Address to the 7th Coordination Committee Meeting on the RPOA, Cairns

TRANSCRIPT OF SENATOR RICHARD COLBECK

ADDRESS TO THE 7TH COORDINATION COMMITTEE MEETING ON THE RPOA, CAIRNS

4 NOVEMBER, 2014

E&OE.......................................................................................................

Welcome to representatives of the RPOA. It is great to be here and I'm really delighted to be working in an industry that has a great reputation for providing a high quality seafood product. I'm delighted to be participating in what I see as a very important forum for all of our countries and one which I see as very necessary in ensuring that we, as nations who rely so much on a seafood resource, have a strong set of parameters to ensure that we are able to combat IUU fishing. Because if we don't have those parameters in place, and we continue to see declines in our fish stocks, I think we all have significant issues to deal with in front of us.

You only have to look at the circumstances that exist in East Africa where there are significant problems around lawlessness to consider (inaudible). So I see this as a very important issue for us all.

Many of our communities rely enormously on the sustainability of our seafood sectors for employment but also for a very important food source. So having sustainability in those stocks and being able to manage those is quite important.

I recognise how difficult managing IUU fishing is. It presents real challenges and we all face that. I think that by taking a strong stance and by working together to manage issues around IUU fishing we can make a big difference.

I cite the example of port state measures that have been put in place, that I think have started to make a difference. Because if you take away the market for IUU fishing you are fundamentally destroying the business of those who are involved. While that might be difficult, while that might present some challenges to us all as nations, it is the fundamental measure that those involved in IUU fishing understand. If they don't have anywhere to sell the fish it's not much point.

Working together for a strong relationship, working together to provide information to each other around the vessels that might be engaging in IUU fishing provides us with the opportunity to work to combat the issues that we all have. To ensure that we have strong fisheries management regimes in all our countries, but then to be able to manage that in such a way that it can be sustainable over the long-term. Quite frankly that's the best thing that we can do for all of those communities that rely on the resource and economics of those industries as well.

We need to ensure that we have that sustainable supply of seafood, which is so vital to our communities, but also in a global sense in the context of protein supply. When you consider that about 25 per cent of the planet's protein comes from fisheries and to replace that with grass fed protein would require us to clear the world's rainforest 22 times over, it just goes to demonstrative how vital the sustainability of that resource is. It is effectively impossible to replace so we need to manage it responsibility and sustainably. Dealing properly with IUU fishing is an absolutely fundamental part of it.

I think we can take some great heart in the successes that we've had already, with the relationships that we as a country have developed initially in developing port state measures, but also the work that's been done in the southern ocean with the relationship that Australia has with France. We've not seen an IUU incurrence down there for a long period.

I think that demonstrates that by working together and by having strong border command, surveillance and strong fisheries management in place, that we do have an opportunity to make a difference in these areas. Given that many of us share marine boundaries it really does require us to work together and it does require strong levels of cooperation between our countries. I think that one thing that can occur is that Australia as a country is more than happy to cooperate work with all of the nations in the region to ensure that we do have strong measures in place.

I was very fortunate to be in the small state of Tokelau just a few months ago, where we were looking at Pacific Tuna fisheries management. And I was delighted to be able to offer Australia's services in the development of a conservation management plan for those fisheries in the region to be discussed at the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in December.

Australia's experience in dealing with some of those fisheries management issues has led to some difficult decisions being made by government, where we haven't necessarily made ourselves popular with our commercial fishing operators. But those decisions are now starting to pay dividends for us. We're now starting to see fish stocks that had been in a very difficult situation recovering well. The banner species for the demonstration of collapse of a fisheries stock in Australia is Orange Roughy. That species now has rebuilt to a situation where we can start considering re-opening areas of the fishery. So those difficult decisions, given some time and some strong measures can actually pay dividends.

One of the success stories of fisheries in the region, and demonstrated by a regional cooperation, is the Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery where we saw the quota increase by about 10 per cent because nations working together. We took some strong management decisions and we're able to now start to reap the dividends.

I see this forum as one that provides enormous opportunity for countries in the region to work cooperatively together to put measures in place that while, as I've said a number of times, might be difficult, will put us in a strong situation to ensure the sustainability of our fisheries on behalf of our local communities. That's effectively why we are here, so that we can make sure the vitally important resource remains available well into the future so that we don't have to take the hard decisions again.

If we don't make the decisions now the reality is that the fisheries will do it for us. There will be no option because it will be the fisheries collapse that will be the decision maker. Our opportunity is to put the measures in place now and potential prevent us from having to have decisions made for us and completely out of our control.

I welcome you all here today- thank you for your participation. I look forward to the discussion over the next day or so and I'd really like to see this organisation take some strong steps and the committee in Australia to play a very cooperative role with our neighbouring countries. The fundamental base is ensuring a strong sustainable fisheries management for our communities.

Welcome everybody, and thank you very much.

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