A Pacific model of cooperation for sustaining species, livelihoods and a global industry can be replicated in other parts of the world, says UNDP

24 Jun 2014

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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) presented today a model of international cooperation that helps save a species – tuna – which provides nutrition and livelihoods to poor communities, and is a sought-after global commodity. The successful model of cooperation could be replicated by Small Island Developing States in other parts of the world.

At the heart of this initiative is a system which uses technology to monitor and track fishing activities in an area as big as 40 million square kilometers – an expanse slightly larger than the territories of China, Russia and USA combined.

The comprehensive set of monitoring, management, and compliance programmes – implemented with a host of regional partners -- includes the world’s only regional satellite-based vessel tracking system, an innovative air and sea monitoring operation to enforce fishing limits, and the first high seas boarding and inspection programme.

“We are presenting to you a successful model of international cooperation which ensures a viable fishery for the small fishermen as well as major fishing companies,” said Nicholas Rosellini, Deputy Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific. “The time to discuss this type of genuine and durable sustainable development partnerships is now as we are preparing for the conference in Samoa and as we are discussing the post-2015 development agenda.”

Tuna harvest rates in the Pacific have been increasing dramatically over the last decade. The Western and Central Pacific accounts for more than half of the global tuna catch – over 2 million tonnes annually.

“We helped the islands to establish the world’s largest on-board observer programme, applying 100 percent coverage to the 1.5 million ton per year purse seine fishery since 2010, as well as the world’s only regional satellite-based vessel tracking system which enabled regulators to track the location and activities of over 2,000 fishing vessels,” said Andrew Hudson, Head of Water and Oceans Governance Programme at UNDP.

Sustainability of the tuna stock is in the common interest of the Pacific Islanders and their governments, the global fishing industry, environmentalists, as well as other tuna-related stakeholders and businesses.

According to a UNDP contribution to a June 2014 UN reportHow oceans- and seas-related measures contribute to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development: Local and regional experiences”:

  • On average, tuna catches account for close to 10 percent of the regional GDP;
  • Jobs in the tuna-related businesses account for up to eight percent of wage employment.

“This programme has brought together local communities, governments and regional organizations to achieve the common goal of sustainable development,” added Nicholas Rosellini.

The speakers at the press briefing included H.E. Dr. Caleb Otto, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Palau to the United Nations, and H.E. Mr. Robert Guba Aisi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea to the United Nations.

This successful model of international cooperation is also a topic of a new half-hour documentary “Saving our Tuna” produced by UNDP and Arrowhead Films for Discovery Channel Asia.

Nicholas Rosellini further remarked that this programme is “an example of a Pacific partnership for sustainable development which can be replicated by small island developing states in other parts of the world.”

This initiative, officially titled “Pacific Islands Oceanic Fisheries Management Project” was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Pacific Island Governments, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Forum Fisheries Agency, bilateral development agencies, and NGO and other partners. The project was implemented by UNDP and executed by Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Forum Fisheries Agency.

Contact Information

In New York: Stanislav Saling, Spokesperson, UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, stanislav.saling@undp.org, +1 212 906 6575

In Bangkok: Cherie Hart, UNDP Regional Communications Advisor, cherie.hart@undp.org +66 8 1 918 1564

"Saving our Tuna" trailer