Fish, climate dominate Pacific talks

  • 11/09/2015
Prime Minister John Key, Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (AAP)
Prime Minister John Key, Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (AAP)

By Sarah Robson

The way the Pacific's tuna fisheries are managed could be in for a shake-up in a bid to boost economic development across the region.

Leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby have agreed to look at shifting to a quota management system, with the help of New Zealand, to ensure the ongoing sustainability of tuna stocks.

The leaders of the 16 member nations – including New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott – have been squirrelled away for much of yesterday, getting down to the nitty gritty of issues affecting the region.

Fisheries and climate change dominated the talks and a press conference, scheduled for 4pm (local time), was delayed by two-and-a-half hours as leaders thrashed out the details of their joint statement.

Changing the way fisheries are managed, and ensuring more of the proceeds stay within the Pacific, could provide a much-needed lifeline for many struggling island states.

At the moment, fishing vessels pay a daily fee to catch as much fish as they like.

As boats get bigger and technology improves, that system has the potential to do serious damage to the long-term sustainability of fish stocks.

There's no timeline for when there could be a shift to a quota system – where people pay for what they catch – but Pacific fisheries ministers will be invited to New Zealand to see how it works.

Meanwhile, leaders were unable to come up with a united stance on climate change to take to the United Nations talks in Paris later this year.

The forum's small island states want global temperature rises limited to 1.5degC, but New Zealand and Australia were reluctant to get on board.

Leaders effectively agreed to disagree, noting the dire impact rising sea levels will have on low-lying states, but not committing to a tougher target ahead of Paris.

The forum wraps up today.

NZN