Helen Clark: Introductory Remarks at Screening Event of 'Saving our Tuna' at UN International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Sep 1, 2014

I am delighted to introduce “Saving our Tuna” - a Discovery Channel Asia/UNDP documentary about a five billion dollar global industry which is vital to the livelihoods of so many here in the Pacific.

The West and Central Pacific Ocean holds the world’s largest stocks of tuna, as well as globally important stocks of sharks, billfish, whales, and scores of other marine mammals and turtle species The Small Island Developing States in the Pacific are custodians of much of this forty million square kilometre area – about eight per cent of the Earth’s surface – underscoring that the Pacific SIDS are, as they increasingly refer to themselves, Large Ocean States.

Tuna fisheries account for up to eighty per cent of exports, an average of ten per cent of GDP, and five per cent of wage-paying jobs for Pacific Island Countries.  Each year, about two million metric tons of tuna are caught in the Pacific - about half of the world’s overall tuna catch.

“Saving Our Tuna” documents how the tuna industry is using new technologies to find and catch more tuna than ever.  But it also shows how new technologies are being used to monitor and regulate the catch, and how ecosystem-based approaches are being used to set sustainable catch limits. 

The United Nations Development Programme together with the Global Environment Facility, the Forum Fisheries Agency, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and other partners, has supported efforts by fourteen Pacific Island countries to improve the management of tuna and other ocean resources in the Pacific since the 1990s.

One of the key outcomes of this co-operation has been the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean which came into force ten years ago. This landmark convention promotes the long-term sustainability of the tuna catch through a robust monitoring, compliance, and enforcement mechanism. It is complemented by the application of innovative economic instruments, such as the Vessel Day Scheme developed by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA). The Convention represents one of the most advanced cases of implementation of the UN’s Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement.

I was very pleased to see announcements made last month by Australia and New Zealand to give further funding support to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community for the ongoing regional efforts to develop, manage, and secure valuable tuna stocks. It will also be used to strengthen the collection, analysis, and sharing of fisheries data to support fisheries science and law enforcement.

These initiatives are reflected in this movie, which aired across Asia on World Oceans Day on June 8 this year on the Discovery Channel. It shows how the oceans are sending us warning signals about the finite nature of valuable marine resources, and how regional and international organizations are supporting Pacific Island nations to ensure the long-term sustainability of the tuna resources. As consumers of globally traded commodities such as tuna, it is ultimately up to all of us to take action to preserve the livelihoods, economies, and vital ecosystems of the western Pacific.

Before the film showing begins, I would like to invite His Excellency, Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr., President of the Republic of Palau and Chair of the Pacific Island Forum, to make brief remarks.

Thank you, and I hope you will enjoy the screening.

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