Your Excellency Taaneti Mamau and your good spouse, First Lady Madam Teirang Mamau
Vice President and your good spouse
Honorable Ministers and your good wives
Members of Parliament and your good wives
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Staff from Ministry of Fisheries of Marine Resources
Staff from CPPL and KFL
Ladies and Gentlemen
KAM NA BANE NI MAURI.
It is indeed an honor and privilege for me to warmly welcome you to today’s celebration to commemorate the World Tuna Day.
As a brief background to this World Tuna Day, one must note that this important day was ratified by the United Nations in 2011, which was a proactive initiative by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a sub-regional entity of which eight tuna resource owners, including Kiribati, are part of the Western Central Pacific Ocean to maintain the world’s largest sustainable tuna fishery.
Parties to the Nauru Agreement Ministers unanimously declared on May 2 2011, to be a World Tuna Day, a special day for all who are involved in tuna fishing, conservation and management to celebrate the wonders of tuna with communities around the world.
Distinguished guests, as Kiribati is a nation of Ocean that entirely depend on the sea and its rich and ubiquitous marine resources, particularly tuna at this point in time, for our livelihoods and as our source of provision on a daily basis, hence tuna is too important to ignore. For Kiribati to participate in this celebration to mark and give due recognition, and most importantly educate our people of the importance of tuna as it has contributed, and will continue to touch our lives in many ways if sustainably developed and rationally managed, not just for our current generation but of more importance for our future generations as well. Kiribati is very fortunate to have one of the biggest and tuna-rich Exclusive Economic Zone in the world which is home to different tuna species.
As a Christian country we should thank God for this precious gift – A Gift to Humanity where all Kiribati citizens prosper from. As custodians to this important resource, we must strive to ensure that our efforts with the rest of the world to result in a synergy way that would continuously protect and sustainably manage our common tuna resources.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today we as we celebrate the World Tuna Day, Kiribati’s theme for this important occasion is “The Ultimate National Asset” that stands for ‘TUNA’ and translated in Kiribati as “Te Uamari Nakon Abara” which again stands for the word ‘TUNA’. This theme highlights the value and significance of tuna to Kiribati as it is considered as an asset providing the country and its people with means of security for its source of food, livelihood and for economic development. TUNA has benefited Kiribati and its people and will continue to have significantly positive impact to our lives if properly managed. It is therefore imperative that by celebrating this World Tuna Day, would in a way enable Kiribati people to understand their critical roles in protecting and sustainably managing this resource for our future generation so they continue to enjoy what we are enjoying now as a result of this valuable and ultimate resource – TUNA.
Tuna has been a significant source of food that provides the daily protein requirements of our people, highly abundant, healthy and relatively affordable. As we all know, I-Kiribati rarely cannot go without eating tuna for one day except on certain occasions such as traditional dancing festivities. Our ancestors normally refrain from and fast on tuna prior to dancing not to dampen dancer’s enthusiasm or spirits. Scientific studies have shown that tuna has chemicals present that affect our systems, which our ancestors have known for many years ago, highlighting that tuna is intrinsically linked to our traditional lives and culture.
Tuna continues to be a major source of economic benefit to our country, over the past few years achieving many folds in fishing access revenue. This increasing revenue over the years has contributed to Government’s revenue highlighting the importance and need to sustainably manage this resource and most notably the bigeye tuna stocks that urgently needs rebuilding. This calls for Kiribati to continue its efforts in joining other partners in the region, and internationally to provide guidance and participatory direction.
Remittances sent home by crews and observers on board fishing vessels is contributing to our national economy with immediate benefits for families and communities. In 2001 a semi quasi-independent Observer programme was set up in Kiribati with placements of 18 men only. In 2017, the number of placements available has increased to 126 where both men and women are considered in this scheme. With national measures taken to increase monitoring coverage on board Long-liners and increase employments on board fishing and support vessels will provide another employment opportunity thus maximize benefits from this resource.
Distinguished guests, as most of you are aware, Fisheries along with Tourism will be guiding Kiribati’s 20 Year Vision. Fisheries will be highly dependent on the sustainability of our tuna resources to support and finance this vision. With regards to tuna, my Ministry will be looking at developing fisheries investments such as upgrading outer island fish centres, adopting a long-line catch quota management system to sustainability manage the catch of long-line vessels; establishing a longline fishing entity involving individual Island Councils in its make-up; establishing a transshipment hub to provide an enabling environment for the offloading and transshipment of tuna in our ports thus aims at maximizing our benefits from this resource.
It is equally important to state the threats to the lives of our tuna which to name a few are over-fishing, pollution, IUU fishing and others. The Government of Kiribati recognizes the importance of Tuna and has been very active in many forums, international and sub-regional as well as national undertakings in ensuring that appropriate measures are taken to protect and allow us to develop.
A national example is the recent submission of the Fisheries Amendment Bill, 2017 which I am pleased to say has passed its first reading. The amendment focusses on Kiribati’s fight against Illegal Unregulated Unreported fishing and providing market access for our tuna to be sold at major and premium international markets. A report from Forum Fisheries Agency highlights that Pacific countries have lost about 600 million dollars in revenue due to IUU activities. As custodians of this endowed fisheries and marine resource, we must continue our efforts with the rest of the world for action to combat, deter and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and associated activities to protect our only viable asset, – the national tuna resources.
We are thankful that some of our development partners are present with us today to witness this important occasion. Your ongoing support have contributed to the developments of our key and potential fisheries activities and programmes and I trust that we will continue to work in partnership with you to achieve these development objectives and especially as we move forward to achieve our goals in managing and developing our tuna resources under our KV20.
Last but not the least, I would like to express my sincere thanks and acknowledgement to our donars PNA and NZ; our partners, Kiribati Fisheries Limited (KFL) and Central Pacific Producers Limited for providing an amazing tuna menu which will be tasted and enjoyed by our important guests and those who are present here, today. To the organizing Committee, I wish to thank all the members for all the hard work put towards this and making this day a success.
Distinguished Guests, with these few remarks, it is now with greatest pleasure and honour to declare that the World Tuna Day celebrations can begin with our traditional blessings of Te Mauri (Good Health), Te Raoi (Peace) ao Te Tabomoa (Prosperity) to all of us present here today and also to those who are unable to be with us here today.
Kam bati n raba!