Blue Economy Webinar: Boosting trade and investment in the Pacific fishing sector

  • Speech, check against delivery
26 October 2021

Good morning and thank you for the kind invitation to speak to you today.

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Australia Pacific Island Business Council only a few weeks ago with Minister Dan Tehan about how PACER Plus can help us boost business opportunities in the region.

What was very clear from that discussion was the shared commitment to work together to grow our economies and businesses, create jobs, and foster innovation and opportunity across the Pacific region.

And today's topic – boosting trade and investment in the Pacific fishing sector – is one of the best ways we have to achieve this.

The importance of the Blue Economy for our Pacific partners, and for Australia, simply cannot be overstated.

The health, sustainability and security of our great Pacific Ocean is crucial to the future development of our region.

The ocean feeds our communities.

It helps grow our economies.

And it's a source of great pride and cultural significance for our countries.

Which is why the protection, preservation and sustainable management of our Pacific environment and marine resources is so important…
…it's a priority for the Australian Government, and I know it's a core focus for our Pacific family.

The fisheries sector is central to our Blue Economy, and is an economic enabler for our region.

Fisheries within the waters of Pacific Island Forum countries constitute, on average, around 16 per cent of domestic revenue…
…with that figure reaching as high as 75 per cent of GDP for Kiribati, and 58 per cent for Tuvalu.

Tuna fisheries in the western Pacific, in particular, are the most productive in the world, producing over 3 million tonnes of sustainable seafood each year, worth over USD$6 billion annually.

Through effective regional cooperation, Pacific Governments have already increased their share of revenue from tuna licence fees from around US$100 million in 2009 to US$550 million in 2019.

This is a great achievement and is a credit to the leadership of the Pacific island fisheries authorities, as well as the support of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency, and the Pacific Community.

And there is more opportunity to build on this and further grow the industry through local processing, increasing exports, promoting locally-based businesses, and employment on fishing vessels.

But, as we know, the industry faces challenges.

COVID-19 has impacted supply chains and exports, put pressure on businesses, and cost jobs.  Climate change modelling predicts further changes impacting on fish stocks.

Pacific communities are contending with a projected decline in coastal fisheries production of 20 per cent by 2050…
…which means Pacific communities will need to make greater domestic use of tuna for food security.

It's estimated that up to 10 per cent of tuna total catch in our region will be needed to feed Pacific people by 2035.

For these reasons, the Australian Government is absolutely committed to supporting a strong future for the fisheries industry in the Pacific…
…and we're doing this in a number of different ways.

First, we're working directly with Pacific Governments, communities and international organisations on local programs to protect and promote trade and investment in a sustainable fishing industry.

In Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, for example, we're investing a further $10 million to help build coastal resilience to external threats such as climate change and illegal fishing…
…this builds on the $8 million in funding committed over the last four years.   

We're providing $5 million in core funding each year to the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency to support sustainable offshore fisheries management, development and compliance.

Australia is providing $3 million each year to the SPC for scientific and technical advice on oceanic fisheries stock assessments…
…as well as supporting countries with coastal fisheries and aquaculture scientific advice and management.

And we're working with the International Organisation for Migration and the Forum Fisheries Agency to ensure good labour conditions on fishing vessels, and protect the rights of offshore tuna fishing workers in the Pacific.

Second, Australia is supporting Pacific countries to establish their maritime zones in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea…
…and working with our neighbours to maintain maritime zones established in accordance with UNCLOS in the face of climate change-related sea-level rise.

Third, we know the security of our oceans is absolutely essential for the future of the fishing industry.

Australia's A$2 billion Pacific Maritime Security Program is providing Guardian-class patrol boats to Pacific countries to improve maritime surveillance and sovereign capability across our region. 

Australia has already delivered twelve Guardian-class patrol boats to Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, and Palau.

Fourth, we need to protect the precious biodiversity of the Pacific, which underpins the sustainability of the fishing industry.

Australia is investing over $6 million in Fiji and Papua New Guinea to build capability for management of coastal blue carbon ecosystems, and to tap into carbon markets and financing for blue carbon conservation and restoration.

We're investing more than $3 million in the ReefCloud platform to help coral reef mangers assess the condition of coral reefs and to take appropriate management actions.

This is innovative technology and the first of its kind globally.

And we are funding a new $9.5 million nature-based solutions program, which will ramp up the conservation and restoration of natural ecosystems in the Pacific…
…this will simultaneously reduce emissions and provide livelihood and disaster protection benefits to communities.

Fifth, Australia is working with Pacific partners to keep our oceans clean.

Our $16 million Pacific Ocean Litter Project is combating marine plastic pollution, and seeking to change the behaviour of plastic users, consumers and producers.

And finally, Australia is working with our Pacific partners to respond to climate change.

Australia is integrating climate change and disaster resilience across all parts of our aid programs in the Pacific.

Since 2016, we have committed $800 million to support climate and disaster resilience in the Pacific.

And we will deliver $1.5 billion globally in climate finance over 2020 to 2025…
…which includes $500 million for the Pacific for renewable energy, climate change and disaster resilience.

Before I conclude, I wanted to make a special mention of the importance Australia places on our partnerships to protect and preserve the Blue Economy and the fisheries industry.

I applaud the commitment of all Pacific countries to strong regional action in support of a healthy and productive ocean.

The development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent is testament to this collective regional resolve.

Australia recognises the contribution of our regional and international organisations…
…and most particularly the SPC Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency.  

And, of course, a strong and sustainable fisheries industry is not possible without with the support and engagement of business.

Australia firmly believes that the best way to kickstart economic recovery after this pandemic is to empower and enable businesses to grow, innovate, create jobs, and help build a stronger economy and region.

So I want to applaud the leadership of the APIBC in facilitating this discussion today, for keeping the focus on fisheries, and for supporting new business opportunities and networks across the Pacific.

I look forward to hearing more from your discussions today, and to working with you to achieve a sustainable, healthy and prosperous fisheries industry in the Pacific.

Thank you.

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