This will have severe economic consequences and will make food security impossible in a region where the population is projected to increase by 50 per cent by 2035.
The study, The Future of Pacific Fisheries, covers oceanic, coastal, aquaculture and freshwater fishery sectors. It was presented on Tuesday 26 October for endorsement by the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). It has already been approved by members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
The study highlights the main threats which, if left unchecked, will become major problems affecting the entire region in years to come. There are already signs of offshore resources being overfished, with stocks of bigeye tuna being harvested at dangerous levels. Coupled with this are increasing pressures from foreign fishing fleets seeking access to the waters of Pacific Island countries and territories.
According to the study, some coastal fisheries are already overexploited and aquaculture is suffering from a lack of competitiveness, skills, market access and incentives - more than 95 per cent of production is concentrated in just two territories.
The study makes it clear that fisheries agencies at national and regional level need to adapt in the face of the growing complexity of fisheries management. They currently lack the skills and organisation to coordinate policy and ensure the development of sustainable fisheries to feed and support future generations.
After identifying both threats and opportunities, the study presents scenarios for the future and identifies seven key objectives for Pacific fisheries:
- reform and build fisheries agencies for better services;
- maximise long-term national benefits from offshore resources;
- sustain coastal communities;
- feed our growing populations;
- support private sector winners;
- provide committed support from the top (leadership); and
- measure and monitor changes.
Among various opportunities highlighted by the study is the scope to increase economic benefits to countries and territories by increasing the share of the tuna catch taken by local and locally based vessels and processing the fish within the region.
Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Director-General of SPC, says "It is essential that we have strong political commitment to redress the problems detailed in the report. We need regional solidarity among countries and territories to mitigate the risks and to take advantage of the opportunities."