Opening Speech By President James Michel On The Occasion Of The 2nd ACP Fisheries Ministers Meeting

23 November 2010 | Fisheries

Opening Speech By President James Michel On The Occasion Of The 2nd ACP Fisheries Ministers Meeting,
ICCS, Victoria,
Tuesday 23rd November 2010

Your Excellency Secretary General of the ACP
Honourable Fisheries Ministers of Africa- the Caribbean and the Pacific
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

In Seychelles, fishing is not just a pillar of our economy- it is a pillar of our community. 

Seychelles is proud to be able to host this ACP meeting of fisheries ministers, because like for many of you here today, for us, fisheries are not just a question of managing a resource.

Fishing is about how we live.  It is about how we interact with one another. It is also about how we see ourselves in this world.

Mr. Secretary General, Ladies and gentlemen,

As a leader of a maritime nation, I cannot begin my opening remarks without addressing the greatest threat that currently exists to fisheries, trade and development in our region.  The scourge of piracy is hijacking not only our economy- but the whole of the Indian Ocean.

In the last few days, there have been 3 attacks in and around our Exclusive Economic Zone, with an additional 8 in the Indian Ocean. In one of the attacks, 7 of our sea cucumber fishermen were taken hostage and were being ferried back to Somalia.  Our forces intervened, and through decisive action we were able to prevent 7 of our brothers from being dragged away from their homes, their families and their livelihoods.

This is not the first time we have lived through such torment. 10 of our compatriots have already endured more than we could expect of any seafarer after being held in Somalia for over 6 months.  My government did its utmost to ensure their release, and by the grace of God, we were able to welcome them home.  Earlier this year our forces also rescued another 7 Seychellois and 21 Iranians being held on a captured dhow, after disabling the vessel while it was under the control of pirates.

But we are not a big power. We are just 87,000 souls.

We are doing more than our part. While at the international level, not enough is being done. We need to re-look at the strategy being adopted to tackle piracy.  Piracy is exploiting the weaknesses that exist in global governance.  It exists, not only because of the dire state of Somalia- but also because of the inaction of the international community.

We need concrete action which does not simply skirt around the problem.  We appreciate the assistance we are receiving- but it is too slow, and too insignificant in the face of the scale of the problem.

We need tangible assistance that goes beyond expressions of support. Following this latest incident we have a further 15 pirates to contend with in our justice system. We need to be realistic if we are going to succeed, and the current level of support does not reflect the reality of the situation.

If piracy persists, we cannot trade effectively.  We cannot interact with our neighbours. We cannot benefit from the advantages of regional integration such as economies of scale and larger markets.  We simply will not be able to develop effectively.

I call on the solidarity of our brothers and sisters in the ACP for us to send a clear message that piracy goes beyond a simple national or even regional problem.  Its effect on fisheries makes it a global problem which we must tackle head on.  Its effect on the global economy means that it will eventually affect us all. 

Mr. Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen,

By hosting this meeting, we hope to provide momentum for all ACP countries to be able to transform our fisheries resources into sustainable catalysts for development.

Indeed, the theme of our meeting, oœan integrated strategy for sustainable exploitation of the ACP fisheries resources” urges us to truly look at fisheries from a developmental point of view.

We must become active participants in development.  We cannot remain simply recipients of compensation for resources which are being exploited.

With the increasing demand for fish and fish products in most developed markets, our marine resources have the potential to truly be our Blue Gold’.  ACP catches have grown tenfold in the last two decades and, now provide over 60 % of the global fish trade.

Unfortunately, because the majority of value addition of fisheries products does not occur in ACP markets, the true value of our ‘Blue Gold’ is harnessed by others. This is a reality of post colonial trade for all ACPs.

ACPs are faced with a double challenge. Firstly our preferential access to markets such as the EU is being eroded.  At the same time perspectives for development of more value addition are hampered by the fact that our economies are uncompetitive in relation to more technologically advanced and subsidized competitors.

We do not need an ideological debate about the merits of free trade, nor about the rights of individual states to use subsidies. What we need are practical solutions for ACPs that reflect global realities.

We are the custodians of a resource which is also critical to the survival of our planet.  We need to redefine trade in such a way that resources can be exploited sustainably.

I think it is clear to all of us, that trade on its own will not bring development. Sustainability is key. 

