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Monday, June 11, 2007

Dr. Aqorau urges islands: Unite for fish benefits

DR Transform Aqorau has called on Pacific Islands countries to work together and try to get more benefits from their fish stocks.

In an interview with Islands Business magazine, the new deputy director of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) said Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) were only getting returns of around US$80 million a year out of their US$800 million fish resource.
“We are custodians of a major resource and if we can translate that into economic terms, we can do well,” he told Islands Business.

Aqorau is the first Pacific and Solomon Islander to hold the post which previously was only held by non-Pacific Islanders. He described his new job as one that presented a “big challenge and big responsibility”, as he is compelled to maintain the high standards set by his predecessors.

A specialist in international fisheries laws, Dr Aqorau was seconded to FFA in 1991 as a legal officer, went on to join the Solomon Islands Government and then the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Fiji before returning to FFA as its legal counsel.

He said: “FFA’s work is to try an ensure the only renewable natural resource we have is not over-exploited and that we develop it so we benefit economically and financially-through employment and foreign exchange.

"We are sharing it with some of the most powerful countries in the world because they are interested in this resource.”He said Pacific Islands countries are dealing with rich and powerful countries like the United States, China, Japan and Korea, who are endowed with manpower and finances, which island countries don’t have.

“Our job at FFA is to go out and work with PICs so that they have the legislation and policies in place to help them when they negotiate with these big countries.
“Because it’s a shared resource and we are not powerful enough, we really need to work together and cooperate.”

Dr Aqorau said FFA was trying to look at innovative ways to manage the resources as they were presently being managed through foreign access agreements.
Illegal fishing, he added, was a big problem in the Pacific and FFA is trying to develop a project to calculate the percentage of illegal fishing going on in Pacific waters.

“We are working on a system that will show a satellite image of all the boats in the area and compare that with the image of registered boats. Unreported fishing is also a problem and these are licensed fishing boats that don’t comply by providing reports or comply with regulations,” Dr Aqorau said.

Source: Solomon star

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