Nassau, The Bahamas, 19 September 2017/ ACP: Senior government officials from 55 fish-exporting countries in the ACP Group wrapped up two full days of deliberations today, devoted to assessing the ACP Strategic Plan of Action for fisheries and aquaculture, and discussing joint approaches to boost these sectors in a sustainable manner.

In the lead up to the 5th Meeting of ACP Ministers in charge of Fisheries and Aquaculture (20-21 September), the Permanent Secretary of Agriculture and Marine Resources of The Bahamas Ms. Phedra Rahming opened the preparatory senior officials’ meeting on Monday, stressing the importance of the sectors not only in terms of income and job creation, but also in eliminating hunger, promoting health and reducing poverty, particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The ACP Strategic Plan of Action on Fisheries and Aquaculture was adopted in 2012, to guide and coordinate actions for at least 60 member states across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific that export fisheries and aquaculture products. Initially agreed for a five-year period, implementation of the Plan was later extended to 2020.

The focus is on five priorities areas: (i) Effective management for sustainable fisheries; (ii) Promoting optimal returns from fisheries trade; (iii) Supporting food security; (iv) Developing aquaculture; and (v) maintaining the environment.

Chaired by the Acting Director of Marine Resources, Mr. Edison Deleveaux, participants reviewed the progress to date in these various areas, with member states providing first hand insights to national and regional strategies, sharing best practices, and identifying specific challenges and opportunities for joint action.

A report on the state of play of implementation of the ACP Strategic Plan of Action and its roadmap showed a general trend of continued improvement for fisheries governance in ACP countries. However, access to data and knowledge, the capacity to analyse this data, the management of fishing rights, as well as tools to control fishing activities all need improvement.

In terms of trade, the report cited developments in the WTO as well as the ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreements which have helped in integrating ACP states into the world economy, and work is ongoing to boost the value-added of fish products. But challenges remain, especially in getting local products to meet international standards for trade (including Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures), as well as combatting Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing.

The report also noted that aquaculture is one of the actions where South-South cooperation is remarkable, and should be strengthened. Most ACP countries that were surveyed in the report have a national plan for aquaculture development, although some require technical support to move forward. Meanwhile, fish and aquaculture production is increasingly taken into account in ACP countries’ food security strategies.

Finally, on maintaining the environment, several key issues were identified for improvement. This includes the slow implementation of the ‘ecosystems approach’ to fisheries management, which is still in its initial stages for most ACP countries, as well as persistent problems in managing land-sea interactions, interfering with coastal management. A more holistic approach is also needed to incorporate the effects of climate change on fisheries into national plans on climate change.

ACP Assistant Secretary General for Sustainable Economic Development and Trade Mr. Viwanou Gnassounou urged strong cooperation and consensus amongst ACP countries in tackling the challenges raised.

After thorough discussions, including on a number of presentations from regional and international agencies and development partners, the senior officials agreed on various recommendations to be submitted for endorsement to the 5th Meeting of ACP Ministers for Fisheries and Aquaculture later in the week.

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More about the 5th Meeting of ACP Ministers in charge of Fisheries and Aquaculture

(Photos from top: Permanent Secretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Bahamas Ms. Phedra Rahming and Acting Director Mr. Edison Deleveaux; ACP Assistant Secretary General Mr. Viwanou Gnassounou (second from left) and Chairman of the ACP Subcommittee on Sustainable Development Dr. Kaire Mbuende alongside Ms. rahming and Mr. Delevaux, who presided over the senior officials' meeting; Country representatives at the conference, including delegations of (from left) Vanuatu, Uganda, and Tuvalu; Participant discussions in the margins of the meeting, with ACP fisheries expert Mr. Peter Wekesa (centre)

– ACP Press