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Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) was established to help countries sustainably manage their fishery resources, especially tuna fisheries, within their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
The FFA aims to drive regional cooperation to allow for the maximum long-term social and economic benefit from the sustainable use of members’ shared fishery resources.
Since 1979, the FFA has facilitated regional cooperation so that all Pacific countries benefit from the sustainable use of tuna. Tuna resources are important to livelihood in the Pacific and are estimated to be worth more than $USD 3 billion a year.
The FFA is based in the Solomon Islands and has 17 members, including Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
FFA members, despite their varying levels of development and cultural and social differences, exercise their common concern for the state of tuna stocks in the region. Fishing access agreements are also a primary source of government revenue for some members. FFA members shape the policy direction of fisheries management, control and development across the region, and receive expertise and support to manage tuna within their own waters.
GOVERNANCE AND DECISION-MAKING
The Forum Fisheries Committee meets to consider regional policies and the budget and work program. The Committee is comprised of one representative of each of the 17 members. The representative may be assisted by deputies. The committee meets once a year at its annual session (normally held in the first week of May) and in special meetings.
The FFA staff provides support to the contact points (typically officials in the departments of Foreign Affairs and Fisheries) for each member.
Overall, the FFA organizational process is fairly straightforward and the primary constraint on decisions is the political complexity of the association, with some nations being more precautionary about how much tuna should be extracted from the region.
HISTORY AND EXPERIENCE OF the FFA ON FISHERIES SUBSIDIES
The fisheries sector is of significant trade and economic importance to Pacific small island states and a key factor in the maintenance of basic livelihoods, especially in the case of small-scale and artisanal fishing.
Fisheries in the Pacific are responsible for more than 55 percent of global tuna catches. The majority of this fish is caught by distant water fleets, whose fishing access agreements are a major revenue source for Pacific Island nations.
In the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations, FFA countries were supportive of strong prohibitions, recognizing that they have much to lose by the destructive practices of subsidized distant water fishing fleets.13 In particular, potential disciplines on subsidized fuel and flexibility in approaches towards subsistence and artisanal fishing were of interest to Pacific Island countries.
The Pacific Small Island Developing States also initiated and advanced language on fisheries, including subsidy reform, in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
What could the FFA produce/do on fisheries subsidies?
Overall, FFA countries are strong supporters of fisheries subsidies reform, particularly in relation to distant water fleets. These countries continue to work to get fisheries subsidies language included in U.N. texts, and could advance this issue in other fora, such as regional fisheries management organizations.
The FFA could provide expertise and technical assistance to its members, and assist them in making decisions about subsidies and their tuna resources. The FFA could also participate in regional decision-making on subsidies and tuna management.
In the long term, FFA nations could explore policies to restrict or deny access to their EEZs to subsidized fleets. However, pursuing such policies would likely require more study and analysis of potential economic and social impacts.
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