The Ministry is principally charged with a key role to achieve a sustainable and vibrant economy for the people of Kiribati through the development of fisheries and marine resources and where it is recognized to take a lead role in the implementation of the objectives of the current Kiribati Development Plan.
While the Ministry has encountered many challenges in the implementation of the plan, it has been able to make some major achievements and embark on milestones which further warrant for changes to follow and which are now embraced at the forefront of the Ministry’s mission and vision.
Right after independence, offshore fisheries through licensing has served as the traditional key income generating activity for the Govenrment of Kiribati. However recently, the Ministry has gradually adopted a more robust and sustainable basis for fisheries access rents by embarking on other activities and to make them part of the package in return for fishing access in Kiribati’s waters. This gives the Ministry’s leverage to negotiate and demand returns for its fisheries and marine resources from these fishing vessels and one which has resulted in the support programmes being introduced such as Te Waa n Oo and Boats and Engine project to support artisanal fishermen and the local fishing communities.
The establishment of the Kiribati Fish Limited (KFL) in 2012 made a major break through and a prime development change by bringing fishery development to our shores for the first time in history. It consequently resulted in the creating of more candid benefits to the local community in terms of employment and processing skills. A move has also being implemented from focusing on foreign fishing vessels revenue to establishing joint ventures as an attempt to increase our ability to harvest our own resources and to increase onshore development that will generate more employment for our people and potentially diversify fishery products.
An equally important component to the development of onshore fisheries through these partnerships is the establishment of onshore facilities to allow for increase fish export production and access to potential markets that led to the set up of a fully operational Seafood Verification Division. This is another achievement and one that the Ministry will continue to strengthen as it prepares for potential export to the European Union.
In 2016, and despite unfavourable fishng conditions, the Ministry still attained an access revenue amounted to AU$154 million that was based on major amendments to previous fishing access agreements and license conditions that the Ministry currently works on, with potential room for gradual increase.
Another successful component of the Ministry’s work and one which has also contributed to the increase in access revenues and employment is the full observer coverage of all licesned purse seine fishing vessels and with more increased coverage on some of the longliners through the revised observer programme. Currently, there are more than 100 observers employed through this programme and with the increasing demand that comes with the increase of fishing vessels licensed to fish in our waters, there will be an increase of observers employed following recruitment that are also planned to be carried out in the coming years. Additionally, this has increased to a greater level the country’s ability to monitor, control and carry out surveillance (MCS) of the various fishing activities taking place within the non-contiguous Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Kiribati.
With all these activities and more development initiatives in the making, equally important as embraced in our vision is the need to ensure that in realizing these development aspirations, all efforts are equally dispersed in a strategic manner and in a sustainable manner that will enable proper protection and conservatinon of our oceans and marine resources for future generations. This calls for collaborative work in developing tactical marine use regulations and amendements to Fisheries Act vital for fisheries management and conservation.
Another related milestone achievement was the completion and the subsequent deposit of Kiribati’s Maritime Boundaries with the United Nations which provides the Ministry now with confidence and confirmed boundaries that significantly assist with the Ministry’s various MCS activities.