Prime Minister to travel to the Solomon Islands
by Cook Islands Herald
The Prime Minister, Hon. Jim Marurai, plans to travel to the Solomon Islands in February for the purpose of visiting the region’s premier fisheries organization, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), at the invitation of its Director General, Mr Dan Sua.
In essence, the primary aim of the visit to the FFA headquarters is for the Prime Minister to see for himself and experience first hand the infrastructure and work of the region’s most important fisheries organization. Asides from gaining a greater insight and appreciation of the valuable work undertaken by the FFA, the visit also aims to highlight to both FFA members and Distant Water Fishing Nations the importance that the Cook Islands attaches to the future of the tuna stocks of the Pacific, the one valuable natural renewable resource that is shared by all the Pacific island countries and territories.
Established in 1979, the Cook Islands is one of the founding members of the FFA. However, the above visit will mark the very first time that the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands has actually traveled to the Solomon Islands for the specific purpose of paying a visit to the FFA Headquarters.
As explained by the Prime Minister “As a country within the region with one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), that being approximately 2 million square km of ocean, it is critical that the Cook Islands’ clearly demonstrates to both our Pacific Island neighbors and those foreign countries who fish in our region of our strong desire and commitment to ensuring the long term conservation and management of the region’s highly migratory tuna stocks of albacore, big eye, skip jack and yellow fin”.
He added “Over the years the Cook Islands has been very active in taking the lead and supporting effective conservation and management measures that protect the tuna stocks of the region for future generations to enjoy, just as we and our forefathers have done”. “As custodians of our Pacific waters I strongly believe that we Pacific islanders, as coastal states, have a morale obligation and duty to ensure that the albacore, big-eye, skip-jack and yellow-fin tuna stocks within the region are not over-fished but harvested at sustainable levels, as clearly articulated in both the 2007 Leaders’ Communique and the Fisheries Declaration”
“In recent years we have witnessed unprecedented levels of increasing tuna fishing activity undertaken by Distant Water Fishing Nations in the Pacific, which have led to both the big-eye and yellow-fin stocks coming under mounting pressure, which in turn is threatening their very existence.” He added “This scenario is extremely concerning to my Government and other FFA members so if my visit to the FFA Headquarters can encourage and trigger other Pacific Island countries and Distant Water Fishing Nations to both recognize and adopt more urgent measures to address this critical regional challenge, then this visit to the Solomon Islands would have been worthwhile”
“Towards this end, as Prime Minister of a country
which has always had a vested interest in the future of the region’s tuna stocks, I firmly believe that such a visit will be immensely beneficial, not just for highlighting what we recognize as the one natural resource that we in the Pacific all share and value greatly, but also to heighten the role that we, as custodians, play in terms of protecting the future of our tuna stocks through effective conservation and managements measures”. “At the same time, it will allow me to hold discussions with the FFA Director General on how the Cook Islands and other Pacific Island member countries could perhaps benefit more from the tuna fisheries industry in the Pacific, that is currently valued in excess of US$2 billion per year but only a fraction of which we benefit from”.
In concluding, the Prime Minister stated “Frankly speaking, I cannot overstress the importance of fisheries to all Pacific Island countries and territories, both in terms of food security and one of the strongest drivers for future sustainable economic growth”.
During the above visit to the FFA HQ the Prime Minister will also take the opportunity to meet with the newly elected Government of the Solomon Islands, in particular the Prime Minister, Hon. Derek Sikua as well as the Minister for Foreign Affairs & External Trade, Hon. William Haomae. Asides from congratulating the newly elected Government, the Prime Minister intends to focus discussions on issues of regional importance, such as the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), to which the Cook Islands has contributed towards since its inception, and issues of future bilateral and economic cooperation.
The Prime Minister stated “As the former Secretary and Minister for Education in the Solomon Islands I have known and worked with Hon. Derek Sikua over the years. Towards this end, I will have much pleasure in personally congratulating him on his election as Prime Minister and discussing issues of bilateral and regional importance such trade and RAMSI”. He added “ There is no question that the potential exists for greater cooperation, collaboration and integration with our Pacific brothers which, in my opinion, can only lead to improved benefits in future for each of us as small island developing sovereign states”.
In addition to meeting with the newly elected Solomon Islands Government, the Prime Minister will take the opportunity to meet with the RAMSI team and, if available, catch up with the sole Cook Islands member currently in RAMSI, Sergeant Rima Manavakai.
On RAMSI the Prime Minister said “As with most Forum member countries the Cook Islands has contributed to the RAMSI mission since it was established by way of allowing Police officers to serve in the Solomon Islands in order to restore law and order and bring peace and prosperity to that country. I am therefore very honored and privileged to be able to take the opportunity to see for myself first hand the excellent work that RAMSI has undertaken and the roles that our lads have played in meeting the objectives of RAMSI.”
The Prime Minister will be accompanied by the Secretary for Marine Resources, Mr Ian Bertram, and the Director for Pacific Division within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Carl Hunter. The Prime Minister’s full travel costs will be covered by the FFA.
The Prime Minister and delegation is scheduled to depart Rarotonga on Sunday, 3rd February, returning on Saturday, 9th February.