Monsieur le Secretaire General, Mesdames et Messieurs,

De par le monde entier, le changement climatique est l'une des plus grandes menaces pour l’industrie de la pêche. Le réchauffement des océans affecte aussi bien le mode de reproduction des différentes espèces de poissons, que leur mode de migration. Si pour certains, le changement des zones de pêche peut offrir des avantages, il est évident pour moi, que nous sommes tous perdants avec le changement climatique.

Nous sommes encore bien trop lents à agir. Cela se traduit par les retards dans la mobilisation rapide d’un début du financement pour l'adaptation au changement climatique, dont les ACP en particulier, ont désespérément  besoin. A ces problèmes de notre époque, nous avons plus que jamais besoin de formules innovantes de financement.

Au sein du groupe ACP, permettez-moi un instant de souligner le sort des petits États insulaires en développement (PEID). Nombre de PEID sont des pays à revenu intermédiaire qui ont en conséquence, peu d’accès au fonds de développement. Nous sommes des premiers à endurer les dommages irréversibles portés à nos capacités de production économique ; néanmoins, nous pourrions bien être  les derniers à recevoir de l'aide.

Lorsqu’une tempête ou une catastrophe naturelle frappe un pays développé, l'économie en est affectée ; mais en fin de compte, les infrastructures peuvent être réparées et l'activité économique reprendre normalement. Par contre, lorsque tous les récifs coralliens sont morts dans une petite île, il n'y a tout simplement pas d'économie dont il faudra se soucier étant donné que nos principales sources de revenus -le  tourisme et la pêche - ne seraient plus viables. Et en ce moment-même où je parle, le réchauffement climatique affecte les récifs dans le monde entier.
Mr. Secretary General, Ladies and gentlemen,

Before concluding, I would just like to share briefly some of the experiences of Seychelles in fisheries development.  From very early on we have realized that we need to manage our resource carefully to ensure long term success.  Many destructive fisheries practices have been banned outright. While we have also worked with development partners to encourage our local fishermen through sustained investment in regional ports, ice plants, fish markets, technical assistance, training, fishing gears, as well as provided soft loans for investment.
Today, both our local artisanal fishery and our Industrial tuna fishery are viable and proactive fisheries and play a key role in our economic development.

I am proud of what we have achieved in the sector.  I am even more proud of the efforts of our fishing entrepreneurs themselves, some who started with small scale one boat operations, and who are now processing and exporting.  I salute the efforts of the ˜Fish Boat Owners Association’ and fishermen who has adopted the process of branding our fish that are exported at a higher value.
But we need to go much further. To achieve this, we need to change the way our resource is managed and developed at an international level.

Mr. Secretary General, for the way forward, please allow me to extrapolate from Seychelles’ experience and propose two priority areas of action for the ACP at the international level.

Firstly we need innovative and affordable financing for our private sectors, backed by our Governments to allow us to climb the value addition ladder.  We need to truly be able to derive the wealth generated by our resources. 

An innovative ˜public, private sector partnership’ formula in partnership with technically experienced and able foreign direct investors is an option that has been viable. It does come with its challenges, but they can all be overcome if we share experiences and stand together to preserve our interests. I hope you will take the opportunity provided for you to visit one of the world’s largest tuna canning factory situated in the industrial fisheries port of Victoria - an example of a successful PPP despite new challenges such as piracy.

Secondly, we need to have sustainable management and conservation practices which allow our resources to offer long term revenue generation.

Simply put, we need to be able to catch less and earn more.

This may go against the grain in relation to the way trade is managed at the global level.  But it offers us a way for us to move from compensation, to development.  To move from dependency to independence.  To move from short term exploitation to long term sustainability.

It is for this reason that Seychelles is proud to host the ˜Indian Ocean Tuna Commission’ (IOTC) in Port Victoria. It is why I have instructed my new Minister of Fisheries to re-look into and re-dynamize the Seychelles Fisheries Authority (SFA) to further consolidate its achievements and be equipped to meet and overcome new and emerging challenges; it is why the ports authority continues to focus on offering better services on all our ports so that we eventually do realize our dream of harnessing the true value of our ˜blue gold’ in a sustainable manner.

With these objectives in sight, It gives me great pleasure to declare the second Conference of the ACP Ministers of Fisheries open.

Despite the challenges which I have mentioned, I also believe that we can move forward decisively together.

Every Seychellois is pleased to welcome you to our shores.  Nou dir zot byenveni dan nou zil, e nou osi swete ki zot pou kapab vin ankor.  We welcome you to our islands, and we hope this will not be your last visit.

Thank you for your attention.


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