Fiji is on the brink of adopting its first National Fisheries Policy that will provide an overarching framework explaining how Fiji will manage its fisheries. The Honourable Minister for Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau explains in the foreword to the draft policy that the purpose of the National Fisheries Policy is to "provide a clear and unequivocal policy that will provide direction for the development and management of Fiji's fisheries."
In this bulletin we provide a brief update on the National Fisheries Policy and how it intends to assist in the management of Fiji's fisheries across the 3 fisheries sectors being: Offshore, Inshore and Aquaculture.
At the final round of consultations on the National Fisheries Policy held in Suva on 17-18 November 2016, and led by the Ministry for Fisheries, this considerable achievement was expressly recognised by facilitator Pio Manoa, a legal officer with the Food and Agriculture Organisation and an expert in oceans law and policy with a wealth of experience in the Pacific region.
The achievement of creating Fiji’s first National Fisheries Policy is testament to the leadership and vision of the Minister and officers from the Ministry for Fisheries, and to the dedication of the team of experts who led the consultations. This expert team were assisted by the Director of Fisheries, George Madden and several senior Fisheries officers. The final consultation for 2016 was opened by the Honourable Minister for Fisheries and the expert consultation team included Ian Freeman, a fisheries adviser at the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and Ian Bertram a coastal fisheries science and management adviser with the Pacific Community.
Mr Freeman explained that the emergence of Fiji’s National Fisheries Policy had encompassed 14 months, involved 4 separate stakeholder consultations, and one cyclone, TC Winston, which had not so much moved the goalposts for the team but “blown them over”.
Non-governmental organisations and civil society were invited to attend the final consultation from 2pm to 5pm on 17 November and this consultation was opened and closed by the Director of Fisheries. Separate consultation time slots were provided for government agencies and statutory bodies, fishing industry members and the aquaculture sector.
The National Fisheries Policy will cover all 3 identified fisheries sectors: Offshore fisheries, inshore fisheries, and the aquaculture sector. The consultation team explained that the National Fisheries Policy was an overarching document that explained how Fiji would manage its fisheries, while more specific details would appear in implementation plans that would be made in accordance with the National Fisheries Policy. Presentations by officers from the Ministry for Fisheries took participants through each of the sectors and following the sector presentation time was provided for participant input through questions and answers facilitated and responded to by Mr Manoa, Mr Freeman and Mr Betram.
During the consultation, Mr Freeman confirmed that this was the last opportunity to be consulted on the National Fisheries Policy before it was finalised and launched early in 2017. However, in response to timing concerns and due to some confusion around whether the latest draft National Fisheries Policy was before participants, Mr Freeman provided an additional 14 days for written submissions. The participants were grateful for this additional time, and Mr Manoa added that it was important to get the National Fisheries Policy right first time around.
The consultancy team presented on what was referred to as version 6 of the National Fisheries Policy and following comments across all 3 sectors from participants, the document will be updated by the consultancy team and version 7 will be circulated for final comments.
The version that was reviewed contained a vision and a mission.
Vision: “Sustainable, well-managed fisheries that provide long-term economic, social, ecological and food security benefits to Fijian communities and future generations.”
Mission: “Use participative approaches to provide transparent and accountable fisheries management and development services, as a trusted provider, to achieve a healthy ecosystem, economic growth, food security and sustainable livelihoods.”
The National Fisheries policy set out principles that included the need for the involvement of women in fisheries, co-management of fisheries, empowered coastal communities and sustainable management of fisheries and 11 key policy goals and a number of cross cutting issues and strategies that it will aim to meet across all 3 sectors and address identified issues in each sector.
The thrust of these key policy goals is to achieve sustainable management of fisheries in compliance with national and international legal frameworks, allow for the collection of data and use of innovative and adaptive management techniques that respond to existential threats like climate change and natural disasters within an overall environment that is collaborative, transparent, consultative, fair and accountable.
From a legal and governance perspective, the impressive achievement of Fiji’s first National Fisheries Policy will provide clearer direction for fisheries management decisions, and the collaborative and consultative approach bodes well for an area that contains a complex mix of existing commercial and traditional rights.
While the adoption of the National Fisheries Policy will be a big step in the right direction for Fiji the Honourable Minister for Fisheries was quick to point out that his recent and comprehensive review of the state of Fiji's fisheries has revealed some big challenges for Fiji and his Ministry going forward, and these include: overfishing, illegal activities and enforcement challenges. The Honourable Minister is determined to get the Ministry for Fisheries ready to meet the multiple challenges it will face in 2017, and encourages all stakeholders to support the vision set out in Fiji’s National Fisheries Policy.
[Fish market, Labasa, Vanua Levu, November 2016]
This bulletin first appeared in our December pdf Legal Bulletin and is reproduced here.
This legal bulletin is provided for general information purposes only and it is not, and should not be relied on as, legal advice.