Tuna fishery high on Pacific leaders' minds

  • 08/09/2015
Foreign Minister Murray McCully (AAP)
Foreign Minister Murray McCully (AAP)

By Sarah Robson

There's hope Pacific leaders will be able to take decisive action to ensure the sustainability of the region's biggest shared economic resource – its tuna fishery.

The state of the world's only healthy tuna fishery is high on the agenda for Pacific leaders, who are in Papua New Guinea's capital Port Moresby for the annual Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting.

Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully arrive today ahead of the main talks tomorrow and Thursday.

Pacific leaders will be putting their heads together to work out how to maximise revenue from the Pacific's $4 billion a year tuna catch – and ensure more of it stays in the region.

At the moment, the Pacific owners of the fishery receive only around 14 percent of the market value of the resource, while hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of tuna is taken out of the region illegally or through under-reporting.

Mr Key is expecting it to be a significant area of discussion.

"It's a large resource for them and they're concerned about it from a poaching perspective," he told reporters.

"Also sustainability does matter to us."

New Zealand already plays an important role in the control and monitoring of exclusive economic zones in the Pacific, but any changes to the tuna catch and management system may require a greater commitment.

Pacific Island leaders will also be pushing for a strong statement on climate change, ahead of the United Nations conference in Paris later this year.

However, the small island states are likely to be hamstrung by New Zealand and Australia, who have already set their carbon emissions reduction targets and are unwilling to move from them.

Mr Key said there's "bound to be a discussion" and he's more than happy to put New Zealand's case.

He didn't comment on the likelihood of forum members reaching an agreement.

On the sidelines of the main forum meetings, Mr Key and Mr McCully could be in for a frosty reception from Nauru's delegation.

The New Zealand Government decided last week to suspend its aid to Nauru's justice sector, because of concerns about deteriorating civil and political rights in the tiny Pacific state.

Nauru wasn't happy, but Mr Key doesn't think their inevitable meeting will be awkward.

"We'll certainly be having a discussion," he said.

"Personally I think the decision the minister of foreign affairs reached was absolutely the right one."

The forum runs until Friday.