Fisheries is a critical sector for food security and economic growth in the Pacific region. The region consists of fourteen independent countries and eight territories located in the western and central Pacific Ocean. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the region’s fishery resources can be broadly split into two main categories: oceanic, and coastal or inshore. Oceanic resources include tunas, billfish, and allied species. They are characterized by an open-water pelagic habitat and potentially extensive individual movements. Coastal or inshore resources include a wide range of finfish and invertebrates. They are characterized by their shallow-water habitats or demersal lifestyles, and restriction of individual movements to coastal areas.
Coastal fishing is of fundamental importance in the Pacific Islands. Much of the region’s nutrition, welfare, culture, employment, and recreation are based on the living resources in the zone between the shoreline and the outer reefs. The continuation of current lifestyles, the opportunities for future development and food security are all highly dependent on coastal fisheries resources.
In the global context, Thirty percent of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited, threatening fish and plant species and the ability of people who depend on marine and coastal biodiversity to earn a living and feed their families. As is the case in many situations like this, those most severely affected by environmental degradation see the least financial return from these activities and have the most to lose if the resources are exhausted.
Furthermore, the current on-going Covid-19 pandemic has had knock-on effects on the global economy. Even though Covid-19 does not affect fish, nor is it caused by the consumption of fish, the fisheries sector is still subject to indirect impacts of the pandemic through changing consumer demands, market access or logistical problems related to transportation and border restrictions. This in turn will have a damaging effect on fishers and fish farmers’ livelihoods, as well as on food security and nutrition for populations relying heavily on fish for animal protein and essential micronutrients.
Considering that 70 percent of our planet comprises of oceans, managing ocean resources is a global responsibility that requires focus and perseverance, as we rely on them for food, energy, and water. It makes the importance of sustainable fisheries become more critical as countries in the region looking to undergo economic recovery efforts. Conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development remains a relevant agenda moving forward as part of the global effort to achieve Target number 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) namely Life Below Water.
Against these backdrops, the Fisheries Forum will discuss the importance of ensuring a balanced approach between economic recovery in fisheries whilst ensuring efforts to maintain sustainable fisheries remain in place in post Covid Pacific. The forum aims mainly to provide a platform to share best practices in countries in the region as well as identifying the key challenges to overcome and opportunities to grasp in the immediate future and the necessary efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries to meet the target of the SDGs 2030.
The target audience of the forum is decision makers, practitioners and experts in Fisheries, as well as related private sectors.