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SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 9, 2000 - PINA Nius Online)---Over fishing is a major threat facing Pacific Island nations, Fiji's Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries, Forests and ALTA, Peniasi Kunatuba, has told a regional workshop in Suva.

He said it is a threat which has the potential to increase in magnitude if not treated urgently.

Mr. Kunatuba was speaking at the opening of a workshop titled "Fish for the Future? Locally-Managed Marine Reserves for Fisheries Sustainability and Biodiversity Conservation in the Indo-Pacific." It was organized by the Institute of Applied Sciences of the University of the South Pacific and the World Resources Institute of Washington D.C., USA.

Mr. Kunatuba told participants that fish for future generations could only be guaranteed through good management practices, with careful attention to the views of villagers.

He said these are the villagers who are dependent on coastal resources and who would play a major role in successful management, and who have the greatest stake in whether the system succeeds or fails.

While there is a growing recognition of the value of community-based coastal resource management, Mr. Kunatuba pointed out that the level of support provided by government agencies is insignificant.

He said this is set to change.

"The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forests and ALTA is going to appraise and assess all community-based coastal resource management projects in view of the urgent need and to reverse current trends and exploit the potential of government funding towards these projects."

He said the effectiveness of national coastal management legislation is an area of concern and added this could be improved through:

* A campaign to disseminate national rules more broadly to traditional decision-makers;

* A supportive legal framework to encourage communities to adopt relevant national village rules in the form of by-laws;

* Further enactment and effective enforcement of buyer/exporter-enforced rules, and;

* Legal experts assisting governments in reviewing national management rules.

He emphasized that the issue of coastal resource management could not be treated in isolation, adding that land-based factors such as infrastructure development, pollution and deforestation threatened coastal resource management.

"There is an urgent need for government institutions with different responsibilities to collaborate with coastal communities in responding to the inter-sectoral nature of these challenges. Donors and other external partners should also recognize that a narrow sectoral focus is unlikely to meet current needs."

The workshop ends this Friday. During the week, participants from ten countries will exchange their experiences on community based marine resource management.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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