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Statement By Honorable John M. Silk Minister of Resources and Development

Seventh Session of the Multilateral High-Level Conference On the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean September 5, 2000, Honolulu, Hawai‘i

Mr. Chairman, Honorable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to join other delegations in thanking the Government of the United States and the State of Hawai‘i for once again hosting us here in Honolulu. We are also grateful to the hard work of the MHLC Secretariat for facilitating our deliberations. Our further appreciation goes out to the Secretariat of the Forum Fisheries Agency for their dedicated work and commitment to its coastal State members. Please allow me also to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your excellent leadership and guidance throughout what has been a most difficult process. I commend you and your staff for the fine work you have helped to complete.

It is unfortunate that we have found ourselves here at the final session in discord amongst ourselves over what we believe was an acceptable text to all participants here. We are greatly disappointed by the manner in which some delegations have shown such blatant disregard for the level of cooperation that we have worked so hard to maintain. It is disappointing because some of these delegations represent countries with which we have bilateral fishing agreements. We concluded those agreements in the spirit of mutual cooperation and respect to our fishing requirements. Needless to say, Mr. Chairman, we are shocked by such adversarial approaches to this final negotiating session. It seems that when it comes to making a commitment for long-term conservation and sustainable management of the stocks in their entirety, that same cooperation seems to be missing. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation whereby we are forced to consider reevaluating the basis for our relations.

Nevertheless, Mr. Chairman, we are still reasonably satisfied with yesterday’s adoption of the MHLC Convention. While we continue to have difficulties with certain aspects of the Convention, we also recognize that what we have achieved today may be our only opportunity to establish a conservation and management arrangement for the region’s highly migratory fish stocks. For the Marshall Islands, this is essential to ensuring our continued economic development and the overall prosperity of our peoples. I must say, however, that I have serious reservations as to how the Convention’s provisions on decision-making will be practically implemented, particularly in light of the fact that we have made significant changes to important provisions, which are absolutely critical to assuring the sustainability of our marine resources. While some delegations believe we will not be able to achieve our objectives without their financial contributions, we are, nevertheless, Mr. Chairman, absolutely determined to protect our most significant means for economic development and food security. This will be, as has always been, our fundamental aim.

I am, unfortunately, compelled to point out yet another issue which leaves us with considerable concern – that of the status of Chinese Taipei in this Convention. When we adopted the Majuro Declaration in 1997, we did so on the common understanding that the equal participation of all major stakeholders in this region’s fishery is essential to effective conservation and management. We are not concerned with the politics surrounding this issue, as we see this as secondary to our objectives. As one of the leading fishing nations in the region, it is critical that the membership of Chinese Taipei be revisited in the future, with a view to according them full membership and hence, equals status in the interest of the Conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory species in the Western and Central Pacific. While we are pleased to learn that Chinese Taipei can agree to the Convention, I am also disturbed by the fact that this issue has consumed so much of our valuable time and taken away from important discussions on other issues, which we believe are far more critical and fundamental.

I would hope that those who have entered these negotiations with the sole intent to achieve their own self-interests through insolent tactics would seriously review this Convention in light of their current position in the region’s fishery. We simply cannot continue these partnerships on a one-sided basis, nor can we tolerate insurgence on the part of some fishing States.

Mr. Chairman, I do not want to end my intervention on a negative note. Despite our major concerns with the Convention as it now stands, the Marshall Islands will continue to do our part in implementing the principles for conservation and management as set out by the Convention, through the work of the Preparatory Conference and eventually, the MHLC Commission. Our determination to ensure sustainable conservation and management of our resources will be the basis for our future commitment and cooperation.

Allow me once again to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, on your excellent work and efforts to help us realize our goals as set out in the 1997 Majuro Declaration.

My best wishes to you from the government and people of the Marshall Islands.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(BACKGROUND: See: Pacific Fishing Agreement Has Faults, But Still Necessary: Dr. Sandra Tarte) 

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