Fisheries Ministers from member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) have expressed serious concern about the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their domestic economies.

This was during the 17th FFC Ministers meeting last week.

Ministers have expressed strengthened commitments to regional solidarity and collaboration as central to confronting the impacts of the pandemic in the Pacific. They have also emphasised the importance of protecting the fisheries sector, given its important economic and food security benefits.

Niue’s Minister for Natural Resources Mona Ainuu who was part of the virtual meeting said it is important that Niue is part of these discussions and negotiations as larger Pacific island countries have more say.

The other concern for Niue she says is in regard to the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ and its monitoring with limited resources.

She added assistance is provided by the Forum fisheries agency and NZ in this area and commended the work by Dr Josie Tamate, Tofia Niue and the Niue Oceanwide project.

Meanwhile, Fisheries Ministers asked FFA to undertake a regional study on how Members can harness their comparative advantage with respect to regional tuna resources and maximise the benefits flowing from strengthened cooperation in areas such as processing, value-adding, cross-border investment, increased regional trade, improved transportation links, and improved labour mobility.

With disruptions to airfreight impacting the export of fresh fish outside the region, Ministers welcomed the work being undertaken by FFA to explore market opportunities within the region.

The Ministers also commended the measures taken by the FFA and officials to mitigate health risks posed by the pandemic, including development of health-related safety protocols for crew members, observers and others interacting with fishing vessels. These protocols will minimize the risk of contracting or spreading the disease and enable fishing operations to continue safely.

Work by the FFA Secretariat to improve observer safety and maintain observer livelihoods by using their analytical fisheries knowledge and skills on-shore was welcomed by the Ministers

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