Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I am highly delighted to welcome you all to the second meeting of the ACP Ministers in charge of Fisheries holding here in Seychelles.
Let me extend my appreciation to the Government and people of the Republic of Seychelles for hosting this meeting at this particular period of global financial crisis. This is no doubt an indication of the commitment of Seychelles to the sustainable management of natural resources in general and fisheries in particular.
Similarly, I would like to recognize with thanks the support of the European Commission (both financial and technical) in organizing this meeting, and for honouring our invitation to be physically here in Seychelles to make presentations during the technical meetings.
Fisheries in ACP countries are an important sector with respect to the income and livelihoods of communities dependent on marine and inland water aquatic resources. In West Africa, for example, more than 600 000 persons rely on fishery for their subsistence. The sustainable development of fisheries remains in many cases a poorly understood priority, particularly given the contribution that fisheries make to income generation, employment, food security and trade. Available statistics do show that fish trade contributes more to aggregate income than coffee, tea, bananas and all agricultural products put together!
As climate change in terms of ocean current thermal structure, storm severity and frequency, and sea level rise impact on fish species composition and yield distribution, the need to understand coping mechanism and adaptation responses has become urgent.
In recognition of the paramount importance of fisheries to the economy of ACP countries and difficulties to manage them in sustainable way and take advantage as much as possible from their trade, the first Meeting of the ACP Ministers in charge of Fisheries was held at the ACP House, Brussels in June 2009, the resolution of which established the ACP Ministerial Fisheries Mechanism. The Rules of Procedure of the Ministerial Fisheries Mechanism ensures a Ministerial meeting every twelve months.
We have all heard the old Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” We need not only to upscale our knowledge base and competencies about fisheries, but we also have to work arduously towards a trading regime that is mutually beneficial, fair and sustainable to all concerned.
Since the last Ministerial meeting, the ACP Secretariat had consistently supported the Ministerial Fisheries Mechanism in implementing its work programme. For example, the necessary documentation to facilitate the operationalisation of the Fisheries Trust Fund to be domiciled in the ACP Secretariat is being finalized. I am also happy to announce that we are making arrangements are being concluded with the Commonwealth Secretariat for a fisheries expert at the ACP Secretariat.
The EU remains the largest destination for ACP fish and fisheries products, accounting for 68% of export value. However, a number of developments have contributed to reducing the advantages enjoyed by ACP producers, prominent among which are differentiated trade agreements and concessions, rules of origin and sanitary and phytosanitary rules and regulations among others. In seeking to address these challenges, the ACP Group submitted a position paper on the review of the EU Common Fisheries Policy in December 2009 with recommendations on an improved fisheries imports regime within the Euroland area.
During the past two days, senior officials have brainstormed on critical issues of concern to the ACP countries, ranging from integrated strategy for the sustainable management of ACP fisheries resources to market access conditions, IUU fishing and mutually beneficial trade issues. These themes are key to enhancing the contribution of the fisheries sector to the socio-economic development of our countries, particularly in terms of poverty alleviation, food security and trade.
The ensuring Resolution following your deliberations will guide our members states on strategies to be deployed to tackle the numerous challenge faced by the ACP countries in this sector and particularly the relations with our traditional EU partners. Let me assure you that the ACP Secretariat will do its part in following up on the outcomes from this meeting both with the principal Organs of the ACP and with the European Commission.
Once again, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the government of Seychelles for the warm hands of hospitality that have been extended to us in this beautiful and blessed island.
I wish you a fruitful deliberation. Thank you.