Apia, Samoa, 8 September 2017/ ACP: A robust surveillance system to monitor activities in Pacific countries’ territorial waters is not only a key security issue, it is an essential sustainable development concern.

Speaking to leaders and high level representatives of the region, the Secretary General of the ACP Group of States Dr. Patrick Gomes welcomed Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) as a response strategy and a “precondition” to improved ocean governance.

“By gaining an understanding of what happens at sea and gathering a shared picture of the maritime activities, within and among Pacific Island countries, regional states are better equipped to take the necessary actions to minimize the illicit and harmful human activities that negatively impact the marine environment,” said ACP Secretary General Gomes during a dialogues session on 7 September at the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum held in Samoa.

A functioning regional MDA system for the region would help stop criminal and contraband activities such as drug trafficking, illegal migration and people smuggling, arms smuggling and piracy, while also enhancing response to accidents, disasters or emergencies at sea.

Importantly also, MDA will notably help in the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, marine pollution and unauthorised introduction of alien species.

However, the developing effective maritime domain awareness is high-technology driven, and requires large financial resources to acquire the basic surveillance assets and train people.

Dr. Gomes called for a dramatic increase in capacity-building activities and technology transfer from partner countries to implement and reinforce an integrated regional Maritime Domain Awareness program that delivers on the local needs.

“The ACP Group looks forward to working together with our partners in promoting the maritime domain awareness in the region and also share knowledge and lessons learnt from other ACP Small Islands Developing States facing similar challenges,” he stated.

He added that the focus should be on improving the human analytical capacity, supporting data collection and information sharing centres that integrate both technology and low cost solutions.

The annual 48th Pacific Islands Forum brought together leaders of 18 Pacific countries, 14 of which are ACP member states, for political discussions centred on theme: “The Blue Pacific: Our Sea of Islands-Our Security through sustainable development, management and conservation”.

(Photo: Pacific Flags/ Loop Vanuatu)

– ACP Press