Pacific Ocean Fora

​​​​Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) was established in 1979 under an international treaty, the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency Convention. The FFA mission is to ‘enable member countries to manage, conserve and use the tuna resources in their exclusive economic zones and beyond, through enhancing national capacity and strengthening regional solidarity’.

FFA comprises the Forum Fisheries Committee (FFC), which is the governing body, and a Secretariat. The FFA presently has seventeen members – Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – each of which is represented on the FFC.

Australia, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), is one of the primary donors to the FFA, providing around AU$5 million per year in core funding to the Secretariat. The Department of Agriculture and DFAT jointly lead Australia’s engagement in the FFA.

The FFA members operate as a bloc at meetings of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and its subsidiary bodies thereby strengthening the negotiating position of individual Pacific Island countries, including Australia, to influence the measures adopted by the Commission. FFA officials meet in advance of the WCPFC meetings to develop agreed negotiating strategies and positions on the issues being discussed.

As well as facilitating engagement in WCPFC, the FFA plays a key role in building capacity through the region for fisheries management, development, and compliance and enforcement. The FFA Secretariat includes expert staff across these three areas who provide direct in-country capacity assistance to Australia’s neighbours, as well as operating as a coordinating body for significant project funding from major donors. The FFA operates a Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre at its headquarters in Honiara that provides coordination for both ongoing and time-limited surveillance and enforcement operations. Australia supports these activities through provision of expert officers from the Department of Defence and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

Effective management of, and adequate returns from, regional fisheries to Pacific Island Countries (PICs) are important for regional stability and economic development. Fisheries represent both the major resource and the major development prospect for several PICs. Sustainable development of regional fisheries and better capture of economic returns could substantially improve these countries' economic self-reliance. Therefore, where appropriate, Australia promotes and supports regional policies or practices that may be strategic in the context of economic and social development of PICs.

Australia strongly supports the FFA as the institution responsible for implementation of regional fisheries programs and for coordination of regional approaches to multilateral engagement on fisheries.

For more information on the FFA see the FFA website.

Pacific Community (SPC)

The Pacific Community (SPC) was established in 1947 and is one of the oldest regional organisations in the world. The SPC provides technical assistance, policy advice, training and research services to Pacific Island Countries and territories in various areas such as health, human development, agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

When the FFA was established there was some initial confusion between the roles of FFA and SPC on fisheries matters. Since that time the delineation between each agency's functions has been agreed. SPC concentrates on the management of the Regional Tuna Fisheries Database and the provision of stock assessment and scientific advice, and has the lead role on coastal or inshore fisheries. FFA's role is to provide economic policy advice, coordinate and harmonise fisheries policies, and lead on tuna and other oceanic fisheries. 

Notwithstanding, both agencies are interdependent in several critical areas, such as tuna fisheries monitoring and development. FFA is entirely dependent on the SPC for scientific advice and stock assessments, while the SPC is dependent on FFA for fisheries legislative and economics expertise. It is therefore critical that FFA and the SPC maintain a close working relationship.

For more information, including SPC membership, see the SPC website.

Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America (US Tuna Treaty)

The Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of certain Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America(US Tuna Treaty) was negotiated following an incident in 1982 where the US imposed trade sanctions under the Magnusson Act when two Pacific Island Countries apprehended US tuna vessels fishing within their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). The US did not accept that any country had the right to exclude its vessels from fishing in the EEZ of another country for highly migratory species on the basis that such species did not belong to any country and had to be managed cooperatively. 

The US Tuna Treaty came into force on 15 June 1988 and granted US-flagged purse seine vessels an entitlement to fish for tuna (excluding southern bluefin tuna) in the EEZs of the Pacific Island Parties to the US Tuna Treaty (PIPs) in return for annual payments from the US Government and industry. Following a lengthy process of renegotiation, an amended US Tuna Treaty was agreed between the US and the PIPs in 2016, and the process for Parties to ratify the new agreement commenced. Australia is currently undertaking initial considerations on ratifying the new US Tuna Treaty and signing the associated Memorandum of Understanding.

The US Tuna Treaty provides a valuable forum for Australia to advance its strong interests in the proper management of the fisheries resources and contribute to the economic well-being and stability of the Pacific region. In practice, there are no significant impacts of Australia being a Party to the Treaty as there are no fishing days listed against Australia in the amended US Tuna Treaty.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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