I think there is a lot of work being done around,” says Pangelinan.

Monitoring of the fishery will continue through the Pacific Island Forum Fishing Agency.